In the last seven years, Instagram has gone from a brand-new service to an 800-million-user juggernaut. Those users spend an average of half an hour a day scrolling through their feeds, and as a result companies have spent over a billion dollars in advertising on Instagram in the last year. That’s billion with a B.
But since you probably don’t have $200,000 to spend on a single post, you’ll need a targeted strategy to grow your brand — a strategy that doesn’t involve just throwing your money into that enormous pool. That’s where you should be taking advantage of a new channel: micro-influencers.
What’s A Micro-influencer?
A micro-influencer is sort of what it sounds like. The exact definition you use depends on who you ask, but we’re talking about Instagram users with follower counts somewhere between 1000 and 10,000, maybe up to 25,000.
That’s a far cry from the millions or tens of millions that A-listers get, but still a lot more than the average user. According to Optical Cortex, the median Instagram user has just a hair under 200 followers, so micro-influencers are still a significant step up.
Shouldn’t I Maximize My Reach Whenever I Can?
Not necessarily. The top celebrity influencers may have reach in the millions or tens of millions, but that reach comes at a price. Top influencers charge tens of thousands of dollars — even hundreds of thousands — for a promoted post.
Take Kim Kardashian West, for example, the reigning queen of Instagram. A promoted post on her account will cost partners upwards of $150k, and have a potential reach of over 100 million people. The problem is, the only thing those 100 million people have in common is that they follow Kim Kardashian West on Instagram.
It’s like a Super Bowl ad. You’re blanketing an enormous audience with your message, but a huge number of those people aren’t receptive to what you’re selling. They’re all different ages, genders, and races. They have different amounts of spending power, different dietary habits, different exercise routines, they watch different shows and they read different websites.
In a sense, everyone who sees your message and isn’t in your target market is a waste of your precious marketing budget. That’s fine for Budweiser, but chances are you don’t have Anheuser-Busch money to burn.
Micro-influencers — the ones in the 1k-10k range — solve that problem. For one thing, they tend to be laser-focused on a specific topic.
Since they’re focused, you know their audience is focused too, and that means you can find the perfect influencer (or several of them) to spread your message, without worrying that you’re wasting your virtual breath — and real dollars — on people who don’t want to hear what you have to say.
Another advantage? They’re cheaper. Like, MUCH cheaper. Take the yoga world, for example. Rachel Brathen sits at the top of that mountain, charging a minimum of $25,000 for a promoted post to her 2 million followers. Some of her posts are about yoga, but some are just cute pictures of her family.
A few steps down the totem pole, in terms of followers, is Anna Guest-Jelley. She’s a body positivity advocate and yoga teacher, and posts focused images on the topic of accessible, body-positive yoga to an audience of around 5000. A sponsored post on her feed would cost you more like $150.
So you can partner with almost 200 Annas for the price of one Rachel, with the added benefit of getting to pick your audience at a granular level and specify exactly who you want to talk to. In some cases, micro-influencers will even partner up in exchange for free product, which is cheaper to you than cash.
Do People Listen To Micro-influencers?
Do they ever! Engagement on micro-influencers’ posts isn’t just as good as it is for macro-influencers — it’s better. Markerly did a survey of Instagram engagement and found that it peaks at around 1000 followers, then trails off as follower counts increase. Here’s how the numbers break down:
- Instagram users with fewer than 1,000 followers generated likes 8% of the time
- Users with 1,000-10,000 followers earned likes at a 4% rate
- Users with 10,000-100,000 followers achieved a 2.4% like rate
- Users with 1-10 million followers earned likes only 1.7% of the time.
When it comes to comments, the difference is even more drastic. Accounts with 1000 followers generate comments at more than twice the rate of those with over 10,000, and more than 10 times the rate of those with more than 10 million followers.
Overall, according to Medium, engagements from micro-influencers are 6.7x as cost-effective as those from larger accounts and drive more than 22 times as many conversations per week.
Not only is engagement drastically better with smaller accounts, but their followers trust them more, too. Since they tread the middle ground between average Joe and international celebrity, their recommendations seem more authentic than those from giant accounts.
In fact, according to a study done by Experticity, 82% of consumers reported that they were “highly likely” to follow a recommendation from a micro-influencer. Micro-influencers are also more direct in their recommendations, more likely to make recommendations face-to-face, and seen by their audience as more credible and more knowledgeable.
I’m Convinced! So How Do I Find Micro-influencers Who Can Help Grow My Brand?
If your brand already has an Instagram account, that’s a good place to start. Your followers know your brand, share your interests (at least where your product is concerned), and might even be telling their friends about you already.
Most social media management tools can tell you who’s liking, commenting, and tagging your content the most, so pick your most avid fans with the follower count you want and start with them.
If you’re just getting started, free tools like hashtagify.me will tell you which hashtags to browse for in order to find the hashtags most related to your brand, as well as which accounts are most influential in that area. Be specific! Hashtags like #vegandessert are going to give you much more targeted results than hashtags like #food.
Make sure you’re not just giving influencers a generic product shot to share. Remember, these are people who are actually using your product! Tell a story. Show their followers what you’re all about and why they should care.
Is There A Catch?
The catch is that this will probably take more effort than larger ad buys or working with macro-influencers. You’ll want to cultivate genuine, lasting, personal relationships with each one of your micro-influencers, and that takes time.
A one-off post might be perfect for a new product or short-term offer, but if you’re trying to sustain awareness and brand loyalty, you’ll have to think in terms of months, not days. Scatter your posts among your micro-influencers; you don’t want any of them to come off as shills, or feel like you’re pressuring them into posting.
Think ahead about holidays, seasonal promotions, and major events. Building and sustaining a network of micro-influencers might be more work than throwing a lot of money at one big ad, but in the long term, it’s worth it.
The Power Of Small
Today’s consumers are flooded with advertising everywhere they go, from TV to their phones to social media. Nothing cuts through all that clutter like a specific suggestion from a friend, peer, or professional contact.
That’s the goal of a micro-influencer campaign: to deliver targeted recommendations to your potential customers, while getting the best possible ROI for your valuable marketing budget.