Your Definition of Micro-Influencer Is Probably Wrong

Before you roll your eyes at this click-baity title, at least finish reading this sentence, where I predict that when you hear the term micro-influencer, you think “small” influencer who isn’t a mega YouTube star, Instagram celebrity or blogger just yet. If I was right, then the rest of this post will be useful to you, because that definition is wrong.

Why does it even matter, you say? The short answer is, you might get duped, you’ll likely get subpar content, and your engagement will be low. More on that later.

First, let’s correctly define “micro-influencers.”

Micro-influencers are not “influencers” at all. In fact, they are usually just regular consumers, rather than aspiring YouTube stars, bloggers or social celebs who just haven’t hit it big yet. They are everyday makeup artists, skateboarders, foodies, architects, tattoo artists, beach bums, parents, retail clerks, college kids, etc., who happen to be really, really good at social media.

OK, but how is this fundamentally different than thinking of micro-influencers as smaller YouTubers, bloggers and such?

I’m glad you hypothetically asked that question! The primary difference is that small “influencers” are small for a reason. Usually that reason is they are still too new to have amassed an audience, or they simply haven’t found (or never will find) that sweet spot to make much of an impact. Contrast that to a correctly defined micro-influencer and you will find them on the opposite end of the success spectrum. Through their creative talents and ability to create amazing content, they have risen above their peers and amassed a much higher following than most of them, exerting a level of influence beyond the average consumer.

When you understand this difference, you begin to understand why if a network tries to sell you a “micro-influencer” program consisting simply of lower tier smaller bloggers and influencers, you will get very little bang for your buck, since you are working neither with influential folks nor top content creators. Contrast that to a true micro-influencer campaign and you will get that top-notch content that differentiates them from the pack.

Even better, because micro-influencers are regular people, their following is a lot more “friends and family” than someone trying to make it as a YouTube star or famous blogger, who will have focused his or her efforts on growing an “audience” from the big wide internet. When your audience consists of more people who actually know you personally, what you share and say has much more power to move minds.

Because the difference in quality and influence is so pronounced when you correctly define, identify and partner with true micro-influencers, I have made it one of my professional missions to clarify this common misconception.

The first step toward this goal is to simply rename them. I prefer to call them “alpha consumers.” This term is immediately understandable and gives micro-influencers the status they deserve as an influential force sitting at the apex of the pyramid, rather than associating them with a word that means “too small for the naked eye.” In an industry known for naming and framing, I hope we can get this one right.

I realized that I have just opened the door to the sequel post: “Then how do we work with ‘alpha consumers’ to get the best out of them?”

Stay tuned…

About Jim Lin

Jim Lin is an SVP, Digital Strategist at Ketchum, San Francisco, and the blogger behind the popular Busy Dad Blog (http://www.busydadblog.com/). Honored by Babble.com as 2011’s funniest dad blog, his blog documents the lighthearted, humorous side of his adventures as a father of two. He is also active in conference circles, having served as a speaker/panelist at BlogHer, BlogWorld, Blissdom, Dad 2.0, Bulldog Reporter and Type-A Parent. His position at Ketchum represents the first time he’s broken his “separation of blog and state” rule, integrating his personal passion for blogging into his professional life. This basically means he no longer has to scramble to minimize his Twitter window whenever someone walks into his office.

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