Insights: Point-Counterpoint, Nano-influencers

TL;DR: Nano-influencers have been projected to pivot the troubled influencer industry in a meaningful way. But the transaction between influential individuals and brands doesn’t seem to be changing. Is this new crop truly the answer after a slew of bad press in 2018? Two Sparks take on the issue.


There’s no way around it: Influencer marketing will drastically change in 2019. With the oversaturation, the influx of fraud and the mistakes of macro-influencers in 2018, something must change. Enter nano-influencers.

Cheaper and more trustworthy for brands and Instagram users alike, influencers with 5,000 or less followers have been the reported pivot the industry needs. Others have expressed that nano-influencers are only a Band-Aid on a bigger problem.

Two Sparks lay out the reasons exactly why this new breed of influencer might set a new course for this troubled area of the industry… Or how it won’t.

Nano-Influencers: The Future of Marketing

2018 influencer marketing spiraled out of control. Micro-influencers became mega-influencers, and prices for a single post skyrocketed. Some even inflated follower numbers, engagement rates and under-delivered on the content created for brands.

If leveraged correctly, nano-influencers have the potential to deliver higher-quality content and engagement than mega-influencers, but the cost would be much lower.

We’re just at the beginning of this trend and it will only just continue to grow in popularity. Here’s why:

1. It’s Cost Effective: Most brands don’t have Coca-Cola- or KFC-sized social budgets. For smaller brands, working with nano-influencers is an affordable and easy way to reach their target audiences on social. Working with multiple nano-influencers as opposed to one mega-influencer also has the potential to earn better ROI because users with smaller followings tend to have more engaged audiences and further reach into niche communities.

2. Breathing Authenticity back into Influencer Marketing: Consumers are savvier than ever on social and can spot a low-quality promoted post from a mile away. Nano-influencers haven’t had much experience working with brands and are more enthusiastic to create high-quality content in their partnerships. Audiences trust content from peers and friends for product recommendations more than they do celebrities, whose content comes off as overly-staged or haphazard, giving nano-influencers the potential to drive higher conversion rates in their brand partnerships.

Consumers are savvier than ever on social and can spot a low-quality promoted post from a mile away.

3. High-Quality Engagement: While nano-influencers have significantly smaller followings, they have much higher-engagement rates than mega-influencers. A recent report from Social Media Today reported that nano-influencers with less than 1,000 followers have an engagement rate of 10.1 percent compared to the 0.02 percent rate of influencers with more than 1 million followers on Instagram. Because nano-influencers have smaller audiences to manage, they’re also able to respond to more comments and messages, facilitating more meaningful conversations.

Nano-influencers are an example of how influencer marketing is continuing to grow and evolve.

- Haley Kretz, Marketing + Business Development Coordinator

Not Another Influencer Campaign…

Influencer marketing was known for two things this year: soaring fees and increased fraud. We tend to point the finger at influencers for causing these problems, but in fact brands and agencies are equally, if not more, to blame for the tailspin.

Influencer marketing is a billion-dollar business. The highest paid travel influencer according from Hopper HQ’s Instagram Rich List is Garret and Jessica Gee of @thebucketlistfamily with 1.2 million followers, taking in $23,000 per post.

The six (sometimes seven) figures that creators command is due to brands and agencies who — when organic reach was high, and algorithms hadn’t yet hit Instagram — didn’t look past follower count and threw big paychecks at them in the early stages. The rise of the nano-influencer is just the next step down this path of destruction with no signs of marketers planning to repair the damage left in its wake.

This is a dangerous game for marketers to play, but for better — or for worse — the trend won’t last long. Here are three reasons why:

1. Affordability of Nano-Influencers Will Expire: Before the nano-influencer was the micro-influencer. As it did with micro-influencers, the ceiling cap on what makes a nano-influencer will slowly begin to rise, eroding the prime reason why they are so appealing: affordable rates.

The rise of the nano-influencer is just the next step down this path of destruction with no signs of marketers planning to repair the damage left in its wake.

2. User-Generated Content (UGC) Will Become Meaningless, or at Least Expensive: Surprising and delighting your super fans — no matter their reach, engagement or following — was a positive and effective community building strategy. Rewarding your top fans for sharing their stories with a repost or re-share was once a special and meaningful moment that encouraged future engagement, positive sentiment and conversation. As brands start paying users for this kind of content, we will start to see UGC diminish, or at least start coming with a price tag.

3. Instagram Will Be Oversaturated with Sponsored Content: Brands showering its followers with free samples with the expectation that they brag about it to all their followers, is simply the 21st century version of the Tupperware party. Hawking wares to your family and friends quickly get old. Instagram is already overrun with sponsored content, and as the grid devolves into an ad stream, users will lose interest and creators will move on to platforms with more meaningful engagement.

- Gio Palatucci, Director of Social Media Services

What You Can Do to Stay Ahead

Larger influencers need to respond by bringing more transparency and flexibility to their rates. Additionally, influencers should start coming to the table first with data and insights behind their followers and engagement. Media kits should start to infuse data points like reach, verified follower percentage, engagement rate, audience demographics, etc.

On the brand and agency side, it is our responsibility to approach nano-influencers with more thoughtfulness and care. Hold nano-influencers to the same high standard as we do larger influencers. Regulate payment before it gets out of control and demand FTC standards are employed correctly.

If not, the nano-influencer trend will be fleeting. But if not the nano-influencer, what are the other influencer marketing trends of 2019? Read our predictions here.