As influencer marketing matures, brands are recognizing what works and what doesn’t work. One important finding that has surfaced along the way is that nano- and micro-influencers have a greater influence than mega-influencers and celebrities. This had led to brands teaming up with figures who have smaller audiences, but bigger pull with their followers. 

Linqia’s “State of Influencer Marketing 2020: Influencer Marketing Grows Up” report found that 77 percent of marketers want to work with micro-influencers (those with 5,000-100,000 followers) versus 64 percent who want to work with macro-influencers, those with 100,000-500,000 followers. The desire to work with mega-influencers and celebrities, 30 percent and 22 percent, respectively, even fell short of marketers’ desire to work with nano-influencers, those with less than 5,000 followers, at 26 percent. Marketers rated micro-influencers 6.3 out of seven based on the amount of budget they plan to spend on micro-influencers, versus 5.8 for mega-influencers. 

Linqia found that engagement is the most important key performance indicator for marketers, as 71 percent measure the success of a campaign on this metric. Brand awareness and impressions came in second and third at 62 percent and 60 percent, respectively. If engagement is the top influencer marketing metric for brands, then micro-influencers are key to driving this metric. 

Micro-influencers have better engagement rates than mega-influencers across all channels, even on Twitter, according to Influencer Marketing Hub and CreatorIQ’s third annual Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report: 2020. This is particularly evident on Instagram, where nano-influencers have seven times the engagement rate than mega-influencers (7.2 percent versus 1.1 percent).

Another reason brands are betting big on micro-influencers? Because internet users lack confidence in mega-influencers. A GlobalWebIndex study proved this when 56 percent of US and UK respondents said they believe influencers with up to 50,000 followers are the most credible. 

Lyft uses micro-influencers to create a steady drumbeat of buzz around its brand campaigns and key cultural moments. To launch LyftUp—an initiative that provides access to affordable, reliable transportation for everyone, no matter their age, income, or zip code—Lyft focused on bike access, working with LeBron James and his company Uninterrupted to give one-year bikeshare memberships through the YMCA to youth all over the country. The campaign kicked off with LeBron sharing his story of how “it all started with a bike.”

The campaign continued with a series of social media posts from micro-influencers who told their raw stories of how bikes changed their life for the better. 

‘We tap into micro-influencers to tell our story in their own words. A best practice is to let them truly use their own voice. Putting too much creative direction, copy and rules on what you want the influencer to do is going to limit their creative genius. Remember, you chose to work with them because of their voice and aesthetic,” Lyft director of influencer marketing Bette Ann Schlossberg tells us.

When Lyft evaluates the success of campaigns, it looks at the typical metrics—impressions, earned media value (EMV) and engagement rate—but it finds that the most important metric is sentiment. 

“Seeing the community respond to the #LyftUp posts, and even seeing its drivers respond to these posts is often times the most valuable return on investment (ROI),” says Schlossberg. 

Although more marketers are interested in working with nano-influencers than celebrities and although micro-influencers cost less to work with, there are downsides to these partnerships. When asked to rate the top concerns in influencer marketing from a scale of one to six, Linqia’s respondents rated the amount of time it takes to manage influencer marketing programs a 4.2, making it a top-three concern. Given that more brands are working with micro-influencers these days, this could mean it takes more time to manage micro-influencer campaigns, allowing more room for mistakes and oversight.

They might have better engagement, but micro-influencer campaigns also have less reach, and that means less exposure. That’s why it’s important to tier your strategy, working with celebrities, macro-influencers and micro-influencers, says Schlossberg.