Selecting a Social Media Influencer: Should You Go Macro or Micro?

Everything Old is New Again

A long time ago, the marketing strategy for large companies was to find the hottest celebrity, sign them to an endorsement deal, and put them in TV commercials featuring your product.

Then social media came along, overtook TV as the primary advertising engine, and introduced micro-targeting so that impact was no longer about finding the biggest general influencer – but rather, about finding the biggest influencer for your specific customer base within the wider market.

Some companies still do put mainstream celebrities front and center for their products, so it would appear at first that nothing has changed – except it has. Even within these blockbuster campaigns, social media is intimately involved in the effort more often than not. Sometimes, platforms like Facebook and Instagram are at the very heart of the campaign.

Macro influencers like Kim Kardashian reap the rewards of such a system, charging advertisers half a million dollars per Instagram post. But is this money well spent? Is it really so important to reach her 100+ million followers for a one-time connection? As it turns out, that depends on who you are…

Impressions and Engagement

The first wave of influencer marketing is now over. Taking a closer look at the fallout, we find that consumers are becoming more suspicious of a paid-for endorsement in the wake of several high-profile controversies. As an example of what can happen when inexperienced people work within a new medium, read the post below carefully:

This type of error alone has happened countless times, with sports personalities and other celebrities cutting and pasting their instructions (from the sponsoring corporation) into the post of their personal account… verbatim. Each time it happens, it reveals to consumers something akin to a glitch in the Matrix, devaluing the currency of celebrity endorsements entirely.

Other surveys have brought more bad news for macro celebrity endorsements, revealing that some audiences feel such marketing strategies imply that the brand is not confident enough to have its own image. Some audiences therefore interpret such efforts as a sign of weakness within the brand, showing that it has no real personality with which to engage its customers.

Despite these setbacks, celebrity endorsement can be truly valuable in certain circumstances, if done with intelligence and wit. Irony and self-aware humor play very well online, and can be used to quite good effect. Moreover, 105 million followers really is impressive.

But there is another path to the goal line. If social media has proven anything, it is that precision outperforms blind bulk. Taking that philosophy to the world of influencers, we reach an interesting conclusion.

Smaller is Better

There is now plenty of evidence to show that among many demographics, non-celebrity endorsements carry just as much weight with consumers – and sometimes more – than mega-stars.

Studies show that micro-influencers deliver a 20% higher conversion rate than macro-influencers, in large part because they are generally more willing to engage with ordinary people than big celebrities are. Micro-influencers are also seen as more authentic and believable; everybody knows that big stars are in it for the money, but smaller stars are easier for regular people to relate to, and therefore carry more weight when they share an opinion online.

With word-of-mouth being the most powerful form of marketing for brands, consumers’ opinions online are the second most-trusted source after recommendations from family and friends. Brands increasingly rely on social influencers to amplify their communication, as these influencers across social platforms prove to be powerful ambassadors for marketers in all industries.

Nowadays, consumers tend to search for information about a product or service from many sources before making a purchasing decision. Interestingly, many consumers only visit a brand’s website in order to learn general information, while they often rely instead on reviews and/or information from actual users in order to select a purchase.

Brands should now be looking to cultivate “micro-influencers” among popular social media users or even their own customers. Audience reach may be smaller compared to that which is offered by online celebrities, but this feature also typically translates to a willingness to be far more loyal and engaged. Micro-influencers respond to the need for authenticity by making meaningful connections.

Making the Most of Your Influencer

Of course, loyalty and engagement are not automatic qualities of small ecosystems. To get the most out of micro-influencers, you need to build relationships with them, keeping in mind the qualities that made them attractive to you (and their followers) in the first place: Their personality, authority, genuine nature, and individuality. By shoehorning them into a pre-determined mold, you could lose all of these intangible benefits.

If given freedom and inspiration, micro-influencers can be your storytellers – with their status and experience helping them tell the right story to the right people. They know their segment of the market, and can craft personal narratives that will resonate with their followers. In this environment, strong sales messages are to be avoided, as they conflict with the sense of authenticity that micro-influencers bring to the table. Rather than pushing to move your product, the ideal micro-influencer should find a way to educate and entertain their followers at the same time.

Building Your Team

While Facebook has a larger number of users in Thailand, Instagram’s particular layout makes it especially impactful with influencers, and engagement rates have been consistently high. Instagram has over 13 million users in the country, a number that is certain to rise further. The government is even entering into a partnership with local telecom companies to bring internet access to an additional 70,000 villages by the end of 2018.

With Thai people spending an average of 9h38m online every day, Instagram influencers have plenty of time to reach and interact with a wide audience. In most cases, domestic cultural figures will be a better investment than international ones, in terms of influence gained per dollar (or baht) spent.

With all this in mind, let’s look at the kinds of domestic options available for pursuing influencers of all shapes and sizes:

Celebrities: >1 million followers

Pros: With unbeatable likeability and popularity, they can make a splash with general audiences.

Cons: Expensive, less loyal, less authentic, less willing to engage with followers.

Example:

In the above photo, the celebrity appears in a standard pose with the product. The effect is unoriginal and inauthentic. By contrast, a well-executed promotion allows brands to fit their product/service in seamlessly with the celebrity of their choice. Below, actress Praya Lundberg (2.6m followers) can be seen promoting Anessa Sunscreen on her beach trip. Her even skin tone attracts attention and also fits in with the theme of the featured product.

Well-known thought leaders: >50,000 followers

Pros: Their high-status social positions, combined with a track record of success in their given field, enhance the reputation of those they endorse. We describe this concept more fully here.

Cons: Less reach among general audiences.

Example:

Mshappydiet is a healthy-living blogger with 47.9k followers. She is a certified health coach, speaker, writer, and recipe developer. Here, she is promoting an organic cafe called Parfait Society.

Experts: >50,000 followers

Pros: Very trustworthy and eager to engage with audiences about the details of your product.

Cons: Less likely to form an exclusive bond with your company.

Example:

Cee (dubbed IT Princess by Thai media) is an influencer focusing on IT and new technology. Here she is reviewing Galaxy Note 9’s drawing/note-taking function, with an appropriate and effective framing of the product.

Earlier in the year, she reviewed Xiaomi’s smartphone also, as we see below:

Micro-influencers: >1,000 followers

Pros: The most relatable and engaging kind of influencers, they are well liked and trusted, cheaper to work with, and inspire greater conversion rates even without resort to the hard sell.

Cons: Their influence is limited to a specific niche.

Example:

Coundsheck is an art director/blogger with 16.5k followers. Here she is promoting a Japanese clothing brand called Beams, which successfully launched their collection on September 29th – with several recognizable public figures in attendance:

Making the Right Choice

Although celebrity endorsements can lend considerable prestige to a company, the price will be worth paying only if the product is simple and the audience is wide. At Lexicon, we typically recommend micro-influencers to companies whose products and services are not intended for the widest public audience. Niche products are a perfect match for niche influencers, while products that depend on a reputation for quality are ideal for amplification by experts and thought leaders.

If you’d like to learn more about our digital marketing services, with or without the involvement of key opinion leaders, get in touch with Lexicon today.

Lexicon is a full-service digital marketing agency in Bangkok, Thailand. We specialize in corporate storytelling and produce all of our content in-house, including branding,  copywriting, video production and graphic design. Lexicon’s social media marketing services start from just 25,000 THB per month.

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