Why are retailers shunning celebrities for the ‘micro influencer’?

Research from Rakuten Marketing has found the amount celebrities get for promoting brands on social media has declined dramatically. Only two years ago celebrities could expect the astronomical sum of £75,000 for a social media post, but now they are receiving £25,000.

This does not mean less is being invested in social media influencer campaigns. Quite the opposite is true because spend on influencer campaigns has almost doubled in the same period. Major brands are now spending in excess of £800,000 per year on influencer activity, according to Rakuten Marketing.

This phenomenon is explained by the rise of the micro and mid-sized influencers. These are social media users, not will millions of followers, but numbers in the low thousands or tens of thousands, who have a highly engaged audience.

Retailers have found they can get a significantly better return on investment from a micro influencer than they can from a celebrity.

Online fashion retailer La Redoute has placed influencer marketing at the forefront of its marketing strategy and micro influcers are at the vanguard of this.

“We find that micro influencers have a closer, more personal relationship with their followers, which leads to more authentic content and a more natural influencer platform,” says La Redoute’s head of social media, Anna Faure. “Rather than flashy photoshoots and tiresome sponsored posts, micro influencers better reflect the everyday life of our customers, which keeps their content interesting and engaging.”

La Redoute primarily uses influencers for its brand building – helping to increase turnover by 10% in the last year.

Micro-influencer campaign on Instagram promoting La Redoute
Micro-influencer campaign on Instagram promoting La Redoute

Tracking sales

Alongside brand building, tools are also available to track if influencers are driving sales. An affiliate programme called Reward Style is able to ascertain how many sales of a product an influencer has driven, while trackable links can be shared with influencers to measure how many people are clicking on links within their sponsored posts.

Gemma Glover, an influencer strategist at ad agency Engine, works with a major high street retailer on their micro influencer activity and is an exponent of micro influencers’ high engagement rates.

“You could work with someone who has a million followers and their engagement will be super low,” says Glover.  “We never go on follower numbers and it's always on engagement rate and also cost effectiveness.”

For instance, one influencer Glover recently worked with has 30,000 followers and received 700 ‘swipe ups’ on a promotional post in one of their Instagram stories – an extremely high engagement rate.   

The comparatively low-cost of working with a micro or mid-sized influencer means their relationship with a brand can also be developed over a long period of time.

Glover says an influencer with 30,000 followers can expect to be paid around £2,500 for two Instagram posts and eight or nine Instagram stories.

Building relationships

Eve Sleep is another retailer with a strong influencer strategy and primarily works with them through the gifting of products.

The company has built up its relationship with influencers ever since it was founded.  

“It's all about relationship building,” says Aisling White, UK PR manager at Eve Sleep. “We currently work with influencers that we worked with four years ago. It's not really a one off thing for us, it's very much an ongoing relationship.”

A Eve campaign with lifestyle mentor and micro influencer, Allison Sadler
A Eve campaign with lifestyle mentor and micro influencer, Allison Sadler

Eve Sleep was able to use the goodwill it has built up with its influencers for a Christmas campaign it worked on in collaboration with homeless charity Centre Point.

Eve’s influencer partners typically have 20,000 followers and the combined reach of the campaign was huge – it was viewed by two million people over the course of a week.

Identifying the right fit

Eve Sleep chief marketing officer, Cheryl Calverley, stresses the importance of finding influencers that are aligned with its brand values. 

“Authenticity and honesty are a massive part of our brand and as a new brand and a start-up in a category where trust is really key we would try not to take the risk at all working with anyone we don't think really believes in our brand.”

Glover says her agency worked with The Only Way is Essex star, Sam Faiers, over Christmas, who deleted a sponsored post after only a couple of days.

“There's absolutely no point in working with an influencer that is just going to delete that piece of content,” says Glover. “Also they're clearly not invested in it if they do not feel proud enough to leave it up. We now always put in our contracts that the post must be live in perpetuity.”

There are numerous ways to identify which micro influencer is the right fit for a brand. Eve Sleep primarily relies on word of mouth from a tight knit influencer community, while La Redoute turned to the data capabilities of Socialbakers.

“Influencers have always existed where people have a voice and where people listen to them. That is what local press journalists were”.Eve CMO, Cheryl Calverley

Damien Landesmann, VP of EMEA at Socialbakers, says his company tracks over 25 million ‘influencers’ – people with over 1,000 followers – on Instagram. He believes that Instagram is the “king” of influencer platforms, while YouTube is the second most important.

Landesmann says that “at the very least” all retailers should ask themselves the question of whether they need an influencer strategy. However, an influencer strategy need not be viewed as a scary prospect because the overarching concept of influencers is not new.

“Influencers have always existed where people have a voice and where people listen to them,” says Eve’s Calverley. “That is what local press journalists were”.

Glover believes that influencers have come to prominence because of the decline of magazines and the greater relatability of influencers compared to a celebrity.

“A lot of consumers now go to influencers rather than looking at a fashion magazine,” says Glover.

As media consumption habits change, so must the marketing tactics of retailers. Those that do choose to implement an influencer strategy would be well advised to consider engaging micro influencers rather than paying an extortionate fee to a celebrity.

The celebrity influencer is dead, long live the micro influencer.