How to harness the power of micro influencers: an expert panel

Are you leveraging the power of micro influencers? If not, here are three industry experts to convince you why you need to start now.

micro influencers

Organic engagement on social media is a thing of the past, but brands don’t necessarily need to resort to paid ad campaigns in order to reach new customers and retain existing ones.

Influencer marketing is an established industry and is a viable opportunity for marketers seeking to run more authentic campaigns than paid social allows. But the opportunities for true authenticity lie outside of the macro influencer environment dominated by major celebrities who command huge fees to plug a product.

This is where micro influencers come in. For the uninitiated, these are often brand advocates and/or industry experts who have a niche audience of between 1,000-10,000 followers keen to engage.

Check out these stats, courtesy of Medium:

  • 60% higher engagement
  • Underpriced (6.7X more cost-efficient per engagement)
  • 22.2% more weekly conversations than the average consumer

Those numbers aren’t to be sniffed at, and if you haven’t yet considered working with micro influencers then you’ve some serious seams of gold to mine.

The topic was at the centre of a discussion at the recent Digital & Social Media Marketing Conference (DMWF) in London. On the panel were three industry experts:

Toni Hopponen of content marketing tool Flockler was also on the panel, but we’re saving his comments for another interview.

So without further ado, here’s an insight into the major issues discussed by the panel…

What micro influencer campaigns have caught your eye?

Gordon Bennell: One of the brands that have really nailed it in the whole micro influencer marketing space is Gym Shark. Often what great influencer campaigns look like is they have a top level big influencer, then lots of smaller influencers a level down, and then super fan consumers who love the product. Gym Shark has really nailed it. And the great thing about influencer marketing using micro influencers is you cover different types of influencers from different niches, and I think Gym Shark have built a huge e-commerce business purely off the back of influencers.
Michael Page: One that comes to mind for us is Converse with their One Star Hotel influencer campaign. It worked particularly well because they had layers of macro celebrity influencers, but we matched that on a country by country and market by market basis. We looked into the audience personas they were trying to meet and then overlaid that to produce very specific micro influencer sets that can complement and augment that macro-first approach.

How are you segmenting those influencers?

MP: There’s a number of different approaches, but first off it’s about understanding your audience not the audience. To start off, we’ve got 800 billion engagements across Facebook which we can use to determine very specifically the personas of your audiences across a number of different platforms. We then overlay that onto the influencer database. So who is going to have the most authentic tone with your consumers? Interests, hashtags, keywords, languages, countries and gender are some of the core pivots that we use to help refine and hone down that initial list of core micro influencers.

>> READ NEXT: 5 expert tips on running successful influencer marketing campaigns <<

There’s a lot of debate on whether to go for agency or in-house. From your experience, what works best?

GB: I think it depends. If you’ve got the capabilities in-house then it’s great to be able to do it yourself. But sometimes you’re looking at managing 50, 60, 70 influencers and it can be a real challenge to work with these people, it’s potentially a logistical nightmare. So agencies that have good relationships with a particular niche sector of micro influencer are often quite useful; they can often get better prices and can get them to work in the right timescales.
Lisa Targett: I would say that 40% of the campaigns that we see run through our platform are actually brands direct and another 20% are purely self-serve – so brands that can complete a whole campaign on their own. I would say we’re seeing a rise in that; Gen Z marketers want to do things on their own, they want to test on their own, they’re used to working with platforms, being really tactile and wanting to understand the space. But it depends on what you’re doing and how time poor you are. If you are physically managing 70 influencers and influencer marketing represents a small portion of your marketing mix then, yeah, it’s probably a good idea to work with an agency. That said, when you’re talking about working with 100 creators who are charging you £140 on average per post, there’s not a huge margin in there to have another player take a cut.

If there’s an influencer you’re really keen to work with, how do you go about approaching them?

GB: Attacking them from all angles – so DMs, messaging on FB, emails and so on. Micro influencers are normally easy to get in touch with, they’re not going to be as bombarded as the mega celebrities who get emails a hundred times a day. So these guys are normally pretty receptive. I think it’s important to ensure that the micro influencers you’re targeting actually like your product. There’s no point in working with someone unless they like, or even love, your product. So I think it’s worth knocking on lots of doors to approach the right people who really fit your brand.

What’s your number one KPI in influncer marketing?

MP: For me it’s the same way you’d approach any other marketing campaign – you’re not going to have the same KPIs for every single campaign. You need to be putting it into the same framework as you would anything else – what are your campaign objectives? Are you driving traffic or pushing for reach? Are you looking to bring engagement or conversation? Once you’ve established the campaign objectives, you then need to make sure that you’re reverse engineering that framework back through to the beginning of the process. It doesn’t mean that there’s a silver bullet that’s going to help you understand success in every single case. But it’s making sure as marketers that you’re applying a rigorous KPI and measurement framework that matches and is aligned with the initial campaign objectives.
GB: A lot of the stuff that we do falls into two camps. One is building awareness; creating content designed to identify an audience that’s right for a campaign. Our initial objective is to push out some signalling content that isn’t to sell – it’s to identify an audience. For example, we might get some of our micro influencers to produce some video content and then distribute it through paid social. Anyone who watches 80% of the content or clicks on a link we’ll then re-target with the same influencers, but with more ‘right-hooky’ type content to try and drive sales. So our KPIs will depend on whether it’s the first signalling content or the follow-up hard sell.

How do you measure ROI?

LT: Often times as digital marketers we try and fit a square peg into a round hole. We just kind of hope that everything has the same or standardised metrics and outcomes across all channels, that it’s all leading to traffic and conversions. But in this day and age it’s getting more and more difficult to measure. I think what’s being overlooked in the process when working with micro influencers is that there are a few other returns on investment outside of word of mouth marketing at scale, and the benefits that can provide in terms of sales and credibility. The operational ROI is that it’s really quality content that transcends social media, it’s being used on digital billboards and magazines, for example. Brands need more content than ever – and consumers now are from the university of Instagram, they can create content that’s right up there, that rivals the best photographers out there.

>> READ NEXT: Authenticity and influencer marketing: Why it matters <<

So how are you tackling influencer fraud? Purchasing likes, comments and followers and the like?

MP: This comes back to the wrong metrics when you’re trying to understand what individual influencers or panel of influencers is going to do for your campaign. It’s not about the size of the audience, it’s about the engagement that an influencer has with the audience. What’s their engagement per thousand? What kind of emotional responses are they drawing? What kind of shares and comments and likes are they getting? It’s important to look at those kind of things to understand the value of the audience rather than the size of it.
GB: In the type of micro space we operate in it’s probably less important because ultimately what we’re paying for is content, that’s where most of the value comes from. We also do a lot of work with bigger influencers, and there are tools that you can use to check if an account has got paid followers. You can also roughly get an idea if you look at the size of an account and calculate what the engagement level should be, you can tell if something’s a bit off. We test tons of influencers and if a campaign is converting then we just double down on it and keep spending money on that influencer. So testing is important, but ultimately if a campaign isn’t backing out to sales then there’s obviously something not right.
LT: I think technology is sophisticated enough for us to have zero tolerance towards any kind of fraud. If you look at the tools that people are using to buy followers and engagements, it’s really not sophisticated at all. Because we’re a self-serve platform, people can run campaigns end to end so if someone has bought a bunch of followers we would be in a lot of trouble. To prevent that we have some technology that scans every one of our influencer accounts about four times a day for inaccuracies between likes and comments; for example, someone who’s got six of the same post, or an account that’s open but only has three historical posts ever. There are so many different indicators that show there’s an abnormality, and I think there should be zero tolerance for a brand to purchase anything that is inauthentic.

Where do you see the future of influencer marketing going?

MP: It’s a fairly new, exciting, dynamic area. With the changes to the Facebook feed it’s harder and harder to get the same organic reach and engagement that you’ve had in the past. More and more it’s a pay to play set-up, so for me influencer marketing can only continue to develop. A lot of the direction is in the hands of the platforms that we’re working with, but to me there’s only growth in this market unless there are significant left-field changes that I don’t think anybody has any indication of right now.
GB: We’re seeing some trends with the really big influencers moving towards making more of their money from their own businesses, so the guys at the very top are less likely to do brand deals – perhaps one or two a year. The micro space is probably going to get bigger and bigger, we’re seeing enormous ROI on paying small micro influencers and then pumping out their content for distribution across organic or paid and that works and converts.
LT: The social platforms aren’t owned channels for any of us or the influencers. I very much believe that Facebook and Instagram will give data to everybody, their own data, but I definitely believe that the level of stringency around sharing data with third parties will be slowly removed. It’s in Facebook and Instagram’s best interests for that because Facebook and Google are definitely the gifts of our generation in terms of one to one marketing. We know our audiences, segments, what time of day, devices etc – we know what works and converts. I think that plugging in a volume and variety of customer generated content can really improve efficiency within that eco system.

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