What Are Micro-Influencers?
With payments to big name influencers coming in at tens of thousands of dollars or more per post, advertisers might be encouraged to enlist the participation of smaller, lesser known influencers in spreading the word about their products and services.
Enter the micro-influencers! These “regular” people are experts and personalities that may have anywhere from 1,000 to hundreds of thousands of followers. Though the actual number of followers varies depending on whom you talk to, it is usually less than 500,000. So their per-post price tags may be significantly lower, even as low as a few hundred dollars per post, making them attractive to advertiser sponsors.
But that doesn’t mean “going micro” with an influencer marketing campaign is a bargain without costs or risks.
Micro-Influencers: The Pros
Lower Reach, Lower Cost
With lower reach than their big name influencer peers, advertisers can negotiate lower per-post fees with micro-influencers. Some may also be encouraged to participate in exchange for free products, services or other perks (e.g., VIP treatment, free event registration, etc.) instead of cash from advertisers.
A micro-level hobby blogger/influencer I know was approached by a number of companies over the years—either directly or through a firm representing them—about reviewing products or services. But it was never for cash.
Though I've seen articles reporting that cash is being paid to micro-influencers, I would imagine that freebies are a more common offer from advertisers. The hope is that the influencer will feature the freebie in posts.
Higher Engagement, Higher Impact
In spite of their lower cost, micro-influencers may have higher engagement with their audiences. Lower follower numbers allow them the time to thoughtfully reply to comments, and make comments on followers’ feeds, too. This helps them appear more authentic, making their endorsement or promotions of products more believable—and buyable!—which is a boon for advertisers.
Micro-Influencers: The Cons
Growing Cost With Growing Audience
Micro-influencers who are successful might not be micro for very long. So their cost could increase quickly. Advertisers then have to decide whether to pay the increased cost or recruit other influencers. Having to constantly be in recruitment mode can be costly.
If multiple micro-influencers from the same market are recruited, there could be a significant overlap in audiences. That might not be a bad thing. If multiple influencers are pushing a particular product, it could be seen as being popular. However, this does increase the cost to reach the same audience of followers.
Higher Recruitment, Administrative, PR and Legal Costs
Working with micro-influencers can be a time and cost intensive effort if an advertising agency or influencer marketing company isn’t hired to handle the function. Every influencer has to be recruited, managed, and monitored.
The public relations (PR) and legal risk increases with the number of influencers hired, too. Big name influencers have been in the public’s crosshairs for inappropriate content or behavior. Now imagine that possibility being multiplied by dozens, if not hundreds, of times as the number of micro-influencers hired grows.
Also, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission in the U.S.) is watching influencers feeds for proper disclosures of financial relationships. As this area of standards and regulations continues to evolve, advertisers should avoid taking a “not my problem” stance and monitor their hired influencers’ behavior to make sure they are in compliance.
In some communities, influencers at all levels who pitch products or services may be seen as “selling out” which could damage their reputations, along with the reputations of the advertisers they represent. This requires research prior to hiring any influencer, whether big name or micro.
How to Find Social Media Influencers on the Micro Level
Some of the top social media influencers have reached celebrity status, or might be regular celebrities. These can be relatively easy to find. But when if you have to drill down to the micro-influencer level, it might take a significantly greater amount of research.
This is why brands and advertisers may hire advertising agencies or influencer marketing firms that specialize in identifying influencers. These firms can do the research of what's called the social graph to identify influencers with potential.
However, it is also recommended that a brand's or company's marketing and public relations team have a presence in and/or monitor the target audience's online communities. Not only might this help them discover some potential influencer candidates, it also helps them keep a pulse on trends and issues.
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© 2018 Heidi Thorne