Influencer marketing has taken the marketing world by storm and the concept is gaining steady traction in the healthcare industry. Life sciences companies are no exception. Many brand marketers are finding that when they work with influencers in the patient community, their marketing campaigns see more engagement, largely because they offer patients the authentic engagement they crave.
Partnering with patient influencers is an opportunity for pharma companies in particular. It’s a way to engage with the patient community outside the confines of traditional media, which is plagued with constraints from trust issues to ad blockers. Influencer marketing overcomes these constraints by reaching audiences organically and authentically.
In the first installment of our influencer series, we looked at the micro-influencer. In this edition, we’re moving up the scale to macro-influencers — those with larger followings on social media. While macro-influencers share plenty of similarities with micro-influencers, they offer unique benefits and challenges.
What is a Macro-Influencer?
Let’s start with the basics. It’s generally accepted that a macro-influencer is someone with a following of 100,000 to one-million people. They are likely to be well-known, but they haven’t necessarily achieved the celebrity status of those who are household names (a la the Kardashians).
When the average person thinks of social media influencers, there’s a good chance it’s a macro-influencer who comes to mind. It’s also likely that influencer’s fame has been gained through the growth of their social media presence. That is to say, most became famous online as a direct result of building their online brand.
Reach and Engagement
With a larger following comes a broader and more diverse reach. Depending on the goal of an influencer marketing campaign, this can be either positive or negative. With a rare disease campaign, for example, a macro-influencer may not be ideal given the size of the target audience. With a broader health campaign, however, targeting a large population such as expectant moms or people of a certain age demographic would be well-suited to a macro-influencer.
When it comes to engagement, micro-influencers are likely to beat out macro-influencers. In one study, engagement rates among micro-influencers were around 7.4 percent compared to 2.4 percent for macro-influencers.
Does that make micro-influencers the better choice for a pharma marketing or disease awareness campaign? Not necessarily.
Let’s break it down.
A micro-influencer with an audience of 10,000 could engage 740 people with their post, whereas a macro-influencer with an audience of 100,000 might engage 2,400 people. As a percentage, macro-influencers tend to deliver lower engagement rates, but the size of the audience may make up for it. To replicate the total engagement numbers a macro-influencer offers, a brand may have to activate a small group of micro-influencers.
Ultimately, this may make macro-influencers more cost-effective partners. Although the cost of the campaign might be higher overall, macro-influencer campaigns will likely have a lower cost-per-impression (CPM). That said, the rates will tend to rise along with the size of the audience, meaning an influencer with closer to one-million followers will cost more than one at the lower end of the spectrum. The CPM will still be lower in many cases, and this makes sense if you’re looking to engage with a broad audience. It’s also a more efficient way of hitting a target number of engagements. Being seen by more eyeballs in the same period of time means hitting engagement targets faster.
Authenticity is at the core of influencer marketing’s success. But as the research shows, the larger an influencer’s following, the more precarious that authenticity becomes. For macro-influencers, there is a perception of inauthenticity, especially if the influencer features a lot of sponsored or partner content. Skeptics may equate a high volume of sponsored content with ulterior motives, the obvious being more money in exchange for product endorsements. Followers may tune-out posts and look skeptically at the word of the influencer.
Macro-influencers are still often considered more authentic and trustworthy than celebrity mega-influencers with millions of followers, but not as authentic and trustworthy as micro or nano-influencer. This is an important factor to consider when determining which level of influencer to work with. Take note of the frequency of an influencers’ sponsored posts, and focus on the high-value actions they can drive over impressions or likes — the latter of which may soon be obsolete.
At the end of the day, macro-influencers are a powerful and cost-effective way to reach a broad, diverse audience, along with moderate engagement rates. While macro-influencer campaigns may allow brands to maximize visibility and hit engagement targets, there is a greater risk of compromising authenticity.
Every campaign and brand has unique needs. Take the time to evaluate your goals, budget, timeframe, and target audience to determine which type of influencer is best suited to your needs. For industries like life sciences, where building trust is key, the most authentic choice is likely to win the day.