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Macro vs. Micro-Influencers: Which One is Right for Your Business?

Micro Influencer Creating Content

It’s no secret: influencer marketing works. In fact, in our screen-filled and social-media-saturated modern world, it’s one of the most effective marketing channels that exist. And it’s only getting bigger.  But a lot of people still have questions about how to implement it for their business. For starters, which influencers should they work with? Should you use all of your budget on the biggest names – or will smaller influencers do the trick?  Keep reading for a full breakdown of macro vs. micro influencers. 

Macro vs. Micro Influencers: What’s the Difference?

The main way to determine which influencers are “macro” and which are “micro” is through follower count. 

Accounts with a large number of followers, usually in the hundreds of thousands, can be defined as macro. Accounts with smaller but still respectable followings, usually in the tens of thousands, can be defined as micro

Not too complicated, right? 

Unfortunately, things can get a little more confusing when we try to hammer down to specific number ranges. For instance, some will argue that the cut off for micro and macro is 10,000 followers. 

Under 10,000? That’s a micro influencer. Over? They’re macro. 

Yet other sources claim that an influencer isn’t even considered micro until they hit 10k – and anything under that is “nano”. 

So, let’s not get too bogged down with specifics here. As a general rule of thumb, the industry defines those with a following of 10,000 – 50,000 as a micro influencer, with everyone above being classified as macro. 

However, this can vary a bit from person to person, and there’s a blurred line in-between where you could argue either way: is this influencer micro? Or is it macro? 

We’ll save that argument for another day. For now, let’s focus on how each type of influencer can help your business or brand. 

How Much Do They Cost? 

Let’s start with the bottom line: macro influencers cost more than micro influencers. 

That’s a given. 

But size isn’t the only thing that affects rates. Engagement, niche, location, and other metrics come into play too. 

And as an influencer’s audience gets bigger and bigger, their rates tend to increase in a non-linear fashion. In other words, an account with 500k followers may charge over 5 times more than an account with 100k. 

That’s because there are a vast array of factors that affect the true value of an influencer. For instance, macro influencers have more options to choose from, are more used to negotiating rates, and are less motivated by perks like a free product.

What does this mean for your business?

That it can sometimes cost less to hire multiple micro influencers than one macro influencer, even if their combined total follower count is the same. This is true whether you have a set budget or whether it’s based on key performance indicators (KPI) or other objectives.

And it becomes an even better deal than it might seem as we go deeper in our comparison.

Which One Drives More Engagement?

While cost generally goes up as follower count increases, engagement rate does the opposite. 

Yes, an account with 500k followers will almost always get more likes and comments than an account with 10k. However, you can almost guarantee they’ll have less likes/comments per follower. 

For example, let’s say the 500k influencer gets 10,000 likes on a post, while the 10k influencer only gets 500. Big difference, right? 

However, if we calculate the engagement rate by dividing the number of likes by the number of followers, the bigger account’s is 2%. And hey, that’s really solid for an account of that size. 

But the smaller account’s is 5%. That’s 2.5 times more! 

Of course, this is just a quick example, but this same dynamic plays out pretty consistently across influencers. Smaller accounts simply have more engaged followers.

How Relevant are They to Your Industry? 

One of the most important aspects of efficient, cost-effective marketing is targeting. 

If you’re selling gardening equipment, you want to target, you know, people with gardens – or at least yards. Because they’re the people who might actually buy your rakes and shovels, not people who live in a high-rise condo and buy all their produce from Whole Foods. 

How does this apply to the world of influencer marketing?

Well, micro-influencers tend to have a more focused follower niche or demographic, on average. 

For instance, there are tons of small accounts in the travel space that only post about travel, fashion accounts that only post about fashion, and so on. However, if you look at the biggest celebrity influencers, you’ll see them post about travel, fashion, food, fitness, and anything else that’s on their mind – all on the same page. 

Of course, the difference between micro and macro-influencers isn’t always so black and white. But the trend tends to hold true when we look at the big picture. 

And the more focused content from micro-influencers leads to a more focused following. A small men’s fitness channel will typically have an audience of mostly men that are mostly within the same general age group. Whereas someone like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson might be a fitness icon in many ways, but his 200+ million Instagram followers are way more diverse. 

From a marketing perspective, there are some advantages to the larger, more varied following of macro-influencers – and we’ll get into that later. But for bang-for-your-buck conversion rates, we’ll take the more focused audience every time. 

Again, if you want to sell rakes, you want to market to people who want to buy rakes.

Which One Do Consumers Trust?

But there’s another aspect of an influencer’s relevance too. Going back to the small fitness channel example, you can probably guess the type of products they’ll endorse: gym apparel, nutritional supplements, workout programs, and the like. 

But you can’t do the same for The Rock. He’s done big campaigns with Under Armour, but he’s also worked with car manufacturers, bottled waters, and tech companies. And he also promotes his own movies, of course. 

Now, while such a massive influencer’s endorsement can still give any business a huge boost, especially if you’re already a major brand, more focused marketing can be more cost-effective. 

Typically, the smaller influencer compels you to buy a product because you think they know what they’re talking about – and that the product is going to fit your needs. You assume the fitness guru knows the best supplements and that they’ve used them personally. You value the travel blogger’s tips and recommendations because you’ve seen the photos of their many journeys. 

They’re experts in their field, at least to some extent. And that’s a powerful cue for sales and marketing. 

Whereas with the larger influencers, it’s more of an emotional decision, at least when they endorse a product outside of their niche. Does Beyonce even drink Pepsi? And even if she does, does that mean a lifelong Coke drinker will prefer it too? Not really. 

Of course, when she talks about music or The Rock talks about fitness, we listen. But when they endorse a car brand, well, we’re less convinced, at least from a logical perspective. 

And there’s another issue: people tend to trust micro influencers more than macro influencers

There are plenty of reasons why this would be the case. But their choice of endorsements is one of them. As is their engagement with their audience, which is another powerful tool for conversion. 

How Big is Their Reach?

By now, you may be thinking: “why the heck would anyone actually use macro influencers?”

However, there is one area where they surpass micro influencers – and that’s reach. 

Every post they make reaches hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of users. And that’s a great way to boost awareness of your brand or business. 

Now, it’s theoretically possible to reach a similar sized audience with multiple micro influencers. For instance, hiring ten influencers with 100k followers for a total of 1 million total followers. 

However, it’s not quite that simple. For starters, there may be an overlap between each accounts’ following. People who are into, say, fashion probably follow multiple influencers in that space. 

But most importantly, bigger names simply have bigger clout. Even though people trust macro influencers less, seeing an influencer that’s a major player in their field, let alone a celebrity or “mega” influencer, collaborate with a brand carries more weight than a bunch of less notable accounts doing the same. 

Don’t get us wrong: there’s definitely value in creating brand awareness through a more grassroots, word-of-mouth approach. But that’s more of a long burn strategy, not an instant one. 

Which One Should You Use? 

So, we’ve compared macro and micro influencers in five key areas: 

  • Cost
  • Engagement
  • Relevance
  • Trust
  • Reach

And as we saw, micro influencers performed surprisingly well in four out of five, while macro influencers remain the kings (and queens) of reach. 

But let’s boil it down even further: what does this mean for your business?

Ultimately, any business can benefit from both types of influencers. However, if you’re a smaller business with a limited budget and a focus on boosting your bottom line, micro influencers are probably the better option. But you need to be sure that you’re still working with quality creators, of course. 

At the end of the day, you’re simply getting more for your money. 

That being said, if you’re more focused on improving awareness of your brand, then carefully selected macro influencers are the way to go. Their reach just can’t be beat. 

Get in touch today to see whether micros or macros are right for you