A few weeks ago, I attended a dinner with a beauty brand – one of my favourite luxury skincare brands of all time. I looked around the small intimate group, and suddenly a wash of ‘I don’t deserve to be here’ flooded over me. I’m usually full of confidence at blog events, but looking around the room and realising that I was the ‘smallest’ blogger there, suddenly made me feel tiny and insignificant.
The other girls in the room all had ten times my instagram following, they had hundreds of thousands more subscribers than me on YouTube, and my blog photography and content felt small and unimportant compared to theirs. Sadly, I know I am not alone with these crippling thoughts of self comparison with other bloggers, it’s something that in fact I feel the majority of bloggers contend with. There will always be someone with more followers, subscribers, page views than me, but a conversation I had the very next day tipped that whole thought process completely upside down.
The Rise of the Micro Influencer
The next morning I had a breakfast meeting, I spoke light heartedly of my insecurities from the night before but before I could complete the sentence, she stopped me and said; ‘but Josie, you’re a Micro Influencer. It’s not all about the numbers you know.’ I’d not heard of Micro Influencers before, but what she told me next not only fascinated me, but also confirmed what I’d been thinking about over the past few months.
So what is a Micro Influencer, you may be thinking? Well, to put it briefly, a Micro Influencer is a blogger/YouTuber/instagrammer who has a ‘small’ but very engaged, and valuable audience. They are truly passionate, knowledgable and authentic, and are seen as a trusted source of information when it comes to recommendations of what to buy. Usually the influencer has between 10,000 and 100,000 followers, but this ‘small’ audience is very valuable, due to their engagement and relationship with the blogger.
It’s no longer a numbers game. Brands and PRs are realising that yes, if you want to reach a huge audience then go for the celebrity or huge YouTuber with hundreds of thousands of followers, but if you want to have an impact and convert sales, then you need to choose a little more wisely. It costs brands a lot more money to work with influencers with a huge following, but over the last year especially it’s become more apparent that as the following number increases, often the engagement drops off.
Choosing the Right Blogger to Work With
The blogging industry has absolutely exploded in the past couple of years, meaning that now brands have hundreds of bloggers to choose from when finding the right person for their campaigns. While perhaps a year or so ago it was all about sending products to those with the biggest audiences, now the true value is finding the influencers with the most relevant audience.
For some campaigns of course it’s still a numbers game – they want to get their product or brand message in front of as many people as possible, but they are also realising that if the influencer that they are paying to promote their product only gets a few hundred or thousand likes per photo despite their gigantic following number, something is not quite going to plan. Perhaps they are a celebrity, and people follow them because they are a fan – they may love the person, but they don’t really care so much about the products they are recommending. After all, they follow because of an interest in the person, and not their recommendations. Celebrities and Influencers are very different in this respect – an influencer has built an audience of people who not only wish to follow the person, but also they trust and respect their recommendations, and so are more likely to be influenced by them, and make a purchase decision.
Equally, there are a lot of influencers who have a very large, young audience with little spending power. This audience is still valuable to brands due to its size and pushing a brand message, but once again this audience isn’t necessarily interested in buying what the influencer is recommending. I can see why brands get blown away by the follower numbers, of course! But now that influencer marketing is no longer new, but is maturing, brands are now starting to realise they need to be a little more selective.
Hence the rise of the Micro Influencer. Brands are now turning to those of us with far less numbers to help them share their messages. The resulting benefits include a higher authenticity, more of a storytelling element to the post, higher engagement and the potential of reaching a targeted, more tailored audience. Millennials that have grown up with the internet at their finger tips simply don’t want to be advertised to in the ‘old fashioned’ ways of print media, television adverts or billboards, they want to see a connection with the brand or product, and that doesn’t mean through a highly airbrushed, stylised image of a reality TV or social media star holding up a bottle or box of product X,Y or Z, they want an authentic experience; so they look to smaller scale, micro influencers.
Micro Influencers with Mega Influence
Because of this authenticity, engagement, and higher conversion to sales, it’s easy to see why brands are seeking to work more with micro influencers. But how do you explain how this small audience is so engaged? Why can’t a large audience be just as engaged too?
Let me start by saying that there are of course influencers who have both a large, and very engaged audience. There are bloggers and YouTubers that I look up to here in the UK whose YouTube channels and blogs I adore, and I know their audience is very attuned to their recommendations, and boy do they shift products. Just a fleeting mention will cause a product to sell out, and these girls (and guys!) are amongst the hardest working people I know, and it shows.
Often though, influencers engagement actually decreases as their following grows. A report showed that those with under 10,000 followers boast an 8% engagement ratio on average, while influencers with over a million see their engagement drop to just 1%, or less. To explain this engagement gap, firstly the more followers and influencer has, they more likely they are to have attracted a higher number of fake or ‘bot’ accounts which increase their follower numbers, but contribute nothing to engagement.
Brands are now concerned with the follower number only as a secondary consideration to engagement, to filter out those whose following is un-authentic due to bots, fake accounts, or ‘false growth’ through the likes of loop giveaways, or a one-off viral post.
I found this interesting report on micro-influencers, and their findings show exactly how effective the influence actually is. With 82% of consumers ‘highly likely’ to follow the recommendations of a micro influencer, and micro influencers having up to 22.2% more buying conversions than the average consumer.
So, are brands getting a bargain by working with Micro Influencers? Well, they’re getting a higher R.O.I, but as smaller influencers start to see the measurable results of their work (through the likes of affiliate, and trackable links), they aren’t necessarily cheaper than working with larger influencers, because they know the value of their content.
Ultimately, the tables are turning and it’s no longer a numbers game. My research into Micro Influencers has proved a few things which I already believed to be true, and makes me feel a lot more valuable in this ever growing industry. I now take pride in emailing brands when I see my audience buying the products that I’m featuring, whether that’s a high-end mascara or a luxury handbag.
If you’re a smaller influencer, then take pride in your audience – even if you don’t have the extra 000’s on your following number, your audience truly cares about your recommendations, and that’s the most important aspect of being an influencer.
I would absolutely love to know your thoughts on this; are you a micro influencer? Do you agree with my thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!