Micro-Influencers: Brands in the Real World

Influencer marketing is maturing. Brands are putting their money behind it, agencies have units dedicated to it and start-ups are developing innovative new products to support it. But a large number of highly effective influencers who are currently undervalued – the micro-influencers.

Micro-influencers are social media users who have between 1,000 and 100,000 followers. The concept of micro-influencers is not new – sociologist Paul Felix Lazarsfeld used it in 1940 to describe how most people formed their opinions of US presidential candidates by talking to friends and family rather than listening to media and institutions. But social platforms now allow brands to use micro-influencers to engage with multiple audiences at scale.

Here are three reasons why brands should include micro-influencers in their content strategies.

1. Micro-influencers improve ROI

Publicis Media’s Touchpoints tool tells us that micro-influencer touchpoints such as friends’ and family recommendations contribute more to consumers’ experience of brands than celebrity endorsements. Micro-influencers are more associated with the beauty category than celebrity endorsements, and have a greater influence on purchasing decisions. The chart below illustrates how personal recommendation consistently ranks higher than celebrity endorsements in brand experience points, a measure of how much each touchpoint contributes to consumers’ experience of brands. (See the ‘Category insights – Beauty’ section of this magazine for more on what Touchpoints tells us about the beauty category.)

We also know, through the Publicis Media’s Socialtools, that people are more likely to engage with beauty influencers that have fewer followers. This holds true across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. As the chart below shows, on Instagram – the key social platform for most beauty brands – users are more than four times more likely to engage with a post from a beauty influencer with under a thousand followers than from one with more than a million. The chart is indexed to show clearly how the trend applies across all platforms. Engagement rates for beauty influencers in fact vary widely across the three platforms: they are 5.6 times higher on Instagram than on Facebook, and 44 times higher on Instagram than on Twitter. (See the ‘Category insights – Beauty: social’ section of this magazine for more on what Socialtools tells us about the beauty category.)

So micro-influencers are more cost-effective, contribute more to brand experience, and elicit greater engagement that influencers with mass followings.

2. Micro-influencers can rebuild trust

Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey in 2015 found that 83% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, while only 43% trust ads on mobile devices. Micro-influencers can help brands to bridge the credibility gap. The social media channels of top-tier influencers and celebrities are windows into the unreal: they allow people to fantasise and dream. Less-famous influencers offer authentic access to their real lives, and so have more impact and authority when consumers are making product and brand decisions.

3. Micro-influencers are a goldmine for insights

Micro-influencers drive real engagement and offer high ROI, but they can do more than – they can generate new interests and help shape creative. Micro-influencer strategies allow brands to create thousands of media assets, many more than are created through celebrity endorsement. The proliferation of data and the rise of machine learning allows agencies to generate insights from every content asset, providing new information on consumers’ behaviour and related interests. This allows agencies to further optimise their campaigns and fuel the creative process.