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6 tactics for finding small influencers who provide big returns

The influencer landscape is more crowded than ever, even as creator funding dries up. Leveraging smaller influencers will help your brand focus a limited budget toward a targeted audience.

“We’ve had luck with big influencers, and we’ve had tremendous failure with big influencers, and we’ve had sleeper hits [with] micro-influencers,” said Fernish CMO Evelyn Krasnow, speaking at eTail West 2023 in March. Finding the right influencers is “going to be trial and error,” said Krasnow.

Don’t trial influencers heedlessly. Here are tips for finding smaller influencers who can reach niche, targeted audiences.

1. Leverage Google to ensure you’re using the right medium

A lot of influencers, especially smaller ones, specialize in either photos (like traditional Instagram influencers) or videos (like YouTube or TikTok). Before you decide which influencers to work with, make sure you’re working within the right medium.

Search the same keywords used on your brand’s product listings. If Google ranks YouTube within the top 10 results, that’s a good indicator people searching those terms are interested in video content, so YouTube and TikTok influencers could pay off.

Wil Reynolds, CEO and vice president of Seer Interactive, elaborated on this strategy at the Paid Search Association Conference 2023 in February, saying, “I’m trying to use YouTube as my proxy [to show], ‘Google believes that video might be the right answer,’ which then can help me to have a seat at the table when it relates to how to invest in TikTok.”

2. Use those same keyword search results to find individual people

The same keywords that offer insights into the best media approach will also offer insights into the most influential posters. Use keywords from product listings to determine top influencers for related areas. Niche, specific keywords can help to find micro-influencers who already create content related to your products.

3. Check TikTok search pages to find the top posters

TikTok keeps a lot of information secret, but it’s very forthcoming about impressions. Even smaller TikTokers can rake in millions of impressions on a single video. You can find relevant pages by searching terms within TikTok, selecting the “Top” tab, and seeing which creators are getting the most views. Having trouble finding search terms that TikTokers use? Go to Google first. Then use those keywords to inform your TikTok search.

4. Work with existing customers

Micro-influencers’ smaller audiences lead to a community feel that can make product endorsements feel more authentic than with bigger creators. Take this authenticity a step further by sourcing influencers from existing customers.

Outdoor goods company Solo Brands has had success with micro-influencers who already love the brand. “I think authenticity around affiliates that have good content around your brand and are true either users or advocates of the brand has been more effective for us than influencers where people can kind of see between the lines,” said CEO and director John Merris.

5. Find out who follows your brand

One way to reach those existing customers is to get acquainted with followers of brand social accounts. If an account that follows your brand has its own following, even a small one, building that relationship can pay off.

6. Keep an ear to social channels

Social listening is a great strategy for finding leading voices related to your brand. Comments, hashtags, and Facebook groups are all great places to discover micro-influencers who either interact with your brand or with brands selling similar products. But don’t be afraid to branch out to other channels where people review products, like Reddit.

This was originally featured in the eMarketer Daily newsletter. For more marketing insights, statistics, and trends, subscribe here.