One of the biggest trends in influencer marketing strategy today is the move from larger influencers (celebrities, media personalities and the like) towards smaller, more niche influencers. For newcomers to the field, there’s reason to be skeptical; why should a blogger or a YouTuber be able to get your brand anywhere near as much reach or engagement as a well-established name? In this article we’ll explain the reasons behind this David-and-Goliath upset and explore why small influencers can be so powerful online.

Reason 1: You get more engagement per post

Studies have shown that larger influencers have far less engagement than small influencers on social media. An influencer with approximately 1,000 followers can expect an average of 8% of their followers to like a given post; an influencer with a following of around a million, however, can expect only 1.66% of their followers to like a post on average. Clearly the latter influencer will still be garnering more reactions and engagement in absolute terms (MATH), but this data also makes apparent how much more engaged the following of the former influencer is proportionally. If you consider a less drastic gap in follower counts – for example, an influencer with 20k followers versus one with 100k – it is easy to see how the former (with an engagement rate closer to 8%) may wind up converting more potential customers than the latter (with an engagement rate closer to 1.66%).

This makes sense intuitively. A large celebrity may have a big following, but many of those followers are likely to be casual fans who are mostly uninterested in the specifics of their lifestyle. Small influencers, on the other hand, are definitionally niche, which means that the people who follow them only do so because they have a specific interest in that influencer’s content. Logically, then, one would expect better engagement rates from these smaller influencers.

Reason 2: You can work with them for much less

In general, smaller influencers will charge far less for a regular paid partnership than a large influencer. Perhaps more importantly, however, is the fact that working with smaller influencers opens the way for brand advocacy partnerships, which are not usually possible with larger influencers. Brand advocates are influencers who partner with your brand because they enjoy your product or service and do not require payment to promote your company (although they may appreciate samples or invitations). You can cultivate brand advocates by engaging with smaller influencers, showing them demos or inviting them to events, and generally forming relationships with influencers interested in your field; through direct engagement like this, you can reap the benefits of influencers with real appreciation for your product promoting you to a small, dedicated audience. Instead of shelling out tens of thousands of dollars for a single insincere Instagram post from Kylie Jenner, you can get a post from a committed fan of your product for free.

Reason 3: You can work with multiple influencers at once

The savings created by brand advocacy groups greatly increase the number of influencers you can viably work with at once. “Brand advocacy groups,” as we discuss in our case study with the health drink brand KOA, can pool large numbers of brand advocates together to create a huge joint impact in a campaign that engages thousands of people across different social media platforms. By contacting many smaller influencers rather than one big personality, campaigns can achieve the same kind of reach with better engagement and almost negligible cost.

Reason 4: You can reach across demographics

By getting to use multiple influencers you can also market your product to many different possible groups or demographics. A company called LifeBEAM, created a brand advocacy group that reached across very different demographics (fitness buffs and techies) to market a product with appeal to both, an artificial intelligence personal trainer. Rather than putting all of your eggs in one demographic basket, you can leverage the power of brand advocacy groups to target multiple specific demographics (as opposed to wasting money getting one large influencer to target one kind of demographic).

These reasons above show why marketing with multiple small influencers can often be a much better choice than working with a single large influencer. This isn’t to say that large influencers are obsolete – there will always be companies looking for a Kylie Jenner or a Kim Kardashian to promote their products. For many social media-based influencer campaigns, however, one can often expect far more engagement, interest and specific targeting from smaller influencers.