How to Find the Most Impactful Micro-Influencer

Opinion: Marketers who let follower counts cloud their judgment may miss opportunities

Preparation is key when dealing with influencers DMEPhotography/iStock

When it comes to influencers, bigger isn’t always better. Larger accounts help brands gain exposure and increase awareness, but if the influencer doesn’t align with the brand, people likely won’t pay attention.

Kim Kardashian West has 105 million Instagram followers, but her audience (and price) isn’t ideal for every company. Aligning with a celebrity who makes the news for the wrong reasons could even lead to a negative marketing impact.

Marketers who let follower counts cloud their judgment may miss opportunities to drive real engagement through micro-influencers that their customers trust at a fraction of the cost.

When do micro-influencers make more sense?

Influencers want their posts to drive revenue for brands because they want repeat customers. Some will hawk for anyone who pays them, while the best ones stick to their niches and only promote products they have genuinely tried and tested.

When macro-influencers get careless, the brands behind them look bad, too. Last year, for example, Adidas worked with Naomi Campbell to promote some new shoes, only to watch the promotion backfire when Campbell accidentally pasted the entire email message from the marketing team into her post.

Successful micro-influencer marketing comes in two forms: Some people spray and pray, shipping products to hundreds of influencers at once in hopes that they’ll post on their platforms, while others carefully select the influencers with the most relevant followings.

Filip Tysander, owner of wristwatch startup Daniel Wellington, grew his brand from a $1,500 investment to a $220 million operation in just six years through a no-holds-barred influencer strategy.

The company succeeded by sending free watches to up-and-coming influencers, like athletes who had just been drafted and bloggers with loyal followings, flooding young people’s pages with watches.

One of Later’s users, meowbox, saw similar success targeting multiple micro-influencers who represented its customer base versus celebrities or larger accounts.

The subscription box service for cat owners found that a sponsored post from a celebrity with a large following led to only a few sales, while sending a free box to an Instagram cat account with a moderate following resulted in a significantly larger number of sales.

When the company started focusing on sending boxes to micro-influencers that had a genuine following of its target audience, however, sales exploded. Organic posts from these smaller influencers led to a huge growth in sales for meowbox at a fraction of the cost.

How to land the most impactful micro-influencers

Preparation is key when dealing with influencers, so it’s critical to have your strategy and desired outcomes clearly outlined. Follow these tips to make sure you’re selecting the right micro-influencers for your project, getting them on board, and—most important—seeing big results.

Set clear expectations for influencers and return on investment

Don’t rely on gut instincts to pick micro-influencers, and don’t assume that they will know how to drive sales on their own. The first step in developing your influencer strategy is to consider the resources available. Should you offer products, money or both?

Next, identify the objectives. Should influencers post about the brand to drive awareness, or should they help generate content for the brand to share later?

Finally, determine what kind of content would work best, including which products to feature and which formats to utilize.

Answers in hand, begin your outreach, keeping ROI at the forefront. Instead of “boosting awareness,” stick to metrics-based goals, like driving three times as many sales of a specific product.

Assess candidates’ alignment with your brand and goals

With these goals in mind, narrow down the pool of influencers to people who can meet the objectives. The best influencers have followers who mostly fall into one target demographic, allowing brands to get as close to their intended audience as possible.

Look at the quality of an influencer’s followers over sheer quantity when determining whether they could benefit your brand. Markerly recommends using influencers with between 10,000 and 100,000 followers, as these accounts generally offer the best combination of follower engagement and reach.

Look for people with good follower relationships, authentic engagements and not too much other promotional content—especially not for your competitors. If some influencers are already fans, even better.

After making cuts based on audience, pick influencers who match your brand aesthetic and values. A company with a cool, laid-back attitude should think twice before working with an energetic, confrontational partner.

Reach out and start two-way conversations

Here’s where you need to hustle and get creative to establish a connection with influencers. Understandably, quality influencers will receive a lot of interest from brands wanting to establish partnerships, so you need to find a unique way to stand out from the rest of the pack.

Do you go to the same events as them? Do you know any mutual connections who could be ambassadors?

Influencer outreach on social media is still really manual. Although there are tools to help with influencer discovery and outreach, the old-fashioned way still prevails. You are forming a relationship on social media, so it makes sense to reach out via social. Start following and engaging with influencers before you reach out in order to ensure that your brand is top of mind.

Speak to people who already follow your brand for easy wins. Follow influencer profiles, read a few posts and communicate through direct messages or contact information that they provide on their site or bio.

Be as clear as possible in your request about what you hope to gain from the partnership, including deliverables, timing and budget. If the influencer seems interested but you aren’t ready to make your full pitch digitally, set up a call to go over the specifics.

Influencer relationships are two-way streets, so don’t treat partners like order-takers. Solicit feedback and ideas to turn influencers into creative think tanks. As Sara Panton, co-founder and CEO of Vitruvi, told me, “We love interacting with our community and sending them new product ideas, getting their insights on our ideas for future launches and their opinions. We learn a lot from micro-influencers about how they use the products and other tips and tricks they can teach us.” Your influencers are a creative resource in their own right, so don’t discount their ideas and experience.

Micro-influencers might not have celebrity status, but a few well-nurtured partnerships could drive results far beyond what any Kardashian could. By following these tips to develop a micro-influencer strategy, you can identify the best potential partners, create mutually beneficial agreements and increase your chances of achieving ROI that exceeds your expectations.

Matt Smith is the founder of Instagram marketing platform Later.

@mattfromlater Matt Smith is the founder of Later.