Why micro-influencers matter most
83% of consumers trust and act upon recommendations from people they know
Influence marketing is an essential part of marketing and sales strategy. In order to be heard through the din and noticed among the barrage of marketing messages battering consumers through every possible medium today; marketers are doing their best to find sources of influence to help them stand out from the crowd.
As Liz Gottbrecht, director of marketing for the influence marketing firm Mavrck, explains, consumers rarely trust traditional advertising messages from companies themselves. Instead, 83 per cent of consumers trust and act upon recommendations from people they know. Gottbrecht also points out that the RoI on influence marketing campaigns far surpasses that of any advertising form: "Every $1 spent on influencer marketing returns $6.50."
There are four types of influencers: celebrities and social media stars; professors, industry leaders and journalists; semi-professional bloggers; and micro-influencers.
Celebrities and social media stars have the largest number of followers on social media, ranging in the millions. But as Mavrck's content marketer Caroline Burke points out: while Kourtney Kardashian has 31 million followers and garnered 312,500 likes for her Twitter photo endorsement of detox FitTea, it's likely that FitTea didn't get a good return on sales for their investment in her. Burke explains that celebrity endorsements can gain views but they actually work worse in terms of leads and conversions than regular advertisements. Why?
It turns out that such promotions reinforce the recall of the celebrity rather than that of the brand they're endorsing. That's because they're obviously paid promotions. Use of celebrities that don't have any kind of real personal connection, investment or industry relationship with a brand results in limited brand connection and recall. So even if a brand gains views and sees impression numbers rise in their marketing campaign by using a celebrity; it's unlikely that the campaign has created actual leads or improved sales or brand awareness.
Experts have the second highest number of fans and followers, often in the hundreds of thousands. These professors, industry leaders, executives and journalists are usually not for sale. Endorsements, mentions, connections, and blog and article sharing are based on mutual respect and recognition rather than monetary reimbursement. While experts can help increase credibility, perceptions of expertise and ranking in terms of thought leadership; Gottbrecht says they're most useful in terms of gaining increases in impressions.
Semi-professional bloggers, with an average of 5,000 followers, will advertise a brand's product, endorse them or include links on their website and in their postings. It's hard to determine, however, if click rates on these links are authentic (not bot-generated or competitor-based) or truly relevant in terms of your target market. And, such endorsements are most often motivated by profit for the blogger. Sometimes, trust in a blogger is strong enough to overcome the perception of cash motivations. Using bloggers in influence marketing can improve engagement (if not actual sales conversions) with your brand.
Micro-influencers are consumers themselves with 500 to 5,000 followers, most often less than 1,000. They may have small reach but they generate great return. The 80/20 rule applies here: just as 20 per cent of your customers generate 80 per cent of your sales; these brand advocates generate more leads and more sales conversions than any other type of influencer. They create real engagement and consideration of your brand, beyond just awareness, lead generation or increasing followers and likes without actual conversions.
Digital marketing, advertising and monitoring
Brand ambassadors are the most influential part of your marketing strategy. Caroline Burke, content marketer at influence marketing firm Mavrck, explains that micro-influencers rule in terms of consumer trust. They're known for their interest and personal expertise; they're trusted because they don't have financial motives, are recognisably passionate about your industry, but only act in the true interest of others.
Brand advocates are personally motivated to promote you and they are highly-relevant influencers. If they believe in you, they will work hard to make others believe in you, too. Mavrck's case studies have found that activating one micro-influencer converts an average of three of their friends.
Micro-influencers are good for all stages and components of a marketing campaign, from brand awareness and the creation of effective content (whether you are doing it or they are), to direct response, lead generation and conversions.
If you think Mavrck is too personally invested in such fanfare about micro-influencers to be impartial, consider the latest study posted on Marketing Sherpa, which backs them up. Customer reviews can be qualified by influencers and users.
Dr Liva LaMontagne has summarised the results of a recent study by Experticity, another influence marketing firm, in collaboration with Keller Fay Group and Dr Jonah Berger of the The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Surveying 6,022 US consumers, the study sought to assess the impact of micro-influencers. The survey found that 82 per cent of customers were likely to follow an influencer's recommendation over average consumer recommendations. It also found that micro-influencers recommend brands as much as 22.2 times more than other customers who post recommendations. Potential customers experience 22 more conversations each week with a potential influencer than through normal customer reviews.
The message is clear: loyal customers are only the tip of the iceberg because most of them are passive. Brand advocates are powerful components of your marketing team. So who are your brand ambassadors? They are the people that have the most weight in terms of actual influence concerning your niche or industry.
Experticity vice-president of marketing Inga Johnson and Dr Berger stress that it's important to pick the right influencers.
A big mistake is to try and "buy" influencers: this automatically lowers the degree of trust an influencer follower has in the recommendation. Johnson explains that authentic micro-influencers are trusted because they have a personal passion and knowledge about your industry or niche. She says: "The folks that are most valuable are trusted by a consumer because they have a real, credible voice in their category. These folks will ask for a deep relationship with the brand and understand the products prior to recommending."
Disclosure is everything. That's why semi-professional bloggers can work as influencers if they disclose their financial gains from promoting a product that they actually use and believe in. Berger emphasises that bias is a sensitive subject: objectivity matters.
"A paid relationship does not always equate to a lack of authenticity," she said. "If someone is truly passionate about a product and category, that authenticity will show. Telling how you received the product [if free] is part of what keeps that authenticity alive."
So what matters to micro-influencers? After they have been recognised as true brand ambassadors? They like VIP treatment, discounts, exclusive offers and recognition of their ideas and efforts rather than cash.
The writer is a business startup strategist and founder of Wealth Dynamics Unlimited. Views expressed are her own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.
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