First, influencers were macro: potent reach machines; then micro: delivering engagement in specific categories – now there’s the niche, explains Thomas Walters, and they bring something new.
As with the growth of many groups of peoples, from new religions to ultra sports fans, the numbers swell and factions appear, with the power of those different splinter groups generally being defined along the lines of number of followers.
And in the past two years, the same has happened with influencer marketing.
Firstly, there were just influencers. Then the numbers began to swell. Some (who weren’t already celebrities) outgrew the rest, passing the fabled 1 million follower mark and becoming celebrities in their own right - The Macro Influencers. As this happened, the creators at the lower end of the scale became Micro Influencers.
Those with even smaller followings, but who still held some power to command budgets from clients, were the Nano Influencers.
But now a new splinter group is emerging – one that isn’t delineated along its follower-size, but its specialisms; The Niche Influencer.
Two years ago, in research of our influencer database of more than 1,000 influencers, 92% of them put their speciality as being; style & fashion, beauty & grooming or lifestyle categories. Two years down the line, this is only 72%.
This new 20% is now made up of a whole host of past times and categories as niche as model making, art & illustration and education.
However, unlike the above groupings their power doesn’t come from the number of followers, but the message they are delivering and the category they are delivering it in. Niche influencers can have anything from 2,000 to 200,000 followers commanding payment from £150 per post to £2,000.
The most successful example is probably Mrs Hinch who amassed a whopping 2million+ followers on the back of niche interest posts on household hints and cleaning hacks.
We recently ran a number of focus groups to try and understand better the changing relationship between consumers and followers. When talking about who they follow and why, one said: “Because I have IBS there is an account called Tummydiets I follow, she’ll promote nice skirts that you can wear when bloated or give you really good advice on medications or coping strategies. She’s more honest, more like a friend.”
And for me, it’s this comment that really gets to the heart of why the growth in niche influencers is so indicative of the development of the changing relationship between followers and influencers. The whole relationship is becoming more tactile, more involved, less distant and more reciprocal.
When we spoke to one of our influencers about this, The Lovely Drawer told us that she had seen this change developing too. “I do interact with my followers more now than ever and I definitely feel I need to give more support, advice and help. Where I’ve been honest and vulnerable, I find people also feel more able to reach out for support and are often very honest.”
Research from Google backs this up with 4 in 10 millennials saying their favourite influencers understand them better than their friends do.
And as part of this new relationship consumers now want their influencers to give them “more than just a photo and some text”. They want DIY tips, household help, life hacks. But beyond the practical they also want the emotional, they want to be inspired and supported and feel the influencer is a confidant and friend, even a role model.
This was also referenced time and again in our focus groups, with one man saying: “I follow this guy Calum, he doesn’t have many followers, but he’s a Primary school teacher and he focuses on the educational aspect. I want to be a primary school teacher, so if he can do it then I can do it.”
These niche influencers who are more in touch and more in tune with their followers are opening the door for a huge number of new clients to enter the influencer marketing space. Particularly those looking for an authentic way go beyond the noise of large-scale influencers, who have numerous brands competing for the same grid 'real estate'.
If the brand’s objective is grass-root level awareness of getting into a super-engaged community or building brand advocacy within a niche sector/demographic, then tapping into niche communities can 100% achieve that.
Driving sales can be a little trickier, but not impossible, because brands might not get the same level of polished content, but that’s what makes them relatable to their own audience.
The niche influencer is your neighbour with a beautiful home she's super proud of, who's started sharing her DIY hacks and bargains with her friends because she WANTS to - for brands, tapping into these super-engaged communities can be really fruitful.
Because they are not 'full time bloggers with equipment, filters and photoshop, the content is raw and real, and that’s what a lot of people want now.