The untapped power of micro-influencers — Part 5 of 7

Searching for influencers typically starts by taking a look at someone’s follower count. For some companies, this is where their search starts and ends. Celebrities tend to be an easy choice as they have thousands upon millions of followers. On the surface, that seems great. But they are expensive, as we explored in Part 1. There is another group of influencers that are commonly overlooked in the research process; micro-influencers — individuals with a much smaller following.

According to Forbes, “Unlike celebrities with hundreds of thousands or millions of social media followers, micro-influencers may have anywhere from 1,000 to 50,000, possibly more. While the exact numerical definition varies among experts, statistics suggest smaller niche players may wield more influence when it comes to effective social media marketing.”

Micro-influencers vs. Celebs

We may follow celebs, but we typically also follow people closer to us; friends, family, colleagues, etc. While both types of content are interesting, people often place more weight behind the opinions of those we know personally. John Legend may post a photo of himself snacking on a Kodiak Cakes Minute Muffin, which may pique my interest. But, if my friend and colleague Maddie were to post on Instagram raving about the muffins, I’ll be more convinced to try one, then buy two or 20. (They have a cult following in our office, so it obviously worked).

Why is that? I like John Legend, but I’m definitely closer with Maddie. We see each other every day and I value her perspective. If she says a Kodiak Cup is delicious, I trust her opinion. If John posted about them, cool. But do I know about his taste in muffins? No. And, chances are he’s been paid to post about them, so what he says may or may not be genuine.

Following — Bigger isn’t always better

Let’s look at it this way:

  • Influencer A has one million followers on Instagram and gets about 100 engagements on each of their posts
  • Influencer B has 1,000 followers on Instagram and gets about 200 engagements on each of their posts

Influencer A has an impressive amount of followers but a low number of engagements. Influencer B, on the other hand, is a diamond in the rough; 20% of their base engages with each of their posts — that translates to one in five people interacting. I’ve also found that those influencers are much more affordable and eager partners.

Here’s a shortcut on how to judge the engagement of a following:

Engagement ratio = Average # of engagements on a post / Total # followers

Because you’re not able to see how many times a follower’s post is viewed, we have to piece together clues from the information we do have. Calculating the engagement ratio will give you a quick feel for how many people see a post and have an interest. Which in turn, may be seen as favorable by each platform.  

Phony followings

A large following can be a benefit. However, that can be easily fudged. There are people who buy social media followers to pad their numbers. Yes, this is a real thing. Earlier this year, the New York Times did an investigative report on the use of bots in the social media community which exposed the hidden pay-for-followers industry. In their investigation, they set up an experimental profile where they paid a bot farm only $225 for 25,000 followers.

In July, the Washington Post reported that Twitter has exponentially increased their efforts towards eliminating “fake and suspicious accounts, suspending more than 1 million a day in recent months.” While social media platforms have made swift efforts to eliminate bot accounts, the bot farm industry is constantly evolving in attempts to outsmart security efforts.

Influencers will pay for this service because they’ve figured out that companies will simply look at their number of followers and ask for a collaboration. Don’t fall into the trap.

Micro-influencers are typically not as hung up on artificially inflating their numbers — they’re focused on posting authentic content that they believe in. Considering them can help give your company the boost you’ve been looking for.