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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Are micro- or macro-influencers best for your brand campaign?

While micro-influencers may not be the best option for scaling sales for mass-market products, they certainly have their place in a well-organized influencer marketing strategy.

Are micro- or macro-influencers best for your brand campaign?
[Valerii /AdobeStock]

Most brand marketers don’t actually compare the potential revenue impact versus the actual sales performance of their organic influencer programming, even though influencer marketing spending is expected to top $4 billion this year. Although spend levels are approaching that of digital advertising, a “thumbs up” or a “like” is often enough to claim success.

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Many brand marketers are under the impression that micro-influencers are best at driving sales due to their higher engagement rates. But while micro-influencers drive engagement and sales conversions, do they drive enough revenue to make them preferable over other tiers of influencers?

If you consider that question through the lens of rates versus actual results, the data can be misleading. That is especially true if you take into consideration the man hours it takes to manage a larger group of influencer partners.

Micro-influencers can be initially appealing because they charge less than mid-tier, top-tier, or macro-tier influencers. That’s key if brands want multiple influencers involved in a campaign with a limited budget. However, other factors come into play when determining which tier of influencers is best for a campaign.

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For starters, managing an army of micro-influencers is very time-consuming and expensive. Each influencer has to go through vetting, lookbooks, content creation, edits, content approval contracts, and payments. Given that managing one influencer typically takes about 12 hours of employee time in a managed service campaign, a macro campaign of five influencers versus a micro campaign of 20 influencers could save 180 man-hours. Nevertheless, micro-influencers can be great when testing the waters of a new concept, new channel, or new target audience. They can help you gauge the response before investing heavily in a macro-influencer campaign.

For scaling sales, this is really where larger mid-tier and macro-tier influencers shine. Across thousands of influencer posts, gen.video determined mid-tier (50k-249k followers) influencers have the highest conversion rates for CPGs and consumer technology brands. Mid-tier influencers were able to deliver conversion rates of 6.8% and 1.6%, respectively, for CPG and consumer technology, versus the total averages of 5.4% and 1.4%.

But even with their commanding conversion rates, not even mid-tier influencers can compete with the reach of the macro-level influencers. According to our report, macro-influencers have the highest ROAS by driving nearly six times the sales of their mid-tier counterparts for CPG campaigns, and nearly seven times the sales for CE campaigns. Working with fewer macro-influencers can carry a larger impact and reduce the amount of manual work.

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While micro-influencers may not be the best option for scaling sales for mass-market products, they certainly have their place in a well-organized influencer marketing strategy. They are a good resource for niche markets and can be great content creators for paid amplification or the digital shelf. It all comes down to the objectives and desired scope of the campaign and the resources at hand. To truly know what works best, brands need to set up longer-term testing cycles and establish sales and performance measurement frameworks to evaluate how the impact aligns with business objectives.


Jessica Thorpe is President of influencer marketing platform gen.video. Shining a light on the convergence of social media, advertising, and commerce.

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