It was recently reported that Christiano Ronaldo was paid half a billion dollars by Nike for a ‘lifetime of tweets’. For Nike, the Portuguese superstar is clearly perceived as a worthwhile asset to their marketing plan. And the sports giants have the budget to bring him onboard. But for more and more brands, celebrity endorsements are being eschewed, in favour of partnerships with a growing army of social media middle-weights, known as micro-influencers.  

All the stats enforce the fact that younger audiences are ignoring traditional advertising in favour of peer-to-peer recommendations and word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing: 64% of marketers agree that WOM marketing is more effective than traditional means; 82% use it to increase their brand awareness; consumers sharing a brand’s message generated more than double the sales that resulted from paid advertising (McKinsey)… The list goes on. So, in an age where consumers are more resistant to advertising than ever before, it stands to reason that attitudes towards celebrity endorsements should follow suit. 

“A recent survey by marketing platform Markely 

suggested that the more followers an influencer has

the less engaged those followers are.”


Younger audiences that seek trust, believability and authenticity are less likely to be swayed by the recommendations of a celebrity whom they know has been paid an astronomical fee for that endorsement – and possibly doesn’t have any real, proven connection to the brand or product – than they are a recommendation by someone they feel has an authentic connection to the brand they’re promoting. What does James Cordon know about car insurance? And does Jean-Claude Van Damme really drink American beer? Probably not. 

This is where the micro-influencer comes in. A recent survey by marketing platform Markely suggested that the more followers an influencer has, the less engaged those followers are. They carried out a survey of 2 million Instagram influencers and found that those with 10,000 to 100,000 followers had a like rate of 2.4%, those with followers of 1,000 to 10,000 received a like rate of 4%, and those with under 1,000 followers received an 8% like rate. Less is more, it seems. 

When influencers have a strong but relatively small following, that following tends to be more loyal, more engaged and therefore more ‘influenced’ by what they post. While a celebrity will obviously command a mass awareness of millions, those people don’t necessarily engage with what they say, or belong to the right group that a specific brand wants to target. But when someone engages with a micro-influencer, with a following of less than 1000, they feel close to that person, follow all their posts, share the same tastes and opinions and therefore trust in what they say. 

In an era when media savvy, young audiences are becoming increasingly sceptical towards brand promises, the best way to reach out to them is through someone they trust. Welcome to the age of the micro-influencer. 

Your micro-influencer toolkit

Young audiences on social media are more steered by influencers than anything else: 40% of Twitter users say they’ve made a purchase as a direct result of a Tweet from an influencer, while 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers say they relate to YouTubers more than to traditional celebrities (Google). So then, it’s just a matter of working out which influencers are the right ones to partner with. Here’s our guide to choosing the right micro-influencer for your brand.

  • Build a relationship with 10 or 20 micro-influencers. You don’t need to have an army of influencers, just choose the right ones and build a small, manageable network with whom you can have regular contact and a meaningful relationship. 
  • Make sure they really resonate with your brand. Celebrity influence is widespread but non-targeted – the whole point of a micro-influencer is that they are relevant for your brand and your audience. 
  • Make sure your micro-influencer represents and reflects your audience. Your micro-influencer should look like your audience, be the same age and come from the same social background. Otherwise, they won’t have relevance and won’t resonate with your customers. 
  • Choose an influencer who actually cares. You need someone who means it, is actually behind your brand and not just doing it for the money. Someone who has a knowledge of your company and believes in your products will have much more meaning and influence for your audience. 
  • Understand your audience, and understand who has meaning for them. You’ll only know which is the right influencer to target, by really knowing your audience. Research where they go to consume content and who they follow in order to pick out your micro-influencer. 

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Michael Wylie-Harris

Author Michael Wylie-Harris

Marketeer /co-creation specialist with background in advertising and branding. 10 years experience working with agencies and brands like Coca-cola, Unilever and Adidas.

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