When it comes to influencer marketing, think micro


As many of my colleagues in the office will know, I’m a big Instagram fan – I’m more likely to check my Insta feed on a tea break than respond to a text message. As well as my friends, family, and the A-list (and admittedly Z-list) celebrities I follow, there is a small handful of other people who I follow doggedly.  I watch their every ‘InstaStory’, read their every comment, follow their tags, and unashamedly buy products featured in their photos.  Recently, I successfully identified a celebrity on a train down to London, just from watching their InstaStory and working out that it was in fact them “who’d just been for a meeting at ASOS” – I like to think of it as being social media-savvy, not a stalker.

Over the past few months this obsession has led to me reading up about how Instagram can be an effective tool for marketers for promoting brands and how influencer marketing is set to continue to grow in 2018.  Nothing new there perhaps, but whilst the likes of Zoella, Caspar Lee, and Joe Sugg (Zoella’s brother) might spring to mind when thinking about the influential YouTubers and Instagrammers of the world, over the last few months, it is the elusive micro-influencers and what they mean for social media marketing that have caught my attention. 

What on earth is a micro-influencer and what exactly is all the hype about?

The term ‘micro-influencers’ has become a buzzword and is set to stick around through 2018 for good reason. While there’s no strict definition it is typically someone with a small but highly engaged following – usually fewer than 20,000 followers on Instagram or a few thousand on Facebook or Twitter. They make up the largest portion of digital influencers, and while their audience size might be modest, their influence is definitely not.

How can micro-influencers be such an effective marketing tool?

1.       Cost effective

Firstly, their rates are significantly lower than ‘Macro-influencers’ i.e. those with 500k+ followers who tend to charge very high fees for branded collaborations.  While macro-influencers can deliver value, often their fees are astronomical, pricing many brands out of this option. For example, a brand could pay £10,000 for a top-tier influencer to do one post or invest the same amount into a campaign with 20 micro-influencers reaching a wider audience that is likely to be more highly engaged and on target. Brands may even be able to compensate micro-influencers with free products as opposed to cash.

2.       Mighty oaks from little acorns grow

Micro-influencers are perfect for a groundswell approach to influencer marketing, whereby brands want to reach as many people as possible through multiple avenues, starting small and then building up. This is a great strategy for brand awareness and exposure as they can give a business the ability to saturate the market with their brand and product. Furthermore, repetition is good in any type of marketing, and a micro-influencer campaign ensures that the target audience are regularly exposed to the brand or product through multiple outlets.

3.       Content creation kings and queens

If a brand’s influencer marketing goal is more focused on content creation, then micro-influencers are the holy grail! Micro-influencers may not have a following to match the Zoella’s of the world, but they can still create great content. Whether it’s written, imagery, video or multimedia content a brand is after, seeking smaller influencers gets the job done on budget, without compromising on quality.

Instagram have recently changed their algorithm to mirror Facebook’s. Now, posts from profiles that users follow and interact with are shown first in Instagram feeds, and authentic, quality content is prioritised over promoted content from big brands. This should make micro-influencer content more visible than content from celebrities if the algorithm determines users are likely to be more interested in it.

4.       A loyal, highly engaged audience

Micro-influencers tend to have a highly engaged, loyal following, mostly because their audience is still growing, and at this point is made up of people they may have met, people who have followed them from the beginning, and people in their personal friends and family network.  A food micro-influencer, for example, might have only a few thousand followers and post recipe ideas on Instagram for their fans to try at home, but their average post will receive a healthy amount of engagement relative to the size of their follower base. In a recent study by Markerly studying Instagram engagement, as an influencer’s number of followers increases, their number of likes and comments from followers decreases.

5.       Engagement through authenticity and trust

What makes an audience more engaged with one influencer over another comes down to their topic niche, content aesthetic, personality, authenticity, tone, and most importantly, their ability to be personal with their audience. Micro-influencers cherish their growing community, and are readily available to attend events, interact with followers, reply to comments, engage with their community and have a presence offline, as well as online.  High-profile vloggers and influencers meanwhile have an in-demand, celebrity status which often prevents them from being as personal with their large audience (after all, not many people have time to reply to 6,000 Instagram comments a day!).  In addition, micro-influencers are more likely to be trusted by their audience, whereas trust can wane with macro-influencers who regularly work with a wide variety of brands and are widely known to take on paid advertising products.


All in all, when it comes to influencer marketing, think small

There is true value in understanding the power and value of engagement in the influencer marketing space, and for the brands that do, their social media campaigns are better for it. By leveraging these ‘smaller’ individuals in marketing strategies, any brand can create a winning formula for success.


Grant Wilkinson, Research Executive

Chris Handford