As of March 2019, there are 15 Instagram accounts with more than 100 million followers. One is Instagram itself, and another is National Geographic. Of the 13 individuals on the list, three are soccer players, six are musicians, one is an actor, and the other three are reality TV personalities. When you think of Instagram influencers, these are probably the people you think of.
But there’s a lot of middle ground between the average personal Instagram account, with its 150 followers, and the top of the pyramid. They’re called micro-influencers, and they can be a major driving force for your brand.
What’s A Micro-Influencer?
Definitions vary, but most companies consider a micro-influencer to be an Instagram user with between 10,000 and 50,000 followers. For more specific brands and target markets, users with between 1,000 and 10,000 followers might be useful as well, but partnering with influencers who have fewer than 1,000 followers almost certainly isn’t worth your time.
Why Use Instagram Influencers At All?
Simply put, your prospective customers trust other people more than they trust you. Recommendations from individuals, even if that individual is a celebrity they’ve never met, carry more weight with shoppers than the marketing language put out by a given brand.
Increasingly, shoppers go to social media to ask their friends and families about what they should buy. They want to know what real people have experienced from using a product, since there’s a perception that those people will be more honest with them than a brand’s internal language might.
When it comes to celebrities, that authority is magnified. We see enough of celebrities that we ascribe personalities to them, think we know them, and begin to trust them even more than we trust the average person. It’s a quirk of human psychology, but it’s a fact.
What this all boils down to is that putting your product in the hands of a real person with a face, name, and personality that your customers trust is far more effective than simply marketing in your own voice.
Why Go After Smaller Influencers?
Your intuition tells you that the bigger the social media following, the more influence that person will have, and for the most part, that’s true. But there are a few reasons that going after the biggest fish in the sea isn’t necessarily your best bet.
Big Instagram Influencers Have Too Broad An Audience
Let’s say you have a line of activewear for men, so you want to bring on Dwayne Johnson to help you sell it. Under Armour is doing exactly that, with a line of workout clothing branded with Dwayne Johnson’s name and likeness.
The problem is, Dwayne Johnson has over 130 million followers. Each of his posts is liked millions of times, with hundreds of thousands of comments. Even if, at a conservative estimate, only 10% of Johnson’s followers see a given post, how much can those 13 million people have in common? They’re not all the same age, gender, or demographic. They don’t all live in the same place. Really, the only thing likely to unite them is that they follow Dwayne Johnson on Instagram.
What that means is that Under Armour is spending its marketing budget putting its products in front of a lot of people who have no interest in buying the products they’re seeing. That’s a luxury Under Armour can afford, but probably not one that you can.
By contrast, consider someone like Alexa Silvaggio. She describes herself as a writer, yogi, entrepreneur, and podcast host, and she’s fairly well-known in the yoga world, but she’s not a national celebrity. But her page is focused. She talks about yoga, body positivity, and self-affirmation, and that’s it. Her following, by extension, will be people for whom that message resonates. They’ll have interests, goals, and ideas in common.
Big Instagram Influencers Are Too Expensive
Under Armour has a marketing budget of over $300 million, according to this 2014 article — it’s probably grown since then. That’s an enormous sum of money, and not one that even highly successful mid-size businesses can afford to spend.
The rule of thumb for the price of an Instagram influencer is one cent per follower, or $10 per thousand followers. That’s just a starting point for most marketers — the exact number will be further shaped by engagement, client budget, campaign length, and other partnership specifics — but it means that getting a single post about their brand onto the feed of someone like Dwayne Johnson costs Under Armour the better part of $1 million.
That’s money most companies don’t have to spend on all their marketing combined, let alone on a single Instagram post. And keep in mind that only a small fraction of Dwayne Johnson’s audience is in the market for workout clothing in the first place.
Silvaggio has just shy of 20,000 followers, so a sponsored post on her page would probably cost a company around $200. Not only is that more affordable, but it’s a much more targeted audience and therefore a better return on your marketing money. If you can find a hundred yoga influencers with a similar reach and audience as Silvaggio, you’ll spend a fraction of the budget and make just as many meaningful impressions as you would with one big post.
Big Instagram Followers Aren’t Engaged
Dwayne Johnson posts on Instagram at least twice a day, and might get as many as 10,000 comments on a post. Kim Kardashian gets millions of comments on every post. They can’t possibly respond to every comment, so they simply don’t.
Smaller influencers, on the other hand, respond to at least a few comments on every post. Not only does that engagement make their followers feel heard and noticed, both of which are good for the reputation of the account, but it helps the influencer’s account gain visibility among their followers’ crowded news feeds. Instagram’s algorithm values engagement, whether it’s responding to comments or DMs, and smaller influencers are simply more able to engage than their giant counterparts.
An Engaged, Focused Audience For Less
In the end, your goal with Instagram influencer marketing is simple. You want your product in the hands of people who embody your brand. You want those people to have a loyal following of trusting, like-minded people. And you want that following to be united in the common values that surround you, your brand, and the influencer you work with.
Micro-influencers are the way to do that. They’re not major celebrities, so their followers are more likely to trust that they actually use and like the products they recommend. They’re engaged and authentic, communicating with their followers in a real, relatable way. They’re focused, posting about specific topics that unite their followers around certain interests and ideas. And more importantly, you can afford to work with them — even hundreds of smaller influencers can be brought into your network for less than the cost of a single post on a giant user’s feed. If you’re not using micro-influencers in your social media strategy, you should be.