Brand endorsement is a marketing tool that has been evolving rapidly in the wake of the social media boom, moving from the traditional celebrity endorsement to the growing “micro celebrity” endorsement- otherwise known as influencer marketing. These micro celebrities amass their own dedicated online following and use their platform to advertise products and services that they enjoy which their followers can than purchase. Influencer marketing, growing in value from $1.7 billion USD in 2016 to 13.8 billion in 2021(Influencer Marketing Hub and Refersion, 2022), has motivated brands to seek out and recruit micro celebrities to represent and drive consumers to their brands.
Micro celebrities can be defined through the concerted and strategic cultivation of an audience through social media with a view to attain celebrity status (Khamis et al., 2016) and generally has a following of under 10000. Micro celebrities create content for their followers to consume, organically growing their audiences and creating a unique influencer/ follower relationship. This relationship is characterized most prominently through high engagement. Micro celebrities, using various engagement tools on social media such as live Q&A sessions and direct messaging, become more approachable and relatable to their audience, which has a significant persuading effect on them (Silalahi, 2021). Outside of the considerably lower cost, it is this engagement rate which is making micro celebrities more attractive to marketers than the traditional mega celebrity.
Micro celebrities are able to ultimately connect with their audiences more efficiently than their larger celebrity counterparts and for several reasons. Unlike the global superstardom of celebrities, micro celebrities are just regular people, which creates an allure of authenticity and honesty making them relatable to their followers. This relatability is reinforced with communication between the influencer and follower, again which isn’t an option with larger celebrities (Nouri, 2018). Through various social media platforms and their respective communication tools, micro celebrities are in constant dialogue with their audience- answering questions, responding to comments etc. Successful influencers are not only engaging to their followers but often have traits of enthusiasm, honesty and authenticity- traits which brands wish to be associated with. Micro celebrities also come from a variety of diverse backgrounds which gather niche and impressionable followings which brands might not have been able to reach conventionally (Silalahi, 2021).
To really encapsulate how effective micro influencers have become as a marketing tool you only need to see the exponential growth of the social economy. Influencer marketing focused platforms raised over $800 million in 2021, a significant indication of growth. Influencer related companies also grew by 26% globally in the same year to reach 18900 total companies which specialise in influencer marketing (Influencer Marketing Hub and Refersion, 2022). This incredible growth is only set to continue with social commerce sales set to top $958 billion in 2022. The influencer market also has valuable insights for marketers across the different social platforms according to the report. Whilst Instagram remains the preferred platform for businesses (around 80% of businesses who use influencer marketing prefer Instagram) and attracts the most use from millennials, Tik Tok is creating a future market with Gen Z. Tik Tok garners engagement rates of 12.43% in the micro celebrity category compared to 4.84% for Instagram and is heavily skewed to female users aged 24 year old and younger. With around 67% of Tik Toks users in the Gen Z category and a just over 25% in the millennial, Tik Tok is positioning itself as an important platform for influencer marketing for the next decade. With newer generations growing up with influencer marketing and the technology which facilitates it, the future of influencer marketing is bright.
Despite all the positive signs for micro celebrities and the social commerce sector, competition in this space is fierce and influencers should be wary of what consumers really value. A survey of 540 women between the ages of 18-25 were asked about their purchase intention of a lipstick after viewing a micro celebrity endorsement, a micro celebrity product review and a regular online consumer review to see what consumers responded to the most. It revealed that the purchase intention based on the consumer review was significantly higher than both the micro celebrity endorsement and micro celebrity review. These results are in line with previous studies and indicate that the common person can be more influential to consumers as they appear more reliable and credible (Vionasafira & Sjabadhyni, 2018). This survey should act as a guide for the micro celebrity to remain as authentic and relatable to their audience as possible, as this is what followers truly relish and is what will ultimately influence their purchasing decisions.
As technology further innovates the way we communicate online via social platforms, the role of the micro celebrity is vastly becoming a valuable medium for brands and businesses to reach certain target audiences. By being able to connect with consumers and retain their engagement, in ways which marketers have not been able to historically, microcelebrities and their influence will continue to flourish.