What do you need to become a micro-influencer? How much can you earn? Micro-influencers have been in the news for a while now, as more and more big brands seem to be advocating a shift of focus from big-name (and big-cost) social media influencers, to small-name (and small cost) influencers.
Can you take advantage of the fact that the big brands with big spending power are now looking for relationships with small bloggers with tight niches? How much of a following will make you a viable micro-influencer for a big brand? What other criteria would the big brand expect you to meet? What’s the money like?
First, let’s examine who a big brand would see as a micro-influencer!
Most of the industry folks believe that micro-influencers are typically social influencers who may have an audience of about 10,000 to 100,000 followers. Why do brands now seek out such micro-influencers instead of relying on A-List influencers to promote their products?
We, marketers, all live in a milieu where statistics show that only 33 percent of consumers trust online advertising, and a massive 90 percent of people only trust their peer recommendations. But while brands can’t afford, therefore, to ignore influencer marketing, the A-List influencers are charging exorbitantly, and most brands are unable to justify the ROI of such spends.
On the other hand, smaller influencer-outlays with better ROI impact, is what big brands are seeking to gain.
The kind of audiences that micro-influencers are expected to have are loyal and steady followers. Quite often, big brands may not worry so much about the audience size itself … they would worry about the micro-influencers’ ability to keep their audiences engaged and active and participative. Brand marketers may also worry about the influencers’ attitude to influencing per se. For instance, there are many micro-influencers around who see micro-influencing as “quick bucks to pocket in a hurry” which doesn’t suit brands well.
As Grace Caffyn writes, in her article “Confessions of an influencer agency exec on micro-influencers: ‘It’s all going to implode’”:
… it’s less to do with audience size but about attitude. I’m talking about when “micro” is perceived as any individual with a following who wants to take a brand’s money but has no ambitions to make this their livelihood. They are taking 10 seconds thinking, ‘Yeah, I’ll take money to promote this product.’
What’s in the game for the big brands? Why would they gravitate towards micro-influencers?
There is very interesting research that suggests exactly why big brands are pursuing micro-influencers with such eagerness. It turns out, apparently, that when an influencer reaches a certain “critical mass of followers”, his audience engagement actually starts showing a marked decrease. This could explain why big brands are often seeing diminishing returns as they chase after big influencers, whose grip on audiences starts to wane as they grow larger and larger with their followings!
According to Yuyu Chen, in his article “The rise of ‘micro-influencers’ on Instagram”, he explains this saturation-point very well:
A survey of 2 million social media influencers by influencer marketing platform Markerly showed that for unpaid posts, Instagram influencers with fewer than 1,000 followers have a like rate of about 8 percent, while those with 1,000 to 10,000 followers have a like rate of 4 percent.
As following base continues to increase, like rate keeps decreasing. Instagram influencers with 10,000 to 100,000 followers see a 2.4 percent like rate, compared to 1.7 percent for those with 1 million to 10 million followers and more. Comment rate follows a similar pattern.
The findings apply to sponsored Instagram posts, too, which suggests the sweet spot for maximum impact is an influencer with a following in the 10,000 to 100,000 range. Call them “micro-influencers.”
It’s a simple math. If a sportswear company, for example, collaborates with a social celebrity with 2 million followers, it can reach a big pool of audience, but 90 percent of them may not be sports fans. It would make more sense to activate 100 self-proclaimed athletes whose followers are actually interested in athletics.
What can a micro-influencer hope to charge for services to a big brand?
I am reminded of a recent conversation with a noted blogger on how much to charge for a “sponsored blog post” for a reasonably big brand. Her reply to me was: “I’d charge about $750 per post because I have about 15 years’ experience in my consulting line. I base my value on what an agency may charge a client for instance for doing the same work. The going rate is apparently around $1500 on average. If I’m charging half of that, as an independent blogger/authority, it should make a lot of sense to the client, and also not let me feel I’ve let myself down!”
Arguments like this seem silly to make in a day and age when neither brands nor their micro-influencers have a sense of what is real “value for money in micro-influencing”. Micro-influencers are earning far less than we think. This is probably because the fees they charge are being driven by a perceived threat of “lurking competition” – than by “justice in the calibration of their effort to results ratio”.
In their 2016 Global Influencer Survey Report, Bloglovin‘ reports that 84% of micro-influencers on Instagram charge less than $250 per branded Instagram post – and 97% charge less than $500. (Incidentally, by contrast, the same post would set brands back $75,000 on an Instagram channel with an top-influencer with an audience in the low millions.) Twitter is even cheaper, with 90% charing less than $150 per post. Here are some of their findings:
In his article, “Micro-Influencers Cost Less Than You Think”, author Kevin Joey Chen explains how he thinks a brand would justify micro-influencer costs:
Let’s say you have $5,000 to spend on influencer marketing. That wouldn’t even get you noticed by a top influencer, but if you spend it on micro-influencers you’ll get a lot. Here’s what you can get with $5,000 (according to Bloglovin’):
- 35 to 100 branded Instagram posts reaching 200,000 followers (Cost per impression (CPM) of $10 to $30).
- 60 to 200 branded Twitter posts reaching 315,000 followers (CPM of $8 to $20).
- 35 to 100 branded Facebook posts reaching 125,000 followers (CPM of $15 to $40).
- 10 to 35 branded blog posts reaching 315,000 followers (CPM of $20 to $50).
The bigger your ad spend, the more micro-influencers you can partner with to reach hyper-targeted audiences. And because micro-influencer content receives high engagement, your paid efforts will be infused with lots of organic reach (re-posts, shares, etc.).
When it comes to promoting through influencers, the right strategy isn’t always to spend more — it’s all about spending wisely.
To work as a micro-influencer, be aware of big brands’ judgment process
Notwithstanding the small amount of money you can make in the short term, if you want to attract the best brands to look at you as a potential micro-influencer, and to hire you for the long-term, you have to have a keen sense of what brands perceive as positives and questions on the whole process.
What most brands see as positives in working with micro-influencers:
- We can reach more target audiences with less money than we spend on big influencers.
- We can work with micro-influencers in very sharply niched markets not usually accessible to us.
- Micro-influencers have a way of adding unique voices to a brand conversation – so having a variety of influencers makes our brand lively and more engaging.
- Smaller groups of followers means that micro-influencers stay more deeply in engagement with them.
- Micro-influencers, compared to A-List influencers, are much more accessible, and easier to work with.
What most brands see as questions in working with micro-influencers:
- Is the micro-influencer the right fit for our brand?
- Is the micro-influencer’s following genuine and backed by reliable sources?
- Who forms the micro-influencer’s target audience and does our brand need a similar target audience?
- How authentic is the influencer? Is there too much aggression in advocacy?
- Does the micro-influencer carry any baggage as having already “sold out to a brand” – worse still, a remotely competitive brand to ours?
One final word of caution: beware of disdainful brands that go “micro-influencer-shopping” without commitment!
There are a lot of big brands out there with a big-brotherly (condescending?) attitude towards micro-influencers. There is a distinct lack of respect in their relationships with micro-influencers, and often, also a lot of commitment-phobic window-shopping. You’ll come across some brands “chewing and spitting out” micro-influencers, when they should instead be forming long-lasting, mutually beneficial partnerships. This kind of lackadaisical thinking dilutes both, the brand and the influencer, and the ultimate recipient of all the negativity is the consumer.
If you are looking for long-term commitment and a sound relationship with a big brand, one good test is to see if the brand is willing to spend on your training and onboarding as a micro-influencer, so that you are equipped to market their brand meaningfully. If a big brand displays such serious intention, it will all be worthwhile for both parties – and the relative size of the brand or its micro-influencer will not matter as much as the quality of the output to the consumer.
In the end, this is what matters!
Big brands do need micro-influencers because A-List influencers have been seen by research to produce diminishing returns, the larger they are. But the money in micro-influencing is not big in the short-term. Building long-term relationships with big brands is the key to making good money. Also the micro-influencer has to continue to hold tightly to his sharp niche and engaged audiences, and deliver value to the brand through a strong sway over his audiences. Disdainful big brands, sneering at micro-influencers, or small influencers behaving like “fast buck artists”, won’t help anyone’s cause. If big brands and micro-influencers can form bonding partnerships to offer highly-targeted and exemplary consumer-value, nobody’s size matters!
This article is incomplete without your input!
Does this article inspire you to explore becoming a micro-influencer? What’s your take on the topic? Do leave your comments below, so we can all get richer by gaining from your knowledge!