How to Become a Micro-Influencer on Instagram

You may have heard the term “micro-influencer” thrown around these days. We all know what influencers are – social media superstars with mega followings who influence purchasing decisions – but what exactly is a micro-influencer and what does it mean for you? Micro-influencers generally have between 1,000 to 50,000 followers and focus on a specific niche. They may not command the biggest followings, but they do have something many big-time influencers lack: a deeply engaged audience. This loyal following is what makes micro-influencers so appealing to marketers.

The Rise of Micro-influencers

Marketers are well aware of the power micro-influencers hold. Agencies and in-house teams are running more micro-influencer campaigns than ever before and understand the value these individuals bring to their business. For one, they’re much more affordable than traditional influencers. The world’s top influencers get paid up to $25,000 per sponsored post, whereas 97% of Instagram micro-influencers charge less than $500 according to Hubspot.

Micro-influencers are also known for their authenticity. They are regular people who post relatable content and maintain a close relationship with their fans. As a result, they produce higher levels of engagement and have the ability to close the trust gap between brand and audience. ExpertVoice conducted a survey and found that a whopping 82% of consumers were likely to follow a recommendation from a micro-influencer.

Marketers are using micro-influencers to tap into new markets too. Jasmine Noble is the Social Media Marketing Consultant for Finlandia Health Store, a Vancouver-based vitamin and supplement store with an online shop. She says, “Micro-influencers have been extremely helpful for reaching potential customers online, Canada-wide. Since influencers tend to be younger people, they've also allowed Finlandia to reach a younger audience.”

Five Steps to Becoming an Instagram Micro-influencer

If you already have an Instagram page and are thinking, “Can I become a micro-influencer?” The answer is yes! The beauty of micro-influencing is that anyone can do it and there’s no better time than now to break into this space. Follow these five steps if you’re ready to dip your toes in the micro-influencing world.

1. Pick a Niche and Develop Your Personal Brand

Kathie Liu is an established figure in the yoga realm and her top tip for aspiring micro-influencers is to “stay true and focused on one purpose.” Decide what area you want to be an expert in and the unique angle you’ll take to differentiate yourself from others. Let’s say you want to specialize in travel, but travel influencers are a dime a dozen these days. You’ll need to narrow your focus so you can stand out from the crowd. Solo female travel, budget backpacking in South America and luxury travel for retirees are just a few examples of the different angles you could try.

Photo by Jamie on Unsplash

2. Grow Your Following

One of the biggest struggles aspiring micro-influencers face is growing their following. It’s easy to get hung up on follower counts and feel like you’re getting nowhere when growth is slow. The key is to not get discouraged and to focus on nurturing relationships. Jennifer Simpson, aka Wanderlost and Found, has cultivated a sizeable community of loyal fans in the travel niche. She shares her top tips for Instagram growth:

“Spend the time to engage authentically with others on Instagram. Leave comments on posts that you like and take the time to build relationships with people on Instagram, whether they are followers of you or not. Respond back to the people who have left comments on your posts. And definitely make sure you are putting the time in when you’ve just posted. The algorithm will reward you for being active on Instagram after you have posted. Every comment on your post that you respond to counts as extra engagement for you! Focus less on collecting followers and more on cultivating relationships, and the rest will fall into place easily.”

Kathie stresses the importance of enjoying what you do, especially when dealing with Instagram’s ever-changing algorithm. “If you like creating and curating your content for yourself first, I think the quality and the passion of your posts can come through to other people – and that’s what will engage others to follow you on your journey.”

Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

3. Master Your Pitch

Once you’ve hit a few thousand followers, it’s time to reach out to brands if they aren’t doing so already. Make a list of the companies you would love to work with and find the right person to contact using LinkedIn (usually the social media manager or marketing manager). Sell yourself in your email by highlighting your skills and how you can help the brand achieve its goals. Jennifer says don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

“It can be scary and intimidating to do, but at the end of the day, the worst that can happen is that you get an email response saying “no thanks.” Some of my best hotel stays have been with properties that I’ve emailed, thinking to myself “there’s no way they’ll want to work with me,” and then I end up getting responses back saying they’d be delighted to host me! My two favourites have even invited me back to stay with them again. You’ll never know until you ask!”

You can also complement your pitching efforts by leveraging influencer marketing apps. Platforms like Tribe save valuable time by instantly connecting you with brands across a multitude of industries.

4. Create Amazing Content

Crafting a sponsored post is more than just taking a pretty photo. Micro-influencers put a lot of time and thought into what they do and many have developed their own way of creating wow-worthy content. You can get some ideas from fashion influencer Reza Jackson:

“First and foremost is figuring out the message I want to send out with the content. Two is curating the right outfit and location to tell that story. Third is getting the right people in the room to make it happen (photographers, individuals who have access to remote locations if need be). Lastly, editing it so it matches my creative look while abiding by the brand’s guidelines.”

Melina McNatt runs Shaking My Palm Palms, an Instagram account dedicated to beach vacations. Her creative process is just as meticulous:

“I will make myself crazy thinking of ideas for a sponsored post. I want to make sure whatever I post is aligned with the brand and their message. I shoot the product in several different scenarios until one kind of jumps out at me. Sometimes I think of a caption first and plan the entire shoot around that. I think captions are so important and can really make or break a post.”

Photo editing is a must before you hit that publish button. Reza says he uses Lightroom and Photoshop to achieve the aesthetic he wants, while Melina relies on Snapseed and Lightroom as well. Other popular photo editing tools you could use include Facetune, VSCO and AfterFocus.

5. Choose Collaborations Wisely

It can be tempting to accept every collaboration request that comes in, but every successful micro-influencer advises against this. You risk losing fans and your integrity when the majority of your feed is sponsored posts. Choose who you want to work with wisely and don’t push products or services that are irrelevant to your audience.

Melinda says she is extremely picky about who she works with and turns down about 80% of collaboration requests. “I only work with brands that I love and trust. I want to keep my connection with my followers authentic and for them to continue to trust me.”

Food blogger Kirsty Ip agrees that liking the product is necessary before advertising it. “If I genuinely don't like it, I cannot partner with [the brand] as I'll feel like I'm deceiving my followers by promoting something I don't actually eat or use. A lot of people follow me for my honest opinion and advice on food and travel, so it's imperative I uphold my brand and standards.”

Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

What Do Brands Look for in Micro-influencers?

Marketers take a variety of things into consideration when selecting micro-influencers for campaigns. They want someone who aligns with the brand’s identity, is easy to work with and would genuinely enjoy using their product or service. Jasmine shares her process for choosing micro-influencers:

“The most important part for me is being able to tell what their vibe and personality is like through captions and stories/highlights. I can normally tell a lot by watching their videos. I always want to make sure that the person is genuine and someone that I would want to work with in person. I also like to make sure that our company values truly align with theirs. Since Finlandia is focused on wholistic preventative health, I would want to make sure that the influencer I choose is all about helping people achieve their health goals more or less using the same methods we would use. For example, taking supplements, being passionate about the benefits of herbal medicine and focused on natural health methods.”

On the technical side of things, marketers do their research to make sure followers and engagement are real as anyone can inflate their Instagram numbers using bots. Noble vets micro-influencers by reading their comments. “When comments sound as genuine as they do (and it's not just one-word comments or emojis), it tells me that [the influencer] takes care of their audience.”

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

Be in It for the Long Run

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are micro-influencers. Becoming an expert in your field, establishing a personal brand and building a base of loyal fans takes time and hard work. Kirsty’s passion for food was her motivation to keep going and it still took her years to get her first sponsorship request. She says, “Never get into it for the money. If you start your Instagram channel for the wrong reasons, you will get bored and quit very quickly because becoming a micro-influencer doesn't come overnight!”

There is much to gain if you’re willing to play the long game. The micro-influencing industry continues to grow and shows no signs of slowing down, which means plenty of opportunities for content creators of all kinds. Be authentic, create content you’re proud of, build relationships and it will pay off soon.

Take a look at these additional resources to up your influencing game:

5 Things to Consider Before You Make That #Ad Post

Rules of Engagement: Six Ways to Capture and Captivate Your Audience

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About Melissa Li

Melissa Li is a content writer and avid traveller who has visited 75+ countries. From Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, she has worked with some of the most innovative brands in travel and tech.