In a recent interview, an anonymous marketing executive claimed micro-influencers are the biggest scam in marketing, made up of tiny influencers who will do anything for a kickback. This argument might convince some, but to suggest all micro-influencers are desperate for any deal feels like a clickbait assumption.

The truth is this: If you’re not seeing returns from your micro-influencers or brand ambassadors, it’s more likely that your brand is doing something wrong.

How Are Executives Misusing Micro-Influencers?

One of the first and biggest mistakes executives make is not looking at the standards for engagement for each follower tier. While traditional influence marketers can have millions of followers, micro-influencers typically have audiences of fewer than 100,000, sometimes as few as 1,000 if they’re newer accounts.

Yet even among their thousand or fewer followers, micro-influencers can have an engagement rate of 8 percent or higher. Rather than using engagement as a metric, however, executives often pay too much attention to audience size.

They also frequently neglect to run analyses to understand who makes up each micro-influencer’s audience. Standard, multimillion-follower influencers have such a varied audience that analyzing their followers won’t draw any meaningful data. But with tools like Upfluence that provide data on influencers’ locations, social network metrics, and engagement rates, executives can easily find accounts with fewer but more engaged followers.

For instance, if your marketing campaign is geared toward young adults, such analytics can help you find ambassadors with a few thousand followers who all meet that criteria. After finding potential micro-influencers, though, many executives make the mistake of not vetting them for fake accounts.

If an account is less than a month or so old and has a particularly high following, its engagement is going to be low, and many of the account’s followers are likely fake. If the account has less than a few dozen photos or has an unreasonably high followers-to-posts ratio, it’s also likely fake.

One of the other major headaches in the space is that working with micro-influencers often means sorting through the more than 490 influencer or micro-influencer management platforms that exist now. While these companies have taken the burden of negotiating step-by-step with micro-influencers on your behalf, their markup to manage that process often makes ROI hard to achieve. It’s a hard-knock life for brands looking to get micro-influencer campaigns off the ground for small test budgets.

For the decision makers who can avoid these mistakes and conquer the hurdles, choosing and engaging micro-influencers is a highly beneficial way to boost their brands across all media. Contrary to the opinions of the executive mentioned above and others who believe micro-influencers are a scam, several brands have already enjoyed success by managing their ambassadors effectively.

Finding Useful Ambassadors

Recently, Heartbeat ran a campaign for Amazon that engaged ambassadors who were exclusively women with nieces, nephews, or children younger than five. By using 10,000 ambassadors who all shared the same characteristic, we were able to maintain eight percent to 12 percent engagement on all of their Instagram posts. Following the standards of engagement for each ambassador’s audience and keeping them consistent yielded incredibly strong quantitative results and millions of downloads for Amazon’s new photo storage application.

The more clearly you define the list of people that you want to work with and the more you’ve vetted them, the higher the output you’ll see in terms of engagement, clicks and sentiment within comments on a piece of content. Fortunately, doing so is becoming easier. In addition to platforms like Heartbeat and tools like Upfluence, you can also utilize PeopleMap to quickly and inexpensively understand the engagement of someone’s account — if they’re public — and add them to lists for later use.

3 Steps to Make the Most of Your Micro-Influencers

Like any tool in any marketer’s arsenal, your micro-influencers will bring results only if they’re managed properly, and that requires a different approach compared with standard influencers with larger audiences. These three steps can help make sure your micro-influencers are worth the investment:

1. Have a really clear guide.

Think about, and make clear, the five to 10 key tenets of your brand that you want people to talk about and keep them consistent. If your website hammers home three main points over and over again, your promotional partners should be sharing those same three points. Each micro-influencer can even choose a favorite aspect of the message and focus on that.

For example, if you’re a travel company that focuses on affordability, you might run a campaign on your website for your low-cost Hawaiian getaway option. During the campaign, your micro-influencers shouldn’t suddenly be talking about the turtle excursion or other costly extras on social media but should focus on affordability over secondary benefits. According to Blue Nile Research, more than 70 percent of consumers research a purchase on three or more channels, so keep your message and brand consistent across all of them.

2. Create a mobile site to test your strategy first.

Try to optimize conversions on a mobile test site before you send people through from Instagram and Facebook. You can test the conversions by driving traffic to the test site through your brand’s own social media accounts and then measuring the falloff to give yourself a starting benchmark. This sort of A/B testing will help ensure your brand and ambassadors consistently deliver the most relevant and engaging content.

Continue such testing before and during every new campaign to gauge the effectiveness of each strategy shift. If videos performed better than still images on Instagram during the last campaign, run an analysis of longer and shorter videos, or videos with and without sound, for the next one.

3. Buy AdWords during your micro-influencer campaign.

During your micro campaign, you are going to get the most traffic via Google search, so take advantage by buying AdWords during the campaign. Most people will not naturally click through a bio, so you can ask ambassadors to leave comments that direct followers to search Google using specific names. You can then buy the relevant tab words.

Being creative with how you capture traffic from an organic search is a bit of an investment, but it will give you a much broader range in your micro campaigns. By itself, AdWords is highly competitive, but by combining it with the efforts of carefully selected micro-influencers, you’ll gain a significant advantage over campaigns that don’t invest in it at all.

If you aren’t seeing significant returns on the use of micro-influencers, it can be easy to blame the strategy of influencers themselves for the lack of success. However, as with freelancers of all types, micro-influencers are most beneficial when executives invest the time and effort in vetting, managing, and engaging them properly.

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About Brian Freeman

Brian Freeman

Brian Freeman is the CEO and founder of Heartbeat, a female ambassador platform. Heartbeat collects 300 data points per user around fashion, beauty, fitness, parenting, college, and more. Its mission is to empower real women by giving them a voice in marketing and paying them for the power of their collective authentic voice. 

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About Cision Contributor

This post was written by a guest Cision contributor.