Corporate influencers are more important than celebrities for customer connection

You can put away your large budget planned for celebrity endorsements and look to your in-house influencers instead.

The influencer marketing market will reach $5-$10 billion dollars over the next five years according to a new study. Instagram influencer marketing alone is projected to be worth near $2 billion in 2018.

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Skillful use of influencers can propel brands to success rapidly, but there can be significant downsides if businesses get things wrong.

Now a new study will help enterprises to get the best ROI from influencers.

Also: Instagram IGTV: 3 ways businesses can use the service TechRepublic

London, UK-based digital marketing agency AccuraCast has carried out new research into influencer engagement.

It analysed almost 60 million influencer touchpoints across YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

The study was been designed to normalise engagement across different platforms to provide a fair comparison of influencer metrics.

The research revealed that impact of mega influencers across social media platforms is waning, and micro influencers – and in-house staff -- could be a better ally for your marketing efforts. 

Micro influencers, defined as having between 10,000 to 99,999 followers or subscribers on a single platform, demonstrate better return on investment for marketers than mega influencers, as typically they tend to receive a greater rate of engagement per thousand followers.

The number of followers is inversely proportional to engagement rates on all platforms except YouTube. YouTube is the only social network where greater popularity has meant a disproportionately higher rate of engagement. While the rate of comments per subscriber remains consistent, the rate of likes per subscribers increases rapidly. 

Also: Seven days of Instagram: Mixed results from a short push to increase engagement 

YouTube gets the best on-platform engagement, but often delivers the lowest website click-through rates. Popular YouTubers earn more engagement through likes on YouTube compared to micro influencers.

YouTube has the highest engagement rate per followers for both comments (6.89 per 1,000 followers) and likes (80.1 per 1,000 followers). YouTuber influencers are worth targeting. More likes on a video also equate to more views, so even if a video were to receive fewer comments, there is still high content consumption.

Although it is the most democratic social network, Twitter has the lowest overall engagement rates, (37.0 Likes, 0.76 Comments per 1,000 followers) irrespective of the size of an influencer's following.

The level of influence seems to have little effect on the rate of engagement. There is a clear average expected rate of replies and likes per follower. The number of followers has no significant impact on the rate of engagement.

Mega influencers on Instagram are usually not the best choice when looking for engagement with branded content. Instagram's average rate of comments received drops as the follower count increases.

This could be perceived as counter-intuitive, but with the rise of fraudulent activity as influencers buy followers and use bots, this is understandable for some influencers. Micro influencers drive more meaningful engagement per follower, which is contrary to the stereotype that mega influencers create the most engagement.

Also: This is how YouTube influencer scam artists operate 

Micro influencers on LinkedIn typically get far better engagement rates than influencers with many followers. However, micro influencers on LinkedIn with a few thousand followers get far more comments and likes per follower than the network's identified "influencers".

Enterprises -- especially those with teams of advocates or evangelists -- are more likely to drive engagement on their LinkedIn content by advancing in-house micro influencers.

Farhad Divecha, Managing Director and Founder at AccuraCast, said: "For the major social media platforms bar YouTube, a smart and more cost-effective way to target your key audiences is by partnering with micro influencers to drive engagement.

This is particularly true for B2B brands with LinkedIn revealed as the 'anti-influencer' network. For businesses operating in this area, we would even suggest harnessing the reach of your internal stakeholders or in-house influencers than to partner with micro or mega influencers on this platform."

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