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Under The Micro-scope: The Mega Impact of Micro-influencers

Influencer has become something of a dirty word in recent times, conjuring instant associations with dodgy weight loss tea and assorted Kardashians. To be under the influence suggests a loss of control, impaired judgement, regrets –  not the first things online retailers hope their customers associate will with their eCommerce experience. So why the buzz around their smaller, less showy cousins, the tribe of micro-influencers currently making big waves in the marketing world – and how can they help eCommerce brands?

Women blowing confetti from her hands towards the camera

Micro-influencers – “everyday” people on Instagram or other social platforms, with a typically modest following – are challenging the status quo of social marketing. It’s increasingly clear that a big following doesn’t necessarily mean a particularly engaged or loyal following. In the world of Instagram, where people have rabidly chased followers and coveted high counts for years, it seems size truly isn’t everything. Markerly looked into the correlation between Instagram followings and levels of engagement.

The key finding of their data was that as an influencer’s follower total increases, the rate of engagement (in terms of likes and comments) decreases. Those with fewer than 1,000 followers typically received likes on their posts 8% of the time. Users with 10 million+ followers received likes just 1.6% of the time. This showed a clear downward correlation between follower sizes and post likes.

Graph showing decrease in engagement with increase in followers.

Those with lower followings are harnessing greater engagement, but this is not the only reason why online brands, whatever their market budget, might do well to sit up and pay attention to micro-influencers. It’s been shown repeatedly that “people buy from people.” When looking for reassurance regarding a purchase we intend to make, we turn to the testimony of others. Research shows that 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84% trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation. This demonstrates that trust isn’t limited only to our own social circles – and therein lies the true power of micro-influencers; small enough to feel authentic, highly aligned with our own likes and dislikes, people that we feel we “know” and trust. In short, the perfect brand advocates.

What’s triggered the rise in the use of micro-influencers? In addition to the previously outlined suitabilities, another huge benefit of this tactic is the ability to isolate and focus on a niche. The most successful partnerships pair online brands with micro-influencers who live and breathe their specialism, be it vegan lifestyle, babies, weightlifting or makeup. There’ll typically fairly busy, saturated verticals, hence the potential for lower followings than some of the “megastar” celebrities out there, but they have the total trust of their audience. There’s a real authenticity to promotions when brands pair up correctly.

The stats speak for themselves. Micro-influencers are found to have 60% higher engagement that their superstar counterparts. They’re cheap at the price: 6.7x more cost-effective per engagement. Finally, they drive sales; 22.2% more weekly conversions than the average consumer.

Rep Stars

Another facet of the micro-influencer world is the rise of brand reps; again, the idea being to harness niche content creators who have credibility and selling power within their following. The hustle is generally incentivised not through standalone fees but via tiered reward systems, giving a twofold benefit to the brand: no major outlay to influencers before they’ve proved their worth, and increasing investment in the brand from the reps themselves, as they remain motivated with the promise of rising through the ranks.

Typically popular within fashion, fitness and health verticals, when done correctly, brand rep programmes can be an incredibly effective way of harnessing the power of the micro-influencer. A great example of this is Pure Via bracelets, a Shopify Plus brand who recently blogged about their success in the field. The key takeaway: “to avoid tears, you need tiers.” 75% of their reps weren’t making sales, so a structure to best leverage the more motivated brand fanatics was essential.

Instragram post from Pure Vida asking for brand reps

Using Instagram, a tiered referral program which was powered by Refersion, email marketing, and Shopify Plus’ ecosystem of apps and Partners, Pura Vida Bracelets:

  • Increased sales from referral reps by 300% YoY
  • Lifted AOVs 11% compared to non-referral orders
  • Lowered customer acquisition cost by 7X

You can read more about the process here.

The Road Ahead

With Instagram widely predicted to overtake Facebook as the social platform of choice by the end of 2020, there are many reasons that smart online brands are currently laying the groundwork for future armies of super-engaged brand advocates in the form of micro-influencers and brand reps. The platform is arguably more commerce-friendly, and with the sharp rise in social selling, creating seamless purchase experiences within the Instagram channel will further enable followers to complete their impulse buys.

Ultimately, as long as brands are harnessing the potential of this marketing tactic effectively – creating long-term relationships with well-matched micro-influencers who’ll advocate brands authentically, there are no real losers here. Micro-influencers offer low-risk, high-return campaigns that create social buzz around a product while shifting units, and opening up new social sales. The brands that are getting wise to this, and refining their strategies as they go, are in an incredibly strong position to ride the huge increase in social selling that we expect to see continue within the realms of eCommerce.


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