What we're talking about
Micro influencers are people with a social following and credibility in a specific niche. While influencers might have hundreds of thousands or millions of followers, the micro variety can have anywhere between 3,000 and 100,000 – and their engagement rate with followers tends to be a lot higher.
Working with micro influencers is a marketing tactic to achieve a specific goal. You might be looking to run a campaign around a new product, generate more traffic to your website or work with someone on a long-term basis as a brand ambassador. Working together, you'll land on a plan for the content they'll produce around your brand or product (think: posts, stories or videos). The best-case scenario is to work with people who already know and like your brand – but, if you're just starting out and looking to grow, you may need to be proactive about finding the right people.
Why it's important
Working with micro influencers is a potent marketing tactic that's going nowhere. One study from retail marketing platform ExpertVoice showed a whopping 82% of people were highly likely to follow a recommendation from a micro influencer. For small businesses with limited budgets, this is the most logical way to reach the right people and gain relevance and legitimacy in their sector.
The niche audiences of micro influencers are often a dedicated community of followers with a very high level of trust. You'll be able to show your brand or product in context, while riffing off their ideas and creativity – the vast majority of micro influencers believe in the product that they're promoting. And its relative cost-effectiveness means you can work with multiple people at once. But (yes, there's always a ‘but’), there's a right way and many wrong ways to go about it – and there are plenty of dubious accounts with fake followings ready to liberate you of your cash.
Things to note
Think of it as a collaborative partnership. Don't think of this as a purely transactional relationship where you're just compensating someone to carry out a task you've set. Instead, you should be aiming to create a partnership (ideally a long-term one), where you can work collaboratively on content ideas at the ideation stage. The right people will have original and creative ideas that are relevant to their audience – and know better than you how to produce content to a high standard. You might even end up co-branding products together.
You'll need a contract. It might be tempting to treat this as an ad-hoc arrangement, but formalizing an agreement is really helpful for avoiding problems later down the line. Details like payment terms, the length of the contract, deliverables expected, deadlines, any approval processes, IP rights, usage and exclusivity (whether they can work with other brands during your arrangement) are all important elements to clarify. It'll also mean both parties will know how to walk away if things don't work out. Here's a handy best practice guide for starters.
Compensation can take many forms. How you compensate micro influencers will vary depending on the input on their end, the length of the campaign, usage rights and their engagement and reach. It can range from you simply gifting products to micro influencers (where promotion isn't obligatory, but seen as a bonus) to something a lot more time-intensive and structured. Plenty of micro influencers who work with other brands will have a standard rate – you'll want to know what norms are in your particular sector before you get to the negotiating stage.
There's plenty of third-party help out there. As you're probably aware, influencing is big business – and that means there are a lot of software tools to help small businesses, including all-in-one operations where you can manage every element of a campaign. If you're just starting out and don't know where to begin, matchmaking platforms like Creator.co or GRIN can help you find the right people in your sector. There are also tools like Fohr or PeopleMap that track follower health (ie, whether an influencer's followers are authentic).
You'll need a way to track performance. However you work with a micro influencer, you'll need to be tracking performance so you can judge whether you're meeting your ambitions. There are plenty of ways to do this: Instagram, for example, has branded content tools specifically for paid partnerships. You can also create trackable links using tools like Bitly or Google Analytics.
How to find the right micro influencers
1. Touch base with your business goals. Get clear on the tangible business results you want to achieve from working with micro influencers. That might be more social media followers, more sales of a specific product, more traffic to your website or increased brand perception. Confirm that working with micro influencers is the most cost-effective way to achieve that aim.
2. And then your customer personas. The micro influencers you work with have to be a logical match for your customers, so check in with exactly who they are via your customer personas – updating them if need be. If you haven't done that exercise, here's where to start.
3. Set a budget. You need to know what's available for your micro influencer campaign – and over what period you expect to work with someone. Input from an accountant or financial controller can be useful here to understand your marketing budget. The money available will dictate what level of campaign you can pull off.
4. Find some external inspiration. Do some first-hand research to see what others are doing with micro influencers. Start with competitors in your sector, but also seek out other brands and companies you admire who have engaged with influencers. It's good to know what kind of content appeals to you – plus, it might be a way of finding influencers who are relevant to your audience.
5. Do some prep. With the relevant team members, get together and come up with some rough content ideas that would be suitable for your brand. Then make sure everything is in place for when you reach out to potential partners – that your website, social pages and media press pack that outlines key aspects of your business are all up to scratch.
6. Come up with criteria. Land on some essentials and preferences that you want your influencer partner to have. That might be a certain number of followers on a specific platform, a specific level of engagement on their posts, a strong viewpoint or aesthetic, proficiency in creating stories or reels, or simply that they've worked with brands before.
7. Scour for some options. Unless you're using a tech platform to inform your search, you'll need to come up with a shortlist of potential micro influencers. Your first port of call should be the people already engaging with your business on your social channels; then consider notable people in your sector or location, leaning on your team to help. You might also search branded or relevant hashtags to surface some relevant people.
8. Reach out. Provided that your shortlist of names meets the essentials of your criteria, get in contact. Often this might be through a manager or agency – and it's better to go down this route if their contact info is made clear, rather than commenting on posts. Otherwise, message or email them directly, keeping things relatively informal, friendly and succinct.
9. Do some due diligence. Before you get to the negotiation stage, it's worth ensuring they're a good fit. One way is by asking for a performance report – something influencers who've worked on previous campaigns will have, including stuff like the geographic distribution of their followers and their age breakdown and gender. Review their content style, quality and specific skill set. Confirm you're a good fit for one another.
10. Outline your proposal. Provided they're open to discussing further, this is the stage where you'll discuss the specifics of what you want to achieve based on your resources and time frame. Again, this should ideally be a collaborative creative process – the level of input from their side will vary depending on what you want and their level of expertise.
11. Negotiate terms and deliverables. Come to an agreement with terms that suit both parties based on what you've discussed. It might make sense to start with a trial period to see if you both enjoy the relationship. This is the stage where a contract should come in.
• Working with micro influencers can be a hugely effective (and budget-friendly) marketing strategy to show your product in context – and reach a highly engaged audience.
• The key is to view relationships as partnerships – and to maximize the creativity and skill set of the micro influencer you work with and their knowledge of their audience.
• You'll need to set clear, specific goals and create measurable metrics to track them by, to ensure that your campaign makes a difference.
Perspective. In this article, 13 business owners give their viewpoint on what makes a successful micro influencer partnership.
Tool. Influencer Marketing Hub is an excellent all-round resource with how-to guides, courses and a newsletter keeping brands and influencers up to date on what's new.
Examples. Marketing consultant Neil Schaffer has gone in depth on 16 different ways that brands have used influencer marketing in campaigns – from simply celebrating followers' content to account takeovers.
A version of this article was published in the Courier Workshop newsletter. For more deep dives into essential business concepts, sign up here.