mother and daughter promoting nutrition supplements

Influencer Marketing: When Less is More

Everything we see on our social media feeds has been curated with us – the consumer – in mind.

Whether or not we are aware of it, there is a thought process behind choosing who we follow on social media. Usually, we gravitate towards accounts with whom we share the same interests or passions. This ultimately influences our purchasing decisions as we follow trends that appeal to us. These trends lead to a formed sense of community that garners trust allowing opinions, values, and beliefs to be shared.

But not only that, it also can earn a profit. A really big profit. Influencer marketing has become a lucrative industry over the last decade. By the end of 2022, it is projected to be worth $15 billion.

Want to find out how? Let’s take a closer look at this multibillion-dollar industry.

What is influencer marketing?

In short, influencer marketing is a strategic form of branding that promotes products and services by using people with large social media presences and uses those individuals to target specific audience members that support the brand’s messaging.

When a brand approaches an influencer to collaborate, it is usually after having done audience research that allows them to utilize the influencer’s existing community of engaged followers to market their products. These influencers normally have a particular niche – whether it is in health and wellness, lifestyle, fashion, or beauty – and they have established a high level of trust and two-way communication with their followers that allows brands to approach influencers that target the specific audience that would drive sales and influence trends.

It is important to note that influencer marketing is not primarily about increased profitability and sales but also about increased awareness, social responsibility, reputation, and other intangible aspects of a brand. With social media, buyers are ultimately influenced by who supports the brand and the increased market share. This widespread marketing technique is a valuable tool for all brands whether they are established or new to the market.

Influencer marketing tiers

Mega-Influencer: 1M+ followers

• celebrities or high-profile people

• wide reach but low engagement on posts

• do not have an intimate relationship with their followers

• considered less trustworthy

• more expensive to hire

Macro-Influencer: 100K to 1M followers

• have grown their following and established a bond with their followers

• best of both worlds, a large and engaged audience 

• not willing to sacrifice their credibility and reputation by working with a brand that doesn’t match their core beliefs

Micro-Influencer: 10K to 100K followers

• most common kind of influencer

• smaller reach but high engagement on posts

• more specialized

• less investment which makes them more accessible to brands

Nano-Influencer: less than 10K followers

• influence within their local community

• reach is limited but likely to have the highest engagement out of all influencers

• extremely cost-effective

Why is influencer marketing important?

When customers are preparing to purchase a product or service, they are likely to research trustworthy reviews and recommendations before making a final decision. Influencer marketing eliminates this process.  

Media literacy has led today’s consumers to be more critical of the messaging that they receive through marketing efforts. Popularity, follower count, and audience engagement is negligible compared to the importance of trust in building the reputation of an influencer. With trust lost, so too is reputation. The public can tell when someone or something is not authentic, and are ultimately dissuaded from it.

With social media platforms, almost anyone can gain a following and influence. As more data becomes available about influencer marketing, brands are realizing that they do not have to pay an expensive singular mega-influencer with an enormous following and can opt instead to divide that cost to several micro-influencers to create a campaign that will have a more authentic appeal. Consumers are likely to distrust household-name celebrities knowing that they are possibly only endorsing certain brands for lucrative sums.

In today’s market, a brand’s messaging does not necessarily have to come from a direct source and can be communicated with their target audiences via influencers.

Get the insider scoop

Samuel Butcher is a creative director for a boutique digital marketing agency in Toronto called The Influence Agency. He is a nano-influencer himself, with over 2,700 followers on Instagram as of February 2022 and has worked with a variety of different local brands in Toronto and all over Canada.

I asked him a variety of questions regarding the influencer marketing industry.

Mitchell: With influencer marketing, how has brand storytelling changed?

Samuel: I think brands have become more cognizant of the amount of marketing they are pushing out and the quality of their marketing efforts. Brand storytelling has not only become more compelling but also become more transparent. I think ultimately when a brand is fully transparent, it can be the most essential storytelling technique that brands can utilize.

M: When reaching out to talent to push marketing campaigns, what do you look for?

S: The most important thing we look for would be the quality of content that the talent is producing. We want to ensure that we thoroughly vet talent before putting them in front of any given clients. Secondly, you want to make sure that you are doing a deep dive into their histories and ensuring there are no grey areas or anything that could be pulled on negatively from people consuming the marketing campaigns or interacting with the talent’s content. When reaching out to talent to push marketing campaigns, we also want to ensure that they are genuine and responsible people who ultimately will become the face of your brand.

M: How important do you think developing a niche is when starting, or do you think it’s a bit of a process?

S: I think it’s essential to develop a niche. When you look to the success of many creators, they usually have a consistent look and feel. These speak directly to the followers and the people engaging with the content they are producing. Niches allow content creators to tag niche hashtags and interact on social media platforms to discover their content by people interested in a particular topic. This generates traffic to their accounts and ultimately helps grow the audience.

I also had the pleasure of speaking with Patricia Kane, a micro-influencer with 18,700 followers on Instagram and 26,700 subscribers on her YouTube channel that has gained over 552,000 views, about her influencer journey.

Mitchell: How did you get your start in the influencer space and start growing your following?

Patricia: I started a YouTube channel in late 2016/early 2017, posting videos of my skincare routine, makeup reviews, and try-on hauls consistently and noticed my followers and views steadily increasing. I wanted to capitalize on this, so I put my Instagram handle in the description box of all my videos. You can probably guess what happened next, most of my subscribers started following me on my personal Instagram account. This enabled me to attend influencer events in the city of Toronto and start networking within the influencer community. My following has allowed me to work with brands like Poshmark, Daniel Wellington, Shoppers Drug Mart, Neutrogena, St. Ives, Quo Beauty, Skip The Dishes, and Pampers just to name a few.

M: How do you stand out in an oversaturated market?

P: Indeed, the influencer space is crowded. Everyone sees it as easy money or they do it for the free product but in reality, it takes a lot of time and effort. I’ve had to periodically put things on hold because it becomes too overwhelming. I also work a very demanding full-time job. I think standing out as an influencer comes down to just simply being yourself. People are shifting gears and moving away from presenting this picture-perfect ideal that is most of the time unattainable. Authenticity resonates more with people and it’s okay to be vulnerable online sometimes, it shows you’re human.

M: What is the best piece of advice you could give someone that is looking to become an Influencer?

P: I think the best advice I could give someone wanting to start in the influencer space is to post every day and be consistent. It’s important to connect and engage with your audience on a personal level, try to reply to every comment on your posts. I would also start establishing your personal brand early on as this is how you present yourself online and potential brands that may want to collaborate with you one day will see this.

Featured image credit: The Influence Agency @nfluenceagency

Mitchell Akister

Mitchell is a fourth year Media and Communication Studies student at Guelph-Humber, specializing in Public Relations.