Influencer Marketing and Reach Versus Relevance: What You Need to Know

When the global communications firm Edelman released the 2016 results of its annual Trust Barometer, the results weren’t surprising for anyone working in marketing. Trust in elites is down, trust in “people like me” is up. In fact, the traditional pyramid that saw elites ruling at the top when it came to trustworthiness has effectively been upended.

What does this shift in trust mean for your influencer marketing campaign? As it turns out, it means a lot.

Shifting Trust and Savvier Consumers

Today’s digital consumers are smart—and getting smarter. They are hip to marketing’s digital moves, whether online tracking or targeted advertising. And they definitely are wary when a big star or huge online influencer starts shilling for a brand or product. And we used the term “shilling” for a reason. Hollywood level superstars and online influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers are paid a lot to promote products and services. But do they really care about them? Deeply care about them? Probably not. And chances are, neither will their followers.

Reach Versus Relevance

Believe it or not, the key to a successful influencer marketing campaign doesn’t lie with throwing wads of cash at online superstars. It lies in finding well respected, industry-relevant online influencers with smaller, highly engaged audiences.

The reason why relevance tops reach is simple: To be a relevant influencer, one has to have expertise and subject-matter credibility, as well as well developed, solid relationships with the majority of one’s followers. Because of these relationships, and especially if you’ve targeted your influencer correctly, you not only gain the influencer’s receptive audience, you gain that audience’s audience as well. In fact, the best influencers won’t work with a brand unless the opportunity is relevant to their followers.

The Rise of the Micro-Influencer

There’s also interesting new research out that shows the impact being too popular on social media has on the ROI of an influencer campaign. As reach (or potential eyeballs) continues to fall off the radar as a viable measurement of success, these highly niche micro-influencers—with a follower sweet-spot falling somewhere between 1,000 and ten thousand, depending on who you ask—provide clear evidence of why being able to engage with followers is so vital. As reported in, “Instagram followers with under 1,000 followers have a like rate of about 8 percent. Those with 1,000 to 10,000 have a rate around 4 percent. As the follower rate grows, engagement drops even further.”

Of course, lower numbers of followers means lower numbers of content views, but the thing to remember is that these people, who are seeing your content, actually want to see your content. They deeply trust the influencer they follow and regard them as “just like me,” which mirrors the massive tipping of consumers’ trust that we spoke about above.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with constructing an influencer campaign around a big celebrity. Having a superstar on board is lots of fun, and it will definitely garner some press and online buzz. But you also don’t have to break the bank in order to reap a huge return on your influencer marketing investments.

And don’t try to shoehorn a big name into your campaign if they’re not a good brand match. Instead, do your research, and get to know some of the micro-influencers out there in the digital world. Don’t forget, some of those so-called “smaller fish” just might become big fish as their online stars begin rise. And, because of the relationships you’ve already built with them, you’ll be there along for the ride when that happens.

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