Does Size Always Matter?

Many brands are now opting to work with smaller, up-and-coming social media stars to reach more targeted audiences in a meaningful way and at a fraction of the cost.

“The bigger, the better” mentality has traditionally been indicative of a successful advertising or marketing campaign. This had led to the long-held belief that only the brands that shell out for celebrity endorsements or the most popular YouTube sensations are the ones that get remembered and drive the best results.

However, many brands are now opting to work with smaller, up-and-coming social media stars to reach more targeted audiences in a meaningful way and at a fraction of the cost–a strategy that has proven to be extremely successful and has called into question whether “the bigger, the better” still holds true.

For instance, compare the recent experiences of two brands that used the Grapevine platform to connect with influencers. A luxury beauty brand chose to work with only three YouTube stars, all with large followings and expensive rates. Meanwhile, a drug-store retailer chose to retain 19 rising stars to promote its products. Both organizations had a comparable budget, but the drugstore retailer’s campaign ended up outperforming the luxury beauty brand’s by a landslide with more than 41 percent more views, 76 percent more clicks and a cost per click of $7 less.

While there are many factors that contribute to the success of an influencer campaign, these contrasting approaches demonstrate that smaller can be better. This is why, when it comes to influencer marketing, choosing several influencers with a smaller following can deliver far more value and better results for brands than working with the latest YouTube star.

While this approach can be more complex since you will have more influencers to manage concurrently in order to get the aggregate reach that’s comparable to working with one larger influencer, there are tools and platforms available that can manage those intricacies.

Here are just a few of the benefits for brands that are possible if you judge a creator’s value on more than simply subscriber count when planning your next influencer marketing campaign:

Higher engagement: Rising stars may have smaller reach than the big influencers, but they have deep connections with their followers. One study found that smaller influencers get an average of two to five times more organic engagement per social post, compared with those with more than 100,000 followers. By working with rising stars, brands benefit from a more engaged, dedicated audience, which is more likely to drive conversions.

Increased flexibility: Along with having a passionate audience, smaller creators are typically more open to working with brands collaboratively to get the messaging and image just right, whereas the larger creators more often have agents that brands must work through or more stringent guidelines to abide by in each campaign. This flexibility provides more opportunity for brands to test various campaigns without breaking the budget.

Longer relationships vs. one-time product plugs: Smaller creators are typically much more interested in building a meaningful, long-term relationship with the brands they work with, whereas with larger creators, collaborations can often be more of a one-time product plug. A longer relationship means that they’re not only creating more on-brand content to an enthusiastic audience, but also on their way to becoming a true brand advocate.

With consumer video, including YouTube and Netflix, expected to generate 80 percent of all internet traffic by 2019, according to a 2015 Cisco Systems study, influencers will remain critically important to brands, and finding the right ones is critical. Increasingly, brands are realizing that there may be more benefit in collaborating with smaller creators with highly engaged and loyal audiences to yield better, more targeted results with more flexibility and collaboration at a lesser cost. And consumers are consistently indicating their interest in hearing from these rising stars.

In fact, a recent Keller Fay Group survey found that 82 percent of those polled stated they were “highly likely to follow a recommendation” made by a rising star. And today’s small creators could very likely become tomorrow’s superstars.

Ultimately, brands need campaigns that reach their target audience, are highly engaging and align with the brand. This content should drive a desired consumer action, such as making a purchase or requesting a product sample.

While there’s no single formula for identifying the best creators to work with to accomplish this, it’s no longer a secret that when it comes to influencer marketing campaigns, size doesn’t always matter. In fact, smaller can be better … but you won’t know it until you try.

Brendan Lattrell is the founder and CEO of Grapevine, which connects consumer brands with creators through its influencer marketing platform.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.