2018 - The year of ‘Micro Influencers’

The dynamics of influencer marketing has rapidly changed in the last year with brands and agencies investing heavily on a selection of ‘micro influencers’ (reach of 1, 000 to 10,000 followers), as they have proven to be more effective in transferring to sales than working with a selected ‘macro influencer’ or celebrity (reach of 100,000 - 1 million followers). Why are brands making the influencer marketing shift in an industry whereby 2020 will be worth approx. $5 - $10 billion? (mediakix.com, 2018)

For many decades celebrities were used to promote a brand's product or services across TV and print campaigns, and still to this day are being used by international household names like Coca-Cola and Adidas. With the introduction of social media as a marketing and engagement tool (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram etc.) consumers were able to create their very own brand content and influence their respective peer communities, whether they realised it or not.

Ninety-two per cent of consumers now trust an influencer or peer recommendation more than a celebrity advert or endorsement (Forbes, 2016). The results of traditional advertising and marketing activity are often assumed and not quantifiable, whereas working with "authentic" influencers as brand beacons is not only widely viewed as a trustworthy source, but can directly impact on the brand's sales.

That is why micro influencers who specify a specific interest or "specialisation", despite having less reach, are more valuable to brands long term as they present a more targeted gateway, identifying and speaking to those niche audiences (relevance.com, 2015). Brands understand that working with ‘macro influencers’ and celebrities (high reach and less engagement) to promote their products or services can increase brand awareness, however, the cost is very expensive (if not unattainable) without a guarantee on investment.

With the rise of "fake followers", brands will have to associate with influencers who have ‘real influence’ on sales by analysing the performance of promotions. With the introduction of ‘paid partnership transparency’ as requested by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers and followers alike will become less influenced by ‘paid’ product reviews and features. Therefore, marketers are turning to micro influencers and everyday consumers (low reach and high engagement) to advocate the brand long-term to niche audiences.

Another interesting phenomenon and hurdle facing brands internationally is overall consumer trust, which declines year on year, whereby competition in the marketplace increases year on year. For those brands using influencers as part of their marketing spend it is vital they evaluate the difference between influence and audience. Steer clear of influencers with audiences an inch deep and a mile wide, or audiences that aren't showing genuine engagement, regardless of high follower numbers.  An account or person with a high number of followers isn’t guaranteed to influence behavioural change amongst consumers, and therefore brands really must spend time investigating who are the people with ‘real influence’, and subsequently have the highest likelihood of creating awareness and ultimately, sales. (Cision Global, 2018).

Matthew Watt