Lessons From Micro Influencers: Part III

Photo Credit: Elena Koycheva

Photo Credit: Elena Koycheva

I went deep with each of the seven micro influencers. Here are the remaining insights they shared:

Adam: What advice do you have for those interested in working with influencers? How do you do decide who to work with?

Luci Petlack: There are a few major turn offs for working with brands (whether for gifting or with sponsored content). I know my audience and my aesthetic, so when a brand reaches out to me that doesn't fit one or both of those, it's a major turnoff. I wouldn't be apt to agree anyway, but it further turns me off since I don't feel they've really done any research on me or what they want. So do your research about what audience you're after, what goal you're trying to achieve, and if the influencer you're reaching out to fits those criteria. Another big frustration is budget. I understand having a small budget, but brands who mention that they're a small business and hope that I would help them out obviously don't understand the world of influencers. We are small businesses as well, yet the give-take feels rather one-sided. It's really a matter of semantics, but avoid the 'guilt trip' tactic and ALWAYS keep the door open to future collaboration opportunities.

Carrie Forrest: My best advice for brands is to recognize that you get what you pay for with influencers. If you are only offering product as compensation, then you aren’t going to get much. These days, it’s important to have a budget and then to work with influencers who are experienced at working with brands. I think it’s wise to be really specific about what you expect from an influencer. It’s okay to ask for screenshots of analytics from social media accounts. It’s also okay to be really clear about messaging and what you want from a campaign.

Lauren Mims: As someone that represents a lot of brands in the hunt for influencers as well, my strongest recommendation is to look into any of the auditing tools out there to vet the influencer's audience. So many people out there are buying followers, you need to protect yourself from scammers. When brands reach out to me for collaboration, I dig through their platforms to make sure their business is legitimate, on brand with mine and that it's something I can authentically support. For example, I've been approached by menswear companies before which makes no sense as I don't cover fashion!

Griffin Wallace: Advice for those interested in working with influencers. It's pretty simple, find the people that are using their story feature to tell a story. This simple little trick will weed out all the useless huge influencers with 100s of thousands of followers but no influence. The only people that have influence (besides celebs) are people that tell a story and show the authentic side of themselves. Think about a fitness profile that strictly posts pictures of ripped guys with zero captions and no stories, people viewing say "Ok, that's great but how did this ripped guy get ripped?" On the other hand you have a guy with 15,000 followers that shows his life through his stories how he does his workouts, what he eats, how long he sleeps, what supplements helped him get there...This page is worth 10x the bigger profile with just pictures and no "story". This is something that's changing heavily in 2019 on Instagram as brands are starting to realize that engagement rates and follower count are not as important of a metric as HOW people are engaging with the influencer and HOW the influencer is engaging with the followers. I work with companies that understand this dynamic, you'll start to see the big brands make this change this year.

Kavita Channe: Many brands reach out to me every day. However one rule I have kept throughout the years is... I actually have to genuinely like the brand and what they are providing... or else I won’t collaborate with them. The last thing I ever want to do is to mislead anyone that follows me. It’s just not worth it to me!

Amber Renae: These days I would work with micro influencers that have around the 10k size of audience. I find this audience has a higher engagement rate per post and has a real connection with their audience. When the audience size starts increasing, the engagement drops off and its harder to maintain personal connection…and influence. You want to firstly check the insights for their audience and confirm it aligns with your target market. Then obviously check the tone and messaging of their feed to again confirm brand alignment. I would then look to ensure you have your entire demographic covered. So work with influencers who cover certain parts of your ideal customers demographic, either a specific location or a certain age bracket. The more targeted you can get, the more you’ll reach your specific audience.

Katie Moseman: For brands who are interested in working with influencers, I recommend that you have a solid plan in place before you reach out. Decide on your goals, choose the best platforms (i.e. blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) to accomplish them, and then design the campaign messaging to organically fit those platforms. When I decide whether or not to work with a brand, I look for the signs that they know what they're doing: they have a reasonable budget, they have a plan in place, and they communicate clearly and promptly.

Adam: What advice do you have for those interested in becoming micro influencers?

Luci Petlack: Just Be You! I spent the first year of blogging attempting to mimic the bloggers I was following and it just didn't work for me. Why would anybody follow a copycat version (and not a good one) of something that's already out there. What's your spin in your niche? Embrace that! You'll create better content when you're being true to yourself anyway and everyone else will be able to sense that!

Carrie Forrest: it’s really important to know who you audience is. I felt really disconnected from my audience until I niched down and started speaking directly to my avatar. It can take some time to know who your audience is, but just imagine you’re speaking to a friend. Your audience is likely going to be similar to you, so speak to your own fears and dreams.

Lauren Mims: Quality over quantity. More and more brands are looking at more than just your following, they want to see that it's a high-quality and engaged audience. Set your standards high from the beginning and keep that engagement rate above 5%.

Griffin Wallace: The number 1 thing a person can do is pick a niche...fitness, food, video camera reviews, anything goes. And there is an audience for EVERYONE. Start getting comfortable talking to the camera! And realize this is a long game where you want to build quality followers that trust you.

Kavita Channe: Be authentic and thoughtful with your posts. What message are you wanting to send out there? What kind of brands do you want to work with? What kind of audience uses those brands? What do they want to know? Collab with other influencers in your area (geographically) and/or specialty (for ex, fitness). Do giveaways. Post regularly. Follow other accounts that you love and wish to learn from.

Amber Renae: Before you even begin to grow your audience you need to ensure your profile has beautifully shot images that are congruent with your branding. All images need to have the same look and feel, and they should all communicate the same brand message and persona. That way when people do find your profile, they are more likely to follow, rather than just click off! You need to stand for something and be consistent with your messaging. So step #1 is Brand Clarity and Messaging. I would also strongly recommend studying this – as you would any new topic you wanted to master. Do training programs, subscribe to blogs, and watch tutorials. There is a wealth of info out there, so educate yourself on what’s working now.

Katie Moseman: If you're interested in becoming a micro influencer, I recommend that you do your homework before you start building your brand and audience. Learn everything you can about the current state of influencer marketing. You need to know what areas are profitable and not so competitive that you would have trouble being seen and heard in the crowd. With that knowledge, you'll be able to put your own creativity to work to make something that's unique and marketable.

Adam: What has being a micro influencer taught you about branding and marketing? What are your three best marketing and branding tips?

Luci Petlack: You have to get out there and do it yourself! Once you're an established influencer, sponsorships and collaborations will come to you more easily, but before then (and even after), you are your biggest proponent.

My three best marketing and branding tips are:

1. Know your Audience. It took me years to figure out exactly who I was talking to and who would like my content. Once I figured that out, my content became higher quality and I had a much easier time navigating goals and collaborations.

2. You are your own PR team! If you want to work with a company, you need to contact them. Find email addresses or message the brand on Instagram asking for contact information. Let them know you like their brand and ask if they're working with influencers in anyway. 

3. Follow Up. This is probably the biggest lesson I've learned in the last seven years. Most of the time, you won't get a response from an initial email. Give it a week and follow up. If you do talk to someone and end the conversation with a possibility of working together in the future, then follow up a month or two down the road. Show them you're interested and show them that you're a professional!

Carrie Forrest: I have an MBA in marketing, but 90% of what I’ve learned about marketing has been on the job as an influencer. The biggest lessons have been about connecting and growing an audience. It’s really tough to break through the noise and stand out. The only way to do that is to have an opinion and to speak truthfully and authentically.

My three best tips are:

• Find your audience and speak directly to her. Don’t be scared about niching down to your exact avatar. It’s so much more authentic and powerful when you’re creating content that speaks to an individual.

• When it comes to branding as an influencer, personality and consistency is everything. I try to be really consistent going from social media platform to platform, or from my blog to video content. There are so many different places to post content, but your voice keeps it consistent.

• Don’t be afraid to p*ss people off. It’s okay to say things that will make people unfollow you. That’s the only way to find the people who stand with you!

Lauren Mims: To be fair, I kind of had an advantage over my peers since I have a degree in public relations and social media. But influencer marketing is something you really can't learn about in school. First tip, put together a media kit. Most influencers I know do not have one and that's a big mistake. Two, if you're not reiterating your content on Pinterest -- get on it. It's driving traffic and the life of a pin is vastly longer than any other social post. Three, if you are having a hard time closing ANY collabs, find something you do love and support it professionally on your page as proof of concept.

Griffin Wallace: "Micro-Influencing" has taught me that building a personal or business brand is one of the most important things you can do to build a business in the modern day. If you have a great personal brand platform it will be much easier to become successful in any business venture. And also, targeted followers or people that trust your brand are much more important than high follower counts. Three best marketing/personal branding tips: 1. BE Authentic 2. Pick a niche 3. Start NOW, tomorrow isn't a day of the week.

Kavita Channe: Work with brands that fit your feed aesthetic. When taking pictures lighting is most important. Communication is key to building relationships with brands in order to continue further collaborations. It’s important to be clear and realistic about expectations and deadlines.

Amber Renae: I’ve always had a really solid understanding of branding and marketing. I’ve built three 6-figure businesses from the ground up so I started with that knowledge and then applied it to my Social Strategy. My best advice would be:

1. Become known for something unique. Take a stand. Make a statement. Stand out. Do it differently. The online space is saturated so you can’t just copy what’s worked for someone else, you need to do it your way and don’t be afraid to ruffle a few feathers on the way

2. Start small and niche, targeting a certain specific demographic and then grow from there. It’s easier to speak to one sub-set of the population than trying to speak to everyone.

3. Consistency and clarity with your messaging and brand persona is what converts viewers into followers.

And my absolute best tip is: The number of followers you have is a vanity metric. Unless you have a strategy to monetize those followers you are wasting your very precious time on building your audience.

Katie Moseman: Coming from a completely different background (education), I learned about branding and marketing through the process of trial and error. If you're going into micro influencing, I recommend three things. First, study your favorite influencers closely. How do they craft their brands? How do they get their message out to their audience? Can you determine how they're making income? Second, follow brand campaign hashtags to get an insight of what's working and what's popular in influencer marketing. Finally, hone your own brand. What will audiences and brands be able to instantly recognize about your brand? Everything you do should support that concept.

Adam: If you are comfortable doing so, can you talk economics? How much money do you make on deals? How do the negotiations typically work?

Luci Petlack: What makes talking money so difficult is that it's not consistent. Each month is a new game. Some months I feel as though I'm swimming in sponsorships and the next month I could only earn ad revenue. The hardest part of running a small business, working in freelance, or being self-employed in any way is  waging the ebbs and flows because they will happen. It's not always consistent and it isn't even always a steady increase. After a while the highs and lows should even out, but they never really go away! Deals obviously depend on the deliverables. How many Instagram posts do they want with a blog post? Or how many stories with links do they want with it? Are they sending the products or do I have to go out and buy them? Is there a way to very organically fit their talking points into my posts or will it feel like a stretch. Sometimes brands reach out to me with a budget. If it's not up to my standard rates, I reply with my interest and my rates, asking if they have room in their budget. Oftentimes they can come in a bit below my asking price, so I say yes. Other times it's too big of a difference and the pay won't even cover a day with my photographer. Other times I'm asked to name the price - always the preferable option. But as I mentioned above, if it's a great month, I might stand more firm on my rates. If it's a slow month, I'm more flexible.

Carrie Forrest: I try to negotiate packages of sponsored posts with brands so we develop a long-term relationship. My typical sponsored post package is about $1,000-$1,500 per post, but I try to negotiate a package of 2-3. That way, the relationship with the brand is longer-term and we both get really invested in the relationship. I usually negotiate over e-mail or on a phone call with a brand’s marketing manager. I have a media kit with sponsored post packages and information about my site. The media kit helps start the negotiation, and then we got from there. Most of my revenue comes from ads on my site, but working with brands is definitely one of my favorite parts of being an influencer and a significant part of my revenue stream.

Lauren Mims: I structure tailored deals for most brands based on their needs, but generally speaking I charge per-post and for content trips. A single post ranges from $75-$125 depending on if the brand is providing me product as well. That being said, say a company is sending me gear that is valued well above that amount I will typically waive the fee. It's hard to charge an extra $100 when they just gave you $1000 in camping gear! My main jam is coordinating content trips for brands that include other influencers/photographers. I'll price these as sponsorships for the brands that ranges from $1000-$1500 + product. Brands typically like to hop on those opportunities because they see the greater value in a longer promotional campaign plus the high-quality photos in unique locations we produce for them. I use pitch decks and media kits to cold pitch brands and I also use my network, think creatively about who would want to work with you. For example, one of my best collaborations has been with Proven Repellent. It's a low cost item, but they see the value in influencers so they continue to invest in that form of media. What are some everyday items you use that might need exposure? Start there.

Griffin Wallace: The money I make from Instagram is more of a brokering position since I manage a network of 500+ micro influencers through my company Wizz Social. So I'm not directly making the majority of money from brand deals through Instagram, I'm making money on the influencer side of things by managing these accounts and bringing them value by helping grow their personal/business brands while also giving them access to my network of other influencers and brands to work with. Negotiations typically start from the brand looking for influencers, a lot of them attempt to send free product for a post which doesn't work anymore at least with the smart influencers. But the typical contract is 2 feed posts per month, with 2-4 story posts per week. And depending on the brand and the target demographics this payment can be $500 a month $2,000 a month or in the 5-6 figure range when you get to the real influential people creating tons of sales for these bigger companies. Most micro influencers have a team that manages their deals/contracts so #1 they don't get screwed and #2 so they don't get into conflicts of interest.

Amber Renae: There are pretty standard industry rates these days that are based on the number of followers you have, and most influencers will stick between these rates. Negotiating a deal is a really simple, open and honest process. I usually let the brand know what my standard fee is, and they let me know what their budget is and we agree on what I can deliver for that budget. It’s a very transparent process between two brands looking for the same outcome: to produce a great campaign. So in my experience, we always just mutually agree on the deliverables per budget. I have templates and scripts for all of this in Influencer Nation, and you can get on the wait list here: www.amberrenae.com/influencer.

Katie Moseman: At first, I made smaller amounts on brand deals, ranging from $50 for just a Facebook post up to $200 or $300 for a blog post plus a package of social media posts. Now, as an established micro influencer, my rates run about twice that; when I create video, the rate goes much higher as the labor is substantially increased for professional video production. When you apply to a campaign via an influencer marketing network, compensation is typically set at a certain rate chosen by the brand. You choose to apply or not depending on whether that rate meets your requirements. On the other hand, when I work with brands directly, there actually isn't much negotiation involved. I have set rates and the brand can choose to work with me or not. I update my rates on a yearly basis so that they are comfortable for me and suitably competitive without undercutting industry-wide standards. Of course, rates will vary widely from influencer to influencer based on reach, skill, and the campaign requirements.

Adam Mendler