Think social influencer, and what comes to mind is likely some impossibly glam, effortlessly stylish, charming, hilarious, and/or savvy web celeb. They have loads of devoted followers who double-tap day after day, hang on every word, study their styles, and care about their opinions. That kind of mega-influencer seems like an advertising dream. But it’s by no means the only game in town—there are also the powerful nano and micro-influencers too.
Billions of followers are also tuning in to view, engage with, and learn from thousands of micro- and nano-influencers who look like your younger sibs, not celebs—or like the woman who cuts your hair or the kombucha guy at the farmer’s market. Influence is everywhere, and it doesn’t require a household name or celebrity-like scale to deliver measurable results for your brand.
Especially as influencer marketing costs become more bloated with advertiser demand, and overtly paid promotions become less believable, the business case for nano and micro-influencer partnerships is only getting stronger.
How small are we talking?
Definitions vary but micro-influencers are generally considered to have followings under 50K. Nanos have under 10K. To put this in perspective, nearly 70% of Instagram users have fewer than 1,000 followers, with just 15.7% claiming 1,000-10,000. So it’s not like nano-influencers are a dime a dozen. They have sizeable and engaged audiences for a reason, and they have a sense of authenticity on their side.
The case for going small
Why spend your partnership resources on nano and micro partners vs. investing the vast reach and gravitas of macro/celebrity influencers?
A 2019 survey showed that 45% of companies worldwide plan to or have already adopted a micro-influencer strategy. There appear to be three key reasons for the trend:
Cost: A study of UK and US marketers reported that 56% of respondents value micro/niche/mid-tier influencers because they’re more cost-effective than working with big-name talent.
Partnering with a top influencer on Instagram, for example, is akin to buying time during the SuperBowl halftime show. Kylie Jenner, Instagram’s top earner last year, is reportedly paid $1 million for a single paid post. Iconic footballer Lionel Messi will tout your wares for about half of that.
The average cost for a mid-tier influencer, on the other hand, is $271 per sponsored post, a niche influencer with fewer than 1,000 followers gets about $83 for advertising on average, and most are open to working for a free product. A blogger with 10,000 to 50,000 monthly blog impressions might charge you $175 to $250 per post.
ROI: Hubspot reports that as an influencer’s number of followers increases, their number of likes and comments from followers decreases, supporting the idea that micro-influencers generate the best engagement rates. For advertisers, that means higher average ROI at lower overall marketing spend.
Risk: Another benefit of partnering with a network of micro-influencers is risk reduction. Put all your (really, really expensive) eggs in one influential basket, and you increase your exposure to brand damage and monetary loss if your partner pulls a Logan Paul or James Charles. Consider Pepsi paying top dollar for Kendall’s influence (the other Jenner sister is expensive too) and trending for the exact wrong reasons. With macro and celebrity influencers, you are at the reputational mercy of that individual’s ability to avoid scandal and toe the line.
A program that spreads investment across many micro-influencers vs. a few heavy-hitting macros dramatically reduces that risk and the cost of a partner’s misstep.
Managing micro-influencer partnerships
The rising popularity of micro-influencer partnerships is clearly driven by some big benefits. But to get the scale and reach you want from a micro-influencer strategy, you must be able to efficiently find and manage a large number of partners. Yes, their audiences are engaged but it still takes a lot of kid brothers to get the brand potency of one Selena Gomez.
For each partner in your network, there’s a full relationship lifecycle to manage. The industry has been disproportionately fixated on the front-end of this process: influencer discovery and recruitment and while the early stages of influencer partnerships certainly demand support and attention, there’s a ton of hard work that goes into the subsequent stages (including onboarding, payment processing, monitoring for QA, and performance measurement) to run successful programs. Do it all manually, and that ROI you hoped for will quickly be consumed by operational inefficiencies. Manual errors will also accumulate, and your risks increase when you don’t have time to closely monitor your partnerships for QC and brand alignment.
What a successful micro-influencer strategy demands is the right technical infrastructure to maintain program scale and ROI. Rather than supporting each partner individually, you’ll want to invest in:
- Universal discovery tools, so you can find these micro- and nano-influencers with ease
- Automated workflows for tracking recruiting efforts (think CRM lead pipeline)
- An onboarding process simple enough to activate your kid brother as an influencer
- Ready-made partner engagement tools like mobile optimization, vanity links, and product pages
- Comprehensive performance measurement
- Dynamic contracting functionality
- Automated payment processing so everyone gets compensated accurately and on time
This investment will make managing your partner network much more sustainable and cost-effective, regardless of how many micro influencers you bring on board. Once you have the infrastructure in place, growth can be pretty much unlimited.
The influencer universe is full of interesting, charismatic, and engaging regular people—from travel-blogging baby boomers to Gen Z TikTok sensations—regular people who have connections with your audiences and lend real cred to your brand.