The Rise of Peer-to-peer Marketing: How Micro-influencers are Changing the Marketing Landscape
On the surface, Ryan Kaji is just like millions of 7-year-olds out there. He likes toys and video games, has an endless fascination with water slides and he has parents that loves to capture every millisecond of his unbridled childhood antics. Unlike typical 7-year-olds however, he already has an established source of income even at a very young age, earning US$22 million from a YouTube channel that was set up by his parents, Ryan ToysReview, where I suppose he started out reviewing toys but has now included videos of typical childhood antics with the added dose of blatant commercialization.
The rise in popularity of Ryan Kaji is just one example of the rise of what is referred to in our current discourse as an influencer, a phenomenon that has now greatly shifted how the biggest of brands and SEO services approach the practice marketing. Occupying a different landscape than these influencers with their millions of followers and endorsement deals however are smaller, more niche influencers referred to as micro-influencers and it’s the power this particular group holds that’s going to be the topic of this discussion.
The blurring of the lines between celebrity influencers and micro-influencers
Just a few years ago, the lines between what is referred to as celebrity influencers and micro-influencers were pretty clear. The former usually refers to the Kardashians, the Jenners and the Hadids of the world. Names that even the average people would be able to recognize even if they couldn’t exactly match those names to a face. Their field of specialization is also usually vaguely defined, with that nebulous word ‘lifestyle’ being thrown around to describe their sphere of influence.
By contrast, micro-influencers are more grounded. Ryan Kaji specializes in toys for example although I wonder just what kinds of insight can a 7-year-old offer in general about any subject. Felix Kjelberg of ‘PewDiePie’ fame, once the most subscribed channel on YouTube, gained fame for his let’s play series of videos, where he provides commentary on any video game he’s playing at the moment that could be liberally construed as a review. There’s also Anthony Fantano, the creator of The Needle Drop and the self-professed ‘the internet’s busiest music nerd’ where he uploads videos and podcasts of himself reviewing an album.
Unlike the Kardashians, the Jenners and the Hadids, it’s quite likely that you’re not familiar with any of the above names unless you’re interested in their respective niche. Both Ryan and Felix have made the headlines several times due to their achievements and in the case of Felix, his controversies, but it’s very easy to argue that their names are not as recognizable as those of Kylie Jenner or Kim Kardashian in pop culture. Anthony Fantano is even more obscure but the thing is, they can hardly be described as micro given their popularity in their respective field.
Ryan ToysReview has almost 20 million subscribers on YouTube, PewDiePie has almost 100 million and The Needle Drop has almost 2 million. That number for The Needle Drop might seem low by comparison but given the relatively insular nature of music journalism, that is actually quite an impressive number. They’re not as recognizable as the famous surnames I’ve mentioned before but if your business is trying to target a specialized niche, partnering with these so-called micro-influencers could provide more bang for your buck given their outsized influence in their respective field.
Partnering with someone who knows what they’re talking about
As an example, let’s take a look at the case of Alexa Chung, whom I consider to be one of the coolest people in fashion. Chung first began her career as a teen model before pivoting to fashion journalism when she began working as a TV presenter on several fashion-focused programs. However, Chung is probably most known for her distinctive sense style and she began appearing on numerous best-dressed lists and it wasn’t long before brands began flocking to her to represent them and to collaborate with her.
You see, there’s an ocean of difference between partnering with someone who looks good and partnering with someone who knows how to look good and if you’re a fashion brand, there’s absolutely no reason why you’d want to partner with the former if you could have the latter. This line of thinking is the reason why it’s a good idea for business to partner with micro-influencers. Not just for a one-off marketing campaign but if possible, for a more comprehensive partnership like the one Chung did with the Italian sneakers company Superga.
The world has embraced micro-influencers. Your company should too
Note that before Ryan ToysReview and PewDiePie become the behemoth that they are now, they started as micro-influencers first, with shoddy production quality and a much smaller budget. Their meteoric rise and the case of Alexa Chung pivoting from simply modelling to designing clothes of her own showcase just how the world as a whole positively sees this trend of micro-influencers. The video game industry in particular has been a fertile breeding ground for micro-influencers.
Other than PewDiePie, there’s also the case of Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins. Like PewDiePie, Ninja first gained fame for live-streaming videos of him playing the online battle royale Fortnite. The game’s popularity massively raised his profile and earlier this year, he was reportedly paid as much as US$1 million dollars from EA to stream videos of him playing Apex Legends, another battle royale game riding on the coattails of Fortnite. The fact that even niche influencers could command that kind of money shows just how much the rise of micro-influencers have changed the landscape of marketing.