What Are Micro-Influencers?

Updated on March 28, 2018
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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.

Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.

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    © 2018 Heidi Thorne

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    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 9 days ago from Chicago Area

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

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 9 days ago

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

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      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 profile image

      Natalie Frank 3 weeks ago from Chicago, IL

      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.

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      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 profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

      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.

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      Thanks, Larry! Happy Spring!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 3 weeks ago from Oklahoma

      Fascinating read.

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 weeks ago from Chicago Area

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

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 weeks ago from Chicago Area

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

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

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

    • Arsal Jawwad profile image

      Arsal Jawwad 3 weeks ago

      Excellent Information Heidi Thorne

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      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!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      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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