Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have likely heard the term “influencer.” Influencer Marketing has drastically changed traditional advertising in many ways, nearly synonymous with social media advertising and the marketing landscape. While print ads, bumpers, and 15-second video spots that are home to the traditional advertising world remain, there has been an unignorable migration to influencer marketing and adverting tactics. In other words, when hiring an advertising agency to produce an advertisement or campaign series for social media, the agency is likely to propose that the sponsoring company pay a relevant, high-status influencer to endorse the product or company through their social media channels. These influencers would then post a picture of them wearing a designer belt, promoting a new protein bar, or dining at a famous restaurant – you get the idea. While social media influencing is nothing new, what is interesting is the subsequent segmentation that influencer culture has inevitably bred.
By The Numbers
Influencer culture has recently evolved into three distinct groups. Some influencers sit atop the pyramid, followed by micro-influencers below them, and finally, nano-influencers who comfortably and strategically reside on the bottom rung. Although their jobs, expectations, roles, and responsibilities as influencers are fundamentally consistent across all three classifications, the main difference lies in the numbers. To be classified as an “influencer,” they must have an extensive and loyal social media following, with several hundred thousand followers being the minimum threshold. Next are the micro-influencers, who will typically attract an audience between 1,000 to 100,000. These are generally the mid-level social media juggernauts who started from the ground up and have built a name for themselves surrounding their social media channels and outlets. Popular micro-influencers include IvyCarnegie (83.7 followers), SweatAndTell (34.2 k followers), and PassportToFriday (18.3 k followers). The third, final, and perhaps most overlooked category of influencers are nano-influencers. These are the type who foster a modest social media following of around 1,000 followers that may extend into a few thousand at the very most.
Bigger Doesn’t Always Mean Better
Although mega-influencers demonstrate evident skills when it comes to navigating and mastering the social media landscape, in some cases, bigger doesn’t always mean better. Sure it’s impressive that these mega-influencers managed to start from nothing and galvanize a following into the many millions. With a broad audience, you forego many of the benefits and qualities intrinsic to that of micro and even more so nano-influencers: providing users with a tight-knit community feel. When influencers reach a certain number of followers, the once intimate and communal feel becomes increasingly challenging to maintain. It’s one thing to have direct communication and interaction with a few hundred of your followers, but as soon as those numbers begin to climb into the thousands, a hundred thousand, and especially millions, that sense of bonding, belonging, and intimacy is compromised. Of course, that is by no fault of the influencer, but rather, a causal result of the scale and magnitude that inevitably prevents them from doing so. As a result, nano-influencers become much more appealing for both social media users who are looking for a more personalized experience, as well as companies looking for a more authentic brand collaboration.
The Power of Intimacy
When it comes to social media, a sense of belonging reigns supreme. In a saturated market, users become incredibly prone to being reduced to a mere number – just another one of their several million followers who, at any moment, can unfollow or ultimately excommunicate themselves, and no one would notice. Conversely, this a nano-influencers greatest strength. Fortunately for them, they do have the ability to directly engage, connect, and interact with many, if not all, of their followers, which is an invaluable quality when trying to establish themselves in the hyper-competitive social media landscape. Users feel appreciated, and develop a sense of loyalty far quicker with nano-influencers than with mega-influencers. The unique ability to engage with individual tags, shares, comments, and direct messages provides the user with an authentic one-of-a-kind user experience that cannot be replicated by a mega-influencer. Followers appreciate the ability to directly connect and develop personal and meaningful relationships with the influencers whom they follow so closely and admire so dearly.
More Authentic Sponsorship Opportunities
Aside from providing their followers with an authentic and meaningful experience, nano-influencers become extremely appealing for brand collaborations that align themselves more with a more intimate and local fan base. For example, a local bakeshop wouldn’t necessarily seek a mega-influencer when trying to arrange a brand collaboration. Affordability aside, someone like a local bakeshop would yield a much higher return on investment when deciding to partner with a nano-influencer based on the local area. Continuing on this idea, a Toronto-based bakeshop would seek to align with a Toronto-based nano-influencer for several reasons. Aside from demonstrating credibility by contributing to that niche and intimate vibe, it ultimately allows for the cultivation of an authentic brand partnership. When performed on that nanoscale, the influencer can physically go to the bakeshop, meet the owner, create, post, and generate content right then and there. It subsequently allows the influencer to develop a trusting image and relationship with their followers by endorsing and supporting local hot spots that their followers recognize. In turn, resonating far greater than an influencer of a higher status promoting a bakeshop with which they have no personal connection.
In the social media landscape, achieving influencer status has become the holy grail. While many aspire to attract a high-level following, some deliberately aspire to obtain the direct opposite of that. While benefits and frills come with the mega-influencer status and lifestyle, it can have a polarizing effect on the quality of their relationships with their fans. It depends on what type of influencer you wish to partner with or as an influencer, what type you want to become and the kind of experience you wish to provide.