As the phenomenon of the online ‘Influencer’ continues to develop, a new aspect has emerged – the greater impact, effectiveness and ROI power of the Micro-Influencer.

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Everything you think you know about Influencers is wrong. Forget the ones with the hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers, and focus on those with a fraction of the following – the latest data proves it. Here’s why.

According to Influencer Marketing Technology company Markerly – as follower numbers rise on Instagram, engagement decreases.

It conducted a study looking at follower size and engagement on Instagram, and found that influencers with less than 1,000 followers have a ‘like’ rate close to 8% while those with 1,000 to 10,000 followers have a ‘like’ rate of 4%. These are ‘Micro-Influencers’.

From here on, it declines dramatically – Influencers with 10,000 to 100,000 (‘Middle-Influencers’) showed only a 2.37% ‘like’ rate and as for those with a million-plus followers (‘Macro-Influencers and Celebrities) engagement plunged to 1.66%. SOURCE

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It appears that in today’s online version of the David and Goliath legend, the Micro-Influencers are metaphorically chopping off the heads of the vacuous super-star social media celebs. A study by Experticity and Jonah Berger (a professor from the Wharton Business School) and Agency Keller Fay, demonstrates the very clear ROI benefits.

Micro-influencers have 22.2 times more buying conversations than typical consumers. For 74% a conversation results in someone seriously considering a product recommendation. 82% who receive a recommendation from a Micro-Influencer are highly likely to follow through. SOURCE

Sarah Ware, CEO and co-founder of Markerly, revealed that employing the Jenner and Kardashian sisters on Instagram for a weight-loss tea company brought hundreds of conversions, but by activating 30 to 40 Micro-Influencers the conversion was higher – and undoubtedly cheaper.

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Social ad platform Gnack, confirms that followers of Micro-Influencers find their posts to be much more trustworthy and engaging. ‘More than 55 percent of our agency partners have incorporated Micro-influencers as a part of their [current] strategy,’ said Chico Tirado, the company’s chief revenue officer. ‘We’ve seen some Micro-influencers on certain campaigns get up to 25 percent engagement.’ SOURCE

Gnack’s CEO Chris Gonzalez even believes that due to the recent change in Instagram’s algorithm, Micro-Influencers will be even more visible, as content from friends and family members is prioritized by social networks. ‘We see micro-influencers get an average of two-to-five times more organic engagement per Instagram post, compared to those with more than 100,000 followers.’

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So the question then for marketing people is: would you invest tens of thousands, or more, for a Celeb or Macro-Influencer (which gives you very dubious ROI – I wrote about this previously here) to reach their millions of followers (at best random sampling of a demographic with no particularly connection or commonality, and at worst fake – I’ll come to that in a minute).

Or would you rather select group of Micro-Influencers whose authenticity will create genuinely relatable content to engage a smaller but trusting audience, that would most likely be in a position to act upon taking up the product or service being discussed.

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Don’t forget also that a Micro-Influencer can afford to directly interact with his/her followers, replying to comments and messages – that’s real interaction.

When you have 100,000 followers or more, it’s almost impossible to engage with your audience personally, you might even have to hire others to help you do it. Which people see through anyway, and stop engaging with you. In any case when you see someone with a very large number of followers, you don’t engage, because you (rightly) don’t expect to get a direct response.

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As John Bohan writes for Forbes (SOURCE) citing the importance of authenticity: ‘Just ask Bootea and Adidas, which recently tapped Scott Disick and Naomi Campbell, respectively, to create sponsored Instagram content.

‘Both of these Influencers simply copied and pasted the instructions from the agency – along with pre-written captions, no less – directly into their Instagram post. If they don’t even care enough to proofread a caption for an image that they were paid tens of thousands of dollars to post, why should I care that they plugged the product?

‘The answer? I don’t.’

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Mintel’s 2015 American Lifestyles Report confirms that the majority of consumers will seek out opinions of others before buying a product or service. Social media is a massive source for opinion-seekers for all demographics including 72 percent of opinion-seekers age 25-34 and nearly half of those age 45-54 (46 percent). (SOURCE)

The key for brands, advertisers and PRs is to connect with Influencers that already nurture an audience interested in their offering.

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For example if you’re trying to promote a family event or destination then a Sports Blogger may not be the ideal choice, similar if you’re selling cars, there is little point in engaging a cosmetics social media star – in these particular cases try a ‘Family-Blogger’ and a ‘Car Journalist’ – yes, like yours truly, for example!

Speaking at an event held by Marketing Week sister title Fashion & Beauty Monitor last month, prominent UK beauty vlogger Fleur de Force, said: ‘The best thing you can do is connect with people who are already talking about your products authentically, as their audience will naturally connect with you. [It’s just that the brand] gets to control the messaging a bit more.’

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And she advises a flexible marketing strategy, rather than forcing the brand message: ‘approach influencers and say “this is our idea, how does it fit into your content?” Nobody knows their audience better than the influencer themselves’. (SOURCE)

The other clear advantage of working with outlets and Influencers with modest followings is that they are obviously less likely to have a large proportion of fake audience (everyone has some fraction of fake followers whether they know it or not, it’s just a fact of how the Internet functions now).

As the popularity and demand for Influencers grew in the last couple of years, it’s unsurprising that many attempted to jump on the bandwagon by faking their followers and instantly getting those big numbers overnight – which is alarmingly both cheap and easy to do!

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To prove a point, Lena Katz, a branded content strategist took a picture of a potato, created accounts on Instagram and Twitter and within a couple of weeks had 10,000 followers generating many likes and comments.

It would appear the Potato was a hit with people on social media and could thus be highly influential! In fact she simply bought the followers and even ghost-wrote the comments for the followers to post.  SOURCE

With agencies and PRs demanding to see a large ‘perceived’ social media following, it’s such an easy trap to fall into. In fact it’s become an extremely common strategy for YouTubers. Chase Hoffberger demonstrated exactly this for a story on The Daily Dot, when he got 60,000 views for a video by buying them for a little over $50 – and it can only take 45 seconds to do! SOURCE

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So it turns out that big numbers are bunk when it comes to social media (genuine or not). Marketing, advertisers and PRs would therefore do well to stop being blinded by the dazzle of the million-follower fakers and poseurs, and instead reach out to those with a far smaller audience, but who most effectively communicate with their followers with knowledge and enthusiasm, whilst inviting, encouraging and actively nurturing real and meaningful engagement.

And by the way, with nearly 3000 Friends and Followers on Facebook and over 2500 on Instagram, I definitely fall into that Micro-Influencer category. I post about cars, family, media, tech, entertainment, sci-fi and more. And I am very much open for business!

 

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