The term “Influencer” has been a buzzword in the social media marketing world for years. Influencer marketing uses individuals with social media followings to help drive the message of a brand. When you break it down, an “influencer” is someone who affects or changes the way that other people behave. And while “more than 50% of Internet users say they follow some sort of celebrity or influencer account on social media,” (Hubspot, 2018). We have found that too many of these “influencers” are inauthentic and not relatable. Micro-influencers are everyday consumers who have a significant and engaged social media following. There are many different definitions of the follower counts that define micro-influencers, but typically it is anywhere between 1,000 and 10,000.
With new changes to the platform taking the "Insta" out of Instagram, we believe it’s more important than ever to create community, connection, and collaboration through social media. We are in the unique position of being influencers ourselves AND working with them for our clients. We want to share our strategy of micro-influencer marketing to encourage genuine, authentic, and approachable partnerships.
Our partnership began when we met on Instagram in December of 2014 and instantly bonded over our love of local community. We started our first Instagram community, @SimplySantaFeNM, with a focus on supporting local businesses, organizations, and events through a grassroots effort of featuring photography from local photographers and businesses that use our hashtag #simplysantafe. Our second Instagram community, @TravelNewMexico, began in May of 2015 and documents our beautiful state of New Mexico by offering guest Instagrammers the chance to do a “takeover” of the account, during which time they share their unique New Mexico road trip experiences through imagery and stories. There is so much beauty and local pride here in New Mexico that this was the perfect way to bring everyone together and bond over storytelling.
In January of 2017, we attended a presentation of La Placa Cohen’s Culture Track 2017. They shared their study of audience behavior to help organizations understand the changing cultural landscape. One of the statistics that stood out to us the most was, “Over ⅓ of Gen Z and Millennials feel that engaging on social media is an act of loyalty.” (La Placa Cohen, 2018). We feel that this statistic not only applies to Gen Z and Millennials, but anyone on social media. If you believe in a business or have a great experience somewhere, sharing about it on your social media channels is a great way of putting your stamp of approval on it and spreading the word to your network. Social media is the new word-of-mouth!
When someone you trust posts on social media about a fabulous experience they had somewhere, or a product they recently purchased that they could not love more, you believe them. It is a true peer-to-peer endorsement in terms of recommendations for places to go, things to do, products to purchase, and most importantly experiences to be had.
Our social media strategy has been to work with our business clients to create unique events, called InstaMeets, that involve micro-influencers. InstaMeets are gatherings of people coming together to create, connect and share an experience through Instagram photography. These events usually involve a behind the scenes tour, access to something that isn’t normally available to the general public, or giveaways of product in support of the promotion. Instagram conceived the idea as a way to bring Instagrammers together in real life and we have evolved this model to benefit both organizations and the micro-influencer community.
In the summer of 2018, we hosted our 4th year of InstaMeets with one of our premiere clients, the Santa Fe Opera. Like many cultural institutions, they are interested in connecting with a new demographic of younger and novice opera goers. We leveraged our local community to bring over 200 local micro-influencers to experience Santa Fe Opera in a way that was second nature to them - through photography. Santa Fe Opera provided backstage tours of their world-renowned campus, exclusive talks with members of their production team, and special reserved seating with non-obstructed view where attendees were not only allowed to photograph the dress rehearsal performance, but highly encouraged. Before we began working with the Marketing and Public Relations team at the Santa Fe Opera, photography of performances by anyone other than their staff photographer was strictly prohibited. To this day the attendees of these InstaMeet events are the only exception to the “no photography” rule. See our case study of this incredibly successful series of events here: 2017 #sfoInstaMeet Season at the Santa Fe Opera. (2018 case study coming soon!)
Do you need to start a community building feature account in order to work with micro-influencers? No, but you do need to develop an authentic relationship with your online community. We recommend doing research to see if there are online communities similar to the ones we have built in your area. The organizers of these communities will often have unique insight to the local Instagram community and would be a good asset when planning an InstaMeet of your own. Please keep in mind that the organizers of that community have spent a lot of time cultivating their relationships and they deserve to be paid for their assistance.
You might think this would require a large marketing budget, but we’ve found influencer marketing can work on even limited budgets. We are paid a fee for hosting these events but the micro-influencers who attend our events do not pay a fee to attend and (most of the time) are not paid for attending. The agreement is that attendees trade limited usage of their user-generated content and promotion to their social media following for this truly unique experience.
We are living proof of the positive power of social media done well, and the potential for lasting and meaningful relationships. Curating and creating great content, engaging with our community, and helping promote local businesses here in Santa Fe and throughout New Mexico are what we live and breathe.