Why Brands Are Moving From Influencers to Micro-Influencers (And Why You Should Too)

By Lindsay Macdonald - June 13, 2019
8 mins read time
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We’ve all seen at least one of the Fyre Festival documentaries by now, and if you haven’t, you probably know what happened. In short, over 60 influencers were paid between $20,000 and $250,000 to post an orange graphic with the caption “#FyreFest” across social media, and the posts’ collective reach topped over 300 million impressions and assisted in selling out the acclaimed music festival. And then, the Fyre Festival never happened, going down in a fiery flame of fraud, lawsuits and jail time — and the influencers deleted their involvement as if it never happened.

The story has hit the news cycle over and over again; what started as its 15 minutes of fame has now extended to months of infamy. Marketers and advertisers have come forward from all industries with their thoughts on the non-event, ironically turning it into a more newsworthy occasion than the one that never came to fruition.

It’s true that the influencer marketing behind Fyre Festival’s demise is worthy of industry conversation. But, to be honest, it shouldn’t have been surprising. These days, influencer marketing is tainted with its share of cynicism, and because of that, it will never be the foolproof, not-so-secret weapon that marketers want it to be. There have just been too many mishaps.

There was Fyre Festival’s influencer-centric flop, which taught us the smokescreen nature of staged, sponsored content. And the SoHo Instagram influencer penthouse, which proved to us that large-scale influencers don’t need character to prove themselves worthy of a brand partnership (they just need a high follower count). And even Scott Disick’s Instagram mishap, which reminded us that no one is perfect, especially celebrity influencers who don’t genuinely care about the products which they’re paid to post about.

Point being: influencer marketing is everywhere, but it’s difficult to really trust it as an authentic recommendation. Consumers are tired of being unable to rely on what they see and hear. But when 40 percent of the world’s population is tuned into social media — roughly over 3 billion people — it’s hard to overlook the ads and sponsored content we see as we scroll.

So how are consumers actually interacting with influencer content? It turns out they’re looking past influencers and instead turning to micro-influencers: the smaller-scale, more authentic brand advocates that consumers can trust.

Micro-influencers, social media enthusiasts with smaller followings of between 1,000 to 10,000, typically populate more niche markets with engaged and loyal audiences. In comparison to a traditional, large-scale influencer who might have a following in the millions or hundreds of thousands, a micro-influencer has a more genuine connection to the brands they champion and partner with. Shared values, affinity for the products or genuine expertise in a similar vertical can typically lead a micro-influencer to agree to a partnership with a brand. When a micro-influencer shares a brand-related post, their followers will actually care because that content is genuinely interesting to them. Studies have shown that micro-influencers with less than 1,000 followers generally receive likes on their posts 8 percent of the time, while users with 10 million+ followers only receive likes 1.6 percent of the time.

Authenticity is most influential

Understanding the distinction between influencers and micro-influencers is essential to understanding the value that authenticity has when it comes to effective social media marketing. According to a recent Stackla study, celebrities and social influencers have on a waning impact on people’s purchasing decisions — only 8 percent of people say influencer content highly impacts their purchases. Instead, customers look to authentic user-generated content, like content created by micro-influencers and brand advocates, when making purchasing decisions; 79 percent of people say user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions.

Here at Stackla, we’re often encouraging brands to tap into the value of user-generated content. Treating the people who genuinely love to create content about your brand as content creators and rewarding them for their support by posting their content across your brand’s channels is an important way to establish a deep and long-lasting connection with real brand advocates. Working with micro-influencers who have a personal connection to the industry is a great strategy for brands looking to foster a community.

The authenticity of common interests between a micro-influencer and their followers evokes a credibility that a large influencer can’t replicate. In a partnership with a micro-influencer, the brand wins eyeballs and awareness, and the micro-influencer wins more validity — it’s a win-win, symbiotic relationship. And, studies have shown that micro-influencer content is 6.7x more efficient at engaging audiences than bigger influencers. Plus, influencers with 1,000 followers generated 85 percent higher engagement than those having 100,000 followers, and as the number of followers increases, the engagement tends to decrease. When the medium is more accessible, the message makes a bigger difference.

Brands like LUSH Cosmetics, H&M and Glossier employ a robust micro-influencer strategy — and they’re driving results.

For LUSH Cosmetics, micro-micro influencers make a macro-macro impact

LUSH Cosmetics North America partners with micro-influencers, but on an even more micro level. For the beauty and skincare brand, micro-micro influencers are people who have connected with LUSH products by posting a piece of content about the brand.

By treating their real brand advocates as influencers, LUSH nurtures an organic set of micro-influencers that simultaneously elevate LUSH and their own personal brands with content that resonates with their audiences. “The influencers we work with are posting something because they actually love something. I think our audiences can see the difference,” says Sabine Schwirtz, Community Manager at LUSH.

Getting real is an essential part of the micro-influencer equation when it comes to content co-creation — plus, it saves time and money that would be typically be spent creating or curating content that’s not as authentic. As Schwirtz says, “A micro-micro influencer might have posted one photo in a face mask, so we include them in our ambassador program, #FirstLookLushies, which gives them further information about the brand, and in turn, they create more UGC.”

By establishing relationships with the #FirstLookLushies, LUSH encourages organic brand advocacy while re-publishing authentic content across the brand’s channels.

H&M’s Itsapark community encourages playful personal style and pep talks with micro-influencers

Looking to expand their touchpoints into the digital content landscape, popular clothing retailer H&M has launched an online question-and-answer style blog, Itsapark, to serve as a community for style tips, inspiration and feel-good fashion support. Noting the shifting marketing landscape in its annual report for 2018, H&M said, “Changing consumer behavior and technological innovation will continue to transform how and when people shop. The H&M group is taking advantage of the opportunities by the digitalization of our industry to meet customers’ new expectations.”

By leveraging the videos, images and posts uploaded by micro-influencers in the fashion space, Itsapark creates an inclusive community that encourages community members to create, communicate and shop with each other. With “Buy Now” buttons enabled across every featured piece of content, all it takes is a click from a micro-influencer update to take a visitor from browsing to buying.

“We see this as an opportunity to develop a space where people can get honest and personalized answers to their fashion questions,” a spokesperson for H&M said. “Expertise is key for all the content creators, not the number of followers in social media. In other words, Itsapark is a community-driven digital fashion guide. We don’t aim to have an experience tied around the world of influencers.

Because Itsapark is looking to differentiate itself from the world of inauthentic influencer partnerships and instead leverage brand advocates who have already amassed a following in the fashion and beauty industry, the community is automatically regarded as trustworthy. And, because the content creators aren’t only linking their recommendations back to H&M clothing, the site becomes a more respected authority for genuine recommendations across the fashion community (rather than another way to simply funnel more purchase traffic back to the site).

Creative communities that leverage inspirational and accessible micro-influencer content encourage more content from real brand advocates and shoppers. When those advocates start posting similar content, they’re recognized as micro-influencers as well — creating a positive feedback loop that nurtures brand awareness and loyalty.

The Glossier Gals rep program cultivates a community of brand advocates

It’s tough to find negative headlines about skincare and beauty brand Glossier, one of the most transformative direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands on the market. What started as a blog has now blossomed into a household name and a leading marketing influencer. When the darling announced its Glossier Rep program in 2016, marketers across industries knew it would be something to watch.

Founder Emily Weiss had been outspoken on the power of working with real customers to create an authentic and integrative co-marketing strategy, and now, Glossier has proven that “nothing is more impactful than a recommendation from a friend.” To prove the efficacy of the word-of-mouth model, Glossier invited the fans of the brand, or “evangelists,” into what she called the Glossier “ecosystem.” She launched the Glossier Gal representative program, which first launched with 11 reps — now, the program has over 500 dedicated ambassadors.The Glossier Gals program is still going strong. Each rep hosts their own web page that features personal information, favorite products, real recommendations and a personalized discount link to encourage both return customers and first-timers to make a purchase.

The pages are full of user-generated and curated content by the reps themselves; when you’re shopping with Glossier Rep Alyssa, you’re shopping with a personal shopping assistant whose endorsements you can really trust.

Brand advocates like Glossier’s, who often have accumulated a small-scale following of people also interested in skincare and makeup, truly enjoy being able to create content about and for the brand. “In a small way I am a part of the company and I get to hear about exclusive things that people outside don’t get to hear about, so that’s a pretty good goal,” says one rep. Another agrees. “I get to feel like I’m a part of it but still feel like a consumer.”

Glossier exemplifies the power of micro-influencers’ content to enhance a brand’s look-and-feel across a marketing strategy. Seeing real people with real followers wear the products — and create content about them because they genuinely like them — is a testament to authenticity that a traditional advertisement or piece of branded content just can’t match. And, when 90 percent of consumers say authenticity is most important when it comes to deciding which brands they like and trust, it’s essential that brands follow suit if they want to foster a loyal community.

Micro-influencers are both consumers and creators, and in their duality, they become trustworthy sources of recommendation for other consumers. Brands looking to leverage user-generated content in their marketing strategies can look to micro-influencers as a starting point; when these content creators post about your brand, their followers will follow suit. Soon, you’ll have a wealth of consumer-created images ready to be leveraged across your brand’s content channels. So, what are you waiting for? Schedule a demo below to get started.

Header image from Glossier

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