Motivated in part by rising costs that now see top influencers demanding five and six-figure amounts per sponsored post, marketers have increasingly embraced microinfluencers – social media users with followings of anywhere from a few thousand to 100,000.

The thinking behind microinfluencer campaigns is as simple as it is attractive: by developing campaigns that rely on large numbers of influencers with smaller followings, each of whom charges far less to publish sponsored posts than megainfluencers, marketers can reach substantial numbers of
consumers through social channels at a meaningfully lower overall cost.

Econsultancy’s Influencer Marketing 2020 report revealed that 55% marketers believe microinfluencershave a better connection with their target audiences, which seems to be supported by the fact that 61% of consumers said these influencers publish more relatable content.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that, according to a recent study, a strong majority of marketers would prefer to work with microinfluencers rather than celebrities, and numerous brands, such as Hello Kitty-owner Sanrio, have developed dedicated microinfluencer efforts.

But can campaigns built on microinfluencers collectively move the needle as effectively as campaigns that rely on the star power of bigger names?

According to at least one study that looked at the ultracompetitive beauty industry, a heavy user of influencers in social media, the answer is no.

As detailed by Nicolas Chabot, chief client officer of influencer management platform Traackr in a Business of Fashion (BoF) op-ed, an analysis of four beauty brands and their influencer marketing activities in the US found that microinfluencers “typically fail to establish significant reach, even as a
group.”

In fact, of the four brands that Traackr looked at – L’Oréal Paris, Estée Lauder, Glossier and Pulp Riot – all but one generated 10% or less of their reach from microinfluencers.

Microinfluencers also fell short in the engagement category. While they did demonstrate an ability to “outperform in engagement rates”, scale matters and microinfluencer-produced engagement had a modest impact overall.

Specifically, L’Oréal Paris, Estée Lauder and Glossier generated well over half their engagement from influencers with 250,000 or more followers, with the first two generating a whopping 82% and 71% of their engagement from more popular influencers, respectively.

Pulp Riot, which L’Oréal purchased in 2018, was an exception, with a fifth of its reach and a quarter of its engagement coming from microinfluencers. But even though microinfluencers contribute more to its social metrics, the vast majority of its reach and engagement still come from influencers with over
100,000 followers.

So does this mean that microinfluencers are of little to no value? Not exactly.

Traackr’s data shows that microinfluencers drove 67% to 82% of the social mentions for the four brands it looked at. Of course, reach and engagement will almost always trump mentions for marketers, but as Traackr’s Chabot sees it, microinfluencers can be “great partners for reaching niche communities
and driving attendance at local events.” He also suggested that they can serve as a source of quality content:

“Perhaps the greatest strength of micro-influencers is their ability to create fresh and authentic content that can be used by brands to amplify through their own channels (otherwise few people will see them!)”

Put simply, microinfluencers don’t seem to be a viable replacement for megainfluencers but when used thoughtfully and strategically, there is potentially value to be unlocked.

In line with this, Chabot suggested that brands avoid buying into microinfluencer “hype”. “Some people have a disproportionate impact compared to others and it’s critical that brands establish a very data-driven approach to their influencer strategies to ensure they optimise ROI,” he advised.

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Econsultancy offers influencer marketing training.