Photo Credit: Shutterstock
There are two primary schools of thought about how to play the social influencer marketing game. The first school of thought says that you should focus entirely on leveraging the biggest social media influencers – people like the Kardashians. The second school of thought – and one that is gaining momentum in marketing circles – is that it’s best to focus only on the micro-influencers who can really impact your business.
At some point, of course, you have to do a little cost-benefit analysis. You’ll be paying exorbitant sums to the biggest influencers, so you really need their social media activity to move the needle for you. Each tweet or each Instagram post could run you a few thousand dollars, so you want to make sure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
The key here is that influencers are not cheap these days. According to eMarketer, the social influencer industry is now worth upwards of $1 billion annually. In 2016, brands paid out a collective $570 million to Instagram influencers – and they’re expected to pay out much more in 2017. It’s a lucrative business. If you have the budget for it, you could pay a Hollywood celebrity big bucks to hawk your products.
Influencers vs. micro-influencers
Several digital marketing agencies have attempted to crunch the numbers to see whether brands are getting any sort of ROI on their influencer spend. For example, the digital marketing agency Whosay divided up all the social media influencers online into one of five different tiers to calculate the results.
The big-time Hollywood celebrities (i.e. the “icons”) were Tier 1 influencers, with an average of 7.4 million followers. The next tier included all the “trailblazers” (i.e. the B-list celebs) with an average of 2.8 million followers. Finally, at the bottom tier were all the “super-micro-influencers” with an average of just 50,000 followers.
Which one did best? It turns out that the best bang for the buck was delivered by the Tier 2 and Tier 3 influencers. On a cost-per-thousand impressions basis, it was just more effective to work with these influencers than with all the big-time A-list Kardashians or all the super-micro-influencers.
Likes vs. sales
The one caveat here, of course, is that even this “scientific” study by Whosay doesn’t really tell you what you want to know: Did people actually buy my stuff? At some point, simply counting up the number of likes, shares and comments on Instagram posts is meaningless. Would you rather have a boatload of likes or a boatload of sales? Yeah, that’s pretty easy to answer, right?
The big takeaway from this is that an influencer strategy is not a magic bullet. Having some celebrity (or micro-celebrity) mention your products sounds like a great concept – but you’ll probably get sticker shock when you realize how much it will cost you.
Even worse, since social media is meant to be ephemeral, those tweets or Instagram posts might only be seen by a much smaller group of people than you expected. Just because someone has 10 million followers on Instagram doesn’t mean that every post is going to be seen 10 million times.
That’s not to say that influence doesn’t matter. In some areas – especially fashion, beauty and any other field where being “on trend” matters – it’s hugely important. But, at some point, you have to realize that people won’t buy bad products – and they will resent you if they feel “tricked” into buying something shoddy. Thus, it might be better to spend some of that budget you had earmarked for “influencers” on making a much better product in the first place.