We all know influencers with millions of followers are often raking in the big bucks with brand deals and sponsorships, but did you know that smaller content creators can also find success working with companies in a similar manner? Micro-influencers have become more and more popular among brands looking to expand their social media marketing strategies, and with good reason. But exactly what is micro-influencing, and what makes them so valuable to these companies?
What is a micro-influencer? What is the purpose of a micro-influencer?
A micro-influencer is a content creator who has a relatively small, but loyal and heavily engaged following on a social media platform such as Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube. These influencers often specialize in a particular niche or topic such as travel, technology, or fitness, although they frequently go even more specialized than that, focusing on things like visiting local restaurants, reviewing mechanical keyboards, or leading yoga exercises.
The specific number of followers that constitute a “micro-influencer” categorization is still debated but is typically considered to fall somewhere within the range of 1,000 to 100,000 followers. This smaller count allows for a higher level of interaction with followers, and the emphasis on creating quality content related to a specific topic fosters trust in a micro-influencer’s recommendations, which can be wildly valuable to brands.
Ultimately, a micro-influencer is someone who attracts followers and builds a community based on the value of their knowledge and specialized content rather than their personal brand or celebrity.
What is influencer marketing?
At its core, influencer marketing is simply a (generally paid) collaboration between a brand and an online influencer, with the goal of promoting a product or service to the creator’s existing audience.
Many people jump straight to imagining well-known celebrities with millions of followers when they think about influencer marketing, but the term is far broader than that. And as social media has evolved, research has shown that merely getting millions of random eyes on a product doesn’t necessarily translate to sales, encouraging companies to incorporate micro-influencers in their marketing strategies.
What are the advantages of micro-influencers?
If you’re considering becoming a micro-influencer, it’s imperative to understand why so many top brands choose to work with content creators in this arena, as well as how to sell the idea to brands that haven’t branched out in this direction just yet. Let’s dive into some of the key benefits micro-influencers have to offer.
As previously mentioned, though a partnership with a major celebrity may be seen by a large audience, it doesn’t mean that it’s the right audience for the brand sponsoring the partnership. The more followers an influencer has, the more diverse they tend to be, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for marketing.
Working with micro-influencers allows companies to have a better grasp on the make-up of the audience. For example, if a candle company is looking to sell a new product, opting to work with a vlogger who regularly posts videos reviewing candle scents increases the likelihood that they are going to reach an audience with an existing interest in candles. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that they will receive a higher conversion rate and more sales from the partnership.
Targeting a niche demographic can help get more clicks and sales, but that’s only part of the battle. Partnering with an influencer whose content has a higher engagement rate from their audience is the other portion of that immediate puzzle. And who, statistically, has higher engagement? Micro-influencers.
The overall numbers vary from platform to platform, and of course from influencer to influencer, but Emplifi.io found that micro-influencers can have up to 60% higher engagement rates than macro-influencers, plus a 20% higher conversion rate. Looking specifically at TikTok accounts with 15,000 followers or less, Influencer Marketing Hub found that they had an average engagement rate of 17.96%—a far cry above the 4.96% rate of accounts with one million or more followers.
A high percentage of a small follower count is likely still lower than a smaller percentage of a higher follower account, and that’s where the third factor comes in—cost. Partnering with a mega-influencer can be extremely pricey, whereas working with a micro-influencer is frequently much more cost-effective for brands.
Now, it is important for micro-influencers to know their worth and not be taken advantage of by companies who think they can pay exponentially less based on follower count, but that’s where understanding the value niche, specialized content creation has to offer these brands comes into play. All the same, a company will often find a better return on their investment working with multiple micro-influencers targeting various, but well-defined, audiences than with a single mega-influencer.
Micro-influencers generally know both their niche and their audiences very well, which can provide important insight to brands hoping to sell their products in this manner. This is especially true when working with smaller companies that may not have scores of market research driving their campaigns.
On the flip side, brands may be the ones to approach micro-influencers with creative ideas for promoting their product that are already tailored to their desired audience, which can be a boon to the influencer looking to create content as well.
The idea of authenticity comes up more and more in a world inundated with ads. Every product or service claims to be the best, making it difficult for consumers to know who to trust. But when brands partner with micro-influencers who have already built up that trust with their audiences, all parties benefit. To that end, it’s important for micro-influencers to be discerning in who they work with and what products they promote so that they don’t risk severing the bond they’ve established with their viewers.
User-generated content creators are another type of creator brands often go to for that authenticity factor. They don’t engage an audience of their own, but they do create advertisements that feel real, often in the form of reviews, unboxing videos, or demonstrations—all types of ads micro-influencers may be asked to make as well.
Micro-influencers vs macro-influencers
Some micro-influencers remain successful without ever growing their audience outside of the constraints of their label, especially if their niche is hyper-specific. Others may eventually find themselves in the macro-influencer category.
Macro-influencers have somewhere between 100,000 and 1,000,000 followers, and, as one might suspect, offer brands a nice middle ground between micro and mega-influencers. These creators often have somewhat lower engagement rates than are found with their smaller counterparts, although their reach is obviously greater and they may bring a certain name recognition among their community.
When deciding who to partner with, companies might choose to work with this type of content creator if they are hoping to reach a broader demographic than they would with micro-influencers but still want to stay more focused than they could with the ultra-broad reach of celebrities.
Micro-influencers that graduate into the macro-influencer category would benefit from understanding the differences in what they can accomplish for a brand with more followers, as well as the limits they will be under whilst juggling a larger audience.
What do brands look for in micro-influencers?
When you start working with brands, you’ll have the opportunity to prove yourself to them by showing you understand their needs, delivering engaging, thoughtful content in a timely manner, and ensuring everything runs smoothly to direct your viewers to the company and product you are advertising.
But even before you get to that stage, brands will be looking over your content to decide if they would like to partner with you. Sometimes they will be seeking out influencers on their own, other times this may come in the form of a portfolio you put together to try to secure deals of your own. In either scenario, some of the things companies look for may include:
- Follower count. This one is obvious, right? Brands may want to focus on one specific app, or they may want to know about your follower count across whichever social media platforms you use.
- Aesthetics. Does your Instagram have a certain vibe to it? Is it calmingly cohesive or creatively chaotic? And how does that vibe mesh with their product or brand image?
- Engagement. How many likes and comments do your posts get relative to your follower count? How do you interact with your audience in return? Seeing micro-influencers respond to viewer questions can reassure brands that you won’t leave potential customers hanging if they partner with you to promote their product.
- Other sponcon. Observing how potential partners have worked with other companies in the past can also give companies insight into how their own partnership may flourish. Additionally, they may want to know if you’ve promoted their direct competitors—not that this is necessarily a dealbreaker.
- Posting frequency. Posting frequently enough to maintain engagement but not so frequently that viewers get overwhelmed or promotional posts quickly get buried is an important balance to maintain.
How do you become a micro-influencer?
If you haven’t already started down the path of becoming a micro-influencer, consider the types of things you love and either have an existing deep knowledge of or would be willing to dive into.
After you’ve chosen your area of expertise, research similar content to see what works and what doesn’t, and if there are any niches that haven’t been filled, or new angles to approach your content from. From there, start creating and growing your audience, keeping in mind everything we’ve discussed about what makes micro-influencers so valuable to brands.
You may want to create some sample content along the lines of what you envision creating for companies, keeping things relevant to your audience—maybe you want publishers to send you young adult books to review or to get paid to demonstrate TV speaker quality. If your existing content paints a picture for brands as to how you can organically slide promotional work for them in alongside your usual fare, partnering up will become an easier sell.
Brands may reach out to you directly at this point, but once you’re ready, you can also begin reaching out to them. Target just a handful of brands that make sense at a time, and learn the ins and outs of negotiating a brand deal that benefits both you and the company.