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How Newcastle-based digital agencies are generating value from micro-influencer application

by Samantha Sadler

Micro-influencing is the hot topic in marketing and communications strategy right now. A cheaper alternative to traditional celebrity endorsement, brands as big as Adidas are using smaller influencers to help popularise their products.

A micro-influencer is essentially a social media user and/or blogger with an engaged following and reach. Although an official definition is yet to be defined, it’s safe to assume that users who have between 1,000 and 100,000 followers fall into the classification.

In an attempt to fully understand the culture of micro-influencing and how effective it can be, I’ve set up a travel/lifestyle Instagram to embark on my own journey as a micro-influencer.

In an effort to prioritise audience interaction over thousands of unengaged followers, I’ve been organically growing my followers instead of using automated bots like some users have turned to.

This hasn’t been an easy task, despite researching best hashtags, best times to post and how much to post it seems that these things take time. So as I sit with just under 500 followers, posting regular good quality content, I’m still looking for the best way to be heard in what is becoming an overcrowded market.

As well as following my own journey into potentially arriving at micro-influencer status, this content series will holistically explore this marketing tool from a different perspective each post.

So welcome to Part 2! In this feature I’m exploring how creative, digital businesses in my home city of Newcastle are incorporating micro-influencers in their marketing strategies, focusing on the value and effectiveness they can bring in helping to meet client objectives.

How effective do businesses find micro-influencer application?

One such digital and creative agency which calls on a network of UK bloggers to support campaigns is creative communications agency O PR, which specialises in Influencer Outreach.

Representing National brands such as Dr Martins and Flymo, the company has recently published a whitepaper on the rise of the hyperlocal blogger.

Kari Owers, Managing Director of O, points to how working with micro influencers - who have a small but engaged audience - have increased campaign success.

One campaign in particular was O’s work with WhiteWash Laboratories, which recently launched a new oral care range.

Kari explained: “We harnessed the power of hyperlocal Instagram influencers and emerging celebrities to build buzz rather than opting for those influencers with followers in the thousands.

“We found these influencers to have increased levels of engagement by comparison and the outreach led to a 93% increase in Instagram followers, spike in digital sales and ultimately a national listing in a Boots.”

Kari added: “The key is really understanding your target audience and understanding who and what influences them. When a brand is trying to drive footfall or engage a local audience niche, local influencers are key.”

Pharmaceutical PR agency ramarketing echoes O PR’s positive look at micro-influencer marketing.

Robert Smith, SEO Executive, believes that micro-influencers are fantastic to work with as “they are usually shouting about products they are already very passionate about.”

He commented that although their following isn’t huge, their followers are engaged and trust the content that is being posted.

Robert explained: “One single micro-influencer will never drive hundreds of sales, but by cultivating relationships with a few dozen the impact can be significant.

“If you have 10 people with 5000 followers who are totally invested in your product, that’s a potential audience of 50,000 highly relevant people, which for us is far more valuable than a larger generic audience.”

So how is something with such potential tracked and measured? “We measure performance in both Google Analytics and through our affiliate scheme where we can track clicks, sales and conversions, and often see a strong click through rate and conversion rate when working with them”, added Robert.

PR Consultant and colleague Vicky Sanderson agrees with Robert and has long believed in creating editorial content to positively influence a target audience over traditional advertising space.

She commented: “In my experience micro-influencers are very effective in helping to build a client’s profile/brand. What is great about blog content is that its success/penetration is far more measurable than the ‘dark art’ of PR. Click-throughs can be tracked, comments observed and shares counted.

“The advent of the digital age meant that people’s purchasing choices have been influenced less by traditional advertising anyway, and more from positive reviews - people buy from people, and from people’s recommendations.”

Vicky continued: “When the blogosphere emerged it created a whole new space to create editorial content for clients. As each blog has its own theme/purpose which followers are interested in, it allows PROs to be more targeted and efficient when it comes to raising their client’s profile.”

Both Robert and Vicky believe that the use micro-influencers will continue to be a key part of marketing strategy in campaigns as they “continue to build relationships with influencers” and that they “should be considered seriously when laying a marketing/communications strategy down.”

How easy is it for businesses to use micro-influencers?

E-commerce and digital marketing agency Flow Digital has also been looked to micro-influencers and their communities.

While some of Flow’s most successful campaigns have involved tapping into micro communities, Business Development Manager Chris Ogle explains the option isn’t always the easiest and quickest to implement.

Chris said: “If you have a product with a wide target market and low market penetration, then micro-influencing is going to be less effective than a broader marketing campaign due to leg work involved in approaching so many people.”

Even if you do decide to go down the micro-influencing route, there are still a variety of factors to take into consideration. You’re essentially allowing an individual to share their personal opinion about your brand and/or product.

Chris added: “It takes some care to get the approach right for these individuals as you will have to do a lot more legwork to get the same level of reach than a standard awareness campaign, especially as a ‘one size fits all’ approach will likely fall on deaf ears.

“If you get the approach wrong, they will have no problem sharing how much they disliked the approach with that very community you are trying to engage.”

However that doesn’t mean you should be totally disregarding this community for having a voice.

Chris continued: “Get the approach right and get the micro-influencers on board, you can expect a very high return on investment, mainly due to the influencer not requiring a big payoff for speaking positively of your product. For us, it’s all about adding value to the micro-influencer.

“Although their individual communities online may be small, they will typically be very well engaged and will value the micro-influencers opinion strongly on a particular subject.”

Speaking with the three communications agencies has reaffirmed my belief in micro-influencers being a force to be reckoned with.

With engaged audiences, frequent interaction and the addition of a personal touch to marketing, micro-communities are creating results in online campaigns and delivering a high return on investment.

Each agency I spoke to strongly believed that micro-influencers are generating exciting outcomes for their client’s campaigns and wouldn’t hesitate to continue using them in future.

Having heard their thoughts, it is completely understandable why a giant such as Adidas would even entertain allowing someone with a small following to present their products to their individual audiences.

It also appears that my dedicated approach in building my Instagram organically is completely the right way to go about it.

Now that I’ve looked at how micro-influencers are shaking up digital marketing and how communication agencies in Newcastle are using them, it’s time to look at it from the influencer’s point of view.

In the next part of the series, I’ll be speaking to a travel and lifestyle Instagram blogger who has reached micro-influencer status and working with brands to communicate to her audience.