Marketers questioning the value of their influencer marketing campaigns may be ready to ditch high-priced Kardashian endorsements for ‘everyone else’, the micro-influencers and their promise of authentic engagement. 

However, choosing the right strategy for your brand can be similar to the brood’s reality TV shows: it’s not a black and white, fact vs. fiction endeavor.

Quality over quantity

Like much of modern marketing, any brand benefits when people are held to hard numbers. And, the right influencer marketing strategy comes down to matching the strategies to the goal and connecting influencers to ROI.

For some, it may be worth it to work with a celebrity influencer to get in front of a large audience, but with accompanying lower rates of engagement. Companies that have reach as their number one goal or that are selling low-consideration products may find developing micro-influencer programmes to be inefficient. Some brands will always want to get their messages in front of as many people as possible. Think of a huge FMCG company like a Unilever that needs mass awareness to meet its goals.

Other brands want bang for small bucks by working with a handful of influencers whose followers are really engaged with their authenticity and the messages they are sharing. Brands with longer discover-to-purchase pathways such as those in fashion, retail, travel or entertainment will find that a micro-approach will work well. What’s required is a commitment to a hands-on approach, and investment in specific tools or headcount.

The rewards can be clear since some influencers with smaller numbers of followers get more engagement. Instagram users with hundreds of followers get, on average, about five times the rate of engagement on their posts as do those with one million or more.

The value for brands and campaigns is usually in engagement, not just reach. Content on most social platforms has an ephemeral quality, making engagement all the more important. What is going to matter for a marketer, a tweet that gets 10,000 impressions but no engagement or one that gets 1,000 impressions and a tonne of engagement?

Brands need to view this on an ‘engagements per thousand followers’ (EPM) basis. Think of this as the new version of the traditional cost per thousand (CPM) but for influencer marketing. Metrics like this can make a difference and help hold everyone accountable as marketers step up and make transparency and performance demands of their partners and vendors.

Digging deeper

Regardless of micro or macro, brands are looking for a higher degree of clarity about the true nature of influencers’ relationships with audiences. They want answers about who is sharing content, how and why content it is being shared, and value for the influencer marketing budget.

The idea that follower count equals influence has been challenged, and influencer marketing must now satisfy three criteria:

  • There should be a connection – based on relationships or shared interest – between followers and influencers;
  • There should be an intuitive or natural connection between the brand and the influencer;
  • Influence over time should be quantifiable.

The sharing of content can play a key role in the discovery-to-purchase journey. Influencer marketing can help get brand content discovered and engaged with but it’s up to marketers to ask the hard questions not just about micro or macro, but about matching strategy to goal, and connecting influencers to ROI.