(Originally published in Entrepreneur.com)
Celebrity influence doesn’t come cheap. Macro-influencers with massive followings could probably get away with charging two months’ payroll to promote awareness of your brand among their millions of followers. But, take heart: Set your sights a bit lower and you’ll be able to widen your reach and get better uptake for less money.
First, understand who micro-influencers are: the everyday social account gurus who are passionate about their topics.
Second, think of micro-influencers as angel investors: They’re passionate about what you do and personally invested in it. These influencers provide authentic promotion, have 10,000 or fewer Twitter followers and don’t have agents; most are happy to talk about brands in return for just a free sample.
For instance, a travel business might target a macro-influencer such as J.D. Andrews, who has more than 171,000 followers. Or the same company could save some serious capital by going with a micro-influencer such as Finnish photographer and travel blogger Jukka Heinovirta, who has 8,000 followers.
For startups, every decision needs a high ROI. Going after micro-influencers instead of the typically sought-after bigger names may well reveal an untapped gold mine.
Capitalizing on micro-connections
One great example of how micro-influencers can really boost your brand is Shoes of Prey. In 2010, that women’s custom shoe company wanted to scale up its business without breaking the bank.
Rather than go for a celebrity, the brand chose a micro-influencer: 16-year-old beauty vlogger Blair Fowler. Fowler hosted a giveaway on YouTube, which led to a permanent 300 percent increase in sales for Shoes of Prey. And the benefits didn’t stop there.
After the video giveaway notched 750,000 views and close to 30,000 comments, Shoes of Prey received mentions in Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal and a host of other national publications. The success culminated in an exclusive U.S. partnership with Nordstrom.
Micro-influencers are more accessible and authentic than their A-list counterparts. Shoes of Prey received top-notch results at a bargain price by using an influencer with dedicated followers. Finding the right partner for your business is the key to getting the exposure your startup needs.
Searching for friends in lower places
To find the perfect micro-influencer, scour social media. Determine which platforms your target personas frequent, then search for the keywords or hashtags relevant to you. For instance, a boutique hotel might sift through the entries for #Travel and #NY to identify relevant influencers.
In some cases, your ideal micro-influencers may already be following you. Look through your own fans and followers for potential candidates.
The makers of Kano, a do-it-yourself computer, raised more than 10 times their $100,000 milestone after tapping into the company’s existing contributors via Kickstarter. Of course, it certainly helped that Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak were among the bunch, but you’ll never know which of your followers is an influencer until you look.
After making some connections, you should guide your new followers through the best ways to support you. Here are three action steps to successfully use microinfluencers:
1. Boost the signal.
A press release on your website makes about as much noise as clapping with one hand. Embedding pictures and linking to videos can help, but you’ll get the most mileage from messages from your microinfluencers. Ask them to amplify your latest release because the information will mean a lot more coming from them than from you.
2. Recruit new talent.
Money is essential, but recruiting the right talent is divine. Connect with influencers in your area, and ask them to let their followers know that you’re hiring. You’ll get talented applicants who are already interested in your industry.
3. Set the course.
Micro-influencers can be a bit rudderless at times, but your guidance can set them on the right path. Make sure your influencers know the top talking points and share the hashtags your target audience tends to view, to get more engagement from your influencers’ tribes.
While micro-influencers may not have world-renowned names, they do have loyal, relevant followings that will take action for a price that can’t be beat. Don’t waste your money on A-list celebrities — you can save a few bucks and get much stronger results by targeting the right micro-influencers.