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What Are Micro-Influencers?

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker specializing in sales and marketing topics for coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs.

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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.

Audience Overlap

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.

Selling Out

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.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Heidi Thorne

Comments

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 27, 2018:

Lawrence, I knew about the mega influencers, but was surprised that micros were getting paid for this stuff, too. Glad you found it informative. Have a great weekend!

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on April 27, 2018:

Heidi

I'd not come across these people before, rather I didn't know there was a term for them, but it makes sense.

Very interesting.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 14, 2018:

Hi Dianna! Agreed, micros have the edge there. Thanks for the kind words. Have a great weekend!

Dianna Mendez on April 14, 2018:

It seems micro-influencers have a bit of power, especially on cost of products and items. Good read.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 31, 2018:

My thoughts exactly, Natalie! I think it's probably better to work with fewer major influencers than have all the headache of working with so many.

I also think this influencer marketing phenomenon will eventually quiet down. Still an evolving marketing arena.

Thanks so much for adding that insight to the conversation! Have a great holiday weekend!

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on March 30, 2018:

It seems like with the research costs which may include hiring special personnel or agencies, recruitment costs, administrative, PR and legal costs for the micro influencers you end up with similar costs in the long run. So wouldn't it just be better to hire a major influencer? They would have greater reach and the whole process seems like it would be simpler. Perhaps if the influencer did it for free it could be less costly. But I can't imagine many people who have a decent following even if it's below 500,000 would be willing to advertise/review etc. for someone for free. Just seems like in trying to save money, you might end up spending the same to get less. I haven't given much thought to this topic before - thanks for the education.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 29, 2018:

Flourish, I think it's wise to live by your values when considering any of these offers.

And I think these days it's less likely that advertisers will offer cash to all but the most prominent and dominant of influencers. But I say, "show me the money!"

I think this influencer thing will have its day (I'm writing a post on this "bubble") and will become something else.

Thanks for sharing your influencer experience! Happy Easter!

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 29, 2018:

I’ve been contacted by a variety of individuals and companies who want me to pitch their cause, service, or product and amazingly most believe I’d do it for free or for something silly like an expenses paid trip to New Jersey (seriously— who would want that?!? No offense to people who have to live there btw). It’s crazy because sometimes these are deep pocketed sponsors like pharma companies. I don’t do it because I feel like if I don’t actually use their medicine then it’s lying. Trust is everything.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 29, 2018:

Thanks, Larry! Happy Spring!

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on March 29, 2018:

Fascinating read.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 29, 2018:

Linda, this is a developing marketing tactic. We'll have to see where it goes. Thanks for reading and have a terrific day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 29, 2018:

Thanks for the kind words, Arsal! Have a great day!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 28, 2018:

You've shared some interesting points about micro-influencers that I haven't considered before. Thanks, Heidi.

Arsal Jawwad on March 28, 2018:

Excellent Information Heidi Thorne

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 28, 2018:

Bill, you are already a macro micro influencer! :) I hope you can find some sponsors to pay you cash for it. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a great day!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 28, 2018:

Great advice, Heidi! I can definitely see the advantage of this. If I had the damn time I would consider becoming one of those micro influencers. I guess I'll just have to be happy being a writer of limited influence. :) Have a great Hump Day!

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