Why Follower Counts Don’t Matter, and the Rapid Rise of Micro-Influencers

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Perhaps we have kings and queens to blame for the recent proliferation of micro-influencers. After all, it was the established heads of a monarchy who first endorsed luxury goods, bestowing a lucky few of their preferred products with the ultimate seal of prestige. What brand wouldn’t kill to use the line, “If it’s good enough for the Queen…”

Next came a new breed of royalty in the form of celebrities. Less untouchable, but still operating in an exclusive world few of us will ever experience. But with the word experience, things changed. A new world order in brand exposure came to rule, using the idea of experience as a pedestal to power and influence. With the advent of social media, it was suddenly possible for all of us to share in experiences once reserved for the few. Experiences became the new currency.

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Enter Millennials, Gen Y, Gen Z, cord-cutters, or the moniker of your choice, and you’ve got two generations of consumers who hold all the power, a power that manifests in the form of choice.

They choose who they want to follow, choose the experiences they want online (and when they want it…which is usually ‘now’), and choose who they listen to — which means those that influence their choices are the true monarchy of this branding revolution.

Science Says Smaller is Better

Social identity theory contends that personal identity is partly formed by one’s association with a group of like-minded individuals, and opinions formed within that group are given more credence than opinions formed outside it. This psychology is the basis for brands’ rapid and expanding pursuit of influencers, as this coveted group already has a large, loyal following at their disposal. In fact, current data shows that 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement.

With such eager audiences within reach, shouldn’t brands try to reach as many of them as possible by partnering with influencers with the most followers? As other platforms have gone the way of micro-targeting using specific zip codes and demographic information, so too has the influencer game.

Recent statistics indicate flattening engagement performance as follower counts exceed 100,000, and logic would suggest that opinions, questions, or comments from followers become less meaningful — and therefore less frequent — if millions think similarly. That’s why micro-influencers, influencers with far fewer followers, have risen to prominence. The personal connection they have with their followers makes for a much more meaningful recommendation and likely purchase.

Current statistics show micro-influencers produce:

  •  60% higher engagement

  • Underpriced (6.7X more cost-efficient per engagement)

  • 22.2% more weekly conversations than the average consumer

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Instead of the size of an audience, brands are now focusing on meaningful engagement metrics, most often measured by likes, comments, and eventually, purchases. According to Rebecca Suhrawardi, fashion journalist and Forbes contributor, “More and more, brands are turning to people with far [fewer] numbers of followers — sometimes even as low as 8,000 — to help share their messages. In return, a brand receives intangible benefits like authenticity, a unique point of view, deeper storytelling and the potential of reaching a more tailored audience.”

In fact, cosmetics and beauty powerhouse Lush is dumping the algorithmic guesswork of daily social media management for its UK properties altogether. Instead, it’s upping its influencer marketing game in an effort to develop more meaningful, direct connections with its customers. A senior Lush spokesperson confirmed as much in a recent statement to The Drum: “You’ll start to see the rise of Lush personalities online. This isn’t a replacement for the brand channels but an opportunity for our customers to connect one-on-one with people within Lush based on the various categories.”

ROI Stands for Micro-Influencer

Whether in New York or Los Angeles, our clients always manage to ask the one question that spans every time zone, and it goes something like: “Right but, so what does this mean in terms of sales?” At HypeLife Brands, our answer usually goes a little like: “It means more of them.”

Your mileage may vary on how much you want to promise to your clients, but micro-influencers are a huge part of our ongoing outreach strategy with the Millennial generation, and the returns have been excellent. If you’re still on the fence, or if you’re clinging to one-time celebrity endorsement for dear life, here are a few things to keep in mind when you consider micro-influencers for your next marketing strategy.

Multiple Micro-Influencers and Reuse Means Programmatic

As micro-influencers have taken on a more prominent role in the marketing strategies of brands, several new startups have launched platforms that help businesses grow and micro-influencers monetize, by uniting both for mutual success. Reloquence is one such company. Its mission is “to provide a toolkit that allows digital marketing agencies and brands to integrate influencer marketing paid sponsorship ads into standard workflows for easy reuse across multiple channels,” said Megan Eskey, CEO of Reloquence.

“Reuse means greater ROI for clients, and lower price points means brands can hire more micro-influencers per campaign, activating their message on multiple sites at one time,” Eskey explained. “Everyone knows a micro-influencer, and most brands have already identified some of their best influencers. Reloquence makes it easy to invite, browse and hire micro-influencers for customized paid sponsorship campaigns.”

Other programmatic micro-influencer marketing startups include  Influry  and Unity Influence. Influry’s site states, “Manual research, endless negotiations and the process of reviewing the content make current influencer marketing difficult. With programmatic influencer marketing, we focus on what matters.”

You can either put all your money into one post that will be seen, and most likely forgotten, by a large number of unqualified eyes. Or you can spread out that same amount of money across 10-15 posts that will be seen by a smaller, highly targeted, highly engaged audience.

Scout’s Honor

Micro-influencers rarely promote brands they don’t believe in, and because of this transparency, their followers trust their judgement and recommendations implicitly.

Level: Expert

Micro-influencers post almost exclusively about a very niche subject matter or topic, and are very often viewed as experts in that area. As an advertiser, that equates to expert-level endorsements.

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Get Engaged

Because their followings are smaller, micro-influencers can be actively engaged with their curated communities, making their followers feel that much more connected to them. In social media, connections and relationships almost always equate to higher levels of engagement with posts.

Sell More Stuff

Mass influencers will undoubtedly create additional awareness for your brand, and that’s valuable. Micro-influencers, on the other hand, operate in a different part of the sales cycle.

Micro-influencers are trusted resources and voices to their followers, and their recommendations (posts) are essentially referrals.

And we all know the most likely lead to turn into a sale is a referral.


Author: Curt Cuscino, Founder and CEO of HypeLife Brands [Connect with Curt on LinkedIn]

HypeLife brands is a Southern California-based, progressive brand development + startup marketing agency specializing in helping lifestyle brands and startups engage the Millennial generation.

Learn more about HypeLife Brands and how they help their select roster of Millennial-tuned clients at HypeLifeBrands.com.

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