Influencer marketing: Rise of the micro-influencer

2nd July 2019
Author: Chris McKay
Posted in: Distribution & promotion, Strategy & planning

What is influencer marketing?

If you open up any social app right now and scroll for a few seconds, you’ll almost certainly see at least one influencer. They’re everywhere. Social media has become a petri dish of celebrities and social influencers promoting anything they can get their hands on – protein powder, eyelash extensions, you name it. Some of them are high-profile celebrities with multi-million dollar brand deals: Brad Pitt allegedly earned around $4 million to appear in one Heineken advert that aired during the Super Bowl. But the vast majority are able to charge a much smaller amount to sign brand deals with small to mid-range companies. 

Group of people using social media.

But what is influencer marketing exactly? Essentially, influencer marketing is using an individual with a social following to drive and nurture customer engagement with a brand, which should, in turn, drive sales of the product. It might be new, but there’s some serious evidence that it can have a huge impact. The sharp rise in influencer marketing in B2C has got B2B marketers wondering if the same is possible for their own businesses. 

Does B2B influencer marketing actually work?

With words like “influencer” and “social media personality”, we’re all thinking the same thing – the Kardashians. Celebrities like these have paved the way for the zombie hordes of YouTubers and Instagrammers trailing behind them, offering us a 20% discount on a product they swear by but have probably never used. You wouldn’t be blamed for having the preconception that this new form of marketing only works in B2C. After all, you’re probably not going to see Kim Kardashian selling SaaS products on her reality show any time soon (not until season 32 at least). 

Mainstream influencer is photographed by paparazzi.

According to Influencer Marketing Hub, 69% of marketers in the B2C sector run influencer marketing campaigns, whereas only 31% run campaigns in B2B. But there could be a huge opportunity you’re missing out on here. In the US, 91% of B2B transactions are influenced by word of mouth. B2B products are typically a more significant investment than B2C, and businesses, especially smaller ones with a smaller budget, will be more likely to hand over that cash if someone they respect (thought leaders, industry experts, etc.) puts their reputation on the line to vouch for a product. In some ways, B2B influencer marketing is very different from B2C, but in one way it remains the same – there’s a huge opportunity there. 

Micro-influencer VS Mainstream Influencer

So we can all agree that slapping a celebrity’s face next to our brand would likely shoot our sales up into the stratosphere, but the reality is most businesses can’t afford to fork out a few million for Brad Pitt. These celebrities and key figures are mainstream influencers and typically only work with big-league companies. But this leaves a considerable gap for small and medium-sized companies looking to get in on the party. Enter the micro-influencer. Micro-influencers have fewer followers (think tens of thousands rather than millions) and are becoming a hot commodity in the B2B world. What are the main differences between these two types of brand influencers?:

Cost

Unsurprisingly, the cost of signing a brand deal with a digital influencer rises and falls with their follower count on social media. A micro-influencer is a relatively affordable alternative to a mainstream digital influencer, some of whom charge the GDP of a small country for a single appearance. In this case, “you get what you pay for” doesn’t pan out. You can see huge results from a micro-influencer at a fraction of the cost, for the reasons laid out below. 

Knowledge

Mainstream influencers’ unique selling point is that they’re famous. Is Sofia Vergara the face of Head & Shoulders shampoo because she’s an expert in seborrhoeic dermatitis? Nope. But she is very recognisable. An advantage of micro-influencers is that they tend to be very knowledgeable in a specific niche of their industry. They can’t rely on fame, so they’ve built their social influence by becoming highly knowledgeable in one area.

Engagement

Influencer marketing has blown up in B2C marketing because they’ve seen that social influence directly translates to higher engagement, and micro-influencers actually may be more efficient than mainstream digital influencers. HelloSociety published results that claim a campaign with a micro-influencer has a 60% higher engagement rate than a regular campaign, and micro-influencer campaigns are 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than those done with a mainstream influencer. 

How to use micro-influencers in your marketing strategy

Man speaks at influencer marketing event.

Clearly, there’s an argument for micro-influencers in B2B marketing. But how do we actually use them in a marketing strategy?

First of all, you have to find them. Luckily, their job is literally to be seen by people like you, so they want you to find them. You should be able to find key influencers for your topic by searching relevant hashtags on social media. Also, most marketing blogs and websites usually have some recommendations for you to take advantage of.

Once you’ve acquired a key influencer or two, it’s time to start using them. There are a few different ways you can use their influence for your needs, depending on your goals and budget. This includes having them:

  • Share your content.
  • Appear at events.
  • Feature in advertisements.
  • Write reviews of your brand/product.

Influencer ads may be especially impactful. The world’s “first” neuroscience study on influencer marketing, commissioned by influencer marketing agency Whalar, claimed that influencer ads were 277% more “emotionally intense” than TV ads and 87% more memorable. If these pretty impressive stats hold true, then you could actually be saving money and seeing better results by taking the new media route. 

Successful uses of micro-influencers

B2B influencer marketing is still fairly uncharted territory. People have a herd mentality and most marketers are no different. That’s not to say no one’s doing it though. In fact, some companies are way ahead of the rest of us and are already seeing great results.

SAP, for example, is a real champion of micro-influencers. They invited 5 micro-influencers to speak at an event in Germany. These five brand influencers drove 50% of all mentions about the event on social – causing it to trend in Germany for two days. They also invited 11 micro-influencers to Sapphire, their annual conference that sees around 20,000 attendees, to create video content for social. Their combined social influence added an additional 80,000 digital viewers to the event. 

Micro-influencers could be the future of influencer marketing, especially in B2B, where their specialised knowledge and relatively lower cost make them an attractive asset to any marketing campaign. Forward-thinking marketers should be seriously considering them as a worthwhile investment (preferably before the Kardashians take over).