Are Nano-Influencers the Future of Influencer Marketing?

By Lauren McGrath, VP Studio & Strategy, ACTIVATE

A closer look at the power of niche followings

If Fyre Festival has taught us anything, it’s that relying solely on megawatt influencers and celebrities for reach and exposure can backfire badly for brands that are not careful. In its wake, a new tier of creators has come to prominence – a pool of influencers whose followings are niche but who have established greater trust, reliability, and category credibility with consumers.

The Potential Risk Factor

Micro and nano-influencers are favored for their highly-targeted audiences and lower price tag in comparison to celebrities – also enabling brands the budget flexibility to work with multiple influencers of this size for one project. But working with a creator that may be new to the realm of sponsored content means a greater potential for minor mishaps including missed deadlines or veering from brand posting guidelines. Brands should prepare themselves for supervision that could be tedious in order to ensure content is delivered on-brand, on time. Larger brands with dedicated marketing or influencer teams or outside agencies may be more set up for success to manage this level of creator.

Influencers with followings of this size might also mean less access to ROI drivers or social tools. Per Instagram’s regulations, influencers with less than 10,000 followers aren’t permitted to include a swipe-up link in their stories. Swipe ups are an important method of driving traffic and purchases that many brands and retailers rely on within their influencer marketing strategy. Also, when commissioning content from a mid-tier or macro influencer, content strategy is often driven by data. Nano-influencers most likely have little access to or understanding of their social media metrics to inform the creative or publishing approach. The goals of your project will also be a deciding factor – if brand awareness is of importance, influencers with smaller followings may not move the needle.

Successful Nano-Influencer Campaigns

Though there are some important considerations, there are many benefits to engaging and onboarding micro and nano-influencers. Alignment with this tier of creator fosters a word-of-mouth marketing effect and creates an opportunity for influencers to speak directly to friends, family and followers the influencer may know in real life.

At ACTIVATE, we’ve seen success with utilizing nano-influencers to test new products, engaging them through product seeding initiatives with a strong call to action. Inviting them to events and/or experiences are other great ways to build a natural relationship with nano-influencers and avoid the challenges of a formal campaign with this type of influencer.

Recently, Dunkin’ tapped a number of nano to micro-influencers in the Philadelphia area with a goal of building their social media presence and raising awareness for specific messaging points. Interestingly, the nano-influencers received more engagement than the micro-influencers involved.

It is becoming increasingly more relevant and effective to have a network of both nano and micro-influencers. It balances out paid creator relationships as well as sets up a brand to grow beneficial relationships over time as these emerging creators grow their profiles. 

What to Look Out for During the Discovery Process

When assessing whether a nano or micro-influencer will wield true influence on behalf of your brand, there are a few important factors to be mindful of. The first is credibility and expertise: emerging creators who are experts by trade or passion. Beginners in the space who are passionate about the content they create will have an easier time with what may be their first foray into sponsored posts.

To drive impact for your brand, seek influencers who have relevant audience concentration (these can be discovered by using relevant hashtags, the “suggestions for you”, geo-tags etc.) and maintain quality content. Their posts should look and feel premium but are still 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, monitor how quickly the creator is authentically amassing new followers. Do you notice a discrepancy between the number of followers they have compared with the number of likes or comments per post? 

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

 There’s certainly a place for micro and nano-influencers in the ecosystem of influencer marketing, though they pose their fair of challenges when not engaged correctly. Brands should continue to diversify their influencer networks with emerging and established talent to meet their KPIs and see what works best for their project.


Lauren McGrath – VP of Activate Studio & Strategy
Lauren McGrath

Lauren 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, Lauren was Head of Talent and Influencer Engagement at Lippe Taylor.  There, Lauren 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, Lauren was the Vice President of Talent Partnerships and Influencer Strategy at Refinery29. She lead the New York-based team retaining cultural tastemakers, digital influencers and celebrities for an array of branded partnerships.


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