Why micro-influencer marketing is becoming mainstream

Industry watchers point out the relatability, authenticity & cost-effectiveness that micro-influencers bring to the table make them sought-after

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Published: Nov 23, 2020 8:00 AM  | 6 min read

Thanks to social media, marketing wizards over the years have discovered how to target audiences much more specifically. On exploring further, we find influencers have established themselves in the marketplace as real entertainers and have partnered with some of the biggest companies in the world. Moreover, digital media is no longer seen as the “ugly step-sister” to traditional media and is in much demand now.

It’s interesting how content teams are learning that you can’t win by merely throwing influencers into content and brands are learning that influencers with huge followings don’t necessarily yield the greatest success in campaigns. It’s the influencers who have built a real relationship, and trust with their audience, who are winning. And there come the micro-influencers.

Amandeep Singh, Business Director & Branch Head, VMLY&R Delhi, notes that if one sees the whole celebrity to micro influencers as a pyramid, the relatability is highest at the bottom and it is the reason why micro influencers have been becoming not just part of the campaigns, but in many cases even driving it.

The agency’s campaign for Doritos called #BlameitonCrunch used the same approach where we had a simple but brilliant idea which upon being driven by the influencers yielded good results. “Micro-influencers have their own small but strong world of followers where the level of trust and relatability is extremely high, and Gen Z prefers that, instead of just following say a Bollywood celebrity. In a world where there is so much of branded and non-branded content, it is an efficient way to grab the attention span of your audiences,” Singh said. He observes that as far as budgets go, influencers come in a varied range depending on their circle of influence, relatability and content which also gives brands a lot of flexibility to plan and run their campaigns.

Typically, a micro-influencer is someone who has between 1,000 to 100,000 followers. They focus on a specific or niche area and are generally regarded as an industry expert or topic specialist. They are believed to have stronger relationships than a typical influencer.

Ramya Ramachandran, Founder & CEO, Whoppl, a content-creation company designing influencer marketing strategies, says pre-and-post-Covid influencer marketing has been moving towards an "always on" strategy. “This is because of three main reasons: engaging/aesthetically pleasing content, what looks good sells good, and real-time impact in sales/reach/traction.” She observed that earlier brands using influencer marketing were those into fashion and beauty, but now the category has expanded to FMCG, Tech, Home & Living etc. “Pre-Covid there were launch events etc, but now brands are taking it virtually and doing a heavy influencer blow out to get more reach for their product/service,” she shared.

Ramachandran further revealed that these influencers charge anything between Rs 20K to Rs 4 lakh for a video post, depending on their following/engagements on the video. “Influencers usually have rack rates for all their assets, be it IG story, video or statics. So brands can choose basis their budgets.”

A brand may also make the micro-influencer a “brand ambassador”, earning a small commission for sales generated through unique hyperlinks contained in the micro-influencer’s posts and bio profile. The key is, despite dispensation, the posts including the product must be genuine, authoritative, and accurately reflect the influencer’s true feelings.

Says Ashutosh Harbola, Founder of influencer marketing company - Buzzoka, “The share of influencer marketing went up from 3% in 2017 to 10% this year growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 300%. Even start-up brands today are opting for influencers. Most companies are going for them rather than roping in celebrities.” 

Giving the example of the recent LAY’S campaign, Harbola said that the campaign saw the brand pursuing a massive influencer outreach programme on social media, wherein they reached out to more than 750 influencers sharing LAY’S ‘Smile Deke Dekho’ packages with them. Cricketer Shikhar Dhavan and influencers like Parth Samthaan and Erica Jennifer Fernandes were a part of this campaign on Instagram. LAY’S customised the packs for more than 350 influencers, sharing with them specially curated packs with their own smiles. The brand claims to have recorded more than 200 million impressions and an engagement of over 10 million on social media for its influencer outreach programme. “Had LAY’S done just a celebrity association, they wouldn’t have been able to garner such a huge reach,” Harbola added.

TikTok grew at a record rate during lockdown, reaching 2 billion downloads in Q2 2020. This resulted in a new pool of influencers, opening up new opportunities for brand deals. Moreover, brands have also been discovering organic trends and conversation on TikTok often created by micro influencers.

Anuja Deora Sanctis, Founder and CEO of full-service digital agency-Filter Coffee Co., expounds that with micro-influencers, users have a better connection on a personal level as these influencers have a consistent and specific way of promoting brands. “A number of brands go with micro-influencers for some of their campaigns since they are cost-effective (they usually charge between Rs 10K to 25K) and deliver higher engagement. Several micro-influencers only promote the brands that they believe in, some of them even becoming brand ambassadors (e.g. Coca Cola) and promote their products in their own way, which creates authenticity,” Deora added.

Interestingly, influencers with a mere 1,000 followers can generate 85% higher engagement than those having 100,000 followers.

Upasana Naithani, Business Head - Digital - Infectious Advertising, hinted at several home-grown brands available only on Instagram who have been roping in micro influencers to increase their sales. What works for them is that their following is very niche and hence the social media buzz created by them is highly targeted resulting in high ROI, Naithani observed. “There are multiple reasons why micro influencers have been gaining momentum - cost effectiveness, they are far more trustworthy in the eyes of their audiences - the modern consumer looks for genuine user generated reviews or word of mouth and micro influencers fill that need well. They have managed to establish an authentic connect with their audience leading them to build trust in their recommendations. They deliver high engagement - upto 75%. Due to their smaller following base, micro influencers are very active on their pages. They constantly interact with their followers ensuring a high engagement rate. Very accurate targeting - micro influencers mostly have a niche like food, travel or beauty and have developed this over the years.”

Naithani further noted that many brands such as Sugarlite from Zydus Wellness are more keen on the engagement and the quality of engagement by the influencers for their brand. Sugarlite was launched by 100 influencers on FB and Instagram.

It is interesting to note this shift among influencers from sales-driven campaigns towards social good conversations and campaigns this year. Influencers have also spoken up about issues like the Black Lives Matter movement, sustainability, climate change, the Covid pandemic, its financial impact on the beauty industry and more.

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