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Opinion

Why Micro-Influencers Are Seeing Big Growth During Lockdown

Siobhan Freegard, founder of Channel Mum, looks at why micro-influencers are seeing a surge in popularity during the pandemic.

Whether it’s Madonna lounging in a rose-filled bathtub claiming ‘Coronavirus is great equaliser’ or Sam Smith’s quarantine breakdown that was posted from a £12 million luxury mansion – not all celebrities have exactly covered themselves in glory during these dark days.

And some parts of the creator community have got it seriously wrong too. Licking toilet seats for the #CoronavirusChallenge may get you likes but it won’t gain you respect, nor pay your bills. Risking your health at a time when NHS workers are putting their lives on the line daily gives the entire influencer industry a vacuous name. Being a public figure – as influencers are – means you have a responsibility. For many people, you’re more than someone on a screen – you’re a both virtual best friend and someone similar to look up to.

The surge in popularity for micro-influencers 

While these uncertain times continue, audiences are desperately looking for people they can connect with, relate to and rely on – and that’s why we’re seeing a big popularity surge for micro-influencers across the industry. 

Don’t get me wrong, the big names still have a part to play but consumers aren’t daft. They know top influencers on six- or even seven-figure salaries are insulated from what’s going on. They won’t be furloughed, haven’t seen their job disappear and aren’t fretting each night about what the future holds.

Suddenly, preaching from your gleaming, #gifted designer kitchen to the furloughed family struggling to buy food feels tone-deaf. We’re not quite #allinittogether.

Back in the real world, I work with hundreds of UK parenting creators, and while the big names are still steady, it’s the micro and most authentic influencers – closer to their audience’s actual lives – who are seeing the most staggering growth.

Engagement rates increase

Since the start of the pandemic, micro-influencers’ engagement rates have jumped by an average of 130%, with some even trebling interactions. Subs are rocketing up too, with channels growing at an average of 304% month-on-month.

So why is this? The grassroots community we work with say a solid 95% of their audiences still want to see them continuing to post content and crucially, carry on working with much-loved brands. Reasons range from an ‘escape from constant Coronavirus news’ to a ‘taste of normality’ – but the demand for a virtual best friend to relate to is more pressing than ever. 

As an industry, we know online is a lifeline for millions in lockdown. Web use by parents is up 52% with one in five saying social media is their top choice for help and support during the pandemic, ahead of TV, radio and conventional news sites.

The parenting audience is using this enforced hometime to discover fresh, new creators who resonate with them. Mums – who already index heavily with 56% following influencers – are glued to their screens, with 13% watching even more creator content on YouTube, 12% on Instagram and eight% elsewhere, such as TikTok.

UK dads are fast catching-up too. Almost a quarter of fathers are watching extra content across YouTube and Instagram, presenting new opportunities for brands and creators too. 

Why are micro-influencers seeing bigger growth? 

It’s down to The 5 I’s:

  1. Firstly, their content is instinctive. Unlike some of the big stars whose lifestyles have become detached from the people they serve, smaller creators are still their audience. They are living the current uncertainties every day and know exactly what to say, what to post and how to respond.
  2. They are still individual. Without heavy management teams lurking in the background, they can still be their glorious selves – quirky, personal and authentic. They have no need to ‘keep it real’ as they are real. 
  3. A third key trait is interaction. During lockdown, we all crave connection and micro-influencers are more likely to reply and engage with their audience. Put simply, they have a personal touch.
  4. They’re ‘inspiriting’. This goes beyond inspiring – it means supportive of the community they are building, whether that’s their audience or other creators. And above all, most have a true purpose. They’re creating because they genuinely care.
  5. Finally, they are immediate. Whether you need a quick turnaround for a brand campaign or a video to perk up the audience’s spirits, it can often be done in a matter of hours as they retain complete control over their work.

Creating well in a crisis certainly isn’t easy. With higher follower numbers and engagement rates comes higher expectations but small creators are close enough to their audience to do it well and with both heart and soul.

All of us in the industry know how quickly a small creator can become an online sensation, and if these engagement rates continue – which they show every sign of doing – then lockdown will have created a new generation of social media stars. But for now, whether you’re a brand, a user, or an industry expert, small is certainly beautiful.

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