influencer marketing is dead

Influencer marketing has been around for a long time. It is all about finding someone with a relevant audience who is willing to share their love for your product. Today, more businesses in the B2C and B2B niche are embracing influencer marketing. Influencer marketing works because it makes brands look more relatable and trustworthy in the market.

However, in recent times, the industry has evolved a great deal. In the past, celebrity influencers held all the power. Today, however, the younger demographic especially are tuning out such brand messages. Instead, they are trusting micro-influencers they regard as their peers. 70% of the people in this demographic are more likely to be influenced into a buying decision by their peers, instead of taking the word of celebrity influencers or consuming direct-to-customer marketing from brands. 

Although the landscape has changed, however, influencer marketing is still very much alive and is helping more brands to reach their target audience. 

Influencer Marketing a $15 Billion Industry by 2022

The influencer marketing industry was worth $2 billion in 2017. In 2019, reports suggested that the industry will be worth $10 billion by 2020 and become a $15 billion industry by 2022. The industry is blossoming because it is becoming more accessible than ever, with more brands, agencies, and influencers entering into the fray. 

Celebrity Influencer Marketing Is Dead

celebrity influencer marketing

According to a 2018 report, 61% of consumers said they would be more likely to take product recommendations from peers on social media while only 36% agreed to do the same with influencers and celebrities. This suggests that the era of brands relying on celebrity influencers is gone. 

The report states more consumers want brands to ditch the use of highly edited visuals of celebrities to push products. There is also concern that most of the celebrities in these campaigns don’t actually use the products they recommend. Instead, they are just doing the will of the highest bidder. This means that more people now want to see brand recommendations from everyday people. 

These authentic and transparent posts from people they regard as friends or peers tend to get more engagement while brand recommendations are glossed over. Social media users rely on the platform to learn more about a brand, and not necessarily to complete a purchase.

The huge costs of working with celebrity influencers and the low engagement numbers they return have also made it more difficult for many brands to work with them. A post from a celebrity influencer can cost up to $250,000, and there is always the long line of representatives and other businesses you have to wade through to get them involved. 

According to this study, posts from smaller accounts get more engagement than those with hundreds of thousands or millions of followers. This is why more brands are gravitating towards micro-influencers. The study states that influencers with 1,000 to 5,000 followers have around 8.8% engagement rate compared to the 3.6% for influencers with 10,000 followers. The number worsens as the follower count increases. Working with micro-influencers is also cheaper with the rates hovering around $1,000 per post for those with 100,000 followers. 

Influencer Fraud Is on the Rise

Another reason why brands are ditching celebrity influencers is the fact that influencer fraud is on the rise. According to reports, influencer marketing fraud costs businesses $1.3 billion in 2019. Brands generally pay influencers based on their reach, as shown by their number of followers. 

The problem, however, is that some of them buy fake followers, or continue to count users that have since stopped being active on the platform. Even engagements can now be bought. This means that businesses paying these influencers end up paying for reach that only exists on paper. As long as brands keep paying for raw reach and engagement data, influencer fraud will not go away.

This is why more businesses are now exploring the option of using micro-influencers to generate authentic engagement. 

Enter Micro-influencers

Micro-influencers are those that have smaller audiences. Depending on where you look, the audience size needed to categorize a user as a micro-influencer is anywhere between 1,000-100,000 followers. Those with 1,000 followers generated 85% higher engagement than those with 100,000 followers. Therefore, the lower the follower count, the better the potential engagement you can expect from the influencer. The better costs and lots of opportunities also mean that your business may be better served working with dozens of micro-influencers as against choosing one celebrity influencer.

The Benefits of Choosing Micro-Influencers

Benefits of using micro-influencers

Here’s a closer look at why you should pay more attention to micro-influencers:

Higher Engagement Rates

As you’ve seen above, micro-influencers get more engagement from users, and this makes them an excellent addition to any brand’s marketing strategy. Unlike celebrity accounts that tend to post infrequently, micro-influencers post regularly, and are able to engage with their audience through comments, replies, follows, likes, and more.

Increased interaction between the influencer and the audience ensures a connection is established quicker, making the influencer more relatable when compared to a celebrity. A micro-influencer discussion around your brand will be seen as a genuine attempt to discuss the benefits and demerits of a product, while a celebrity influencer doing the same thing will most likely give off the feeling of a paid hack regurgitating marketing speak.

This means that your target audience will pay more attention to what a micro-influencer has to say, which will not help you attract genuine eyes to your brand, but also increase your chances of closing out more sales. 

Affordable for Brands of All Sizes

While multinationals may have no problems with paying the huge fees a celebrity influencer will potentially charge, micro-influencers are within reach for businesses of all sizes. As you’ve seen above, it could cost hundreds of thousands to work with a celebrity, while it is possible to find micro-influencers that can take a few hundred per post.

This makes it possible for businesses of all sizes to tap into micro-influencers and get closer to their target audience. If you have a sizable budget, you should consider working with multiple influencers to give you a wider net and reach different personas. 

Higher Conversion Rates

Since more people trust micro-influencers, it is only natural that they can attract more business for your brand. 49% of people say that they trust recommendations by influencers when making purchase decisions, and with 61% of people stating that they’d rather take recommendations from everyday people; it is easy to see how micro-influencers are important when it comes to driving conversions. 

The statistics play out in reality everyday around you. When you are thinking about visiting a new restaurant you’ve bookmarked, chances are that you do a quick search on social media to see what people have said about the business. In the posts that come up, you are more likely to pay attention to posts from everyday users compared to people with millions of followers. It is also not uncommon to jump online while at the store to get opinions on a product before finalizing the purchase.

Similarly, businesses in the B2B space will always prefer to work with companies that come highly recommended amongst other professionals they know. When there are no recommendations from their immediate circles, the next approach is to seek references, case studies, and reviews of the service online. 

We care about third-party opinion when it comes to making purchases, but we give more value to the opinion of certain people, and micro-influencers fall within this group.

Access to Niche Markets

Unlike major celebrities, micro-influencers allow you to tap into a small and highly-specific target group. For example, a popular TV personality will attract followers from all walks of life. This means working with them on a campaign makes it impossible to know just what percentage of their audience will be interested in your product or services.

Micro-influencers, on the other hand, come in all sizes, across various niches. Each of them will appeal to a specific type of audience. So, if you are in the health niche, for example, working with dozens of micro-influencers that are fitness enthusiasts and gym lovers, for example, will yield more results when compared to working with a celebrity.

To work out what niche markets you are targeting, you need to understand your buyer personas. Who is your ideal customer? What are their biggest interests? Micro-influencers tend to have a follower base that aligns closely with their interests. 

Targeting niche markets through micro-influencers is the best way to ensure you are not spending money on an audience that will barely have any interest in your brand, let alone making any purchases.

They Are Deemed More Relatable by Your Audience

The average micro-influencer is an average Joe or Karen that goes to a real job and joins in sharing wisecracks with their followers at the end of the day and during the weekends. Some of their followers know them (in real life and virtually) from over the years. This means that they are a lot more open to digesting ANY content the influencers post on social media with little or no skepticism. 

The followers believe these micro-influencers share similar struggles and pain points, so anything they recommend must be worth it. Even when these people gradually grow to become very popular, they tend to retain this trust. Think about the individuals that slowly grew from doing casual reviews of certain products to launching YouTube channels and attracting tens of thousands of followers. They still generally retain the loyalty of their audience even in the growth, and will most likely drive more meaningful engagement when compared to celebrities.

The bottom line is that people love to listen to “people like me”. Working with micro-influencers ensures you are tapping into that feeling of “relatability”. 

Fewer Cases of Influencer Fraud

This survey shows that 98% of people have noted seeing some dodgy behavior in the follower counts of traditional influencers. While it is possible that bots can target such accounts, it is more likely that the influencers are buying more followers to attract higher pay for posts. Micro-influencers generally don’t have such problems. With them, you can know that the followers are real, and the engagement is authentic. 

A Larger Pool of Influencers to Work With

Instead of lining up behind dozens of big brands that probably have deeper pockets than your brand, you can look into the huge pool of micro-influencers that can provide better rewards for your brand. 

Here is an example. This report shows that 15.7% of Instagram users have 1,000-10,000 followers, while only 3.1% have 50,000-100,000 followers. 1.6% of users have 500,000 to 1 million followers. If you choose to work with micro-influencers in the 15.7% group, you’ll have more than 157 million potential influencers to work with. If you choose the top 1.6%, however, that figure falls to only 16 million users. 

Preferring Influencer Relations

With the benefits highlighted above, it makes sense for brands to create a marketing strategy that incorporates micro-influencers fully instead of working with them on isolated projects. Create a long-term plan and tie the influencers to a contract.

Fortunately, it is super-easy to gain access to this group. In fact, many of them are unaware that they are micro-influencers and will welcome the opportunity to work with a brand they probably love already. This is in stark contrast with celebrity influencers where you have to jump through hoops to get any sort of audience with their representatives.

How and Where You Can Find Micro-influencers Fit for Your Business

Where and how to find micro-influencers

To find micro-influencers that are good for your brand, you need to start off by researching your target audience and demographics. When you’ve done that, it is time to begin your search. Here are some places to look:

  1. Start with Google. This is straightforward. Type in keywords that are relevant to your business and scan websites for contact info. Keep the details in a spreadsheet. 
  2. Search social media. Using keywords and hashtags, take a look at the people posting content relevant to your niche. Pay attention to those that generate the most engagement. How many followers do they have? How regularly do they post on the platform? If they satisfy all the basics, add them to your list of potential micro-influencers.
  3. Check databases. They undertake the process of searching Google and finding influencers from publicly available data. However, you’ll have to spend time vetting the users generated from the search. 
  4. Look at influencer marketplaces. These platforms collect a batch of popular influencers in a niche, and also show real-time information about their performance. This will make connecting with the relevant options easy. Micro-influencers with less than 10,000 followers may be harder to find anywhere else outside of Google or the social media platforms where they are active. As we mentioned above, some of them don’t know they are influencers already. They won’t have an entry in most databases. 
  5. Look at your ideal customers for guidance. What accounts do they like to engage with? What type of posts do they love? If you can establish account types that your target audience loves, those are good candidates for micro-influencer positions.
  6. Reach out to local bloggers in your niche. If they already have quality following on social media, they can work well as micro-influencers for your brand. They will be able to talk about your business on two fronts.
  7. Use tools. For example, options like Snoopreport can help you see what users like and talk about the most on Instagram. Based on the data presented, you can start identifying micro-influencers.

Things to Keep in Mind When Searching for Micro-influencers

Choosing micro-influencers solely on their follower count is not an efficient way to build your network. Here are some important points you should keep in mind. 

Get insight into the following

What type of following does the influencer have? Before you get into a partnership with them, you need to find out audience metrics like:

  • Average age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Interests/hobbies

Ensure their content is high-quality

You want to ensure that the candidates you choose won’t just push products all day. Confirm that they are actually generating and engaging in useful, meaningful conversations with their followers. This is also the time to confirm that they are not controversial figures that will damage your brand’s reputation.

Be ready to maintain the influencer’s existing approach to using social media

If you find a micro-influencer that creates wholesome, highly-engaging content, don’t make the mistake of trying to get them to adopt your marketing language. Allow them the creative freedom to stay natural, so that their audience will not get turned off and feel that they have started pushing products. 

Conclusion

Influencer marketing is not going away anytime soon. However, the era of using celebrity options is behind us now. Social media users are more skeptical than ever of branded messages, including branded content posted through influencer accounts. 

Savvy brands are taking the marketing messages to micro-influencers who are not seeing the same scrutiny as celebrities in their social media posts. Remember, everyone wants a third-opinion, but the value lies in the perception they have of the messenger.