ABC of influencer marketing - how to do it right
More and more companies are deciding to cooperate with influencers, also known as opinion leaders. And it is not surprising. After all, influencer marketing is currently one of the key marketing strategies, and in addition its role is constantly growing. For the brands, it seems intuitively that it is best to cooperate with a large influencer - celebrity. But is that really so?
From this article you will find out how to plan influencer marketing and whether it carries any risk.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is now an extremely important field of marketing, which is based on the popularity and position of people involved in promotional activities. An influencer (from English: an influential person, opinion leader), generally speaking, is simply someone recognizable on the internet. Frequently, by influencers we mean bloggers, vloggers, experts sharing their knowledge on the Internet and celebrities who became famous for their social media activity. They advertise a given brand in exchange for specific benefits, not necessarily financial ones. Their biggest advantage is their credibility – as opinion leaders they have a considerable influence on a given social group.
It is worth noting that influencer marketing does not focus on direct communication with clients. It reaches them through influencers – agents who have a real impact on conversion. Well-known authors are perceived as people who create for themselves and for others, but not for a company.
The message is usually formulated in such a way as to give the impression of creating a brand together.
What is the difference between an influencer and a micro-influencer?
A micro-influencer, as the name suggests, is an influencer with a relatively small number of fans. The community following him or her cannot compare to millions of followers of celebrities or other public figures. However, it is difficult to determine what value classifies someone as a micro-influencer. Although agencies use various determinants, they are very divergent. For some, it is a person with up to 10,000 followers, and for others the ceiling is 30,000 fans. Therefore, it is hard to use this determinant to tell who a micro-influencer is. So, what does really characterise a micro-influencer? Above all, the activity of fans and authenticity. Small influencers put greater emphasis on the content published and appear to be ordinary next-door people, close to the audience. Thus, they gain the trust of average people who identify with micro-influencers. This is the basic difference between a large and a small account. Celebrities always seem more distant and inaccessible because of the glitz that surrounds them.
The engagement of followers is a key factor in influencer marketing. Without the activity of the followers, real interest in a product or service may be small, and certainly does not fuel the snowball effect. Wherever there is have a lot of engagement, there is simply a better chance of successful promotion. So, what does it have to do with the number of fans? Here comes a surprise, because paradoxically less is more. This has been confirmed by research carried out by Markerly, which showed that the activity at micro-influencers’ is much bigger than that at celebrities’.
Number of comments on Instagram vs. number of followers
Instagram Like Rate vs. number of followers
Although the results presented in the above graphics concern only Instagram, the predominance of micro-influencers is so great that some conclusions should be drawn. Engagement on small accounts (up to 1,000 observers) is exorbitantly greater than engagement under the posts of influencers with tens of thousands of fans and more. The sources of such discrepancies can be found in the field that micro-influencers generally deal with. Usually, it is something niche, so it attracts enthusiasts who are active and generate traffic on the profile. It should be noted, however, that one should not measure all by one measure and confuse beginner (or simply unattractive) bloggers with micro-influencers. There are many bloggers who do not cope well with the content they create, and the engagement rate of their followers is simply small.
However, the fact is that the studies discussed above are quite shocking and counterintuitive. Only how does it relate to reality?
The opinion of the micro-influencer
Maciej Kaźmierczak is, above all, a young writer who can boast of considerable literary achievements. Recently, he has been active in social media and gained a large group of followers. On his Instagram account he has over 27 thousand fans. The content that he publishes there is quite unusual, as if going against the tide of Instagram trends. He posts images that reflect the sadness of modern reality in a cynical way. As a micro-influencer, he publishes on various channels.
At the very beginning, he emphasized the role of the ranges generated, which determine whether a given account is popular or not. He considers the number of 10,000 followers an important limit.
Having 10,000 followers on Instagram seems to me a line, beyond which life can become easier. First of all, from that moment, the posts reach ranges that generate their automatic increase. At the same time, this is when brands show interest in a given profile. There may be minor cooperation proposals that would relate to the content published or at least to the place of residence.
He also noticed something that is an undisputed advantage of micro-influencers - promoting a brand related to a specific content or location ( micro-influencers are most often popular in a given area) is a good chance for successful promotion. If, assuming hypothetically, a fashion company associated with Łódź monuments cooperates with a locally known vlogger, it will most likely be a very effective campaign, because it will be addressed to specific receivers - the right target group
Maciej Kaźmierczak also commented on the content created by micro-influencers, stressing that small accounts can easily fall into a kind of vicious circle.
At the time when posts for several or tens of thousands of people are published, it must be remembered that some users can only expect a specific type of content that either dominates the profile or appears from time to time (...). However, when posting new or digressive posts on the site, you must remember that the interest in them may be small. Thus, a vicious circle is created, because without the likes and comments of one part of users, due to insufficient coverage, we will not reach other people who might be interested in new products.
The dissonance between the desire to develop and to preserve their authenticity is an unquestionable problem of micro-influencers. Any promoted content puts the influencer in front of a choice: to either satisfy a constant group of fans, maintaining authenticity, or to increase the range, establishing cooperation with another brand, but at the same time losing some of the activity. It is impossible to eliminate the impression that influencer-celebrity is in some way protected from such dilemmas.
An important issue is the risk that micro-influencers take. If they choose the wrong brand, they have to count with losing their followers, who will recognize that the author is no longer authentic and, by putting it colloquially, "has sold himself". In the meantime, such losses will not hurt big influencers. They will still have a lot of fans, and the financial benefits will compensate for everything.
In the context of the risk related to the work of an influencer, it is worth mentioning the story of a blogger who published the now popular “unboxing” on her channel. The problem is that she opened a parcel from ... a pharmacy. Under the law, advertising of pharmacies is illegal, so proceedings were instituted against both the woman and the company running the pharmacy. Despite huge interest in the case, the blogger's name has not been not disclosed. The case, however, led to a lot of media noise, and this type of unboxing can cost the woman a lot of money!
So what is advertising with a micro-influencer like in practice, if it causes problems since the very beginning?
It depends on the type of our posts, because, as I mentioned earlier, the type of content that the followers know well is the most popular one, so any advertisement will only then make sense and bring tangible benefits. Moreover, it will not alienate people who say "No!" to ads. However, it is probably easier to look for cooperation with brands by yourself. Thanks to that, the brands will find out about you. In this way, you can adjust the content of advertising or information about cooperation to your earlier posts, you can compose them better, and thus remain reliable and trustworthy for your followers. Any advertisement must be subtle and well-planned.
So, it turns out that micro-influencers are somewhat doomed to look for brands for cooperation on their own. It is definitely a safe solution which guarantees benefits for both parties. It is worth mentioning that a common practice among companies is to look for influencers through interactive agencies. Then, their accounts are permanently monitored, and it is easier to begin cooperation with a given influencer. When a brand does not use help of an agency, it is unlikely that it will find out about micro-influencer’s existence. It results that for the bloggers it is reasonable to inform companies about their activity and for companies it is good to use support of interactive agencies for cooperation with micro-influencers. Because a micro-influencer, as the name suggests, is „small” so you cannot expect the entrepreneurs to know about them without an agency.
Maciej Kaźmierczak ha also noticed something that we will elaborate on further in this article: Micro-influencers care a lot about their image which makes them credible to their followers.
I consider a micro-influencer to be more trustworthy and credible [than a celebrity influencer] because the interest in their person can be lost more easily. Especially that they have gathered their group of followers from scratch without being popular before.
Here we should go back to the question of engagement rate among micro-influencer’s followers. Maciej Kaźmierczak says that normally, you can expect engagement rate of around 10-20% of followers and that is in case of content that meets the profile’s main assumptions. Bearing in mind the results of the research quoted earlier it does not seem much. But it is enough to bring up specific numbers – the ratio of likes to the number of followers in case of accounts with millions of followers amounts to about 2%. In the same research, micro-influencers have their engagement higher by up to 6 percentage points. Serious Posthuman confirmed, more or less consciously, that small accounts can count on higher activity of their followers.
Why is it worth to cooperate with a micro-influencer?
It is time to summarize everything that we have found out about micro-influencers and to answer the question whether a big account means big benefits. It turns out that both the research and the micro-influencers confirm: less means more. Even though the intuition might be suggesting that brands should work with celebrity influencers, the facts point at the opposite. Cooperation with a few micro-influencers can be more effective than with one big influencer.
Micro-influencers walk a thin line. Even a small drop in the number of fans can make further blogging pointless. And it is precisely because of that risk that they care about matters which big influencers do not bother. They care more about the image they have created so if they promote something, they want it to be consistent with the subject of their account and to really respond to the needs or interests of the audience. For a brand, it is a unique opportunity to create its image of being trustworthy. Micro-influencers is, after all, is seen as an insider, someone on par with the target group. When he or she recommends a product, it automatically appears to be honest. Celebrities advertise for nearly everything and hardly anyone trusts them nowadays. Here we should stress that influencer marketing is more effective when working with micro-influencers and at the same time it is an element of good PR.
An obvious advantage of working with micro-influencers is the cost of advertising. Celebrity influencers have high rates for their services, whereas for small influencers offering them a free product or service is often enough. And even if they require payment in cash, the sum will still be small compared to what a well-known personality would charge.
Dodatkową zaletą współpracy z mikroinfluencerem jest fakt, że staje się on kolejną ścieżką marketingową. Duży influencer nie dba bowiem o to, aby udzielić obserwującym wszystkich informacji o produkcie, odpowiedzieć na komentarze i wskazać naprawdę przydatne informacje. Najczęściej ogranicza się on do minimum, które określa umowa. Mikroinfluencer przywiązuje wagę do kontaktu z fanami, więc chętnie dzieli się swoimi doświadczeniami na temat marki i udziela odpowiedzi zainteresowanym. W ten sposób buduje wizerunek nie tylko swój, ale również marki.
Who should cooperate with a micro-influencer?
Any company that is considering influencer marketing is faced with this choice. An account with hundreds of thousands of followers or a small one? The key is to determine the goals of the campaign and the target group. A large company whose target groups is basically anyone (e.g. in cosmetics or fashion industry) can reach better results by cooperating with a well-known influencer. This also applies to advertising nationwide services and products, although here it is worth rethinking. Keeping in mind what we wrote earlier, it should be considered whether cooperation with a few micro-influencers all over the country would be more effective. Besides, even big brands offer niche products which are worth advertising on less known blogs which deal with given topics, such as exclusive series of ecological cosmetics.
Micro-influencer is also a good choice for relatively small companies which do not have a large budget and operate locally. A micro-influencer will attract many customers and, at the same time, he or she will not strain the budget.
Cooperation with micro-influencers should also be undertaken by companies that for some reason have not yet engaged in online promotion or their recognition is minor. In this way, they will build a positive image of the brand. At the same time, it will also be a good start in further development - Mediakix predicts that influencer marketing on Instagram in 2019 will reach a value of USD 2 billion. It is a clear signal for companies - it is worth investing in influencer marketing.
Beware of scammers, or the risk of influencer marketing
Influencer marketing, although full of advantages, is not free of risk. An experiment conducted by the Mediakix agency has proven that opinion leaders may have little in common with being a leader in the true sense of the word.
The research involved creating two fake accounts on Instagram. The first one belonged to a model, all photos of whom were taken in one photo shoot but were being published over months. The second account was managed by a passionate photographer; in her case, each image was taken from free photo banks. Sounds funny, right?
It gets less funny when you realise that both fake accounts have partnered with brands. It was enough to „buy” followers and take care of a sufficient number of likes and comments. In this way, non-existent influencers emerged.
The experiment highlighted the problem of fake Instagram accounts. It is easy to succumb to the illusion of pretty photos and the perspective of benefit multiplied by the number of followers. And, unfortunately, it is easy to be fooled. Fake followers are not the only risk connected to influencer marketing.
There are a few uncertainties connected with many aspects of cooperation with an influencer. They include:
- fake accounts and fake ranges,
- lack of involvement on the side of the influencer – it is possible that they care only about money and the brand may suffer from it,
- scandals involving the influencer and their image,
- influencer may be unreliable and overlook both the idea for advertising and the image of the brand,
- influencer can always give a bad opinion about the product / service advertised, exposing the brand to losses.
In order to avoid such situations, it is worth using services of interactive agencies, such as Cyrek Digital, which have tools to distinguish a real influencer form a fake one and to match their profile to the brand’s image and goals.
How to plan influencer marketing?
Once you decide to start a campaign including influencer marketing, without reaching out for help, you need to make sure to plan well. We will present how to do it in a few short steps:
- Define target group - you need to think about who you are addressing your advertising to. This is also the moment to describe the target group.
- Make a list - you need to create a list of influencers who gather around them a community corresponding to the determined target group. When you are targeting adolescents, for example, you do not choose an influencer that has gained popularity among middle-aged people
- "Scan" the influencers - examine the activity of influencers that you have chosen. Check the quality of their activities and the feedback. At this point, you can evaluate whether the influencer has real followers. In addition, you must also check how many brands the person is working with. If there are many, it is possible that your message will disappear in the thicket of others. The number of followers, as already mentioned, is not crucial.
- It is also a very important point to research the history of a given influencer. You must be sure that he has not previously published content that would not be in line with your brand’s image or that they have not been involved in a scandal that could harm your company.
- As far as possible, you need to assess the involvement of the influencer. Usually, you can easily see that they work like a machine and are not really involved in promoting the brands.
- Establish contact – once you have selected chosen influencers, contact the ones who match the campaign you are planning. It can be a phone call or an email in which you explain what you are planning (without details) and offer cooperation.
- Define the actions – when you receive a positive feedback form the influencers, acquaintance them with the details. However, you must be careful not to interfere in the creative process of the influencer. The point is that the message should be as natural and convincing as possible for the target group.
- In the meantime, find out whether the person cooperates with other brands and how often, keeping in mind that you do not want your campaign to disappear in the thicket of others.
- It is also recommended to conduct analytical activities online. Thanks to a dedicated link you will know what traffic the influencer has generated, which will allow you to realistically assess the effectiveness of the campaign.
- Monitor the activities – at this stage check the reactions of followers and give the influencer information about how he or she should react to possible negative comments.
- Create a report – sum up the effects of the campaign in a report. It will improve future activities
Remember, however, that if you are not cautious, you may put your company under risk of considerable loss, as we wrote earlier. You should plan influencer marketing only after having familiarised yourself with the risks.
In summary, influencer marketing is constantly evolving and, so far, it remains indispensable. Brands are eager to use celebrity influencers who, theoretically, guarantee large ranges and therefore potentially ensure success in acquiring customers. It turns out, however, that micro-influencers can be a much better choice for both well-known brands and those with relatively low recognition. This is due to their authenticity and image that inspires confidence. In addition, when planning to work with an influencer, you should be aware of the risk and carry out the entire process carefully.