If the FYRE fiasco taught us anything, it’s that “Instagram Influencers” are full of kombucha-powered crap. Being hot and on a yacht does not make you a good judge of a quality product. Even if it did, an “influencer” being paid to endorse something does not mean they’re remotely interested in or informed about the product they’re peddling.
Consumers used to look to magazines, newspapers and television to decide what to buy. The Internet and its appearance of unlimited access to information put a definitive end to that - just ask any publishing company (RIP journalism). But the issue with “the Internet consumer” is that algorithms and pixel-based advertising have made sure users only see what the highest bidder wants them to see. This left consumers lost yet again.
Social media presented a momentary fix to the problem, for a key reason we’ll discuss in a moment. But the rise of “Instagram Influencers” smashed that window of opportunity. “Influencers” are people who peddle products, events and brands online to thousands of “followers”. Most of these “followers” are bots, trying to become “influencers” themselves. The few real humans within that following don’t follow because they truly trust that influencer’s product recommendations.
So why do these followers grin and bear it through every blatantly paid promotion? Because the influencers they follow are rich, hot, and/or popular - things we all want to be or see. We’ve been led to believe that if we spend enough time watching and imitating that influencer, we’ll magically sprout an 8-pack, perfect skin and be able to travel the world while becoming a self-made millionaire...
...but that notion is as silly as it sounds. Obviously, consumers don’t earnestly think that the key to life’s success is every paid promotion an influencer is peddling. They may be inspired (or more likely disheartened) by this aspirational, self-sabotaging media consumption - but at the end of the day, they don’t actually trust that influencer. They don’t actually believe that “influencer” genuinely enjoys every single #InstaWorthy event, face mask, and gourmet coffee pod they peddle. They know deep down influencers are paid insanely high rates and bribed through countless free products to promote their “partners”.
So how do we build the trust required for consumers to buy our products? Where do consumers go to decide how to spend their hard-earned cash (or often, credit)?
People look to their friends.
We all have that friend. The one that messages you on Thursday telling you what’s going on that weekend. The friend that books the flights, buys the tickets and reserves the table. They’re tapped in and willing to take action when they see something they want. Let’s call these “micro-influencers”
(I prefer the term “my cool friend Claire”, but I promised you in my clickbait headline that I’d tell you how to do influencer marketing… so piping hot buzzword order up!)
Micro-influencers are why social media presents the fix we mentioned earlier. For once, the power of promotion lies with our friends. “Instagram Influencers” are bot-powered, algorithm-eating Like machines. But your friend Claire shooting you a text asking what you’re up to this weekend still stands out from all the noise.
The issue for brands is finding these people. Unlike magazines, there aren’t only 10 on the roster. Unlike “Instagram Celebrities”, there aren’t even 1,000,000 to choose. There are billions of micro-influencers on the planet right now.
What’s the best thing about micro-influencers? They’re specific to your brand. These people actually know about and care about you, and have a few friends who are willing to listen and trust their recommendation. What’s the worst thing about micro-influencers? No brands seem to have the time to find and build relationships with them.
Luckily you don’t have to hire a social media intern to stalk and DM these people (creepy - not recommended). Instead, how you work with them is much more subtle.
3 Steps to Working with Micro-Influencers (at Scale)
1) Notice They Exist
If I asked you for the first name of the last person who bought your product or a ticket to your event, could you tell me? You were probably too busy looking at the revenue rolling in to care that it was Claire that just bought.
If Instagram shuts down your account tomorrow, do you have any other way of reaching your 10K+ followers? You were probably too preoccupied with your Reach count to build a single genuine relationship.
Having a centralized Fan CRM (customer relationship management) system is crucial to knowing who is buying your product. You should legally own the name, email and phone number of every single person who’s cared enough about you to buy. Buyers are the single most important asset any business can have - don’t rent them from Facebook or let some “free” tech provider steal and sell them to your competition.
Once you have all your customers funneling into a first-party CRM system, you’ll be able to answer the crucial micro-influencer question: who just bought my product?
2) Don’t Annoy Them
Now that you know Claire just bought your product, it’s your job to make sure she has the best possible experience. Since Claire is a real person with real friends, if she’s happy with her new purchase, she’ll talk to her friends about it... in real life.
Are you spamming her with generalized, automated emails? Or even worse - is your pixel-based ad agency/program still retargeting her to buy that exact product? Whatever you do - do not offend your new customer with bad targeting. Not only is it a waste of money - it means you’re going to lose Claire and all of her friends.
If you have all your customers in one Fan CRM system, make sure it’s integrated with all of your marketing efforts. Remove Claire from every paid campaign the minute she buys, and move her into “Appreciation mode”. Then she’ll spread the love naturally.
3) Swoop in for the Assist
If you noticed Claire exists and managed not to annoy her with incessant retargeting, chances are - she’s telling her friends that you’re awesome. She’s doing all that aggressive product pushing that you never want to do - for free.
Since her friends trust her, they never question her authenticity. They know that - unlike your Instagram stars - Claire isn’t getting paid to promote you. She just genuinely wants her friends to enjoy what you have to offer as much as she does. All you have to do is be oh-so-conveniently there with a (gentle) opportunity to buy. This is where social media comes in.
Once someone in your Fan CRM buys, you should immediately (ideally, automatically) start targeting their friends with gentle, experience-based social ads. I’m not talking about a big, ugly “BUY NOW” graphic plastered all over their Instagram stories. I’m referring to an experiential representation of exactly what Claire’s been already talking about - just to assist them in visualizing being there with her.
This way, as your new potential customer is on the bus home from that great time out with Claire, scrolling through their feed or posting about their night - serendipitously, there’s the exact thing she was talking about. The barrier to buy is about as thin as it gets.
Is this kind of targeting creepy? Some might say so. But our research proves that it’s actually more useful than unnerving - if done right. You obviously must adhere to privacy laws and protect your customers (especially by ensuring your CRM isn’t selling their data) when implementing these kinds of strategies. But at the end of the day - your customers trusted you enough to buy your product and share their contact information with you. They liked you enough to talk to their friends about your product. All you’re doing is showing up in the right place at the right time.
Need help with your micro-influencer strategy? Contact us for a free consultation.