Brands have worked with social media influencers for some time. Traditionally only the most followed or famous in any given sector have been considered. Things are changing however, and much has been made recently of nascent work with so-called ‘micro-influencers’.
Broadly speaking these are people with modest social followings compared with the A-listers (can be under a thousand), but offer a seemingly more authentic way to tell a brand’s story. The mechanic is the same – partnerships are established which see the influencer post promotional content, but the scale is different. It’s not just sponsored posts. Some brands’ offerings lend themselves to collaborative curation or even a ‘takeover’ of the brand’s (often Instagram) feed, posting content they created.
Micro-influencers generally have specific interests, hobbies, lifestyles, or jobs about which they consistently post, as well as a more engaged following. They are more likely to reply to follower comments, compared with the more tightly controlled personas of the very famous. Larger brands are using micro-influencers as part of wider social strategies, to complement promotion from more famous influencers. Smaller companies and start-ups are also getting involved, given the relative accessibility and choice of potential micro-influencer available. It all requires a change in perspective, a look beyond follower figures to consider the quality of the story they tell.
More interaction and engagement equals a better feed positioning, especially if the content is considered authentic and not from huge brands. Taking fitness as an example, as well as those athletes at the top of the tree, it’s common for fitness enthusiasts to follow individuals who are closer to their own attainment level or condition, as their experiences and tips are likely to resonate more strongly.
Influencer marketing company Markerly published an analysis of Instagram engagement and found that as an influencer’s follower numbers increase, likes and comments reduce. The study found that those with under 1,000 followers generally received likes on their posts 8% of the time, but this drops to 1.6% for users with over 10m.
Each micro-influencer will also offer subtle differences in segmentation opportunity, depending on their appearance, presentation, age, race, gender identity, location, how expert/skilled/advanced they are. This all allows the brand to hit different sub-segments of its target market, with each micro-influencer. It is also not uncommon for up-and-coming micro-influencers to team up and post collaborative content, opening up the potential for audience crossover.
For some micro-influencers, it can be a case of doing the right thing at the right time, as well as having a compelling story. Craig Peters was tagged by a follower in a post by Reebok, promoting the then upcoming World Burpee Day in October 2016. Craig was already well into his own year-long burpee challenge, raising money for St. George’s Hospital and awareness of twin to twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), which affected his twin sons. He had set himself a target of over 67,000 burpees by doing one on January 1, two on January 2 and so on all year, adding one a day. He was also planning an attempt on the world record for the total number of burpees done in 24hrs. Craig explains: “They got in touch straight away asking for my postal address along with other details, and then sent me a whole load of Reebok branded gear to train in and feature in my burpee videos.”
The relationship developed when Reebok invited Craig up to its UK HQ, near Manchester. He’s been in close touch with the brand ever since. “The day before my Guinness World Record attempt they filmed, edited, and posted a ‘good luck’ video from Rich Froning and Dan Bailey in the USA – two well-known Crossfit athletes. Then, in Feb 2017, they invited me to take part in a product launch event, which involved 60 athletes across four cities (Sydney, New York, Los Angeles, and London) trying to break as many world records as possible. I attempted the most burpees in one minute, surrounded by a huge crowd in Trafalgar Square. It was a wonderful experience to be involved in and to also get connected with some of the world’s top athletes.”
Micro-influencer campaigns are a natural development of niche marketing. Brands used to be confined to working with a small number of vertical media outlets in each market, placing advertising and editorial to target particular demographics. Now they can add another layer to harness the engagement potential of real people sharing genuine interests. It also blurs classic elements of the third-party endorsement traditionally gained from PR, even when they follow sponsorship signposting guidelines. The micro-influencer has become a niche outlet, a sector specialist publishing their content to a loyal following.
By Ben Crispin