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The rise of the micro-influence and what it means for small businesses

Social media platforms such as Instagram are a great place to reach a new audience for companies. Picture: Thomas White/Reuters

Social media platforms such as Instagram are a great place to reach a new audience for companies. Picture: Thomas White/Reuters

Published Mar 31, 2022


By Ben Bierman

With the exponential rate at which the digital economy in South Africa is growing, more brands are looking for ways to attract their share of the market by leveraging the power of digital marketing.

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One of the newer strategies that is being adopted by some of South Africa’s biggest brands is influencer marketing, which has come a long way since its inception in 2014.

According to a report by Insider Intelligence, brands across the globe are set to spend over R15 billion on influencer marketing strategies this year.

This highly targeted form of marketing has proven so effective that some of the most popular influencers in South Africa charge upwards from R15 000 per post on social media, with one of the most expensive influencers reportedly charging a minimum of R65 000 for one Instagram post.

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Small businesses who are looking to get in on the action might not have the budget to pay for influencers with big followings, but micro-and nano- influencers provide the perfect alternative solution.

A micro-influencer is a social media personality or public figure who has between 5 000 and 50 000 followers, while a nano-influencer has a following of between 1 000 to 5 000 followers.

Here are the benefits of working with these smaller-scale influencers to market your small business.

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1) Access to niche audiences

The content that is produced by macro-influencers (who have audience sizes in the millions) generally appeals to the masses. As such, their target audience can be substantially broader than that of an influencer with a smaller following.

If you’re a small business with a niche product or service offering, like a brand of vegan pet products, a community hairdresser or a guitar-making business, then one way of reaching that niche audience is to work with a micro- or nano- influencer whose following matches the demographic you want to target.

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Micro-influencers are also more likely to be specialists than generalists and will produce content that covers a more defined range of topics and appeals to a smaller base.

And with smaller audiences comes higher engagement rates, which means the content you put out on social media is more likely to be seen and engaged with by the right people.

2) The potential for brand advocacy

What we now know as influencer marketing is a few evolutionary steps away from good old brand advocacy.

Before the rise of the notion of an “influencer,” brand ambassadors were commonly used to endorse brands.

The sporting industry, for example, has been the domain of several iconic partnerships that have stood the test of time. Today, small businesses have the opportunity to forge the same kind of relationships and turn influencers into brand ambassadors, just on a smaller scale.

The benefit of working with a micro- or nano-influencer is that they will have relatively fewer partnerships with other brands and can spend more time and attention on your small business.

Over time, they can become brand advocates with whom you can build relationships in the interests of driving mutual growth for both your small business and the influencer.

3) Authentic engagement

As much as the world loves macro-influencers and the content they create, there is a big proportion of social media users who question the authenticity of their content or whether the content is biased.

A number of studies continue to show that micro-and nano-influencers create more authentic content and engage in a more genuine and believable manner with their audiences.

According to experts, influencers with smaller followings are more relatable and deemed to be more credible.

Their audience is more likely to trust what they say and take action as a result of that trust. And because smaller-scale influencers cost less, they have the ability to generate more impact per impression than macro-influencers.

With a lower cost and more authentic engagement comes a higher return-on-investment, and when you’re marketing your brand on a budget, that’s a metric worth focusing on.

Ben Bierman is Managing Director of Business Partners Limited


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