What The Hell Is A Nano-Influencer, And Why Are Brands Turning To Them To Flog Products?

Social media users with as few as 1000 followers are getting a piece of that influencer pie.

When brands have products they want to sell and are looking for influencers to market them, they typically have two options: mega celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner et al, or a group we’ll hereto refer to as middle influencers. Chances are, you know this group well – your Suzanne Jacksons, Pippa O’Connors and Rosie Conollys. They’re the women who could wear a particular brand of tan and make us want it (or in Suzanne’s case, go on to create her own) sell out a top on ASOS simply by wearing it to brunch, and rack up thousands of likes on their Instagram pics like it’s no big deal.

They’ve often been the first choice when it comes to advertising a product, but now, a third option has opened up for brands – the nano influencer. They don’t have a follower count in the hundreds of thousands (typically a measly-by-comparison 1,000 to 5,000) and you won’t find them on the cover of a magazine, or embroiled in some online controversy. In fact, you likely won’t have heard of them at all. Because just like you and me, the nano is just your everyday gal going about her everyday business but with one marked difference: she just so happens to be great at social media. But why are brands scouting her out and paying her to plug their products?

“There are three key factors that we look for in an influencer when working on a brand campaign – fit, demographics and credibility,” explains Aoife Horgan, director of Irish PR, marketing and talent management agency Versify.

It’s not just about the size of an influencer’s following, it’s about aligning their audience with the target market of the product and making sure that their content is in keeping with the brand values. We also need to ensure that the person is trusted by their followers.

Credibility is certainly a big part of it, and nano influencer marketing can feel more authentic because the nano’s appeal is that they’re just like us. We recognise them, we relate to them, and so we trust what they have to say, which can seem like a far cry from how many of us now view middle influencers. That disparity was made clear in Ireland last year with the appearance of ‘call out’ pages that aimed to catch influencers out on not declaring paid partnerships and brand collaborations, and led to some distrust.

A recommendation from a nano on the other hand can feel just like getting a recommendation from a pal, except it’s on the internet and not over pre-drinks. So is it that what nanos lack in audience, they make up for in integrity, even though the product was free and they might even still be getting paid? That’s for you to decide.

“The lower the following, the higher the engagement tends to be, and this is an important metric when measuring the success of a campaign,” Aoife adds. In fact, a recent report by Social Media Today found that nano influencers generate ten times more engagement on Instagram and Twitter than influencers with much larger followings. Aoife explains:

Nanos can also cater to niche markets that may not be served by larger accounts. Their fans are generally loyal and because they have less followers they have time to interact and respond to any comments they receive. They are also more accessible and affordable for brands with a limited budget.

Accounts like these are already making it big in the States (one agency that spoke to The New York Times said they already had 7,500 nano influencers on their books, with hopes to double that figure), but is nano-influencing going to take off in Ireland? Aoife reckons it already has. “Brands are looking more and more outside the traditional realm of celebrities and social media stars to accounts that may have as little as one thousand followers. Marketing is constantly evolving and brands are trying to find ways to reach their audience in an effective, authentic way. Nano influencers are a great way to do this, be it through paid partnerships or organic mentions. We already work with nano influencers on paid partnerships and through our PR campaigns and we’ve been impressed by the strong engagement on their posts.”

American Haley Stutzman, 22, who has 5,500 Instagram followers, tells The New York Times she’s netted a vacation and a couch from turning nano influencing into a “part-time side hustle kind of thing.” So what should you do if you want to cash in on this new marketing strategy? “The main aim for nano influencers should be creating relevant, high quality content for their audience,” says Aoife. If you want to score a collaboration, “make yourself visible to the brands that you would like to work with by interacting with them on their social media channels and tagging them where applicable.”

With advertising guidelines continually being updated in this growing field, Aoife adds “it’s also crucial to upskill yourself on how the industry works, reporting results and dealing with contracts. It’s important to know what you’re signing up to and the usage rights that you’re giving a brand for your content. It may be exciting, but be sure to read the small print in a contract to protect you and your profile.”

Soon anyone with a smartphone and a knack for Insta could make it as an influencer, but how will this pan out in an island as small as Ireland? Many of us already feel like we’re constantly being advertised to from the moment we go online. With our feeds becoming more and more a space for consumerism, the effect could be suffocating – and could our trust of nanos erode over time? Whatever the implications of this new marketing strategy, don’t be surprised if you see #ad and #sponcon on your mates’ feeds in the near future.

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