What if you didn’t have to pay upwards of four-to-six figures per influencer Instagram post?

While it’s the going rate of many mega- and macro-influencer activations, it is straight up absurd — especially given the half-life of a social post. You can’t expect to move the needle with a single post, no matter how expensive (and usually because of it).

But when you have thousands of influential consumers posting about your brand? That, my marketing friends, is a micro-influencer movement.

Tonnage media and impression-based marketing are relevant today because of volume and scale still matter — especially when it comes to legacy consumer brands. But micro-influencer marketing takes it one step further, going where mass media cannot: 1-to-1 engagement at the top of your customers’ social feeds, at scale. With the power of many, micro-influencers have major impact. But unlike celebrities, social media stars, and bloggers, micro-influencers have a comparatively lower cost of activation.

At the end of the day, micro-influencers are your customers first, influencers second. It’s not to say money doesn’t matter — it’s the relationship, not the reward, that drives success. Micro-influencers’ motivation and your value exchange matters more. Similar to loyalty programs, the incentive and rewards structure for a micro-influencer marketing program has the potential to deliver higher value than just dollars and cents because they tap into key psychological factors of why people buy: scarcity (fear of missing out) and exclusivity (desire for gain).

Humans have always been conscious consumers, hardwired to react to loss and to indulge in opportunity — both mechanisms to keep us surviving. There are a variety of incentives that you can provide to micro-influencers in exchange for creating, amplifying and submitting branded content, as long as you make sure the perceived value of the reward is inline with the actions you want your micro-influencers to take. Here are seven different ways that you can incentivize and reward micro-influencers without exchanging money:

1. Give branded rewards over cash

A successful influencer marketing strategy starts with the end in mind. Branded rewards, including gift cards, swag, and product samples can not only be high-perceived value rewards, but also function to re-engage your micro-influencers in your customer journey. For instance, gift cards can be used towards a future purchase, swag can elevate the offline impact of your micro-influencers, and product samples are your next reviews in the queue. You’re creating new touchpoints while adding value at every stage.

2. On-demand incentivization & rewards

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In-the-moment incentivization directly speaks to the desire for gain – even when higher rewards are offered in the long term. We live in an on-demand society driven by the expectation of instant gratification. As such, we found that a reward-first activation in which the micro-influencer knows they’ll instantly receive a product or gift card upon completion of the post drives 7% higher activation rates on average than a high-value, ‘enter to win’ sweepstakes. By compelling an immediate sense of gratification, you’re also driving urgency and increasing the likelihood those micro-influencers will re-engage in similar activities.  

3. Make it an experience

Buying is an emotional decision. Experiential incentives and rewards have the power to engage the senses and generate positive emotions in the ways that objects do not. They become memories that your micro-influencers consciously and unconsciously associate with your brand, increasing brand affinity, sentiment, and customer value over time. In fact, objects have the opposite effect – once attained, desire diminishes exponentially as focus shifts to acquiring the next thing.

Experiences also aligns your brand with today’s cultural norms. Wealth, affluence, and the definition of a well-lived life is not measured by what consumers have – but what consumers have done.

4. Offer exclusivity or early access

In the similar vein of experiences – consumers today want access, not objects. The proof is in some of the most profitable companies today: “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.”

What they all have in common, is that they provide consumers access. The battle for consumer engagement will be decided by who can provide the easiest/faster/better/stronger access. By rewarding micro-influencers with direct lines of access to your brand, products, or desired experiences, you create an intrinsic cycle of motivation to remain influential and reinforce their brand loyalty.

5. Provide persistent promo codes or perks


One of the questions we’re frequently asked is, once someone is proven to be influential for your brand – how do you know that they will stay influential? What you don’t want to happen is for your micro-influencers to spam all of their friends and lose their impact. One way to guard against that is to provide always-on promo codes and perks on the condition that your micro-influencers continue to deliver value (how they contribute to your marketing and business). Similar to many employee advocacy and brand ambassador programs, as long as they remain influential, they’ll retain access to the reward.

6. Use product gifting or sampling for UGC only

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Because of the costs associated, value driven and the added control afforded, product gifting and sampling should be used strategically. Depending on your brand and vertical, product samples can come at a higher cost than promo codes and other branded rewards, often due to fulfillment alone.

When activating micro-influencers to create content, gifting or sampling programs offer you control over the exact product and posting guidelines you want micro-influencers to feature and follow – while still allowing for creative freedom. It’s also an opportunity to recognize and reward high-quality content creators in your micro-influencer program.

7. When in doubt – surprise & delight

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A surprise & delight model works particularly well if you have a smaller incentives & rewards budget, or passionate micro-influencers who don’t necessarily require a robust incentive and reward strategy to motivate them to post about your brand. It demonstrates that you not only value your customers, but provides that customer an exclusive experience that elevates their positive feelings towards your brand while creating major fomo. Unlike a mega- or macro- influencer post, a single social post that results from a ‘surprised and delighted’ micro-influencer at random has the power create genuine buzz and excitement across all your social channels.

For more insights, download our Rise of the Micro-Influencer white paper.