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Working with Micro-Influencers to Go Viral

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Have you ever wondered why so many people seem to be perpetually glued to their phones these days? According to research from Smart Insights, 6 in 10 people globally now use at least one social media platform, and their average daily usage of social media adds up to nearly three hours. 

Social media is where many of us get our news, find the latest trends, shop, and — of course — consume much of our entertainment. And over the past decade, we’ve rapidly seen celebrities on social media go from being influencers to influencers now being considered celebrities. 

The global influencer/thought leader marketing industry has more than doubled since just two years ago. By the end of 2021, just under $14 billion was being thrown at influencers who, in return for payment, would sponsor and promote a particular product or service. Influencers have become so influential, in fact, that they now have their own dedicated talent agency: Orland-based Izea. Last year, Izea’s revenues grew by two-thirds, and, even with other segments of the economy slowing down, the company is on track to post healthy growth in 2022.

Izea’s founders realized early on that brands would need influencers more than influencers would need brands. Now, the big debate is not if you market on socials, but who you market with — specifically, whether to go macro or micro. Macro-influencers are defined as accounts which have over 100,000 followers (or over 1 million for celebrities); micro-influencers, on the other hand, are most likely to have accumulated roughly 1,000-5,000 followers.

There is one major caveat, however. Influencer marketing isn’t just about the numbers. In fact, successfully marketing your brand with influencers is much more about their engagement rates with followers than sheer audience size.

Find Your Niche

According to ratings giant Nielsen, more than 9 in 10 consumers trust earned media or influencer/thought leader marketing more than traditional, paid advertising. But not all influencers are created equal, and brand managers will need to do some homework in order to find the right influencer match and score the best results.

While getting a shout-out from a major account or celebrity can make the kind of splash that creates ripples for days, using micro-influencers is actually a more effective way to target a specific audience. Like niche brands, micro-influencers have cultivated a loyal core of fans. Their followers are already interested in a specific industry, skill set or even a cause. 

For example, fitness is one of the most popular niches on social media. When gyms were closed during Covid, thousands of personal trainers took their regimens online, attracting millions of virtual clients as a result. Though some have gained followings in the tens of thousands (or more), most are micro. Still, those followers are likely to engage with a personal trainer’s routines on a regular basis. They are also much more likely to use sponsored products — protein bars or powders, for example — in order to get the results they see on Instagram, YouTube, or TikTok.

Authenticity Matters

For decades, big corporations paid television networks large sums to create a veneer of authenticity, often to no avail. That big box store is just never going to feel as personal as the boutique on Main Street, nor will a restaurant chain with thousands of location feel as authentic as the family-run, hole-in-the-wall diner. 

The same principle applies on social media. Micro-influencers are more engaged and connected with their followers because they have more time to foster and maintain relationships with them. They don’t have to mimic intimacy, they create it simply by being responsive to comments and direct messages. In addition, people are far more likely to believe that a non-celebrity actually uses the product or service promoted rather than assume it’s just about a big paycheck. In essence, authenticity has become the great leveler among micro-influencers.

Stretch Your Budget

As a further benefit for brand managers seeking to create partnerships, micro-influencers cost far less than their macro counterparts because rates are typically calculated by number of followers; the higher the number, the higher the rates. But savvy marketers and brand managers will pay more attention to user engagement to get an even better deal. 

An important question to ask is: “How responsive is the influencers’ audience?” Thankfully, it’s easily answered by scrolling posts for metrics, such as the number of likes and comments per post a micro-influencer receives. 

Better yet, by eschewing high macro-influencer rates, brand managers will free up their budget to work with these influencers in greater quantities. This is extremely important because it allows them to shop around until they find the right influencer whose followers are especially responsive to their brand’s value offering.

Despite all of the algorithms and formulas, trial and error is still the lifeblood of marketing. By going micro, you’ll leave money on the table for making your ad campaign as effective as possible.

About the author


Elisa Perez

Elisa Perez is a marketing specialist for Otter Public Relations, a PR agency creating thought-leaders of tomorrow and one of the fastest-growing media agencies in the United States.