The online age has brought a wider audience and customer base to businesses, and at the same time has delivered unprecedented choice to customers and consumers. While it might seem that all of a sudden we are all fish swimming in one immense, global pond, markets are actually becoming more fragmented than ever before.

Appealing to the global masses might sound like an attractive proposition, but the key to success in such a crowded marketplace is to focus on the specialised and bespoke. Micro influencers achieve exactly that – they can help you appeal to your target market, because they are your target market.

A closer look at influencer marketing

Influencers are a powerful tool in the social media age, but the concept has been around since long before Facebook and Twitter became a ‘thing’. Companies have been using celebrities to promote products through TV campaigns for as long as we have had televisions, and it’s a successful formula that really taps into the public’s consciousness. After all, who wouldn’t want strong, shiny hair like Ellie Goulding? And if Gary Lineker is quick to endorse a certain brand of crisps, they must be worth a go, right?

The problem with celebrity promotions in 2018 is that we’re pretty cynical of them. We’ve been bombarded with advertising in all kinds of forms for decades now, so we are all a lot more media savvy than we once were. In an age where it feels as though everyone has an agenda, a shopper who is looking for the right shampoo or the best salty snack will be more inclined to pay attention to someone they can identify with, not someone who moves in totally different circles and whose lifestyle appears to be totally out of reach.

When it comes to followers, quality sometimes trumps quantity

Here’s a stat for you: at time of writing, Katy Perry has more than 100 million followers on Twitter. On the face of it, that would make her one of the most powerful influencers on the planet. But in what niche? Someone with this amount of global followers certainly has an enviable profile, but they’re doing anything but drilling into their all-important target market.

Suppose you are looking to promote a particular fashion accessory aimed at young affluent women. If Katy Perry starts promoting it, they might pay attention. But when it is promoted by someone they know, someone just like them – whose opinion they trust and who shares their background, values and aspirations – the message is much more likely to hit home. Their interest is much more likely to turn into a tangible sale for your business.

After all, if you’re struggling to choose between a pizza, a pair of shoes or the right car insurance policy, whose advice will you take more seriously? That of a friend who has made a similar purchasing decision and is in the same position as you? Or the somewhat staged advertising spiel of a celebrity endorser? A micro influencer bridges the gap between the two. Much of the time, if they have far fewer followers, but these individuals appear to be more loyal, this means are more apt to have a personal connection with the influencer, as opposed to feeling – quite literally – like they’re just another profile pic on a screen; just another one in 100 million.

Market research firm Nielsen saw which way the wind was blowing five years ago, at a time when social media had nothing close to the influence it does today, and when Generation Z were still collecting Pokemon cards. They published a report in 2013 which showed that a remarkable 84% of people pay more attention to recommendations from friends than they do to celebrity endorsements.

This sentiment is backed by Ben Stanbury, the founder of Braintree-based social media marketing agency Bright Light Social, who says:

“A nod from a micro influencer is basically that trusted referral that many people seek before engaging with, or buying from, a brand. More credible than celebrity endorsers, micro influencers are essentially everyday people like you and I, who will ‘tell it like it is’ about a product, service or brand experience.”

Know your audience, know your influencer

Micro influencers clearly offer a powerful marketing channel for companies with specific goals, but the fact that they can be quite so niche does bring its own unique challenges. Get the message right, and your influencer speaks directly to the hearts and minds of your target audience. Get it wrong, and you can miss the target spectacularly (and end up red-faced in the process).

Engaging the right micro influencers is clearly of critical importance, and the first step is having 100% clarity in your own mind as to your social marketing strategy and your target audience before you start contacting your favourite bloggers and Instagrammers. You should also have a think about what you actually expect from the influencer. Do you want them to drive awareness of a particular product or brand, with the end goal being more sales for your company? Or do you want them to generate content for you that you can use later in your campaign?

Once you’ve decided on the direction you’re heading in, you can assess your shortlist of micro influencers to decide which are most closely aligned with both your brand ideals and with those of your target demographic.

Do not underestimate the power of location when it comes to influencers, either. If your target audience is geographically concentrated, it makes an enormous difference if you use someone who is in the same community, with the same reference points.

Remember… the bigger they are, the harder they can fall

Micro influencers are crucial to reaching out and truly touching your target audience in the social media era. While there can be challenges in making the right choices and using them effectively, you are, at the same time, eliminating many of the risks that often accompany high-profile celebrity endorsements.

When celebrities fall from grace, they often do so in a big way. From Naomi Campbell to Kate Moss to Rolf Harris, these people may have an A-list status, but they’re all human, and they all make mistakes. If an individual has a strong association with a brand, the company in question can easily get dragged through the gutter in their wake when scandal hits. This will rarely happen with a micro influencer. Their word may not be the gospel, but they will certainly a have a lot of clout amongst an audience that may just be in the market for what you have to offer.

How to find micro influencers

The easiest way to find – and engage with – micro influencers is to focus on building relationships via your existing social media channels. However, if you need a helping hand in this area, there are plenty of organisations that will be able to point you towards influencers who have a great presence in certain online communities. For example, if you’re based in Essex or the South East of England, you could contact the South East Bloggers Club with more information on what you’re trying to achieve, and the team will find the right micro influencer for your project from their huge network of bloggers and social contacts.