INFLUENCER MARKETING on Instagram is big business.
According to Forbes, an account with over one million followers can earn up to US$50,000… per single post.
However, marketers have begun to realize that when it comes to followers, bigger is not always better. Once an account is over a certain size, people actually become less likely to engage.
Instagram users, it appears, are less keen to interact with celebrities than with someone they can relate to more closely. The bombardment of promotional posts by celebrities who work with a whole bunch of brands can often come across as fake and misleading. Sometimes it’s just hard to believe that a celebrity’s suddenly plump pout is because of some “magic lip-plumping” balm and not a round of Botox or dermal filler.
Takumi, an influencer marketing platform, recently found that Instagram influencers with 1,000 to 1,999 followers fared the best on engagement, according to a PRWeek report. Accounts with a smaller following generated 5 percent engagement on sponsored posts, versus the measly 0.76 percent generated by users with over 100,000 followers.
And so the micro-influencer is introduced: Instagram users with followers in the tens rather than hundreds of thousands. These accounts usually work in a particular niche, for instance, travel, fashion, food or fitness and for brands, and represent a voice that the man on the street finds more relatable and authentic over celebrity-status influencers.
Commensurate with the increasing potential of this under-the-radar influencer is the rising number of agencies, tools and services, all aimed at connecting brands with the group so both can gain benefits. Apps such as Takumi, use differing degrees of automation to match and manage influencer campaigns.
Many of the apps and agencies that manage micro-influencers pay users based on the amount of interest their promotional posts generate, whilst others pay a fixed-rate per post.
The use of micro-influencers offers better engagement at a fraction of the cost of what the biggest social media stars demand.
For Unilever, a consumer goods company, micro-influencers provide a brilliant alternative to costly agencies.
Madeleine Boulton, assistant brand manager at Unilever, told Digiday:
“Previously, we’ve used agencies [to work with influencers], but if you have a middleman like that, then as an advertiser it becomes a bit detached. I quite like being in control of the influencers myself.”
With the help of influencer network Tribe, Unilever ran a campaign this summer for its margarine brand Stork. The firm outlined a brief asking a variety of influencers (handpicked by Tribe) for images of foods baked using Stork ingredients. From this, Unilever picked their favorite posts, and then the creators of these posted the images to their own accounts.
According to the brand, the posts by the micro-influencers led to around 436,000 followers viewing the images over five weeks. The images generated a collective 11,990 likes and comments, with the cost per engagement being 21 cents.
According to Tribe, for brands, anything less than 40 cents per engagement is good value.
“Brands like us [Unilever] don’t necessarily have the budget now to go and spend on mega-influencers,” Boulton told Digiday. “We’re looking across the board at how we can be smarter with our money, and working with micro-influencers is one of them.”
Unilever also recruited 1,000 micro-influencers for a three-week campaign for its hair care brand Clear, which enabled them to capture 2,421 email addresses.
Whilst brands tend to target micro-influencers with followers in the thousands, Spread It, a Hong Kong-based start-up invites sign-ups from users who get an average of just 50 likes per post. The app offers micro-influencers rewards such as coupons, freebies and free tickets rather than hard cash.
Whilst micro-influencers are looking to bring great engagement for brands through their authentic voices, this does not mean to say that this is the end for influencers with a larger following base.
According to Boulton, the perfect combination would be to use larger influencers for high-impact campaigns, whilst for the more day-to-day engagement, enlist the help of micro-influencers.