Influencer marketing has been positioned as the answer for marketers overwhelmed with the sheer vastness of the digital landscape and who need help cutting through the noise to reach their target audience. At some point in the sales cycle, prospects need validation from their peers that a particular service or product is worth purchasing, and an influencer marketing strategy provides that approval.
The temptation is to work with the most well-known names in a marketer's industry and tap into their large audience. However, when it comes to influencer marketing, bigger isn't always better. More companies are seeing stronger levels of engagement by incorporating micro-influencers into their social media and digital marketing campaigns, resulting in more effective marketing strategies.
Influencer marketing becomes the status quo
Interest in influencer marketing has ramped up significantly in recent years. As early as June 2015, scores of marketers had started to leverage these strategies in earnest: An Augure survey discovered that 84 percent of marketing professionals incorporated influencers into their digital marketing campaigns.
The momentum driving influencer marketing has only grown since then. According to Tomoson research, 59 percent of marketers intend to increase the amount they spend on influencer marketing initiatives.
When executed correctly, influencer marketing can be remarkably effective. A recent Collective Bias study discovered in one instance that a brand tripled its redemption rate after employing this strategy, going from 15 percent to 45 percent.
The benefits of influencer marketing aren't relegated to the digital realm, either. The same study found that consumers who were exposed to content created or shared by influencers were more likely to visit the brand's store than those who did not. In fact, nearly 50 percent of individuals who viewed influencer content made such a trip within the following four days.
Overall, the study concluded that influencer marketing showed significant engagement metrics and provided a cost-effective method to raise brand awareness. In separate cases, one company saw its return on ad spend (ROAS) triple, while another's ROAS increased nearly eight times over its previous measurement.
The lingering question, however, is how businesses can maximize the impact of their influencer partners to drive marketing effectiveness.
Playing small-ball influencer marketing
It's natural for marketers to want to engage with the most visible influencers in their space to maximize awareness, but going big may not be the best approach. If you have a limited budget, for instance, big names will be too expensive.
There's a more pressing reason to drop A-list, macro-influencers, though: They may not be providing a level of engagement and awareness commensurate with their price tag. According to Digiday's Yuyu Chen, macro-influencers can hit a ceiling with their ability to engage followers. At a certain point, their level of influence actually drops off, meaning companies may not be getting the return on investment they expect from such big names.
"Micro-influencers present several advantages over their more notable counterparts."
Micro-influencers, meanwhile, have emerged as something of a sweet spot for this kind of marketing. Typically, these individuals have anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 followers—a large number compared with average social media users, but still small compared to A-list influencers.
Why micro-influencers have the edge
Micro-influencers present several advantages over their more notable counterparts. The cost difference is a clear benefit, making them a more viable option for organizations that have modest influencer marketing budgets.
Although micro-influencers reach a smaller audience, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Their followers tend to be slightly more engaged than macros. A Mediakix analysis of both macro- and micro-influencers on Instagram discovered that the latter outpaced the former with a 2.75 percent engagement rate. At worst, micro-influencers show comparable engagement metrics as more recognizable names, but at a fraction of the cost. In fact, HelloSociety concluded that micro-influencer strategies were 6.7 times more efficient than those focused around individuals with a larger social media presence.
The other factor to keep in mind is that macro-influencers may have a large audience, but they might not be viable sales prospects. If your business model and service menu aren't relevant to a large share of those individuals, it doesn't really matter how many followers your influencer has.
On the other hand, micro-influencers often have a niche and nuanced base of followers. Companies can tap into an audience that will readily find value in their messaging and services. In this way, a micro-influencer-based strategy can be a much more sensible investment than targeting more recognizable names.
A-list influencers may have their finger on the pulse of the social media landscape, but micro-influencers provide a clearer path to the audience you care about. Effective digital marketing isn't about reaching the most people - it's about targeting those who are most receptive to your message and vision.
By going small, companies can drill deeper into the potential prospect pool and engage social media users on a more targeted level.
Written by Clarity Insights
Clarity Insights is the largest consulting company in the US that focuses exclusively on data strategy, engineering, science and visualization.