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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Thinking small: The power of the nano-influencer

In the Instagram pond, these may seem like pretty small fish; however, their modest size is actually a benefit to your campaign. 

Thinking small: The power of the nano-influencer
[Artem Varnitsin / Adobe Stock]

No matter how compelling a campaign you and your team create, it pales in comparison to the effectiveness of the first marketing strategy ever created: word of mouth.

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Humans trust other humans, not brands. As a response, brands have been increasingly vying for the attention of the social media superstars who you and I call “influencers.” But does a nine-digit follower count really translate to conversions?

Among the largest accounts on Instagram are Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo and pop star Ariana Grande, both of whom have more than 200 million followers. Now, there are several hurdles in place to even get your products on these people’s pages: they might not be interested in promoting anything, they might not be interested in promoting your product specifically, or they might ask for a fee comparable to the gross domestic product (GDP) of a small country. Brands looking to court Kylie Jenner, for example, need to have a cool million dollars on hand to even begin the conversation about paid promotion.

But supposing you can get your product into the hands of these people, what value do they provide? If reach is what you’re looking for, you’ll get it—but 200 million followers don’t translate to 200 million engaged followers.

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In some cases, the solution is to think smaller.

Paying for a massive social media personality to promote your brand is just firehosing their audience—you get a short burst of attention and that’s it. So, what’s the alternative? Micro- and nano-influencers are the key to getting your brand in front of an audience who will actually engage. Micro-influencers usually have between 10,000 to 100,000 followers, while nano-influencers have 10,000 to as few as 1,000. In the Instagram pond, these may seem like pretty small fish; however, their modest size is actually a benefit to your campaign.

They’re specific, they live inside your brand’s niche, and because of their smaller follower count, they’re likely to have a more intimate relationship with their fans.

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Consumers of podcasts or YouTube content should be very familiar with the micro- and nano-influencer model. Brands like Casper, Raycon, and HelloFresh (among many, many others) all make use of these creators to affordably promote their products. “Affordably” is the key word.

Micro- and nano-influencers, purely due to their comparatively small scope, will not command large fees in exchange for promotion. In my experience, a micro-influencer might cost you, at most, around $500. Many nano influencers will agree to promote your products in exchange for as little as a free sample or a signal boost to your audience.

HOW YOU CAN FIND QUALITY MICRO- AND NANO-INFLUENCERS

Let’s pretend that you’re doing social media outreach for a barware company. Who should you be targeting for your core of micro- and nano-influencers? If your answer was “anyone who likes cocktails,” you need to pare things back a bit.

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You want to look for people who are dedicated hobbyists or professionals with up-and-coming social media presences. These people, small-time as they might appear, have authority and expertise as far as their audience is concerned.

Finding these people is a team effort—no marketer should act as an island on a micro and nano search, as it takes an assortment of valuable but diverse skills. Your account managers, who are interacting with your audience every day via social media, will be responsible for isolating followers who would be appropriate influencers for your brand. Once they find the right people, a communications team should take over to establish contact and guide the right people through the process of becoming an influencer.

Remember, outreach on social media is a lot like making cold sales calls: it’s uncomfortable and not always easy to find receptive people to talk to. Most potential influencers will be highly skeptical of a brand popping up in their direct messages. It’s important that whoever is taking on communications knows how to talk to potential influencers in a way that will get results:

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1. Remember, this is an instant message, not an email. You can take off the suit and tie. Be affable and personal. Pretend like you’re talking to them face to face.

2. Don’t try to sell them your product. Instead, sell them on your brand. How do your values crossover with theirs? What made them stand out as someone who would be a good fit for your brand?

3. Most importantly, do your research. If you’re contacting someone through Instagram, take a moment to look through their page and find something you can connect on. Something as simple as “We noticed that you have your own recipe for X. That’s really inventive!” before beginning the conversation about becoming an influencer could make all the difference.

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Influencer marketing is no longer a contest of popularity—it’s a contest of expertise. By putting your brand in the hands of smaller, more niche, but also more knowledgeable content creators, you have access to an audience primed to accept and purchase your product.

And that is marketing made easy.


Christopher is the co-founder, head strategist and CEO of The Go! Agency, a full-service digital marketing agency.

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