The Rise Of The Nano-Influencer And Activating Word-Of-Mouth Marketing

0aaaLauren McGrath ACTIVATE

What’s more influential, an A-list celebrity or the Millennial with a knack for social media? While influencers may be taking the throne, there’s no right answer — different brands work with different tiers of creators for different reasons. And what might work for one brand may not work for another. Ultimately, creator selection is dictated by your intended impact. As of late, brands have been favoring micro-influencers for campaigns and collaborations thanks to their ability to reach niche audiences as well as — perhaps more importantly — their affordability against macro-influencers or celebrities.

In an even further expansion into niche marketing, brands also have been tapping the nano-influencer, creators with no more than a couple of thousand followers whose audiences are even more focused. The nano-influencer provides that genuine word-of-mouth effect that so many brands strive for, building trust with consumers through that friend that’s always in the know (and really good at social media).

But in this ever-expanding pool of niche creators, how do we qualify influencer and balance scale with efficiency?


Common Pitfalls (And How To Avoid Them)

As with any third-party partner, there are risks associated with working with nano-influencers that brands should keep in mind — such as missed deadlines, disjointed communication over email and direct message and potential deviation from brand guidelines. However, a basic lack of professionalism may seem benign in comparison to the potential harm a mega-influencer could do. Depending on the project goals, activating a nano-influencer may be time consuming for a small return.  

Influencers with nano followings might also mean less access to social tools and ROI drivers. For example, Instagram does not allow influencers with less than 10,000 followers to include a swipe-up link in their stories. Swipe-ups are a key method of driving traffic and purchase that many brands and retailers rely on within their influencer marketing strategy. Secondly, when commissioning content from a mid-tier or macro-influencer, content strategy is often driven by data. Nano-influencers likely have little access to or understanding of their social media metrics to inform a creative or publishing approach.

If one of your marketing objectives is brand awareness, macro or mid-tier influencers may be the more efficient option. Creators with less than 1,000 followers won’t grant you an audience scale to move the needle. And if you’re looking to boost content with paid spend, it’s important to consider how audiences will engage with content from a user with little-to-no digital notoriety in comparison with a recognized creator.

Why Micros And Nanos? And When To Incorporate Them?

All of this is not to say that micro and nano-influencers have no place in the influencer marketing ecosystem. When looking to align with thought leader consumers in local markets around the world, taking a relationship-led approach could be more beneficial and allow brands to cultivate loyalty and achieve grassroots buzz through organic content.

ACTIVATE has seen success with testing new products with nano-influencers, engaging them through product seeding initiatives with a strong call to action. Events and experiences are also easy and great ways to build a natural relationship with nano-influencers and avoid the potential challenges and pitfalls of a formal campaign with this type of influencer.

Having a network of nano- and micro-influencers is becoming increasingly more relevant. Not only does this balance out paid creator relationships, but it sets a brand up to grow beneficial relationships over time as these emerging creators grow their profiles.

Qualifying Influential Creators

There are a few key factors to look out for when asserting whether a nano- or micro-influencer wields true influence, and thus may be right for your campaign or project. First, credibility and expertise. Look for emerging creators who are experts by trade or passion. Nano-influencers who are passionate about the content they create will have an easier time with what may be their first foray into branded content.

To drive impact for your brand, seek influencers who have relevant audience concentration (using the “suggestions for you,” relevant hashtags, geo-tags etc.) and maintain quality content. Their imagery should look and feel premium but still be candid and relatable. If the influencer does have more experience with sponsorships, consider the frequency of branded content they’ve created as well as their performance in comparison to their organic content. This can be a quick and easy way to assess engagement rate without requesting their metrics from past partnerships. Lastly, consider how quickly the creator is authentically amassing new followers. Do you notice a significant discrepancy between the number of followers they have and the number of likes or comments per post?

These factors give a sense of whether an emerging influencer is viable for a partnership and has the ability to provide sustainable ROI for a brand.

All in all, micro- and nano-influencers do have a place in the influencer marketing ecosystem, though they pose their fair number of challenges when not engaged correctly. Brands should continue to diversify their influencer networks with valuable emerging and established talent to meet their KPIs. And because you may be responsible for discovering that next big star.


Lauren McGrath is the Vice President of Studio and SaaS Strategy at ACTIVATE, where she leads the team responsible for ACTIVATE’s creator recruitment, ideation, execution and SaaS account management. Previously, McGrath was Head of Talent and Influencer Engagement at Lippe Taylor.  There, she was responsible for leading the agency’s influencer marketing efforts, driving strategy and data-driven innovation through partnerships with leading creators and tastemakers for top beauty, consumer and healthcare clients. Prior to that, McGrath was the Vice President of Talent Partnerships and Influencer Strategy at Refinery29. She led the New York-based team retaining cultural tastemakers, digital influencers and celebrities for an array of branded partnerships.

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