Why Fashion Brands Should Hire Influencers With Less Followers This New York Fashion Week

When New York Fashion Week kicks off on Thursday, popular designers such as Tom Ford, Tory Burch and Alexander Wang can expect their front rows to be filled with A-listers, social media stars and the who’s who of the fashion editorial world.

But — in addition to the mainstay of exclusive big-name designers — NYFW also serves as a stage for introducing emerging design talent to a global audience. To that end, newcomers must find ways to attract attendees (at their shows or presentations) who will give their brands the kind of attention it takes to generate buzz.

One such way is to hire increasingly popular Instagram influencers — who can charge an average of $300 a post, according to Adweek — to sit in the front row at a show or pose in the garments and shoes on their personal pages.

But, for new brands and designers that don’t have much of a marketing budget, hiring an insta-famous brand ambassador could be both risky — it’s been difficult to quantify how effective Instagram promotion really is — and downright unaffordable.

But according to Aliza Licht, EVP of brand marketing and communications and Alice+Olivia and author of Leave Your Mark, there could be a rewarding middle ground that emerging brands can take advantage of.

“If I were a brand, I’d be going after people who have very niche audiences,” Licht said during a fashion panel hosted by Epson and the Wall Street Journal as part of its Digital Couture event Tuesday. “We find that micro influencers have a much higher engagement than the influencers that we all know. [Micro influencers] are the people that you never heard of — they have maybe 100,000 followers or 50,000 followers [as opposed to millions] — [but] you can trade clothing or a post with them [in lieu of hefty cash payouts].”

But the hook isn’t necessarily that micro influencers are less expensive, (Instagram influencers tend to charge based on the number of followers they have), it’s the fact that these lesser-followed accounts can sometimes enjoy higher levels of engagement than their more heavily followed counterparts.

“If I were designing a new collection or if I were a young brand, I would be going after people who have an engaged audience,” Licht said, adding that brands can do the analytics themselves by dividing the number of likes on a post by the number of followers an account has. “Sometimes the small influencers have seven times more engagement than the big-ticket influencers.”

When it comes to valuable engagement, Licht suggest anywhere between 1 and 3 percent is ideal.

And, if a brand does opt to tap an influencer, it should also consider some qualitative assessments in order to ensure that they understand the key qualities of that person’s audience.

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