Membership

Make a Splash With Micro-Influencers

By / Jun 11, 2019 (ArtMarie/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Influencers on social media don’t always have millions of followers. To reach new audiences, the American Chemical Society targeted “micro-influencers” at the South by Southwest conference, creating a ripple effect that fueled a membership marketing campaign.

When you hear the phrase “influencer marketing,” you probably think of a celebrity with tens of thousands or millions of followers on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Twitter.

But not all influencers are defined by their star power or follower counts. Many  “micro-influencers” have created small communities—hundreds or a few thousand followers—with high engagement value. These are voices that associations can harness to connect with audiences they may not otherwise reach.

Just ask Amelia Grana, senior manager of membership strategy at the American Chemical Society. In 2017, ACS created a marketing campaign targeting nonmembers at the famed South by Southwest conference (SXSW), the annual gathering in Austin, Texas, focused on technology, arts, and pop culture.

“I had always known that South by Southwest was at the forefront of innovation, where many great thinkers come together,” Grana said in a session at the ASAE Marketing, Membership & Communications Conference last week. “I thought: What a great channel for us to be at, because chemistry is behind so much of that innovation.”

In about six months, Grana and a team of marketers created a membership awareness campaign designed to showcase how chemistry drives innovation in the STEM fields. With the tagline “chemistry for innovation,” the campaign was designed to catch the attention of micro-influencers who would then spread the message beyond ACS’s traditional membership base.

Here are a few tactics the campaign used to create ripples through and beyond SXSW:

Video storytelling. Because video content is often shared on influencer platforms, the campaign started with strong video stories about chemists at work in STEM. “Storytelling is such a critical component of bringing anyone into your mission,” said Katie Garrett, senior vice president of REQ, a digital marketing firm brought on to help execute the ACS campaign.

One video was designed to reach professionals in the food industry. It tells the story of Impossible Foods, explaining how the company uses chemistry to create plant-based foods like the Impossible Burger:

Personality-based quiz. ACS used this format as a social conversation starter at SXSW and is resurfacing it at its annual meetings. The quiz—Which Element Are You?—asks a few simple questions that connect personality traits to elements found on the periodic table.

“This was probably one of the most successful ways to reach people,” Garrett said. “It was a physical booth activation at South by Southwest, but it was also an asset that could be reused again and again.”

Chemistry swag. A fun extension of the personality-based quiz was, of course, free conference swag that rewarded quiz takers with T-shirts reflecting the element they matched with. Photos of the shirts were posted on social media by SXSW micro-influencers, and attendees wore them in the expo hall, raising the visibility of ACS’s booth:

“Having it be a fun and connected experience added to the engagement value,” Grana said. “This was an opportunity to reach nontraditional audiences and share a message that could be acted on and amplified.”

Have you found ways to reach micro-influencers? How have you engaged them as voices to spread your message? Post your comments and ideas below.

Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. More »

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