WARC | The Rise of Micro-Influencers and Why You Should Care
The rise of micro-influencers and why they are important to the world.
This article was written alongside Whalar's then Head of Content, Chelsea Carter. February 2019. Explains what a micro-influencer is, why they work and how other brands have already engaged with them.
Micro-influencers naturally have a smaller following than their global counterparts, but their humbler figures have a higher level of engagement, and are more in touch with their readership. Micro-influencers are the voice of the consumer, promoting to the consumer, meaning they are truly authentic and this is extremely powerful for branded content. It is more important than ever that the content and relationship with an influencer feels authentic, so brands must always ask ‘would this person be a natural user of the product we are looking to promote?
Brands need to trust the influencer’s knowledge of what type of content will work for their audience and when a brand works with a micro-influencer, they should take advantage of the personal, and sometimes unusual, interpretation the influencer brings to the campaign. Influencer marketing: beyond the hype The nuances to influencer marketing are many - there are vloggers and bloggers, creators and curators, nano, macro and, notably, micro. So what is a micro-influencer, why do they work, and how have other brands already engaged with them? Chelsea Carter and Will Rix from Whalar, named best influencer marketing platform by Digiday, explain.
What is a micro-influencer? In 2019, the term influencer marketing has come to mean many different things to many different people. While the term loosely means the method for marketing through the use of influential content creators on social media, there are many representations of this method and it remains a largely nascent space.
Nevertheless, the industry is booming, and has been predicted to be worth $10 billion by 2020. This is because of a number of reasons; from the rise in technology, in particular smartphone tech paired with social media, to fatigue in traditional advertising methods. This has resulted in a new type of consumer who prefers to seek recommendations and inspiration online, and consequently, brands are putting more of their budgets into making themselves visible to this new type of consumer.
There are many ways that a brand or advertiser can go about influencer marketing, and the most renowned is to target the influencers with the biggest followings. Think celebrities, reality TV stars, and bloggers and vloggers who have made it into the mainstream. The reason behind this is obvious; these influencers often have hundreds of millions of followers. Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) is the most followed person on Instagram [at time of publishing], and has over 150 million followers - that’s more than double the population of the UK - so it’s easy to see why advertisers want to tap into these platforms. Where else can you reach that number of people in one go?
However, while a reach that large can be great publicity for a brand, it may not always be the best route. With great power comes great responsibility. How can you ensure that your product or service is reaching the right eyes with the right message and delivers the right results?
But the focus on follower numbers has put influencer marketing under the microscope. Often there is little consideration given to context, audience suitability and what’s actually being published by the influencer. And vanity metrics has reduced influencer marketing to little more than a game of follower numbers. This has resulted in people trying to game the system. Here at Whalar, we only work with who we like to call ‘creators with influence’. This means that they have earned their influence through producing creative content on social media, therefore they produce high-quality work, and their audiences are engaged. Founders Neil Waller and James Street realised the potential in this kind of influencer marketing when running their watch brand Shore Projects and noticed that there wasn’t a streamlined and scalable solution. Thus, Whalar was born; a platform on a mission to liberate the creative voice through influencer marketing.
Typically, these ‘creators with influence’ or ‘creators’ on our platform can have any number of followers - from 1000 to 100 million - but a trend that we have noticed lately is in utilising influencers that have a following between 10,000 and 100,000 - otherwise known as a micro-influencer.
Why are micro-influencers effective?
If for a moment we can imagine influencers as mini publishing houses, then the micro-influencers are cult magazines with cover-to-cover readers.
These independent groups naturally have a smaller following than their glossy and global counterparts, but their humbler figures have a higher level of engagement, and are, critically, more in touch with their readership.
This parallel exists in influencer marketing. A micro-influencer’s smaller audience is made up of individuals with a genuine love for the content they are consuming. They are not simply following an account for the name, brand or for their alleged cultural significance; they follow because of an authentic connection that exists between creator and follower. For a brand or advertiser, here lies the value of micro-influencers. The intimate ‘mini-brand’ of an influencer represents a crucial leveraging opportunity for brands to reach an entirely new audience.
Micro-influencers are the voice of the consumer, promoting to the consumer. They are truly authentic and this can is extremely powerful for branded content. Think about it, who would you trust more - a friend’s recommendation or a corporate slogan?
As stated previously, for brands tentatively starting out in the influencer marketing space, it is tempting to be swayed by a large reach (number of followers). However, as numbers increase, the quality of audience engagement drops. A recent report by HelloSociety found that the average engagement rate of a macro- influencer (750K+) is 1.6%. Whilst when the reach drops to below 35K, the average engagement rate rises to 5.3%.
This shows the level of authenticity the smaller creators have and the level of trust their followers have in them. We’ve seen first hand that their followers are more likely to feel part of the creative process and get behind their message. A great example of this is in a micro-influencers’ comment section. Sparking a conversation about a product or service is solid evidence of the impact of a micro-influencers impact. As you can see in the example below, micro-influencer Emily Sharp (@emilyfredasharp) is actively engaging in conversation about the product she is promoting, and so being an ambassador for Love Beauty Planet.
Source: Emily Sharp (@emilyfredasharp)
Similarly, Reinaldo Irizarry (@reyalfashion) had an open discussion about feminism underneath his work on River Island’s #LabelsAreForClothes campaign.
Source: Reinaldo Irizarry (@reyalfashion)
In comparison, a macro-influencer tends not to engage with their audience in this way - this might be simply because the volume of messages are too large, or the fact that their followers tend to treat them differently; as fans rather than friends. A micro-influencer has a realistic opportunity to engage with a significant portion of their comments, which works well when they endorse a brand's message. In addition, their comments are far less likely to be spam or other accounts trying to piggyback off of a macro-influencer’s large reach. This factor is crucial in driving conversation and meeting business objectives.
Another reason why working with micro-influencers is becoming more popular is simply because it’s more affordable. Macro-influencers are able to charge more for their high audience - regardless of the quality of their content or engagement rate. Working with a micro-influencer means that brands can afford to commission a higher volume of content, and reach many different audiences as opposed to one macro-influencers audience.
All in all, it’s clear to see why more brands are turning to micro-influencers - they can get a higher engagement at a lower cost.
Case Study: Volvic Infusions
So you’ve heard the theory, but how does it work in practice?
Objective: In September 2018, Volvic, the water brand, came to us to promote its new product, Volvic Infusions, an organic iced tea range in two flavours, designed to be both natural and refreshing - made up of mineral water, organic tea infusions and natural fruit flavours. This innovative new range has been developed in line with growing consumer demand for healthier, more natural soft drinks. Around 55% of consumers are concerned about the amount of sugar in soft drinks - so Volvic are responding with this great tasting, healthier range. It was seeking to target an adventurous, independent audience; Volvic drinkers are ‘everyday heroes’, who live a healthy and adventurous lifestyle, valuing simplicity and nature in their choices. Everyday heroes are all about authenticity, adventure, healthy living and new experiences.
Strategy: Volvic were able to target an often difficult to reach audience, those who value authenticity and adventure and may not typically follow mainstream influencers and celebrities. This was integral for the brand, as they were launching a new product and looking for consumers who are willing to try new things and are comfortable with being trailblazers and trendsetters. Therefore, utilising micro-influencers was vital for the success of this campaign.
Ben Kind, Volvic Brand Manager at Danone Waters UK & Ireland led this campaign and had some great experience and advice for those seeking to utilise micro-influencers.
“We have found that working with micro-influencers can be a great way to reach highly engaged audiences. Micro-influencers are generally people who have built up their followings over a number of years, meaning their audiences often highly engage with the content they create and also share a common set of interests. This means we can look to work with influencers who we feel represent a great fit for the product or campaign we are looking to launch, and therefore be highly targeted with the messages we are looking to communicate - which in turn helps to drive higher engagement.”
“Given the premium positioning of this new sub-range, we were keen to work with micro-influencers who had a slightly more polished feel to their content... The team of micro-influencers who not only represented the key passion points of our audience, but also had a premium look and feel to the content they created.”
Veronika Lindberg (@kutovakika) is a micro-influencer with a following of 57,400 and took part in the Volvic Infusions campaign.
Source: Veronika Lindberg (@kutovakika)
Results: To date, the campaign has garnered 21.5K engagements (all of the likes, comments and views combined), reaching up to 957.8K people, resulting in an engagement rate of 2.24%. The campaign has set Volvic Infusions apart as a healthy and natural iced tea option amongst a trend-setting and adventurous audience.
Client view: brand manager Kind, notes “it’s vital to prioritise brand fit above all other considerations when selecting the micro-influencers you work with. With the growing number of brands looking to utilise influencer marketing, we are finding that it is more important than ever that the content and relationship with that influencer feels authentic. Ultimately the biggest question we always ask ourselves when deciding which influencers to work with is ‘would this person be a natural user of the product we are looking to promote?’ If the answer is no, then we won’t look to work with them. If the answer is yes, then you have the key ingredients to create a relationship which is mutually beneficial for both the brand and the micro-influencer.” Influencer view: Lindberg describes the micro-influencer relationship she has with her audience as “more personal and intimate than a lot of the bigger accounts can maintain. I make sure to engage a lot with my community and reply to comments and messages which creates a stronger bond and deeper level of trust in me as an influencer. Therefore, when I promote something on my page people trust me and will maybe listen more carefully as opposed to a sponsored post on a bigger account that can feel more distant and “corporate”.
The Volvic campaign resonated really positively with my community - a lot of my followers really appreciated how much effort I had put into the content and how seamlessly it fits in with my organic posts. I was so happy that Volvic trusted me to be very creative with the campaign and interpret it in my own unique way. I would advise brands to trust the influencer’s knowledge of what type of content will work for their audience. When a brand works with a micro-influencer, I think they should take advantage of the often personal and sometimes even unusual interpretation the influencer brings to the campaign. A micro-influencer often has a very special relationship with their audience that can be more like a friendship than a celebrity/fan relationship, and that is a huge advantage for any brand that looks to create a deeper and more authentic bond with their customers.”
The benefits of working with micro-influencers are numerous, the engagement is higher, the ability to scale is bigger and the costs are lower. In short, ensure you define your business objective – this is how you’ll know your influencer marketing has worked. And trust your influencer, don’t try to micromanage them.
Here at Whalar, we’ve seen great results when utilising this burgeoning method, and we always recommend it as part of a fully integrated influencer marketing campaign.
About the author Chelsea Carter Head of content and community, Whalar Chelsea oversees Whalar's creative influencer community and in-house content activity such as their online magazine, learning centre, social media, PR, marketing, events and partnerships. Most recently, she worked with the UN on their #TakeYourSeat campaign to fight climate change. Will Rix Content executive, Whalar Will is the main contributor to Whalar's online magazine, Studio, and writes extensively on the influencer marketing industry. Find out more about Whalar at whalar.com. Read more articles on influencer marketing Eight tips for spotting fake influencers on Instagram Rochelle Bailis Harnessing the influencer ecosystem Joel Davis Exerting your influence: Benchmarking influencer marketing Farhad Divecha India’s Influencer Marketing evolution Ana Thorsdottir
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