Written by S. Angelique Mingo
Posts on Instagram sponsored by influencers nearly doubled between 2016 and 2017, accounting for more than 1.5 million posts worldwide last year.
Despite the saturation, true influence is more than just a pretty feed; the right partnerships impact our decision-making as consumers, inviting us into a relationship build on trust and entertainment. For those with a truly authentic style, voice, and point-of-view, brands can access loyal followings vis-a-vis collaborations, followings that sometimes rival those of celebrities. Still, not all influencers are the same, drive consumer actions the same, or offer the same benefits to all brands.
It’s time to move beyond simply adding “influencer outreach” as a tick box during campaign development and to instead think specifically about what influencer category is the best fit for a particular idea. The following 3 segments are useful distinctions to guide strategy.
1. MEGA-INFLUENCERS: THE A-LISTERS
Mega-influencers are your a-list celebrities: actors, athletes, musicians, socialites, reality personalities and social media stars with 1M+ followers (i.e. Joanna Gaines, Selena Gomez, Gigi Hadid, and Reese Witherspoon). They have extensive reach but their endorsement produces 2% – 5% engagement via likes, views, comments and shares per post. They are prominent the leaders of what’s hot and new; the trendsetters. Mega-influencers also are their own brand and typically work with national brands so true engagement might be low but it will blast your brand globally.
If you are seeking global versus local exposure, mega influencers are the perfect fit. This exposure typically requires a fee for guaranteed placement on social media or being photographed with the product; otherwise, it’s a crapshoot. Emerging brands tend to forget to get a signed release for use of name or likeness when gifting so be sure to get some sort of written approval before using their name to avoid any lawsuits.
2. MACRO-INFLUENCERS: THE PROS
Macro-Influencers are our industry professionals who produce industry specific news that focuses on trust building. They are our brand editors/journalists, bloggers, thought leaders and executives aka the tastemakers. They typically have between roughly 100,000–1M followers with 5% – 25% higher engagement per post (i.e. Curly Nikki, Misty Copeland, Michelle Lewin and Michelle Phan). Macro-influencers have an audience grouped around a particular interest because their career has been built on being a subject matter expert that offers verified brand credibility.
These are our long time media journalists who have been influencing purchasing decisions by providing third-party cosign at the recognized networks and publishing houses. Their endorsements are earned, have targeted resonance and established contextual fit. Macro-influencers live aspirational lifestyles and offer celebrity reach through their passive followers. Their endorsements come in both earned and paid media so understanding your long term marketing goals will help decide the best approach.
3. MICRO-INFLUENCERS: EVERYDAY INFLUENCERS
Micro-influencers are “real people” with a passion and subject matter expertise they love sharing. They may be employees and existing customers, typically with 1,000–100,000 followers. These influencers produce higher engagement than macro-influencers, 25% – 50% engagement per post, to a niche audience who they can cultivate more personal relationships – think Diandra Barnwell, Lindsay Coke and Kela Walker.
Micro-influencers are the most affordable option, easier to contact and can be quote effective when trying to reach millennials for emerging brands. Despite having smaller number of followers, micro-influencer content still impacts consumer buyer patterns because their content and tone hasn’t moved into a purely aspirational space. Instead, successful micro-influencers know their power lies in the fact that they maintain a relatable sensibility. Micros influencers are open to collaborating with brands to create branded content, but these brands must align with their values and natural interests (to do otherwise is reputation-suicide). For new businesses especially, a few highly aligned collaborations can quickly help to establish brand awareness and interest. However, to get the same reach as with a macro-influencer, you need to work with multiple micro-influencers in order to achieve the same effect, which can be a drain on resources and requires more project (and people!) management overall.
With influencer marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all magic formula, but we can set ourselves up for success by carefully evaluating the pros and cons of our efforts against brand goals and budget. No matter what, be sure your influencer partners have a natural, authentic alignment with your brand personality, values and goals.
About S. Angelique
S. Angelique Mingo is the Creative Director at Sinala Noir, a fashion and lifestyle communications agency for contemporary brands on the rise. S. Angelique designs hybrid public relations and social media strategies to help generate buzz and build brand awareness. She specializes in storytelling, brand development and project management and is known for her energetic, hit-the-ground running approach to every client.