If you aren’t familiar with the term ‘influencer marketing’, I would describe it as the love child of ‘word-of-mouth’ and ‘celebrity endorsement’. People who have built up a large, trusting following on social media (in particular Instagram) are paid by brands to post photos of their products or services in use. The brand gets exposure to thousands if not millions of consumers (who are ideally in their target market) and the influencer gets paid in money and/or free products. It’s a bit of a grey area when it comes to disclosure, some brands/influencers like to be transparent about it and will state whether posts are sponsored and some do not. Typically brands collaborate with celebrities, public figures and bloggers with large followings. Until recently that is.
The demise of the Instagram influencer
In 2016 Instagram decided to change their algorithm so that rather than users seeing their feeds in chronological order, Instagram would decide what they saw and when. There was a big outcry from the influencer community as they feared this would mean less exposure and less growth. Unfortunately for some it did. This, together with the highly-saturated influencer market, has seen users resort to shady tactics to gain followers.
Shady tactics going on behind-the-scenes
- The follow/unfollow technique / Users will follow you to get your attention and then unfollow you whether you follow them back or not.
- Purchasing fake followers from click farms / Users buy followers from websites who generate hundreds of thousands of fake accounts – tempted by the very affordable prices, they can pay as little as $3 for 100 followers or $30 for 2500. This practice isn’t just limited to new users as you might imagine but people who already have very large followings have also been accused of purchasing followers.
- Using bots to like/comment/follow / Bot software allows users to set up automatic engagement with certain hashtags or users to gain exposure and followers.
- Faking their way onto the Instagram explore page / Users form very large WhatsApp groups (so that they are not detectable by Instagram) and members of these groups will frantically like/comment on each other’s posts all at the same time. Pushing their posts in to the Instagram explore page, where they will be unfairly exposed to thousands of users because of the fake activity.
So as you can understand, brands are becoming far more apprehensive when it comes to engaging with influencers. They do not want to be associating themselves with shady practices or paying for 100,000 people to be exposed to sponsored posts, when 50,000 of them are fake. Queue micro-influencers…
What is a micro-influencer?
You may have heard the term micro-influencer floating around lately, but what does it mean? And could you be one without even realising it? As a very new term, there is no official definition. However, there is a general understanding that micro-influencers are everyday individuals who have a small number of highly engaged social media followers. They focus on a specific niche and frequently share content about their interests.
Why are micro-influencers valuable to brands?
Recent studies by Takumi have picked up a surprising trend: people with up to 1K followers have an average engagement rate of 9.7%, while people with over 100K followers have a rate of just 1.7%. Which is not so surprising when you think about the fact that some larger accounts have paid for fake followers who are not going to engage, because they aren’t real. Yes, and I know what you are thinking! Even with this lower engagement rate and perhaps some fake followers, a far larger number of people will still be reached. However, as a brand you have much less control over exactly who that 1.7% is. Which leads me to my next point…
Micro-influencers are more likely to have a tightly defined niche such as travel, fashion, health, fitness or tech. Which means brands can reach a higher concentration of their target market, simply by collaborating with numerous micro-influencers rather than just one large influencer.
As well as being more targeted, micro-influencers are also more authentic. Unlike large influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers, the micro-influencer has content that is more genuine. They are also more likely to have real, personal relationship with more of their followers.
Their Instagram feeds aren’t full of obviously-sponsored post after obviously-sponsored post. But instead they have everyday content that most people can relate to. They are also more likely to reply to comments, post their own content and behave more authentically. And I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell anyone how valuable authenticity is in the world of branding.
Where celebrity influencers have been known to charge up to $75,000 just for one Instagram post, a huge 84% of micro-influencers will charge less than $250 or even accept free products as compensation. Of course, you would need to engage more than one micro-influencer to reach the same number of consumers. But it doesn’t take much to do the math – 100 x $250 is far less than $75,000.
How can brands work with micro-influencers?
The sky is really the limit with how brands and micro-influencers can collaborate. The more creative and unexpected the better I think! However here are some of the more known ways:
- Freebies / Brands can offer micro-influencers free products or services in exchange for a photo being posted on Instagram
- Event promotion / Engaging with local micro-influencers to post photos of store openings or brand events
- Discount codes / Offering micro-influencers their own personal discount code to promote on their Instagram accounts – they will then get a cut of any purchases made using their code
Could you be a micro-influencer?
So you might be wondering by now if you are in fact a micro-influencer yourself? The answer is probably yes if:
- Your personal Instagram account has 500-5000 followers
- You post quality content on a consistent basis
- Your posts all follow a common theme (Eg. Travel, fashion, health etc.)
- You have followers who look up to you and trust your opinion
- You have an engagement rate that is above 8% (I’ll share a handy tool you can use to calculate this in the next section)
Say hello on Instagram!
How much could your posts earn?
Obviously your next question would be “Well how much could my posts earn?”. Unfortunately, there really is no definitive answer for this one. But to give you a general idea pop your Instagram username in to this calculator. It will give you your engagement rate and a rough estimation of the dollar value on your posts. Very handy!
What should you do next?
If you are just happy to keep enjoying your Instagram account as you have been, then that is great! However, if you would like to pursue the path of monetising your Instagram account then you should consider the following as your next steps:
- Continue to be authentic and engage with your followers – after all this is the whole reason you are a micro-influencer so don’t lose sight of it
- Develop your marketing plan
- Define your personal branding
- Refine your photography skills
- Curate your Instagram feed
- Use Instagram to its full potential
- Define your services
- Create a media kit
- Reach out to brands
In the coming weeks, I will be talking about each of these steps in more detail. So be sure to sign up to emails below to stay in the loop.
Make your dreams happen
Be the first to know about new biz & blogging posts to learn how to perfect your personal brand and start monetizing your passion.
What are your thoughts about this new breed of influencer and what it means for influencer marketing?