Influencer marketing has proven to be a valuable method for marketing a brand or product, with some of the key outcomes being: improving brand advocacy, increasing awareness, reaching new audiences, and improving sales conversion.
The most widely used social media platforms for influencer brand collaborations is Instagram, followed by blogs, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest. According to Statista in 2016, there were 9.7 million sponsored influencer posts on Instagram, and this is expected to grow to over 30 million in 2019. In another survey from 2017, almost 96% of bloggers around the world promoted their blog posts through social media.
The question remains, do influencers with larger audiences always deliver better results? Although influencer marketing is so widely used, many marketers still struggle with identifying the right influencer, which can make or break a campaign.
There are many factors to consider when it comes to working with an influencer. Here we will show you the key differences between macro and micro influencers, and how to identify which scenarios to work with each of them.
Macro-influencers are characterized as having a large number of followers (at least over 100,000). While celebrities previously dominated in reaching such large audiences, social media has given rise to new online personalities with similar reach and clout. Thus influencer marketing grew as a more commonly adopted strategy by brands.
1.1 Why Work with Them?
Although campaigns with macro-influencers often involve significant investment, the autonomy of brands in selecting the right influencer to work with, and the ability to provide specific instructions, gives marketers more control over the campaign. Key advantages of working with macro-influencers are:
- A wide audience range, which translates to more reach
- Time saved on selecting and micromanaging a larger number of influencers
- Relatively low risk of fake followers or boosted engagement
- Higher level of professionalism
However, one disadvantage of working with macro-influencers is high costs as they are usually represented by an influencer or artist management agency. While the cost of one piece of content ultimately depends on the status of the influencer, Social Media Today reports it can cost anywhere between US $2,000 to US $50,000. For example, Juventus footballer Cristiano Ronaldo generated US $36 million in media value for Nike in 2016 through his publications to 238 million followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Ronald promoted Nike’s products in 59 publications over a period of 12 months, which it cost Nike US $13 million (Forbes).
Another major problem is the lack of customer credibility towards celebrities’ voices. According to a survey carried out by Collective Bias, only 3% of consumers are influenced by celebrities to make product purchases.
Promoting a product on a celebrity’s social account, is usually seen by consumers as inauthentic. Therefore, users rely less on celebrity sponsored content, often doubting if the product was really used by the celebrity.The issue is often experienced by brands that use macro-influencers, who have followers of a similar scale.
1.2 If It’s a Matter of Gaining Reach, Macro-Influencers are the Way to Go
According to SocialBakers, an influencer with more than 1 million followers has the potential to increase engagement by 1000% more than an account with over 250,000 followers. Thus it is not surprising that messages sponsored by macro-influencers generally have a greater reach than those of micro-influencers, and also receive much more engagement, in terms of likes and comments.
YouTuber Jack Douglass, who has over 2.6 million subscribers, collaborated with Ancestry to create a video, in which he asked his subscribers, “What makes you, you?”. He used the responses in the sponsored video, which was part of his Yesterday I Asked You series, to promote the brand. The video amassed over 1 million views, and over 77,000 likes and comments (Shane Barker).
It is likely that Ancestry would have had to engage at least 20 micro-influencers (with 10,000 to 100,000 subscribers) to generate a similar level of reach.
There has been increasing interest in working with micro-influencers. Commonly categorized by their smaller number of followers (usually ranging from 1000 to around 100,000) on Instagram, micro-influencers were also initially defined as having higher audience engagement rates as compared to macro-influencers.
In this case, a smaller number of followers actually means that micro-influencers are still able to develop personal relationships with followers, and these followers show genuine interest in their content, which leads to more genuine support for sponsored posts.
Key benefits of collaborating with micro-influencers are:
- Less investment, which makes it accessible to most brands or businesses
- Possibility of working with several influencers at the same time
- Reaching a new niche audience
- High conversion rate
- Ability to generate an increase in sales
However, one of its main drawbacks is the lower visibility and reach compared to macro-influencers. Brands also have less control over a micro-influencer’s content in terms of consistency and legitimacy. There is also a high possibility of inaccurate target audience and engagement, which makes measuring return on investment (ROI) difficult.
2.1 Why Do Some Brands Choose to Work with Micro Influencers?
Influencers are content creators that have found niche audiences with vested interest in their content. Social Media and online communities consisting of international members have emerged around specific interests. Collaborating with micro-influencers allows brands to adapt their marketing efforts to target specific audiences and reach consumers at a personal level.
The large pool of micro-influencers makes it harder for them to demand high rates, making them an attractive choice for marketers with smaller budgets or those looking to maximize their investment. Instead of spending on a few publications from one or two top influencers, marketers can collaborate with a larger pool of micro-influencers to potentially reach a more engaged audience over a sustained period of time. In some instances, publications from micro-influencers may have higher engagement as compared to publications from macro-influencers.
This makes the cost of collaborating with a micro-influencer much lower. According to Bloglovin, 97% of micro-influencers charge US $500 or less for sponsored Instagram posts. 87% charge around US $500 for sponsored blog posts.
2.2 If it is a Matter of Authenticity, then Go with Micro-Influencers
Contrary to macro-influencers, micro-influencers are the real deal in terms of trust and authenticity. According to the same analysis by Collect Bias, 30% of respondents had considered purchasing a product promoted by an influencer who was not a celebrity.
Brands that collaborate with micro-influencers also see conversion rates of more than 20%. This is not surprising, since consumers make most of their purchase decisions based on word-of-mouth from close friends (86%), distant friends (39%) and influencers (31%).
For example, Maybelline wanted to generate brand awareness and sales for their new product launch at Walmart – the Falsies Push Up Drama mascara. To achieve this, Maybelline partnered with beauty influencers who filmed beauty hauls and produced content around beauty tips and tricks. These influencers highlighted the product benefits to entice followers to visit Maybelline’s stores and counters.
The content created by these influencers generated 73,700 views and 35.7 million impressions. There were also 10,900 engagements on the influencers’ blogs, which resulted in a 1.3 times increase in total brand media value.
So, Which One Should You Go With?
A key aspect of a successful influencer campaign is authenticity. An influencer should showcase a personal message on the brand’s terms, instead of acting as a spokesperson for the brand.
It is imperative that brands also seek professionalism and efficiency. Although micro-influencers are often lauded for their higher engagement rates, this is not always the case. It is important to look beyond a micro-influencer’s follower size and understand:
- How he or she behaves with respect to branded content, and
- How their audience responds or interacts with their posts.
There is no single approach to influencer marketing, because campaign objectives will determine the most suitable type of influencer to work with. While assessing the quality of an influencer, it is important to look beyond the number of followers that an influencer has, and seek to work with people who can drive followers to engage with their content.
Social media monitoring tools make it easy to understand and visualize data and trends around an influencer’s network and community, so you can determine whether their audience is fit for your brand.