Why more brands will be turning to micro-influencers in 2021

Influencer marketing has been around for a while now, so much so that audiences are starting to show some engagement fatigue. A study from InfluencerDB last year found that influencer engagement rates were half of what they were in 2016 dropping from an average of 4% to 2.4%. The solution to this problem hasn’t been for brands to scrap influencer marketing altogether but instead look to where engagement is rising – that’s where micro-influencers come in.

Before we go any further it’s important to clarify definitions. With an industry as diverse as influencing it’s difficult to be specific, but generally a micro-influencer is someone with a following of more than 10,000 but less than 100,000.

What the stats show

Statistics around social media marketing are very healthy indeed. The latest report from media Agency Social Bakers, released earlier this month, stated that “[m]ore than ever, today’s consumers are digitally grounded…social media ad spend data shows us that savvy brands are doubling down their investment in advertising across Facebook and Instagram, with ad spend increasing by a phenomenal 56% versus Q2.” What was even more surprising was that social media ad spend was up 27.6% in Q3 2020 compared to Q3 2019, suggesting that the pandemic has had little impact on the influencing industry. You could even argue it given it a boost.

This is very good news for influencers as the more brands invest in social media marketing the more opportunities there will be for brand partnerships. However, as alluded to in the introduction, it’s micro-influencers that will be set to gain the most from this. The same InfluencerDB report that found influencer engagement was down overall also found that engagement was higher amongst influencers with smaller audiences than with larger ones. Overall, influencer engagement stood at 2.4% however the engagement rate for Instagram influencers with at least 10,000 followers is steady at about 3.6% worldwide. Broken down further the study found that influencers with 5,000 to 10,000 followers have an engagement rate of 6.3% and those with a following of 1,000 to 5,000 have the highest rate at 8.8%.

No doubt more brands will be looking to partner with micro-influencers more in 2021. How do I know this? Because we’re already seeing it. A recent report by Social Bakers looking at the effect of Coronavirus on influencer marketing found that:

“over the last 16 months, about 40% of all brand cooperations were with small influencers (10k-50k followers). The next largest share, which started growing again in 2020, was micro influencers with less than 10,000 followers. In times of economic hardship, marketers turned toward less costly partnerships for their campaigns.”

This is great news for micro-influencers who have shown that, whilst they might not be able to boast the huge numbers of mega-influencers like Kylie Jenner or Charlie D’Amelio, they can boast of a loyal and engaged following who can be relied upon. Brands are now asking themselves – why would we want to take a risk spending hundreds of thousands on a deal with a mega-influencer that might flop when we could spend a lot less on a micro-influencer with a more guaranteed return?.

How to best position yourself as a micro-influencer in 2021

If you have a decent following on Instagram, YouTube or TikTok reading some of the statistics above may well fill you with a lot of optimism and hope for 2021. There is a lot to be excited about, however it’s important to remember that being a micro-influencer, and a successful one at that, is easier said than done. There are a lot of micro-influencers battling for attention on social media, latest statistics suggest there are 157 million on Instagram alone. The next question then should be what makes a micro-influencer successful and appealing to brands? The answer? EAT.

I recently came across the acronym EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness), it is what Google uses to optimise its search algorithm. Incidentally, it’s also what consumers are looking for from a brand on social media. The reason why brands love working with influencers is they can convey all three things through a well thought out and effective partnership with a micro-influencer. Generating trust is especially hard for brands if they just hide behind a logo. Instead, if they can partner with a micro-influencer who is already trusted by their audience then they can get a slice of that trust pie. Of course it’s not just trustworthiness that micro-influencers often have in abundance, they often cater to specific niches which typically gives them greater expertise and authority. Brands are now realising that a recommendation from a recognised micro-influencer within their niche can be a lot more effective in driving sales, and traffic, than one that simply comes from an influencer with a large following.

However, to acquire EAT is a long process that takes both a lot of time and effort. There’s no shortcut to generating trust with your audience and expertise only comes from taking the time to learn your craft in whatever niche you decide to set up in. That being said, becoming a successful micro-influencer is often the best way to go about trying to set yourself up as an influencer. Most mega-influencers don’t simply become famous overnight, instead, they are patient and work diligently to become known in a specific area – whether that be Fifa gaming, makeup tutorials or trickshot videos.

Final thoughts

Hopefully you’ve found this article useful and inspiring for the year ahead. Whilst the Coronavirus pandemic has put a spanner in the works of many of our industries it looks like Influencing (and influencer marketing) is in fact stronger than ever. 2021 will no doubt provide a lot of opportunities for influencers to work with brands as they try to rebuild post pandemic. If you would like more tips and guidance on how to improve your influencing game, then I would check out our piece with social media expert Hrabrn Bankov. Alternatively, take a look at our Interviews section where we have a host of interviews with top influencers.

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