Influencers vs Micro-Influencers: Bigger Isn’t Always Better

If there is one thing that grinds my gears, it’s scrolling through my Instagram feed and seeing a celebrity or an influencer posing with an object that they are endorsing. To me, it’s cringe-worthy that companies see someone with a large following, ask them to promote something, and then expect to see an influx in sales as a result. I think that people, as well as agencies, are growing tired of influencer marketing – it’s forced and quite frankly, shows little to no value.

I have seen so many celebrities (or wannabe celebrities) posting pictures with products they have not used, with a caption that they did not come up with. We know that this is the case because of Scott Disick’s Instagram ad fail in the spring of last year. I’ve scrolled through my personal Instagram feed and seen some of my lifestyle blogging friends posting advertisements for cars, for hair vitamins, and for teas that don’t necessarily mesh well with their brand and honestly, it feels staged and inauthentic.

As someone who regularly consults on social media marketing, I have advised many brands to not force “influencer” marketing on people. I’ve watched their chosen influencers post tirelessly on their behalf with staged photos and captions that don’t make sense and I can almost feel the heat rising from my face with the humiliation I feel for the brand. I know this will not help them get the sales goal they want, nor will it make the return they invested in this “influencer” for. My forecast on influencers failing to sell their products has yet to be incorrect. Each week I look through their sales, not expecting to see an influencer promo code, and each week, my eyes do not deceive me.

Your external marketing still should be influencer-centric, but if there’s no value in getting a big celebrity to use for endorsements, how do you go about finding the right face to promote your brand?

Find yourself a micro-influencer

If you want to see the best results (while remaining FTC Compliant) you MUST keep things authentic. The best way to do so is by picking the RIGHT influencers. In 2017, I’m anticipating more small brands will jump on board with “micro-influencer marketing” over traditional influencer marketing. Micro-influencers are individuals who work or specialize in a particular vertical and frequently share social media content about their interests. Although they may have a smaller amount of followers, they tend to receive a solid amount of engagement. And not the engagement that celebrities get – you know, the “first like!” “follow back!” comments on every Kardashian or pop-star’s photo. These comments don’t warrant a response back and even if the comments were valid questions, these celebrities don’t have the capacity to answer them.

I religiously follow both shutthekaleup and chickpeainthecity on Instagram because they know so much about eating whole foods and steering clear of preservatives. Admittedly, I personally base my grocery lists and meal plans off of their suggestions. I have a lot of food allergies leading me to be pretty health conscious, plus I want to live a long, happy, healthy life. These two lifestyle bloggers are constantly endorsing dairy-free brands and sharing recipes using particular whole foods brands. Often times they are paid to do these, but most times they aren’t, which help keep even their sponsored posts credible. They receive a lot of comments asking specific questions about where to buy these brands or if the brands used are “dairy free” or “organic” and both Jeannette and Addie try their best to respond to every comment with what knowledge they can provide. I don’t know about you, but if someone answers my question about a product and it’s what I want to hear, I’m probably going to buy it.

Know your dang audience

I cannot stress knowing your audience enough. If you’re a family style Mexican restaurant, you’re going to want to find an influencer who has a family and loves a good deal on chips and guacamole. If you pick out an influencer with a large following comprised of various demographics, the chances of you seeing results are slim to none. In the marketing industry, bigger does not necessarily mean “better.” You know the saying “size doesn’t matter?” Well, here it does. Instead of paying a fitness model that has a following of 10,000+ to push Taco Tuesday, find a mommy blogger in your area that can easily go to your restaurant and take a family photo there. “You know that we love to cook at home but sometimes it’s nice to take a night off. We like to hit up Jimmy’s on South Street because they have a great kid’s menu and amazing Taco Tuesday specials. Plus, sometimes a mama needs a margarita on the rocks, am I right?” as a photo caption beats “Taco Tuesday is my favorite day. Make sure you check out Jimmy’s on South Street for great deals on tacos!” any day.

Likewise, it’s good to really know your micro-influencers audience. Do your research before you reach out to your first pick. See what posts their audience engages with before making any hasty decisions to sign on with them. If you’re a makeup brand and you’ve pinpointed a fashionista that always seems to have her makeup done, check through her posts’ comments. If she doesn’t have anyone asking, “what lip color is that?” or “how do you fill in your eyebrows?” then she really has no business endorsing your products. It’s not her brand wheelhouse and that’s okay. Keep searching for the makeup artist trying to make a name for herself, or the beauty vlogger that’s just breaking out her Instagram and YouTube tutorials.

Date your micro-influencer

Ok, ok, maybe that’s not the right way to go about wording that, but when getting to know your micro-influencer, it’s important to know a lot about them. Forming a relationship with them is key to a successful partnership. If they are not within your local vicinity or you’re strictly an online business, start an email conversation or hold a Skype chat. It’s one thing to send them a sample of your products but it’s another to learn about them. I know I talk about her a lot, but my girl Jeannette at shutthekaleup has forged a great relationship with Wild Friends Foods enough that they send her goodies on her son’s birthday and go out of their way to meet up with her whenever she’s in Oregon or attending a convention where they’re promoting products. Occasionally, they even let her “take over” their Instagram account and give away HAULS of nut butter.

You don’t have to go as far as hanging out with your micro-influencer at every opportunity you get, but it sending them a gift on anniversaries or birthdays is just a nice reminder that you care for them beyond business. Check-in with them here and there. Meet or e-meet their friends! What’s that Spice Girls lyric? “If you want me to market your product, you gotta get with my friends?” Do that. The more people who can push your product on a personal level, the better.

Tell the right story

In Seth Godin’s All Marketers are Liars: The Underground Classic That Explains How Marketing Really Works–and Why Authenticity Is the Best Marketing of All, he writes, “Focus on what people believe and then work to tell them stories that add to their view.” He talks about the authenticity of the Soy Luck Club in New York and how the shop owner, Vivian, brings in lifelong customers by telling her story to the right people. “Vivian is growing by reaching out to communities that will choose to pay attention, to individuals who have a worldview that will embrace the story she’s trying to tell.” Because her coffee shop offers organic treats, soy shakes, and herbal teas, she focused her marketing efforts on the Equinox health club right down the street. She knew her audience.

The reasoning behind this is that people will take notice in something given to them by someone they trust. It’s important to find a micro-influencer that is going to help tell your story to people who trust them and share in their worldview. When their followers catch on to your business, your product, your name, they spread the word to their friends who may not necessarily share the same worldview but they want to be apart of what others are doing. It falls back on our sense of belongingness. If something’s cool, we want to be cool, too. Like the time I introduced my teammates at Sparq Designs to Nina Fitness Training the same day she posted about Halo Top ice cream, and now my fitness fanatic boss Nick is the biggest evangelist for Halo Top. He’s gotten so many people onboard with it (including the trainers at our local gym) and I’ve seriously never seen anything blow up so fast. But I do take full credit for that one, even though I’ve never tried Halo Top.

So that’s it, you guys. Instead of losing money to put an extremely familiar face on a product, take a chance on the little guy. You may not see immediate monetary return, but you’ll see an influx in advocates and if there’s one thing that will never go out of style – it’s word-of-mouth but that’s a topic for another day.