Inside the micro-influencer market

Influencer marketing is now a $14 billion industry. And brands are realizing that it's no longer just about collaborating with people who have millions of followers – working with smaller-scale creators can be just as effective.
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Engagement over followers

Micro and nano influencers usually have a niche sell – anything from cooking to BMX biking – and followers can be much more engaged with their content as a result. Usually more relatable than big-time names (and their overly stylized photos), smaller-scale creators are increasingly being brought on by businesses to be brand ambassadors. So, how's it work?

While influencers are usually paid a one-off fee to endorse a product, service or a brand, ambassadors are rewarded slightly differently: there's usually no financial reimbursement, but they get free products and insider, behind-the-scenes access to the brand. Meanwhile, affiliates sit in between, getting paid on a commission basis for any sales linked to their content. 

Customers can be converted into brand ambassadors too, and so they're seen as much better advocates of the brand than someone being paid to endorse it. Brands usually take on multiple ambassadors as part of a wider program, with the aim of sparking conversations in multiple social communities. So – the thinking goes – brands should see more long-term positive impact through ambassador programs than one-off campaigns with bigger influencers.

More: Buying influence (and content)

Keep them sweet

For products that are hard to test before buying – like food and drink, beauty and skincare – marketing through ambassadors can be really impactful. It can also justify the price of premium products, says Aimee Pellegrino, director of marketing at Sweet Reason, a brand of CBD-infused beverages. 

Sweet Reason launched its ambassador program called The Calm Collective a year ago after noticing that customers were posting high-quality content and testimonials about the brand organically. Aimee and marketing coordinator India Garcia explain what they've learned.

• ‘There's definitely strength in numbers, but also in starting small and scaling slowly,’ Aimee says. Sweet Reason started with 30 ambassadors, which means it can host in-person events and focus groups with them. 

• Recognize that your ambassadors are business owners. ‘Each Calm Collective member has a unique code to share with their community, and we track it,’ Aimee adds. That's helped Sweet Reason to track its brand awareness, and also helped ambassadors learn about how best to monetize their content and work on future paid partnerships. 

• ‘Show them you care and provide them the autonomy to be creative,’ India says. Investing in their personal development as content creators can go a long way in how committed ambassadors are to spotlighting your brand.

A version of this article was published in the Courier Weekly newsletter. For more useful stories, tips, tricks and simply good advice, sign up here.

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