Before truly understanding the power of micro-influencers, I will cover its expansive history. As a student-run agency, Roxo has the potential to provide its clients with the newest, most innovative marketing tactics -- micro-influencers included. Fortunately, I was able to sit down and speak with Macy Thompson, a micro-influencer attending TCU. She provided great insights surrounding the benefits, advantages and stories behind her job.
The History of Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a form of marketing that showcases real people using, showing and promoting a particular product or service. Influencer marketing is primarily used on common social media platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and most recently, Tik Tok. Followers are given a first-hand, authentic testimony to the benefits gained from using a good or amenity.
However, many people may be surprised to know that influencer marketing did not start on social media. In fact, it can be dated back to the 19th Century, as the Pope and royalty used their credibility to encourage their skeptic followers to use medicine to cure and prevent deadly diseases. The influence of these powerful figures was astounding, leaving many people to think, “If the Queen uses medicine, so should I.”
Therefore, brands quickly began using testimonies and figureheads to sell products. Pioneers of the influencer movement include Aunt Jemima, representing R.T. Davis Milling Company’s pancake mix in 1890 and Fatty Arbuckle’s endorsement of Murad Cigarettes in 1905. Many brands piggybacked off of this marketing tactic by using fictitious characters and celebrities as what we now consider to be influencers. Coca-Cola, known for being an innovator in the marketing field, began implementing influencer marketing by using Santa Claus as a way to give a lovable, friendly and trustworthy face to their brand. Other brands quickly followed suit, as the Marlboro Man, Tony the Tiger and Ronald McDonald became household names on traditional advertising mediums.
Types of Micro-Influencers
Celebrity influencers certainly bring advantages to the brands they represent; however, their use is somewhat fleeting, as consumers are subject to thousands of brand endorsements daily and are quick to mistrust an ad from a person with millions of followers. Therefore, many companies are turning to micro-influencers, individuals with 10,000 to 100,000 followers, and nano-influencers, social media users with 10,000 followers or less, as a way to bring credibility and awareness to their goods and services.
Micro-influencers are now the most common type of influencer on social media platforms. They are more specialized in the markets they serve, representing R.T. Davis Milling Company’s pancake mix in 1890 and Fatty Arbuckle’s endorsement of Murad Cigarettes in 1905. Many brands piggybacked off of this marketing tactic by using fictitious characters and celebrities as what we now consider to be influencers. Coca-Cola, known for being an innovator in the marketing field, began implementing influencer marketing by using Santa Claus as a way to give a lovable, friendly and trustworthy face to their brand. Other brands quickly followed suit, as the Marlboro Man, Tony the Tiger and Ronald McDonald became household names on traditional advertising mediums... should they showcase faulty or inadequate products, they would lose following and credibility. Additionally, they are highly accessible and cost-effective. They work on a contract basis and require little effort or direction from the brands.
Nano-influencers are new to the influencer marketing realm, but their future is bright. Although they have 10,000 followers or less, their community of followers are highly engaged and reliant on content. Typically, nano-influencers represent small communities such as schools, towns, clubs, specialty hobbies or low-level sports teams. They consider their follower base to be friends or family, so they typically engage in conversation and are quick to reply to comments or DMs, unlike some other influencers with larger followings. Furthermore, a large advantage of nano-influencers is location, as they are well-tied to the community that marketers may be failing to reach.
Q & A with Macy Thompson, Micro-Influencer
Macy Thompson is a junior strategic communication major at Texas Christian University and has an Instagram following of 7,470 and YouTube community of 44,900 subscribers. Macy is known for her upbeat, positive personality and college lifestyle content on YouTube, specifically.
What is your social media niche?
“My social media niche on YouTube is college-lifestyle videos for young women between the ages of 18 to 24. Typically, my videos about college get the most attention. I would say that is my niche.”
How do you engage with your followers?
“My Instagram following isn’t as big as my YouTube, but I find that I engage with my followers the most on that platform. When I post on Instagram, and a follower slides up or comments, I reply almost instantaneously because it’s easy. If I go a few weeks without posting on YouTube, I don’t get the opportunity to reply as frequently.”
What kinds of brands do you look for when partnering as a social media influencer?
“I feel like a lot of influencers say that they would never work with brands that they don’t truly support, and this is definitely true for me. The main companies that I work with are Princess Polly and Ana Luisa jewelry. I was a frequent customer before I started partnering with them, and I actually reached out to them first. I also work with brands that are helpful to other college students like Chegg and Amazon Prime Student.”
What is your favorite part about being a micro-influencer?
“I never really think of myself as an influencer. My favorite part, though, is being able to connect with people who are going through a similar situation. I posted a vulnerable video about transferring colleges and my experience with sorority recruitment, and a subscriber reached out to tell me that she appreciated what I had to say. She and I have been in constant communication since then, and I consider her to be a friend.”
What kinds of benefits do you gain from your social media following and brand endorsements?
“As a college student with a busy schedule, my following has allowed me to work without having a typical job. It’s also helped me further my career as a strategic communication student and learn the backend of social media influencer marketing. After graduation, I plan on working with influencers, so my experience with brand endorsements has definitely given me an advantage.”
What advantages do you bring to the companies you partner with?
“For short-term collaborations, I like to think that I do a good job of getting the brand’s name out there to my niche following. I typically find the most success working with brands long-term. I love to hear, ‘I bought this with your coupon code!’ or ‘I saw this because of your post!’ Luckily, some brands have noticed this effect and continue to work with me.”
Ty King is a junior strategic communication major and general business minor at Texas Christian University. She is a public relations manager at Roxo, TCU’s student-run advertising and PR agency and will be the vice president of creative and culture next semester. In her free time, Ty enjoys watching Food Network with her roommates, spending time with her family and trying out new restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth. She is passionate about the clothing, skincare and cosmetic industries and hopes to work as a marketing professional in one of these realms post-graduation.