Through platform changes, algorithm updates, the crackdown on fake followers — with every curveball, consistency has persisted for influencers. The evolution of the influencer marketing sector has been truly impressive and now, with numbers to back up their worth, influencers are more valuable than ever.
Micro-Influencers: When Bigger Is Not Always Better
Boasting millions of followers and even entering stardom, some influencers are buying mansions and yachts. They’ve risen to the top, while another group has quietly built their own empire: micro-influencers.
While cost and demand tend to be deterrents for brands looking to partner with what are known as macro-influencers (over 50,000 followers), what’s becoming apparent is that micro-influencers tend to see better engagement and higher conversion. In fact, micro influencers have three times the engagement rates as mega influencers.
Micro-influencers are far from bargain brand influencers, however. Defined as influencers with 10,000 to 50,000 followers, but can have as little as a few thousand followers, micro-influencers have garnered the one thing brands are looking for: a very loyal audience.
Why brands are choosing to work with micro influencers:
• Seemingly unlimited choices of influencers
• Brands can diversify the influencers they partner with and opt for multiple partners per campaign
• The ability to pinpoint a targeted demographic (new moms, fashionistas, sneakerheads, etc.)
Micro influencers have become experts in converting their audience into buyers. Even influencers that aren’t very well-known have credibility. They speak the language of a specific audience, and that audience is motivated to buy as a result.
This shift has been a cost-effective one for marketers. Influencers with a smaller following can become the face of a marketing campaign, which is a fraction of the cost of an influencer with tens of thousands of followers.
Data, Analytics & AI, Oh My!
While follower count, and, subsequently, reach are important metrics for influencers to track, brands are now more interested in conversions. How much of your audience is motivated to buy? The ability to pinpoint ROI from an influencer campaign means marketers and influencers can now work together to track results and gather data.
Now brands can demand to know what they’re getting for their money. Data is essentially currency. Analytics determine how much an influencer is interacting with its audience. Brands use that to decide who will represent their campaign. Combine that with a target demographic and it’s a winning bet on the success of your marketing campaign.
AI also gives power back to the platforms. In fact, Instagram is known for changing up its algorithm with a moment’s notice. They always want to have the upper hand. Preventing any one influencer from outsmarting the platform is somewhat of a game. Influencers really can’t get too comfortable.
Social media platforms also use machine learning and voice recognition to learn what followers are looking for and what influencers are talking about. This data is used to inform the next algorithm.
The constant innovation helps everyone involved, but influencers tend to get the short end of the stick. Brands get the most out of their influencer ad spend. The influencers themselves get exposure and opportunities, but may have to learn a new feature or pivot in their strategy. And lastly, consumers are made aware of the products they care about, presented directly to them by the voices they’ve come to value.
The Flip Side of Authenticity
Most people who use social media will tell you that authenticity is still king. By now, users can tell if an influencer is promoting a product just for the money. Well, authenticity has met its match because artificial intelligence is anything but. Virtual influencers are popping up everywhere. They’re real influencers, but not real people.
Virtual influencers are essentially computer animations of actual people. And while it might come as a surprise, these virtual influencers are doing what actual influencers are supposed to do — gain followers, establish credibility and promote products intelligently and authentically. One virtual influencer, Brud, is worth $125 million.
Virtual influencers are a supplement to actual influencers. They provide entertainment and education, which is what social media is all about. While young audiences crave authenticity, they also want to be part of something fun and exciting. The best influencers provide that — even if they’re not real.
Tatum Snodgras is senior content specialist at Commit Agency, an award-winning ad agency in Chandler, AZ.