Bigger isn’t always better—especially in creator marketing. Micro-creators, those with 5,000 to 20,000 followers, are often the smartest choice for brands looking to increase conversions. Micro-creator strategy is increasingly popular: 90% of marketers planned to use these partnerships in 2021 (up from 80% in 2020) and spend in the space is forecasted to reach $2 billion annually by 2024, more than triple what was spent in 2021. 

Jasmine Enberg, principal analyst at Insider intelligence, said that micro-creators “tend to be more relatable than creators with larger followings, so people are also more likely to trust and take action based on their recommendations.” They are also less likely to post branded content on a regular basis, allowing brands to reach audiences that tune out traditional advertising channels.

Due to their highly-engaged audiences, lower costs, and authenticity, small-scale creators can be essential partners for brands. Before initiating partnerships with them, though, brands should understand what to expect and how to craft a micro-creator strategy that fits brand goals. 

Boost engagement and conversions

In a recent campaign to drive tea sales, a brand engaged both the Kardashian sisters and a few dozen micro-creators to promote the same product on Instagram—and the latter group netted more conversions in total than the Kardashian sisters combined. In 2018, creators with small followings were found to have a conversion rate more than 20% higher than that of other creators. 

This advantage in conversions is likely because smaller creators on Instagram boast engagement rates that larger creators can’t match: Their average engagement rate is 38% higher than that of mega-creators (those with more than a million followers). This advantage varies by platform—on TikTok, both groups perform comparably while on YouTube, mega-creators win by far. 

Why are micro-creators so effective when it comes to engagement and conversions? They have an asset that celebrities don’t: A defined, trusting and attentive audience. These creators have typically tapped into a niche that their audience is passionate about, and their followers are more likely to be interested in the things that they post. A running shoe brand that hires Usain Bolt, for example, is paying for his large follower count—but not all of those followers are runners and some might not be remotely interested in running at all.

Grace Rose Farm, a cut-flower brand that sells bouquets and plants via online retail, partnered with small-scale creators for a series of collaborations featuring the brand’s flowers. In each post, the flowers are integrated into each creator’s content niche: ‘Traditional’ interior design, pastel personal style and even book collecting. This is a prime example of an effective micro-creator strategy: Thoughtfully picked creators authentically included their products in posts, reaching a diverse range of target niches.

Creators who build small communities around their passions can offer more authentic content than their larger creators—so lean into that capacity for authenticity by remaining open to hearing their insights and ideas. Having insider knowledge about a specific community can lead to the most genuine content. 

Expect a smaller budget and a more hands-on relationship

Brands that don’t have an A-list budget might want to partner with micro-creators, since they charge significantly less than creators with larger followings. 

While they won’t need to invest as much cash, brands should, however, expect to invest more time. Brands are likely to partner with several smaller creators at once, increasing time commitment. One expert suggests providing creators with a detailed brief outlining specific agreements and expectations for collaboration, to avoid miscommunication. 

And, while larger-scale creators are likely to have an agent, smaller creators prioritize loyalty and individual connection. If brands want to build rapport and trust with a creator and their following, they will need to spend time establishing and maintaining a relationship.

Turn to micro-creators for conversions and community

A micro-creator strategy isn’t the right fit for every brand. For example, brands that want to make a bigger splash and build awareness should opt for larger-scale creators and celebs.

However, the strategy can be a useful approach for brands looking to tap into the power of community online as social media evolves towards community-oriented platforms. In crafting a strategy, brands should keep in mind smaller creators’ strengths: Their capacity for authenticity, higher audience engagement and community insights. 

When brands leverage these strengths, they can create campaigns that might not reach the widest audience, but the most engaged one.