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Many companies tend to think “bigger is better” when it comes to influencers and their followings, but with micro influencers (with less than 100,000 followers), the quality of their focus can pay big dividends. Micro influencers have 60% higher engagement and are almost 7X more cost-efficient. 

Influencer marketing. It is so trendy, it is even a trend that has trends right now in the marketing world.

The latest buzzword in the field is “micro influencers” – influencers with less than 100,000 followers. Usually I am quick to dismiss fads that seize marketers with ferocity and then fade just as quickly, especially since our clients rarely have the budgets that allow them to roll the dice on methods and media that are untried and rarely true. Micro influencers, however, is one that I would ask you not to dismiss so quickly, mostly because I have seen its power first hand.

Quick background…most people tend to think of influencer marketing as sports stars paid tens of thousands for a single tweet about a brand, or self-made YouTube and Instagram celebrities in beauty, fitness, and fashion reviewing and touting various products. But when you are talking about micro influencers, the concept becomes more relevant for niche industries that you probably would never even associate with social media. Professional painting, for example.

We have been working with our client, Hyde Tools, for over 10 years, and a big piece of that work has been to help the company that has been understandably traditional in its media channels continue to find ways to leverage the cost-effective reach of digital media to grow brand equity in the minds of some very niche audiences, especially younger audiences critical to maintaining future brand leadership. We have partnered with well-known home renovation personalities like Bob Vila and Danny Lipford with strong results, but then Hyde’s VP of marketing and product development noticed a young charismatic presence on YouTube and Instagram.

The “Idaho Painter” caught his eye. Chris Berry didn’t have millions of followers, but his content was fresh and authentic, and he seemed to get strong engagement with almost everything that he posted. Hyde sent some tools to him to get feedback and to see if he might like the tools enough to use them in his work.

Long story short, the Idaho Painter made a video featuring one of Hyde’s products that ended the year with 78 million views, increasing brand reach and sales interest in the product dramatically with little investment. What might be a “micro” audience for Nike was a huge audience for Hyde.

Shortly after, we began partnering with the Idaho Painter team on content and promotions with similar results.Since the videos live perpetually online, video views continue to climb well into the millions. The overall campaign not only got Hyde mega exposure on the Idaho Painter’s social channels, but it also increased traffic and exposure for their own brand assets as well. For example, visitor engagement on Hyde’s social channels increased 600% during the week of a collaboration, and the daily reach for their social content increased by 8.8 million people.

This is one success story, but the facts speak for themselves. While mainstream influencers can be drastically overpaid, according to a 2018 study:

Micro influencers have 60% higher engagement and are almost 7X more cost-efficient per engagement. They provide cheaper exposure that actually is more effective at driving customer engagement.

And why is customer engagement important to your brand? Frequent and personal or engaging brand touch points are proven to have a heightened neurological impact. They build trust and recall faster than passive, mass media exposure.

And while the fashion and beauty industries are overrun with influencers, the Hyde example shows that there is untapped opportunity in industries that are less crowded, and where micro influencers are still both authentic and value-priced.

A few tips on finding micro influencers:

  • #1: Explore YouTube first. While Instagram is the growth platform, YouTube is mature, and still outranks Facebook with 73% of U.S. adults on the platform. YouTube also has a built-in ad platform for content creators. This makes it a natural starting point for up and coming influencers to monetize their content before they have established brand partnerships.
  • #2: Prioritize quality over quantity.  Everyone gets seduced by number of followers, but with the prevalence of bots on platforms like Instagram, the numbers don’t tell the whole story, and can even be misleading. Instead, pay attention to the quality of the influencer’s content and the quality of the engagement that they get. Are they sparking real conversation and commentary from passionate users? Or a bunch of “wow your content is great” bot comments? A smaller, real audience outranks a larger fake one any day.
  • #3: Run a test, and know what success looks like for your brand. Make sure that you start small with micro influencers. Give them free product to test and review or run a contest with them before you go all in on a partnership. Make sure that their audience is your audience. This also means having some success measures in your mind before you start the test so that you aren’t dependent on their reporting or anecdotal evidence.
  • #4: Ask them for links to everything they post, so that you can track and evaluate well and don’t miss activity they’ve posted on multiple platforms.
  • #5: Try to find micro influencers who are not yet partnered with multiple brands. Not only will this be cost-saving, but you will build a more authentic and less transactional relationship. As soon as they become more sought-after, partnerships will become more expensive and have less importance to them.

Influencers aren’t a panacea for a brand’s marketing strategy, but especially for niche brands with very targeted audiences, micro influencers can produce big results.