More Effective than a Kardashian: The Rise of Micro-Influencers for B2B Marketing
There is a notion that celebrities were the original influencers. For the longest time, it was commonly accepted that if you wanted to use a face to advertise, you needed a famous one for your service or product. Showcasing well-known celebrities, or more likely today, mega-influencers on social media with followers and engagement in the millions, was the gold standard for attempting to influence the buying public, or whichever market you were trying to appeal to. Post a famous face, whichever actor or celebrity du jour for example, and see engagement rise to the stratosphere — or, so the logic went.
Today, however, the rise of micro-influencers calls that logic into question.
Customers are increasingly placing their trust in figures far lower, but in reality often more concentrated in knowledge and credibility. These micro-influencers generally have smaller followings, but their presence and content is perceived to be more authentic. Accordingly, in both the B2C and B2B spheres, we are witnessing the steady rise of the micro-influencer as a figure trusted by buyers. Customers are looking for authenticity, knowledge, and practical use cases, and finding them in micro-influencers.
Firms and clients are increasingly turning away from big, often impersonal seeming celebrity and household names, and moving closer to smaller more personable and relatably scaled influencers, who they often relate to more. Micro-influencers and their concentrated areas of expertise are increasingly playing a vital role to customers, and this is making itself felt in the influencer market.
The rise of micro-influencers holds great importance for B2B businesses and firms in particular.
Micro-influencers can offer use cases and direct engagement with services and products that directly speak to internal business concerns, be it web-hosting or office supplies. Micro-Influencers understand how to optimize their customers’ value. They are the human element that is often the first direct line of contact for these services, and thus actually can let you know how any given product or service will go off within a firm and with its employees. In terms of marketing data, this makes the role of the influencer, and the micro-influencer in particular extremely pivotal.
Accordingly, the market cap for influencers worldwide more than doubled since 2019 to just under fourteen billion last year, encompassing all types of influencers. The signs for such growth were readily apparent by 2019, as just under half of all marketing managers that year stated an intent to increase their marketing budget. With the recent gains in total market cap recorded coming into this year, we can see that those were no empty promises of growth from marketers. The field of influencing is steadily rising, steadily developing into more complex types and subfields. Even back in 2019 marketing managers were testifying to the ROI of influencer marketing.
What do influencers do exactly? What types of roles and functions do they occupy? Who are the influencers?
The Difference Between Macro, Micro, and Nano Influencers
Social media influencers are people with a sustained and established brand on or across social media platforms. They are known entities in their niches or communities, whether it’s beauty, technology, or home cleaning.
Influencers have generally built up a trusted and knowledgeable identity in their field or niche, and their posts online carry with them inborn weight and traction more often than not. Anyone who can at scale reach others online will generally be considered an influencer. As we will see though, not all influencers are the same, and indeed not all influencers are created equally.
Influencers appear in a huge variety of niches under a number of scales. Generally, anyone with a million or more followers, typically celebrities, politicians, athletes, and others with mass exposure, will be considered a mega influencer, the highest rung in terms of scale and reach. They generally occupy the most well-known forms of fame and celebrity, and such contains their obvious marketing appeal.
Macro-influencers, or those with anywhere from 100k to a million followers on social media, occupy the next tier. They tend to be internet celebrities or figureheads who have built successful online brands in their niche, and have reached meaningful degrees of exposure and reach, comparable to classic media figures. Accordingly they often work in paid partnership with major brands, upending old norms about who is used to sell in the marketplace.
Micro-influencers, our focus here, usually have between ten thousand and one hundred thousand followers are not celebrities, or generally otherwise famous figures. Rather, they are individuals who have built their own voice and brand in their own communities, and possess large amounts of both knowledge and trust within their specific fields or niches. This can be in anything from construction to marketing to gaming. Micro-Influencers are arguably the influencer tier still most organically tied to their original communities or niches while having made a name and earned mass trust in such. They are arguably closest to the veneer of authenticity many customers and firms actively seek.
Finally, the last main grouping of influencers are nano-Influencers, or those with one to ten thousand followers on social media. They are often in the beginning ramp up towards becoming micro or even macro-influencers, and are rising voices and figures within their niches or communities. For those looking to engage at smaller or even granular scales, whether they themselves are a smaller firm or are looking for highly specific engagement, nano-influencers provide the relevant scale.
For B2B firms in particular, the smaller scale side of the influencer table, particularly Micro-Influencers, would offer the best and most properly applied bet when considering their marketing options. B2B marketing already aims at a narrower, more niche market, and Micro-Influencers hit the sweet spot between niche and scale perfectly. They have the in-depth experience to speak knowledgeably, and the reach to make that knowledge do meaningful work. For B2B marketing, which often already requires specific and often complex foreknowledge, such dynamics often present in Micro-Influencers are invaluable.
Becoming (or Finding) a Micro-Influencer (And a B2B One, Too)
For those inclined towards making their mark as a micro-influencer, the path is more or less the same as establishing oneself in any other field, they just have to do it online. A simple enough trick, or so one would think. Finding your niche, your voice, and your audience online can be an incredibly complex endeavor and yet, with planning, an eminently attainable one. Self knowledge is critical. Who are you? Who is your audience? What makes you special? What are your unique offerings, special skills, concentrated knowledge bases? And how do you convey all of such over social media channels? Someone with meaningfully substantive answers to all these questions has made the first step towards the micro-influencing sphere.
We often understand influencing as the human element brought into marketing. Accordingly, if you know who you are as a human, what you’re interested in, passionate about, deeply engaged in, you will be able to connect with others, and know others too. This knowledge is the heart of influencer marketing culture, and the root of what makes it so effective. If you want to be a good and successful influencer, you must indeed know yourself. Following that, you can know the people you are in community with, the products you’re selling, and the people you’re selling to. That it all happens at a much closer to human level contains one of the great appeals of utilizing influencer and specifically micro-influencer marketing.
All the more so for B2B marketing, which already requires more often than not more detailed, more, for lack of a better word, learned and information based engagement across its markets and verticals. Working with highly engaged, self-possessed, and knowledgeable micro-influencers opens up firms to more precise data points, closer contact with where their customer and client bases are actually operating in any given situation or with any given product.
In a world increasingly recognizing the human element inherent within ROI, engaging with micro-influencers who are at the frontlines and forefront of the culture or market one is operating in holds ever greater value. Firms that can harness that power of micro-influencing are operating in the best practices of how we know marketing and commerce to work. It is after all a human driven affair, and nothing puts a face to that fact like properly engaged and deployed micro-influencers
The Human Element, Ever Influential
So we’ve seen the data and read the reports, we know influencers in general are here to stay, even if the face of who they are can change. For any number of fields and industries, including especially B2B firms, micro-influencers in particular hold great appeal for successful campaigns and seasons. What then makes a good influencer, or micro-influencer? What are customers and firms looking for?
Several major components play roles in what makes a good influencer from the outside, but mainly it boils down to knowledge and authenticity, with the former directly burnishing the latter. Someone who has acquired a deep and sustained knowledge base in their field or niche, and has the requisite skills to share and convey such over social channels, will often be able to grow their bases of engagement organically, with no help from large scale marketing or advertising forces. Whether in arenas like gaming, sports commentary, information technology, stock trading, movie reviewing, fashion, or home design, anyone with the skills and communication tools to put such across in a relevant fashion will often acquire a real and committed following.
We mentioned the role of authenticity in highlighting the appeal of micro-influencers earlier, and it remains central to understanding both influencer culture and what clients and customers look for in their decisions. Simply put, when looking at an influencer, especially a micro-influencer, people are looking for the real. Real engagement with the product or service at hand. Real knowledge borne of that engagement, and real communication, given that there is no corporate or commercial overlord to hamper the micro-influencers feedback from above. Real ethos, in short, is what micro-influencers offer, and what clients and consumers watch out for. Does this person know what they are doing? Does it seem like something useful or helpful to me? These are the questions that customers and firms ask, and that successful micro-influencers answer thoroughly and convincingly in the affirmative.
The trends as they have been referenced point upward for micro-influencers and their role in marketing, whether in the B2B or direct to consumer realms. The market is making a concerted swing towards rewarding deep knowledge and commitment in its spheres of direct engagement, such as marketing and mico-influencer marketing in particular. Honing in on and harnessing why this is so, and the trends of authenticity and credibility that they are riding on in particular, is ever more key for the marketing needs of all firms, including and especially those engaged in the B2B sphere.
Alon Ghelber is the Chief Marketing Officer at Revuze. He also works as a marketing consultant for VC sand is a member of the Forbes Business Council. He is also the founder and manager of the LinkedIn groups “Start Up Jobs in Israel” and “High Tech Café.”