Thanks to social media, the power of word-of-mouth marketing is growing like never before. In fact, word-of-mouth marketing generates sales that are twice as high as traditional paid advertising, and 70% of internet consumers want to learn about a product through content rather than traditional social advertising.
As a brand, you push content to your audience on social channels — and hopefully after you push out messages, some of those people turn into brand advocates. But we all know that’s not enough. In an effort to reach more people, many brands have turned to influencer marketing — having users with large follower communities show off their products.
This isn’t anything new. It’s been happening since the first ads featuring celebrities hit radio and TV airwaves. But recently the paradigm has shifted dramatically. Today, fashion bloggers, travel junkies and content producers in many different verticals are telling great stories — and the best ones are getting paid for their efforts.
So I Should Just Pay A Celebrity to Promote My Brand, Right?
If you think influencer marketing is as simple as getting Kim Kardashian to publish a photo using your product, you’re sorely mistaken. There are serious challenges to contracting celebrities. First of all, it’s very expensive. (I mean, who has the budget to pay Kim Kardashian?) There are a limited supply of celebrities that match your brand and aesthetic. Plus it’s really inauthentic because online communities can easily figure out that it’s an advertisement, not an organic post. For celebrities and macro-influencers, the whole process is starting to dilute their story and overall voice.
What’s the answer? Micro-influencers
Instead of targeting a single influencer that has 100,000 followers with a diluted, varied audience, why not find 10 influencers that each have 10,000 followers? Those communities will be far more focused and niche. If you’re a sportswear brand, don’t work with a celebrity athlete, work with a blogger or photographer that focuses on a specific sport. Their audience will be much more passionate and the community is going to trust their voice far more.
So how do you find micro-influencers?
1. Look at your own followers. Think about the different partners and employees you are working with that represent your brand and are interested in telling that story. Look at who is already following you? Who are the current advocates that are already talking about your brand? By simply clicking your followers within your Instagram page, you’ll automatically see everyone following you — and it doesn’t take long to quickly determine if that person is a micro-influencer that matches your brand.
For W hotels, for instance, we’ve easily already identified someone with 11,200 followers who’s already following the brand. This person, Erik B. Haugen, travels frequently and his photography is terrific. W Hotels can offer him a free hotel room in exchange for his sharing a post or two about a stay at a W Hotel. It’s a win-win.
2. Use the Right Hashtags Hashtags have been a real gift to marketers because consumers put themselves into categories — allowing marketers to research and find people interested in their products. To succeed using hashtag searching, you want to get as granular as possible. Forget a general term like #fashion because it will surface a ton of random content. Instead use something like #summerdress, where people are talking about a far more specific topic.
3. Location. Location. Location. If you’re a fashion brand trying to find fashion influencers in New York, don’t click the New York location tag on Instagram because it’ll serve up a ton of random content. Instead head to Yelp and search for the most popular boutiques, then go into Instagram and search them by location.
In this example, we are immediately we are able to find a micro-influencer who posted to the boutique Quinn — and generated 360 likes.
4 Steps for Reaching Out to Micro-influencers
1. Follow them. Show you appreciate their content and like some of their relevant photography or content.
2. Like their photos. Consider this a bit of flirting. Let them know you’re checking them out.
3. Leave comments. This makes them aware that you’re not just interested in their followers, you actually like their content.
4. Send a personal direct message. Flattery always works well. Compliment their style. Compliment their aesthetic. Getting a DM from a brand will excite them and make them way more likely to reply and start building a relationship.
3 Ways to Work With Micro-Influencers
1. The Takeover. The first way is for an influencer to takeover a brand’s account. Bringing somebody else into your brand’s story excites your current community and can increase your follower count very quickly. It also provides a new and unique look at your brand from a fan’s perspective, as opposed to a celebrity that’s likely out of touch. Additionally, you’re getting new and unique content that you can use across your digital channels post campaign.
Keep in mind: In some cases, it’s staged, in some cases it’s in real time. Some brands don’t want to provide a password to a micro-influencer, which is certainly understandable.
Here are two screenshots from a takeover I did with Kimpton hotels in Philadelphia.
You can see that I’m using the same photo in my personal account and the Kimpton account. When posting to my personal account, I’m linking to the @KimptoninPHL account. I did this on purpose, so there’s that direct connection when someone sees the photos on the Kimpton account, they’ll know I’m behind the account takeover. (You don’t want the influencer to post every single photo they’re sharing on your brand account to their personal account because you want the content to be exclusive — but the first one or two makes sense.)
Within a three-day period, Kimpton increased followers by 13.3% and the takeover generated 40% more likes per post. Post-campaign, the average likes-per-photo increased by 65% — and it’s still trending upward.
2. The Product Post. Cora, a company that sells monthly subscriptions to organic tampons, got micro-influencers to post photos of their product without having to even pay them. All they did was ship micro-influencers free products and asked them for a post photos in return. Users like @LizandLavender obliged, and her beautiful photos resonated with her 6700 followers.
Even more interesting are the conversations driven around this content — showing purchase intent and a clear ROI.
3. The Unique Experience. When it comes to content creation, make sure you’re giving your audience something unique. Micro-influencers have a very specific eye and they love to show it off. Check out these photos from micro-influencers working with the Philadelphia 76ers. The middle photo is one of the coolest pictures I’ve ever seen. I don’t know anybody who’s ever gotten permission to be this high in the rafters above a basketball arena. Not only could the team capitalize on the user’s 8,000 followers but the team could also use the image across all their channels long after the campaign ended.
Looking for ways to discover influencers who have an authentic voice? Check out Curalate Explore, which can help you find influencers to work with, form relationships with micro-influencers and find high-quality content piece-by-piece.