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Why Micro-Influencers May Be the Most Effective Influencer Marketing Strategy

Jul 23, 2019 8 min readThe Science of Social Media

They say bigger is better … but in the case of influencer strategy, we think the opposite could be true.

The latest data shows that micro-influencers, influencers with 10,000 or fewer followers, are getting the best results for brands and businesses. More engagement, more clicks, and lower ROI.

Keep reading as we dive into the world of micro-influencers and explain the ins and outs of this new trend toward going small with your influencer campaigns. If you’re keen to dip your toe into influencer marketing or if you’re just interested in a strategy shakeup, then we think you’ll find a lot to love in this post!

Understanding influencer marketing and micro-influencers

Influencer marketing has been on the rise for years now. Today, you see influencer marketing as a core strategy of direct-to-consumer brands, of e-commerce shops — even B2B companies are getting into the game.

The premise is simple: Find someone with an audience who’s willing to share the love about your product.

There are a lot of similarities to celebrity endorsements and to word-of-mouth marketing. Just like with those strategies, influencer marketing aims to make a brand more relatable and trustworthy in the market, especially with younger demographics. In fact, studies show that 70% of millennial consumers are influenced by the recommendations of their peers in buying decisions.

The social networks themselves are keen on influencer marketing, too. Just recently, we’ve seen Instagram, for instance, launch features around branded content and ads — features that make it easier for Creators and brands to work together.

But like with anything popular on social media, there comes the risk of over-saturation.

Have we reached that point with influencer marketing?

We think the landscape has changed, certainly — and we’ll share some numbers on this in a second — but overall, we still believe that influencer marketing is a strong option for increasing your social media exposure, driving traffic to your site, and selling more.

In fact, we believe that micro influencers are opening up influencer marketing to a whole new level.

Put simply, micro influencers are those with smaller audiences. We’re talking audience sizes of 10,000 rather than 100,000.

These might not be the folks you think of first when you think of influencers. But it’s well worth your attention. At the micro level, there’s stronger engagement, better costs, and tons of opportunities.

The state of influencer marketing

We’ve had a lot of new stats to pore over in recent weeks.
And depending on where you look and what you read, you might end up with very different perspectives on influencer marketing. Some people think it’s reached its peak. Others think it’s still an extremely viable option.

First, the doubters.

Data from analytics firm InfluencerDB shows that influencer engagement on Instagram is at an all-time low. The engagement rate on sponsored posts is half of what it was three years ago, falling from 4% to 2.4%.

This is true of almost all categories of social content, even the much-loved travel category. Engagement with travel influencers fell to 4.5 percent this year from a high of 8 percent just a year ago.

Like most things in marketing, there comes a point of diminishing returns. When a feed is full of sponsored posts and branded content, you can expect that fewer people will be tapping, liking, and buying.

But there’s also the perspective that influencer marketing is doing just fine thanks.

In a pair of recent studies — one by the PR firm Edelman and one by the social media marketing group HelloSociety — there’s been a very rosy picture of how influencer marketing is doing.

According to Edelman, the power of influencer marketing isn’t just about engagement. Influencer marketing is how people find products and buy products — 58 percent of people have actually purchased a product because of an influencer recommendation, in just the past six months.

And influencers also shine when it comes to follower metrics and network effects. In HelloSociety’s study, survey respondents were more than three times as likely to follow an influencer rather than follow a brand.

So what we’re seeing is that the influencer marketing landscape is changing.

And opportunities still abound.

Remember the stats we shared about influencer engagement just a moment ago? Engagement rates have fallen by nearly half. Well, there’s a fascinating followup to that stat, and it really shows the potential of micro influencers.

In the same study, we saw that engagement gets better with the less followers you have.


  • Influencers with 10,000 followers or more have just 3.6 percent engagement.
  • Influencers with 5,000 to 10,000 followers have 6.3 percent engagement.
  • And influencers with 1,000 to 5,000 followers have the highest engagement at an 8.8 percent engagement rate.

This can be a game changer for brands. Think of all the possibilities this opens up!

The niche of micro influencers isn’t just a subset of the larger influencer marketing trend. It’s the most successful subset out there. It goes much deeper than just these engagement stats, too. We put together a short list of other benefits for micro-influencer marketing.

Benefits of micro-influencer marketing

1. Micro-influencers open up a huge pool of possible influencers for your brand.

According to a report by Mention, 15.7% of Instagram users have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers, which is right in the niche of micro influencers. If you apply that percentage to Instagram’s one billion user count, that means there are 157 million micro-influencers to choose from. Wow!

And you can expect to find these micro-influencers in just about any category imagineable. We mentioned earlier that influencer marketing has expanded into places like B2B and non-traditional sales. No matter what you sell — whether it’s business software or random goods and services — there’s likely to be a micro influencer or dozens of micro influencers for you to choose from.

2. Micro-influencers are perceived as “people like me.

Often times, the traditional influencer with hundreds of thousands of followers can be more like a celebrity than a friend. With micro-influencers, this isn’t the case. These are people who are much more relatable and at peer levels with consumers. Take this stat from the Trust Baromter survey. The survey asked why people followed and trusted influencers. Relatability was nearly twice as important as popularity. Plus, survey respondents rated the credibility of different groups on social media and the “people like me” category gained the most trust in the past year. 61 percent of people find information from “people like me” to be credible.

3. Their engagement is real

An influencer survey by Hit Search found that not all followers for influencers may be real. 98% of survey respondents said they saw some iffy behavior on the follower counts of influencers. This is to be expected to a certain degree — bots can target successful accounts, and the scale of influencers is likely to attract all kinds of people, real and otherwise.
At the same time, there’s likely to be very little problem with fake followers for micro influencers. You can know that the followers you’re targeting are real people and the engagement is authentic.

Ok, we’ve set the scene with lots of great reasons to give micro influencers a try.

Now let’s talk about how to create a micro influencer strategy of your own.

Micro-influencer strategy tips

A lot of the strategy for micro influencers is similar to that of influencer marketing overall. We talked lots about influencer marketing in a podcast episode last fall — we’ll link to it in the show notes — so we’ll pull some tips from there plus add some new ideas about micro influencer specifically.

1. Where to find influencers

There are really 4 places to find influencers for your brand. Google, databases, networks, and marketplaces.

  1. Google is a manual process of typing keywords, scanning webpages for contact info, and then keeping track of the info in spreadsheets. I would also lump social media into here – manually searching social channels and hashtags for relevant influencers for a given topic.
  2. Databases do website scraping for you, pulling publicly available data. These are good places to start but you’ll need to vet the influencers yourselves, similar to what you would do with a Google or social search.
  3. In the middle of Google/social and databases are networks, which work like an agency that has relationships with the influencers, but will require that you go through them to reach out.
  4. And lastly are marketplaces. A marketplace often pulls in real-time information about influencer performance and also does a good job collecting a batch of trending influencers and making collaboration and connection easy.

For micro influencers, we feel that the Google and social route is going to be best for finding influencers with smaller followings. A lot of them may not be in the databases and marketplaces yet.If you have a hashtag search on social for the keywords you’re targeting, it should reveal some good options of micro influencers who are talking about those terms.

2. Be conscious of the numbers that you track

As we mentioned earlier when it comes to stats, there is more than just engagement to determine a successful influencer campaign.That being said, engagement for micro influencers is one of the key draws.

Monica Jungbeck, a global marketing manager at the brand Malibu, shared this interesting insight with Digiday. She said:

“For a global influencer with around 200 million followers, we don’t expect the engagement rate to be more than 5%, whereas for smaller influencers we expect that rate to double.”

Setting a 10 percent engagement rate is a good place to start then.
D: You can also go deeper on measuring the ROI by tracking direct sales from the campaign from custom URLs and by using UTM parameters.
Another way to measure ROI is to calculate the amount you typically pay for reach and conversion through social advertising and then apply those numbers to the reach and conversion you get from your micro-influencer campaign. For instance, if you typically pay $50 to reach 1,000 hyper-targeted people, then if your micro-influencer campaign reaches 2,000 people, it was worth at least $100 to you … and ideally you would have spent less to make the campaign happen.

3. Think outside the box when it comes to compensation.

Great influencers will naturally want to be compensated, but the good news is that it doesn’t always have to be financially if you’re on a tight budget. This is especially true of micro influencers. They’re less likely to come with big price tags like the big-time influencers do.
You can offer the influencer shout outs on your blog, website, or newsletter.You can give them your product or products for free. I’ve seen some brands offer influencers a free supply of their product for a year in exchange for a certain amount of content.

And of course you can also offer influencers, like in a referral program, a certain amount of commission for every 1,000 people reached, or sale, or whatever your goal is.Quora has a great thread regrading how much influencer marketing typically costs based on influence and the type of campaign. We’ll link to it in the show notes.

4. Optimize your micro-influencers for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.

An easy way to remember this is the acronym EAT.

It’s the same acronym used by Google to optimize its search algorithm.
These are qualities that your audience cares about. Trust, especially, is one that really resonates with people today. Nearly two out of every three consumers say that they trust influencer messages about a brand more than a company’s advertising about their own brand. If you can judge your potential influencers according to these parameters, then your campaign is going to be in a great place.

How to say hello to us

We would all love to say hello to you on social media – especially Twitter!

Thanks for listening! Feel free to connect with our team at Buffer on Twitter, Buffer on Facebook, our Podcast homepage, or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.

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About The Science of Social Media podcast

The Science of Social Media is your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and inspiration. Every Monday (and sometimes more) we share the most cutting-edge social media marketing tactics from brands and influencers in every industry. If you’re a social media team of one, business owner, marketer, or someone simply interested in social media marketing, you’re sure to find something useful in each and every episode.  It’s our hope that you’ll join our 27,000+ weekly iTunes listeners and rock your social media channels as a result!

The Science of Social Media is proudly made by the Buffer team. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback.

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