Influencer marketing is becoming mainstream, but the predominant idea that the bigger the influencer, the better your results, isn’t necessarily correct. So, with the assistance of leading industry experts, here we look at a different type of social media influencer’ — the nano-influencer.

What is a Nano-Influencer?

Unlike regular or mega-influencers, nano-influencers have a much smaller following, usually around 5,000. Compared to larger influencers, a nano-influencer will usually have a more niched-down following that’s interested in something specific, such as fashion, hockey or art.

Essentially, a nano-influencer is just starting to accrue a following around a particular topic. This level of potency weakens when the influencer has millions of followers for other purposes, such as comedy or offline fame, as the audience will be made up of social media users with far broader interests.

Carolyn Shlensky, social media manager at Pelicon Iconic Creative, shared how nano-influencers represented the “friend” persona and highlighted some notable characteristics. “Nano-influencers will typically have around 1,000 to 5,000 followers on social media and represent a typical “friend” persona. They probably haven’t worked with brands before, but they have a great eye and are really good at social media,” Shlensky explained.

Nano-influencers are usually focused on a particular subject area that has a personal interest for them. "As such, although their audience is much smaller than a celebrity influencer, they tend to have a far higher engaged community,” said Julia Ruane, head of PR & content at Crisp.

Related Article: 8 Tips to Better Influencer Marketing Programs

Nano-Influencers Can Be Very Important Assets

Although it may seem counter-intuitive for marketers to approach an individual with a small following, nano-influencers can be important assets that help boost your brand’s social engagement strategy. According to research by Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group, only 32 percent of consumers follow big-name influencers, compared to 70 percent who are influenced by their family and friends online.

Here are some notable benefits of using nano-influencers.

Related Article: Julia Ruane, head of PR & content at Crisp

They Provide Better Levels of Engagement

A survey by Digiday reported that nano-influencers are able to engage up to 8.7 percent of their following while the engagement percentage of celebrity influencers, who have more than a million followers, is only 1.7 percent. Shlensky explained consumers are becoming “smarter” and can identify paid promotional content, which is often found in a well-established influencer’s feed. “Nano-influencer's feeds aren’t packed with paid promotions, [so] they provide a level of authenticity that you might not get with seasoned influencers. A brand or product recommendation from a friend will convert better than an ad, and [nano-influencers] provide that level of friendly intimacy,” said Shlensky.

They’re More Likely to Over-Deliver

Shlensky noted that as nano-influencers have previously never worked with brands before, they will likely demonstrate high-levels of commitment to ensure your brand’s product is well-represented. “[Nano-influencers are] also really enthusiastic! They’re typically excited to work with a brand for the first time and may over-deliver and give you more content options in exchange for the opportunity for their content to be shared,” Shlensky said.

Learning Opportunities

They Cost Less

According to Mike Dossett, VP and director of digital strategy at RPA, the cost is the “clear primary theoretical benefit” when utilizing nano-influencers. They don’t charge excessively high fees for sharing a promoted post in comparison to mainstream influencers. Along with the low cost, Dossett pointed out how brands can use this to their advantage. “Given the lower price point, brands could theoretically tap into a higher quantity of nano-influencers, each of whom can create and share their own content about the brand,” Dossett said. In reaching out to more nano-influencers, brands stand a higher chance of increasing their engagement.

They’re Better for Targeting Generation Z

Jess Watts, associate planning director at RPA, and co-author of “The Identity Shifters: A Gen Z Exploration,” said it appears the next generation tends to lean towards the opinion of online peers instead of “traditional” authority figures. “The next generation puts a premium on the opinions of their online peers, even more so than traditional authority figures, or people they have real-world relationships with. In our Generation Z research, we found social media outranked both news outlets and actual people they knew, like friends and family, when it comes to finding information and news they trust,” Watts explained.

From this, it is fair to say that we are heading towards a trend where consumers, in particular the younger generation, will increasingly rely on nano-influencers to assist with their buying decisions.

Better ROI

Nano-influencers aren’t just cheaper, they’re a better value for the money in the long-term, too. Ruane mentioned that, along with the fact that millennials in particular “trust their peers more than any other audience — like celebrities and media for example, working with 100 nano-influencers with a combined 1,000,000 audience reach can be far more effective, not to mention cheaper, than working with one influencer with the same audience figures.”

Drawbacks to Using Nano-Influencers

Despite the advantages of utilizing nano-influencers, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind. 

In addition to the limited reach, Shlensky mentioned that the nano-influencer's lack of experience working with brands could cause more work for marketers. “Larger influencers understand the process of working with brands, from contract negotiations to brand content review. Nano-influencers may require some education in these areas.”

It is imperative for nano-influencers to have a thorough understanding of your brands. As Dossett mentioned, if nano-influencers don’t have a general understanding of your brand, you risk your brand’s message being fragmented. “It’s critical [for nano-influencers to have a] general understanding of exactly what that brand means, what it stands for, what it says about the people who do and don’t use it. When brand messages are too fragmented and loosely interpreted and broadcast in too diverse a manner, then the brand runs the risk of weaker message penetration and weaker overall campaign impact,” Dossett said.