At 80 million strong, millennials are the largest demographic segment in the United States. Having grown up using social media, these young consumers are more than just “digital natives” — and as social media has evolved, millennials’ tendency to filter out the heavier information content in verbal posts, preferring instead photos and mini-videos that are visually appealing and can be processed quickly, has fueled a tremendous surge in the popularity of visual platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and YouTube, among others.
Colorful, visually rich pages that are meticulously curated by amateur users and followed by their avid fans now abound on Instagram and Snapchat, go-to sites for millennials. Indeed, many users of these pages have achieved a modicum of fame by focusing on a very specific topic of interest, be it food, travel, beauty, fitness, clothing, or crafts, and some command thousands of followers of their own. These “micro-influencers,” defined as those that have a follower base numbering between 1,000 and 100,000, are of special interest to marketers. Companies, big and small, have taken heed of their charismatic appeal, knack in engaging followers, and category-specific expertise, and are now actively courting them to endorse their offerings.
Traditionally, large companies that market today’s popular and recognizable brands have recruited famous personalities, such as models, actors, music artists, and sports figures, to act as the face of their brands to the public. On social media, these celebrities are known as macro- or mega-influencers, drawing millions of followers and boasting a high degree of attention-getting prowess. Yet, notwithstanding the natural ability of macro-influencers (such as pop star Rihanna) to attract attention and build brand awareness, they simply may not have the time or volition to develop a personal rapport with their followers or engage them one-on-one, as micro-influencers do. For this reason, they may not be perceived as authentic among media-savvy millennials — in contrast to many micro-influencers, who are recognized as experts within their areas of interest.
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Micro-influencers bring a credibility and authenticity deriving from their extroversion and relatability, along with a genuine passion in some field. For example, Steven Onoja, the Nigerian-born, New York-based vintage fashion maven, has endorsed brands like Nike, Levi’s, Glamor Kill, Kato Brand, and Raen Optic.