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The Rise of the Instagram Micro-Influencer: Everything You Need to Know

There are plenty of ways to get your brand in front of more people on Instagram. Advertisements, hashtags, contests, giveaways…the list goes on and on.

But, there’s one method that seems to reign supreme over all of the others: influencer marketing.

For many people, that term alone inspires visions of Kardashians promoting hair care vitamins or other big-name celebrities not-so-subtly pushing other products they claim to love.

And, it’s true, that is influencer marketing.

But, that perception also tricks many brands into thinking influencer marketing is something that’s only meant for the big brands with the even bigger budgets.

That’s not necessarily the case—particularly with the rise of the Instagram micro-influencer. These influencers with a smaller audience—but a highly-engaged following—make this marketing tactic available to companies of all sizes.

So, what do you need to know about Instagram micro-influencers? We’re rolling up our sleeves and digging into it all right here.

What Exactly is an Instagram Micro-Influencer?

You want to get your brand out there, but you don’t have a ton of money to throw at promotion. Well, recent research states that an Instagram influencer will charge $1,000 per 100,000 followers.

That means that if you have your sights set on an influencer with an audience of around 300,000, you better be prepared to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000 for a single Instagram post.

Did your jaw just hit the floor? I can’t blame you. But, this is where micro-influencers come into play.

These influencers are on a smaller scale—meaning they haven’t amassed followings of hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of people.

While there’s no real rule on exactly how many followers qualifies someone as a micro-influencer, they typically have followers in the thousands.

Their followings are undeniably smaller, but they’re also highly engaged. These people are highly trusted and valued by the people who follow them—meaning they can be equally as valuable when it comes to promoting your brand.

Let’s look at an example comparing a micro-influencer with a macro-influencer.

Lauren Bullen (@gypsea_lust) is an Instagram influencer focused on travel. With 2.1 million followers, she’s built a massive following—meaning she’s obviously not a micro-influencer.

Instagram-micro-influencer-lauren-bullen-example

Image Source: Lauren Bullen

In contrast, Karl Watson (@karlwatsondocs) is a travel documentary filmmaker and a micro-influencer within the travel industry.

He has a much smaller following of a little over 9,000 followers, making him a much more approachable and reasonable influencer option for travel-related brands who don’t have massive budgets.

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Image Source: Karl Watson

To summarize, Instagram micro-influencers are indeed influencers with a lot of authority in their niches and industries. However, they don’t operate on as large of a scale as some of the Instagram celebrities you’ve likely grown accustomed to seeing.

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Why Bother With Influencer Marketing?

Finding and then effectively collaborating with influencers does require some time and energy. So, here’s a question that deserves to be answered: Is it worth it?

Here’s the short answer: absolutely.

In fact, according to Linqia’s The State of Influencer Marketing survey, 94% of respondents who use influencer marketing believe it to be an effective marketing tactic.

But, what exactly makes this rate so high?

Trust is the secret ingredient here.

More and more, people are tuning out obvious sales messages that come directly from brands. For example, usage of ad blockers surged by an impressive 30% in the year 2016—which proves that people aren’t receptive to pushy and overt sales tactics.

Instead, they turn to people they trust to get recommendations. This not only applies to their direct peers but also influencers—people they look up to and admire.

And, when they see those recommendations, they’re far more likely to actually purchase. 81% of consumers state that social posts from friends and peers (influencers come into play here!) directly impact their purchasing decisions.

That’s likely why a 2016 study from TapInfluence and Nielsen Catalina Solutions discovered that influencer marketing generates 11 times the ROI of traditional digital marketing.

In short, influencer marketing doesn’t just expand your reach by getting your brand in front of new audiences—it does so in a way that feels authentic and genuine.

Influencers have earned trust with their audiences, and therefore can win trust for your brand and convert their followers into your customers. So, it makes sense that Instagram influencer marketing doubled in the year 2017—and that will likely only continue to increase.

Does Size Matter: The Pros and Cons of Micro-Influencers

There’s no denying that influencer marketing on Instagram is effective. But, it’s easy to think that only applies to major influencers who can push your brand out to millions of starry-eyed followers.

Make no mistake—working with micro-influencers can be powerful. However, it’s also not without its downsides when compared with larger influencers.

Let’s explore some pros and cons of collaborating with micro-influencers, so you can decide which route is best for your unique brand.

The Pros

1. They Have a Highly-Engaged Following

While micro-influencers might not boast huge audience numbers, they typically have followings that are highly engaged. Their followers trust them, value them, and interact with them on a regular basis.

Much like anything else on Instagram, engagement carries a lot of weight.

After all, wouldn’t you rather promote your brand to an audience of 5,000 who will be inclined to like, comment, and even find out more about your product than an audience of 500,000 who might drop a courtesy ‘like’—but then do nothing more?

One study conducted by HelloSociety found that micro-influencer content is 6.7 times more efficient at engaging audiences than bigger influencers—proving that micro-influencers can really accomplish a lot for your brand, despite their smaller following.

To summarize, macro-influencers will lead to more reach, but micro-influencers will generate far more engagement.

Need proof? Let’s compare the Instagram accounts of two different baking influencers. Tara Jensen Green (@bakerhands) has a following of over 99,000. In contrast, Cookie Designs by Liz Tamny (@illustratedcookies) has just 1,241 followers.

Here, you can see a single Instagram post from @bakerhands received around 387 likes but just three comments:

Instagram-micro-influencer-baker-hands-example

Image Source: Tara Jensen Green

This post from @illustratedcookies has fewer likes (101 total at the time of this writing), but seven comments:

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Image Source: Illustrated Cookies

It’s a seemingly small thing, but it drives home the point that micro-influencers often have a far more engaged following than macro-influencers.

2. They’re Usually Cheaper to Work With

You’ve already determined that you don’t have a huge budget to funnel into influencer marketing. That’s another perk of micro-influencers: Since they don’t have as large of followings, they typically don’t demand as much for compensation.

Remember previously when we mentioned that big influencers often charge as much as $1,000 per 100,000 followers?

Micro-influencers are far more reasonable. According to Bloglovin’s 2016 Global Influencer Survey, 97% of micro-influencers charge less than $500 for a single Instagram post. In fact, 84% of them actually charge less than $250 per post.

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Image Source: Bloglovin’s Global Influencer Survey

In addition to the lower cost, there’s also lower competition. If you aim for those influencers with massive followings, you’ll be up against a number of big brands—and, your own sponsored post will likely get buried amongst a mix of others.

That same Bloglovin survey indicated that 70% of micro-influencers work on less than five marketing campaigns each year. This means that they haven’t been inundating their followers with product promotions, which makes the instances when they do really stand out.

The Cons

1. They Have a Smaller Following

There have to be some downsides, right? Micro-influencers can do a lot of good for your Instagram marketing strategy, but there are some drawbacks to consider when determining whether a micro-influencer is right for your needs.

We’ll start with the obvious one, which we’ve already touched on previously: Micro-influencers are micro for a reason. They have smaller followings.

This means that you won’t be reaching as many people as you would if you were to work with a larger influencer.

A study from Mediahub found that influencers with big follower counts get far more likes than micro-influencers. But, when it comes to things like comments, sales, traffic, and content entries, micro-influencers take the cake.

As with anything, it’s important to determine what your goals are. Do you just want a huge amount of exposure? Or, do you want engagement?

Answering that question will help to point you in the right direction.

2. They’re Less Experienced With Instagram Marketing

As you can imagine, influencers with massive audiences are approached about sponsored posts all the time. They know what it takes to pull together effective content that will connect with their audience.

But, when you’re working with a micro-influencer, they’re a little less experienced in this regard. As mentioned, they only work on an average of five campaigns per year, which means they might not necessarily be experts in this field.

When you’re inexperienced with influencer marketing yourself, it can be helpful to work with someone who already knows the ropes. But, again, that will come along with a hefty price tag.

While the inexperience of some micro-influencers can certainly be a hurdle, it can actually serve you well in other ways. Since they aren’t used to cranking out product promotions, often the type of content they pull together is authentic and highly engaging—which means it performs exceptionally well with their audiences.

For example, just look at this post from Instagram user Cecilia Gorgon (@ceciliagorgon), a micro-influencer that cosmetics brand, Glossier, frequently collaborates with:

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Image Source: Cecilia Gorgon

You’ll find numerous different posts with Glossier’s products and name featured on Gorgon’s Instagram grid, and they all generate a really solid amount of engagement.

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Where to Find Instagram Micro-Influencers

You’ve determined that a micro-influencer is the right way forward for your brand. Now what? How do you go about finding these people to work with?

Let’s cover a few actionable strategies you can use to find people who could be potential ambassadors for your brand on Instagram.

1. Ask Your Existing Fans and Followers

Your followers can be a great resource of knowledge and insights. Chances are, they have recommendations of Instagram accounts that they already follow and love that are relevant to your brand.

Put up a post asking them to tag or share some related accounts that they admire. Those comments will turn up a list of influencers—both big and small—that you can add to your list to reach out to.

2. Look Through Related Hashtags

Hashtags are another great resource to find accounts that post relevant content.

Search hashtags directly on Instagram and then click into posts that grab your attention. From there, you can find out more about the account that posted the content and reach out to that user if you’re interested.

For example, if you run an outdoor gear brand, search hashtags like #outdoors, #nature, or #greatoutdoors to find content and, as a result, users who could be good fits for your own brand. You can then organize relevant hashtags using Sked’s (formerly Schedugram) Hashtag Manager to save time when creating future posts.

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3. Look at the Comments on the Posts of Major Influencers

Maybe you don’t have the budget to work with major influencers. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t get any help from them.

Large influencers have a lot of, well, influence—which means there are plenty of micro-influencers in their audience who could be suitable for your brand.

Scroll through the comments on some recent, relevant posts from that macro-influencer. Click into the profile of some of those commenters to find out more about their own content and audience size and determine if they’re someone your brand could work with.

It’s a Two-Way Street: Working Well With Micro-Influencers

Once you find a micro-influencer who seems like they could be a good fit for your brand, it’s up to you to lead that relationship and make sure things run smoothly.

The same do’s, don’t’s, and best practices apply regardless of what type of influencer you’re working with. Here’s a general overview of some things to keep in mind:

  • DO think about your messaging so the influencer has a clear idea of what you’re trying to promote and what type of content you’re aiming for.
  • BUT DON’T limit their creativity. Give them the freedom and flexibility they need to come up with something awesome.
  • DO find the right influencers for your brand. Don’t just work with somebody because they have a highly-engaged audience or take great photos—you need them to fit with your brand identity.
  • BUT DON’T obsess over numbers. Things like the number of followers and average engagement rate can serve as a good clue, but they aren’t the be-all and end-all.
  • DO empower your influencers with information. Give them resources that they need to produce quality content for you. Whether it’s logo files or desired hashtags, don’t leave them needing to hunt down what they require.
  • BUT DON’T neglect the rules yourself. You can’t be so focused on what the influencer has to do that you neglect what you need to do. Instagram has a lot of rules around sponsored content, so make sure you’re aware of and following these.

Want more do’s and don’t’s? You can dig into plenty of advice for successfully collaborating with influencers of all types in our guide to Instagram influencer marketing.

Over to You

Influencer marketing on Instagram is a powerful way to get your brand out in front of new, relevant audiences.

While it’s tempting to think that you need to work with the biggest influencers available, influencers with smaller but engaged followings (known as micro-influencers) might just surprise you with all that they’re able to accomplish in terms of engagement and exposure for your products.

Use this post as your guide, and you’ll find the micro-influencers that are best suited to your brand—and build a mutually-beneficial relationship after doing so.

And to carve out hours in your social media workflow, start by signing up for Sked’s 7-day trial. As an all-in-one social media platform that allows its users to post directly to Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and more, Sked is the first step in engaging authentically with your followers.

Picture of Kat BoogaardKat Boogaard

Kat Boogaard

Kat Boogaard is a freelance writer, who writes for Sked Social about marketing strategy. She's a compulsive organiser with a penchant for dogs and tacos – in that order.

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