Micro Influencer Marketing – Is it Worth it?

I’m no PR expert but I recently dabbled for one of my clients and had good results, getting them featured in local publications such as Vibe, The Star, Now Then, Exposed and Unltd.
We also experimented with influencer marketing. Contacting local bloggers and social media influencers and persuading them to give us positive reviews, blog posts and Instagram posts.

Why aren’t more bloggers contacting businesses?

Learning more about bloggers left me wondering why they weren’t more forward about contacting businesses. After all, if I want something I just go ahead and ask for it – the worst people can say is no (or no, fuck off).
I’ve worked with 4 brands as an ‘influencer’ myself this year, and the process seemed pretty straight forward. Business approaches me with offers of free stuff. I accept free stuff and agree to write and post about it.
But I am a business owner, not *just* a blogger and so my approach to communicating with other businesses is quite streamlined because I’m very used to it.
With the majority of bloggers being young women who are not self-employed, I was very aware that they might not have my confidence.

So I decided to work with Sheffield Hallam’s psychology students to explore the relationship between bloggers and businesses. I had two questions:

1. Why are bloggers so reluctant to contact businesses?
2. Why are businesses so reluctant to contact bloggers?
The students did some one to one’s with various influencers and businesses of various sizes. I shall provide you with a crude summary of what we found:
1. The businesses were reluctant to contact bloggers because they were unsure what the results (or return on investment) would be. They perceived bloggers as being ‘just in it for freebies’.
2. The bloggers were reluctant to contact businesses because they were afraid of looking like they were ‘just in it for freebies’. They also didn’t have a big desire to contact businesses for freebies. Because well, blogging is a hobby and they can quite happily blog without free stuff.
It seems as if it’s up to us businesses to contact influencers and ask to ‘collaborate’. But how should you do this, and indeed, why?

Let me provide a personal case study.

I was working with a new startup hospitality venue. They had been in business a couple of months before they contacted me and asked me for my help. When I Googled the business, their website, companies house page and a bunch of negative reviews off trip advisor screamed at me. There was little else Google had to offer.
The business was excellent. A really wonderful high-quality place. But footfall was low, the online buzz was low and I knew if we didn’t sort it out this place wasn’t going to pick up in the way I knew it could.
Social media posts weren’t going to be enough, I had to make this place cool.  And in my experience, the way to make something cool is to make it look like all the cool people are doing it.
We got the reviews, PR, blogs and Instagram posts going simply by asking people if they wanted to come to the place and sample our goods for free.
Maybe we attracted some people who ‘just wanted free stuff’. But ‘free stuff’ is a persuasion tactic that every marketer uses from Donald Trump (with his red hats) to Hare Krishna Monks (with their books and CDs).
They may have wanted the freebies. But once you’ve taken something off somebody, you naturally feel like you owe them something in return. Unless you’re a psychopath (and I’m not going to deny that you may come across a couple).
As a result, we got a handful of blog posts, plenty of free reviews, widespread local PR and we became ‘Mush Mum approved’. (An app that mothers use to find recommended local venues). Now when you Google the business, there is plenty of positive information that comes up.
We got repeat business from the freebie hunters as we gathered loyalty. We got journalists contacting us to ask if they could write further articles because the relationship had already been developed. When the online reputation increased, so did footfall.

You’re not going to get a 100% success rate with influencer marketing.

Here’s the thing – not everybody that we invited wrote a review, there was some free stuff that was wasted.
I think this is something that people in PR are very familiar with, not every press release will take off, not everyone will give you a positive write up.
If you’re going to do influencer marketing you need a degree of damage control, only spend what you can afford. Bear in mind, this place is really really good, no one was going to try their stuff and think ‘yuk!!’. If your product or service is not so good, you run a risk of your efforts backfiring, so be careful.

Does influencer marketing affect your SEO?

Now the controversy – does influencer marketing really affect your SEO? Do these influencers really have any ‘influence’ over their followers? Maybe they have a bunch of fake followers.
To be honest, and this is the part that might get me in some stick with other digital marketers, I don’t care.
Even if nobody reads the article written about you, when people search for you in Google they still see that plenty of people have reviewed your place.
So who cares if nobody actually reads this ‘influencers’ blog?
The people posting about you on Instagram might not have adoring fans, but if it takes 7 exposures to your brand before someone is ready to buy, just seeing posts about you regularly and often is enough – it doesn’t matter if they can’t remember who posted about you and they only remember that ‘people love this place’.

Big businesses are using influencer marketing.

You better believe that chains who are starting up in Sheffield invite anybody and everybody who writes to their launch parties, that’s how we hear about them – they don’t just wait and hope you’ll walk past.

Different influencers charge different rates.

Influencer marketing with genuinely good influencers can get pricy. My husband’s agency recently engaged with a 15-year-old influencer who wanted £10,000 for the day just for showing up. They told him he could take the money from the tickets off the door instead, and sure enough, one thousand teenage girls showed up, with a tenner in hand ready to meet their YouTube icon. But lower level, budgeted work with influencers and local PR can work for you.

My advice:

1. Don’t spend so much on this that it hurts. Only give what you’re happy to give. Remember, you might not see any return on your investment, or it could backfire.
2. Test the waters and start small.
3. Remember that bloggers are mostly young women who probably do not work in business and maybe intimidated by you. So keep it professional, but be personal and warm.
4. Tell the bloggers what you want. If you want them to review you, blog about you or post about you, make it clearly defined.
5. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. If you come across some time wasters or princesses (you will), just write it off as sunken cost. When you do an advertising campaign, you’re going to spend money reaching some irrelevant people, not everyone is going to become a customer, it’s part of marketing.
6. If you’re B2B then you can still use influencer marketing (B2B companies use me for theirs) – again, be controlled about costs.
Now for the call to action where I tell you how much I charge for doing all this PR work and ask you to hire me, well so far, I’ve charged nothing. For my clients who hire me for social media work and online reputation management, connecting with influencers and building relationships with them is just part of my regular package. It’s not as time-consuming as it sounds, and I’m currently enjoying experimenting with it.
Having an active social media presence in itself is enough to prompt journalists, in particular, to contact you for quotes for various pieces they’re doing.

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