Micro-influencers have been the name of the influencer game for a few years now. In 2021, they accounted for 91% of the influencer market and their impact on the industry is only expected to grow.

Today’s brands gravitate towards micro-influencers for a lot of reasons. They help brands enter niche markets, are budget-friendly, and have highly engaged audiences, among other things.

But, it hasn’t always been this way. It was only a year or two ago that celebrities and mega-influencers dominated consumers’ social feeds and brands’ social media budgets.

In this article, we’ll take you back to the origins of influencer marketing and explain how advances in technology, changes in media consumption, and ultimately consumer preferences brought us to where we are today: the age of the micro-influencer.

Influencer marketing through the eras

In the past, we were limited to the advice of our friends and family when we wanted to make an informed decision. And if we were lucky, a trustworthy friend-of-a-friend who happened to have expertise in that area.

Today, we still rely on friends and family, as well as subject experts and people we trust, when making important decisions. The only thing that has changed over time is the number of people and the amount of information we have access to.

So, although the word influencer as we know it has only been around for a little over a decade, the concept of an influencer – a tastemaker with influence over the purchasing decisions of others – has been around ad infinitum.

Royals were among the first influencers. If you do a quick Google search, you’ll likely find anecdotes about Josiah Wedgwood, an English potter from the late 1700s who used Queen Charlotte’s celebrity to bolster the market appeal of his pottery lines. By branding his pottery as “the Queen’s ware”, Wedgwood was able to sell his products at twice their original price across the U.K. He is now known as the father of influencer marketing.

As technology advanced, so did influencer marketing. By the late 1800s, brands began to place trading cards featuring celebrities inside of their packaging. Customers, in turn, flocked to these products in hopes of collecting each trading card. Celebrity endorsements continued throughout the 1900s and constantly evolved alongside consumer technology, from radios to black and white (and later, coloured) television, all the way to the internet.

Influencer marketing through the eras with micro-influencers

Every blog has its day

Despite the advancements in media consumption, one thing stayed constant: advertisements were a one-way conversation from media companies and their celebrity endorsers to consumers. All of this changed when the internet became mainstream in the early 90s.

New websites were popping up every day, and many of them were forums where people could get advice from experts on every topic imaginable. It’s hard for us to imagine today, but these forums were the first time people could easily access consumer information that didn’t come from their peers or traditional advertisements.

The shift in power from companies to consumers proved to be popular, and eventually, the tastemakers and experts from the early days of internet forums created their own websites to share their thoughts and ideas. The word “blog” was coined to describe these personal page