The rise of digital advertising has drastically changed the way we do business, and social platforms are no longer just an option -- they are an integral part of a brand’s marketing strategy. As social continues to dominate more of consumers’ time, we’re witnessing the evolution of a new kind of powerhouse: the influencer. These self-branded celebrities are offering brands new ways to maximize organic reach via cleverly placed promotions and sponsorships that speak to consumers without many of the overt advertising tactics found in television, print and online ads. However, not every brand can afford an influencer campaign, which can run as much as $300,000 for a single video spot.
Enter: the micro-influencer.
Loosely defined as those whose social following ranges from 1,000 to 100,000, micro-influencers are smaller-scale social stars who can help brands deliver authentic messaging at a fraction of the cost of A-list celebrity influencers. They serve as a complement to campaigns. They are the everyday voices, the product advocates and go-to resources for authentic consumer reviews.
As a media editor, I am entrenched in social trends and leapt at the opportunity to turn my Instagram account into a social guinea pig. Could I gain a loyal following that reached the micro-influencer level? Significantly boost engagement on my profile? Was there a way to hack the system to reach micro-influencer status? I spent 90 days building my voice and micro-influencer angle to discover what marketers need to know about this fast-growing group.
So, how do you choose the right micro-influencer?
Based on my experience, here are five tips marketers should keep in mind when trying to work with a micro-influencer:
- Make sure their follower engagement is real. Thanks to the advent of bots, it’s now easier than ever for social users to enable bots to falsely inflate their follower bases. The problem? Most bots employ followers that are inactive or fake users. Though there’s no foolproof way to assess whether a micro-influencer is using a bot, by checking out their follower lists, reading comments and looking at where their likes are coming from, you can get a solid idea as to their authenticity.
- Choose people who actually enjoy your products. Consumers can sniff out a fake. Work with people who enjoy and can genuinely promote your products and services. Their posts will be more convincing and more likely to drive sales.
- Take a matchmaker approach. Consider an influencer’s voice and how they present themselves on social media. Is this how you’d like your brand to be presented? Because as an influencer for you, that’s how your brand will be presented. Choose personalities who complement your brand’s vision and identity.
- Build a relationship. Continue to build a relationship with your influencers, and use them regularly. The more you know them, the better brand advocates they’ll be.
- Get it in writing. As the saying goes, if it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen. Clearly outline the expectations for you and the micro-influencer. Among them are pricing, posting guidelines, sensitivities, frequency, tagging, hashtags, engagement, and a plan for adhering to Federal Trade Commission influencer guidelines.
So, you want to be a micro-influencer...
My foray into social led to several key takeaways. Beyond gaining approximately 2,000 followers in a matter of weeks, I also learned about the value of engagement and how quickly followers will unfollow you if you lack consistency with your posting times and frequencies. As such, keep these tips in mind when building your micro-influencer identity:
- Differentiate. Establish your angle and make it unique. There are thousands of "mommy blogs," fitness-focused Instagram profiles and YouTube product tutorials. Work outside of the box to come up with a memorable play on these broader themes. Draw inspiration from unique influencers such as BatDad or tiny twin influencers Mila & Emma.
- Know your audience. Once you’ve discovered your angle, make sure you consistently speak to the right audience in the right way. If you’re a health and fitness guru, a post about being stuck in an airport may not resonate with followers. But position it as, “I’m stuck in an airport. Here’s how I eat healthy on the go,” and suddenly it will.
- Polish your posts. As a micro-influencer (or micro-influencer-to-be!), you’re a professional. Take the extra time to edit, filter and add that final polish to your posts, and don’t ramble about products for 20-plus minutes. You’ll lose your audience in the blink of an eye.
- Engage. Use relevant and trending hashtags, follow profiles that complement yours and make small talk to build relationships with other users.
It didn’t take a bot for me to reach 2,000 followers -- just crafty work with filters, a handful of hashtags and friendly conversation.
Andrea Brake is an editor at SmartBrief, which provides marketers with ad and content marketing solutions to meet their goals. Contact Dena Malouf to learn more about advertising with us.