Nano Influencers: The Next Big Thing

Makenna Johnson
By Makenna Johnson

When it comes to impactful social media influencers, celebrities have lost their credibility. People are more skeptical when they see the infamous “#ad” or “#sponsored” on updates made by big-time social media influencers.

It’s hard for the public to trust their opinions knowing celebrities are receiving a huge payoff for their promotions. This is understandable considering Kim Kardashian, with more than 120 million Instagram followers, can make nearly half a million dollars off a single sponsored post. For comparison, Insider revealed the president of the United States makes $100,000 less than that in one year.

Likewise, micro-influencers, with followers ranging from the tens to hundreds of thousands, are becoming less viable options for brands’ advertisements. Their increasing fees for brand promotions, saturation of ads on their profiles and growing celebrity-like status make them costly for companies and appear less trustworthy to their audiences.

Sapna Maheshwari of the New York Times confirmed this shift away from micro-influencers. “With the success and online fame, they may be losing the quality that once distinguished them from the crowd of celebrity endorsers.” In this case, the more reach and sponsorships an individual has, the less authority their recommendations have.

So, with the booming popularity of sponsored content and use of social media influencers, marketers are constantly asking themselves: Who are you more likely to listen to? Who has the greatest voice in their community when talking about a product or sharing an experience? The answer: nano-influencers.

Before explaining the value of these influencers in social media, it’s important to understand what qualifies someone as an influencer and what distinguishes a nano-influencer:

An influencer is a third party endorser who shapes audience attitudes through blogs, videos or their use of social media. Foraging alliances with these influencers in social media allows you to promote your brands and engage target audiences in a more authentic way.

Celebrities are at the highest of the social media food chain with up to hundreds of millions of followers. Next are micro-influencers, who have a smaller yet sizable audience; while at the lowest end of the spectrum are nano-influencers, whose followers range from 5,000 – 10,000.

Why Use Nano-Influencers?

Nano-influencers are the next big thing in influencer marketing. Their comparably tiny follower count make them a surprisingly valuable alternative to the internet famous. As Maheshwari explains, their lack of fame is one of the qualities that make them approachable for brands and their followers.

“It’s a logical progression, if you think about it. Ordinary people are much easier for brands to deal with than your Rihanna’s or Zoellas,” Richard Godwin discussed in the Guardian. Those who qualify as “nano-influencers” are less experienced in collaborating with brands so they’re more curious or willing to advertise products on social media for little to no payment.

Nano-influencers bring a surprisingly high ROI when it comes to platforms where word of mouth  marketing is key. After all, if audiences can’t trust the endorsement of an influencer, what’s the point?

The key benefits nano-influencers offer brands for social media advertising include:

  1. Nano-influencers are more authentic in the eyes of their followers
  2. Nano-influencers are less expensive for brands to work with
  3. Nano-influencers have higher-quality engagement with their updates

Nano-Influencers Are More Authentic

One of the most significant appeals of nano-influencers is their authenticity. What they lack in initial reach, they make up for in more sincere-sounding opinions.

Typically, nano-influencers’ profiles are less cluttered with ads – making them more credible amongst their followers. Therefore, when they do make a sponsored update, consumers will view the influencer’s content as a genuine review and not just an advertisement.

Nano-influencers are also perceived to have less to gain from their promotions than more famous influencers. The infrequency of their advertisements and humble audience size make it clear that social media advertisements are not a nano-influencer’s main source of income. This means their followers will pay closer attention to the message they share – rather than writing it off as a plug for a trendy new product.

One influencer explained to the New York Times that the ads she posts are “like one of your friends telling you a new skin care product is amazing, but instead of me telling my friends at happy hour, it’s me telling them on Instagram.” This sort of “real” posting is the key to the nano-influencer marketing strategy.

Related: Are You Ready for the Nano Influencers?

Additionally, larger social media influencers typically portray some unattainable fantasy. They share updates from their frequent vacations, some extreme diet and exercise regime or flashy, new luxury items. Nano-influencers are unique as they represent real people.  As an average, albeit popular, person, nano-influencers are more relatable and ultimately more trustworthy.

Nano-influencers’ relatability also gives you the benefit of advertising to the ultimate target audience. Individuals looking up to a nano-influencer either know them personally or lead a similar lifestyle. Therefore, a nano-influencer’s audience demographic is more specialized than that of famous influencers. This can help your brand’s advertisements catered to these niche audiences feel relevant and believable.

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Nano-Influencers Are Budget-Friendly

Nano-influencers are a budget-friendly alternative to paying thousands of dollars for a single promotion. They charge significantly smaller fees than micro-influencers or celebrities, if any fees at all. In fact, the majority of nano-influencers are willing to promote brands for free in exchange for complementary products or services.

The most common practice is to send a product, free of charge, to a select number of nano-influencers. Then, they are under the agreement to post pictures featuring the product or share their experience using it on social media.

Posting ads isn’t typically a nano-influencer’s primary means of income as it can be for an Instagram model. As found by the New York Times: “for most nano-influencers, money isn’t part of the deal. Free products are viewed as fair compensation for the ads they post outside their day jobs.”

One influencer, a product specialist with over 5,000 followers, elaborated on this concept. She explained how she’s been compensated for her “side hustle” by sharing her experiences with several companies on her social media. She explained that she’s received a variety of free products and even a trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. through this process.

While cost efficiency is important for companies, nano-influencers also allow you to put eggs in hundreds of baskets, so to speak. You are able to diversify your investments into numerous influencers rather than spend your advertising budget on a one-time post by a celebrity. Nano-influencers allow you to instead focus on targeting multiple specialized groups and crafting messages that resonate deeper with audiences.

Additionally, nano-influencers offer less risk than tying a campaign a single social media influencer. Nano-influencers are not in news cycles in the way celebrities or micro-influencers may be and their behavior will not reflect on your brand. Even in the case that a nano-influencer acts in a way that does not align with your company’s values, there is minimal loss to your brand’s reputation and finding other nano-influencers is inexpensive and simple.

Nano-Influencer Profiles Have Better Engagement

Nano-influencers’ followers tend to be more organically driven. Most of the follows nano-influencers gain are from people they know personally or from individuals who share similar interests, hobbies or backgrounds. Therefore, followers see a nano-influencer as more “real” or sincere since they can better relate to them.

Mae Karwowski, the chief executive of an influencer marketing agency, described nano-influencers in the New York Times as a type of person most people have in their lives. “Everyone who’s on Instagram has that friend who is just really popular and is racking up likes and comments and has great content.” They are all-in-all normal people that you probably have met in real life or know somehow through a mutual friend.

The combination of a smaller following and greater relatability make nano-influencers seem more accessible. They are less intimidating to engage with and followers feel more comfortable interacting with them. Likewise, fewer followers mean nano-influencers have more of a bond with their followers and understand what kind of content they’re looking for.

They are more likely to reply to comments or respond to feedback in instant messages or Instagram Stories. Therefore, consumers are then more inclined to like or comment on nano-influencers’ posts about ads. They’re also more open to asking for more information about a recent vacation a nano-influencer took or request a review for a product featured on a nano-influencer’s profile.

Karwowski implied these forms of interactions and promotions on social media are the norm for younger generations. She explained Gen Z is increasingly comfortable with these types of posts. They’ve “grown up with this technology, so they’re very accustomed to seeing people talk about products they like and are recommending.”

Due to their closeness with their followers, nano-influencers are seen more as a friend than a paid brand ambassador. People listen to the opinions of these lesser-known influencers in social media and can be shaped by their recommendations because they place more trust in what they have to say.  

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Makenna is a PR Coordinator and Account Manager at Power Digital. As a University of Oregon alumni, she studied Journalism with an emphasis on Public Relations, and has been passionate about the field ever since. Makenna spearheads SEO outreach and manages social media influencer outreach within the PR departement, building valuable partnerships with publications and influencers to elevate both brand awareness and ROI for our clients. Go ducks!