Working with content creators who are influencers in their communities is a great way for brands to get a warm introduction to an audience. Choosing the content creators and empowering them to deliver brand messages authentically are key. The audience you’re trying to reach, the industry you operate in, and the size of your brand are all factors that can drive your choice in influencers.
There are five categories of content creator influencers, each category is based on the number of followers an influencer has.
Each tier has its benefits and challenges. It’s up to us as marketers to find what best aligns with brand and campaign goals.
Nano and Micro influencers have a smaller following and tend to speak to niche audiences, but those audiences tend to be highly engaged. Influencers with a larger following can command a higher fee because they speak to a larger audience; they have cachet and can be tastemakers.
Marketing tactics change depending on the type of influencer we engage, but choosing one category of content creator influencers doesn’t have to mean working with that category exclusively.
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Nano Influencers (1K to 10K followers): Test the waters
Nano influencers are creators with the smallest reach. They have fewer than 10,000 followers, but don’t discount their power. What they lack in followers, they make up for with an average engagement rate of 3.69%. Compared to Instagram’s 0.60% engagement rate overall, this is impressive. Since their audience is more focused than those of popular creators, they typically have a close relationship with their followers.
Many creators at this stage are just getting started and seeking new ways to earn as an influencer. College athletes are one up-and-coming group to have on your radar. In 2021, updated name, image, and likeness (NIL) policies opened the door for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletes to earn compensation for brand deals. Now, partnering with them is fair game.
Powerade has already had some success with this group. The brand’s target audience includes student athletes and basketball fans, making players ideal for authentic partnerships. Ahead of the 2023 NCAA March Madness tournaments, the sports drink company tapped basketball players across schools to promote its new 50%-more-electrolytes drink. Men’s players included Rice’s Quincy Olivari and Toledo’s RayJ Dennis, while their women’s lineup included Stanford’s Hannah Jump and Alabama’s Hannah Barber. The campaign allowed Powerade to increase its visibility among its target audience—and achieved an exceptional 22% engagement rate from RayJ’s post.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Nano influencers have the tools to boost engagement and are ideal for brands wanting to dip their toe into the creator space.
Micro Influencers (10K-100K followers): Reach that niche audience
If you’re looking for creative ways to market niche products, micro influencers may be the way to go. Micro influencers tend to be very involved in their specific niche and have higher engagement rates than their upper-tier counterparts. Average engagement for micro influencers on Instagram is double the overall average. Every industry has its trusted sources. Find the voices your audience listens to.
For Ebay, this meant securing influencers with impeccable taste. The online reseller turned to Anthony Urbano and Jae Gurley as two voices of New York City fashion ahead of one of the year’s major gift-giving holidays, Valentine’s Day. The tastemakers promoted Ebay’s Authenticity Guarantee, which confirms listings like watches, jewelry and one-of-a-kind sneakers, sharing the message that Valentine’s Day isn’t just about showing love for another, but showing love for yourself.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Micro influencers are trusted voices in their industries, offering brands a chance to partner with an experienced influencer who can boost engagement.
Mid-tier Influencers (100K to 500K followers): Cost and value effective
As follower count rises, so does the amount an influencer can command to help brands reach that audience. Mid-tier influencers offer experience and a trusted reputation paired with solid audneince engagement but at an affordable price point.
For Summersalt, a swimwear company driven by body positivity, mid-tier influencers were perfect to lead their “Every Body is a Summersalt Body” campaign. Working with a wide variety of influencers underlines the authenticity of their inclusive mission. The brand partnered with 27 influencers of various ages, races, abilities, and body types who are powerful activists, entrepreneurs, and leaders in their respective industries. Partners included USA women’s rugby player Ilona Maher; interior designer and lifestyle guru Shavonda Gardner; author and paralympic athlete Amy Purdy; and model and podcaster Hunter McGrady. The influencers took their followers behind the scenes sharing a sneak peek of what the experience and self-love mean to them, driving home the authenticity of Summersalt’s mission.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Partnering with mid-tier influencers enables brands to add a wide variety of creators on a single campaign without breaking the bank.
Summersalt emphasized their self-love mission by partnering with mid-tier influencers across a diverse range of backgrounds.
Macro Influencers (500K to 1M followers): A trusted voice with volume
With macro influencers, we start to see established voices in their industry who offer broad reach. Macro influencers can help up-and-coming brands trying to branch into new audiences or bigger companies seeking to expand their reach. Many of these influencers have gained recognition through years of carefully applied internet savvy.
Hospitality company and hotel chain Hilton opts for a variety of influencer partners to connect with a broad target demographic: People who might not be travel gurus, but still take vacations. The brand’s recent partners include Johnathan and his famous dog Teddy and former “Bachelorette” contestant Dylan Barbour. Each creator highlighted a favorite resort or local Hilton Hotel, bringing added awareness to the already global brand.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Macro influencers are ideal for big brands looking for experienced creators and high awareness. They’re inching toward celebrity status and have the audience to show for it.
Johnathan & Teddy partnered with Hilton Hotels for a giveaway to his followers. Despite not being a targeted travel creator, Johnathan ran a successful campaign for the hotel chain.
Mega Influencers (1M+ followers): Big rewards and big bucks
Mega influencers are celebrities. Some are celebrities turned influencers, some are influencers who got so popular they became celebrities. Mega influencers have a follower count in excess (sometimes well in excess) of one million.
Selena Gomez, actress, singer, and all around Hollywood icon, is the most followed woman on Instagram with 402 million followers. Her near ubiquitous reach makes her a valuable brand partner, but a sponsored post from the actress is estimated to cost $1,735,000, putting her out of reach for many brands.
Gomez is at the extreme end of the spectrum. Other mega influencers are more accessible. Take sports comedy group Dude Perfect: What started as a fun project among a group of college friends in 2007 has now grown into a brand with 59 million subscribers on YouTube. The channel is popular among younger boys and sports fans, and it had successful partnerships with SoFi Stadium, home of the Los Angeles football teams; EA Sports’ favorite Apex Legends; and Bass Pro Shops.Together, these three partnerships amassed nearly 500 million views. Their broad reach even got Amazon interested. The group partnered with Amazon Prime’s Thursday Night Football (TNF) to host an alternate broadcast that would reach audiences beyond traditional football fans, expanding the audience of the first game to an average 15.3 million viewers.
Mega influencer partnerships certainly have their value with massive followings that can put more eyes on a brand. With mega influencers commanding high fees, tapping their influence might feel like putting all your eggs in one basket.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Mega influencers require the big bucks, but the payoff can be equally as large. They’re often a trusted voice and a tastemaker for their audience. Mega influencers can be skilled brand collaborators in their own right.
Dude Perfect partnered with SoFi to garner awareness for the brand and their new stadium—which was set to host the Super Bowl the following week.
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