Influencer marketing has been continuously evolving to include smaller and smaller content creators. Brands can now use nano-influencers and customers to create authentic and cost effective influencer campaigns, allowing more businesses and influencers to benefit from the creator economy.
Influencer marketing has dramatically evolved over the years. Initially, the focus was on mega-influencers and celebrities with massive reach, which limited influencer marketing to large brands with significant marketing budgets. We’ve since seen it evolve and shift focus to include smaller macro and micro-influencers, which opened the door for mid-size brands to jump on the influencer marketing train. Even more recently, we’re seeing the trend shift to focusing on smaller and more localized nano-influencers.
Influencer marketing is now considered a must-have for brands to remain relevant and connect with their audiences, and as the demand for influencers has increased, so have influencer rates. Large and small brands have been turning to nano-influencers for a more cost-effective, authentic option. This trend has had a significant impact on the creator economy, opening it up to new influencers and new brands, which has contributed to the massive growth influencer marketing has seen in the last few years.
This shift to micro and nano-influencers has allowed brands to take advantage of another type of influencer—your actual customers.
Already knowledgeable and loyal to your brand, your customers can generate relatable content while also allowing them to feel like a true part of the brand.
Including nano-influencers and actual customers in your influencer marketing strategy offers numerous benefits. However, there are some additional considerations when finding and evaluating them.
Nano-influencer and the benefits they offer
In the hierarchy of influencers, nano-influencers are at the very bottom. The defined account size of nano-influences fluctuates from source to source but most commonly includes influencers who have between 1,000-5,000 followers and often includes accounts up to 10K. Though they are significantly smaller in size than their more experienced counterparts, nano-influencers offer many compelling benefits.
- Local and/or niche following: Because of their small following, nano-influencers typically have a very local following from their communities, friends, and family or have a very niche following based on the content they create and post. This makes them ideal for brands looking to target a hyper-local audience, a very specific niche, or for brands that have physical locations.
- Cost-effective: Due to their size, the number of accounts available, and how “new” they are to the influencer space, these accounts are willing to accept small cash amounts or even free products or services in exchange for posts, making them significantly more cost-effective than larger influencers.
- Quality of engagement and referral: What nano-influencers may lack in follower size and reach, they make up for in engagement and quality of referral. Due to their smaller size, these accounts are typically followed by real people or friends who view the creator as relatable and trusting. The results are smaller accounts with a highly engaged and receptive following.
How to evaluate nano-influencers for your brand
The research and discovery process for nano-influencers is actually quite similar to what you would do to find traditional influencers. However, there are other considerations when evaluating nano-accounts as part of your campaign.
- Niche or local following: If you’re implementing nano influencers because of their targeted audience, then you really want to ensure the majority of their audience is in the desired location or industry that you wish to target. As these accounts have such a small number of followers, what may seem like a small percentage of followers outside of your target audience can end up being a significant portion of their follower count.
- Quality of Engagement: Engagement rates are typically quite high for nano-influencers; we’re talking a 3.69% average for accounts under 10K. However, as we’re not hitting a huge reach potential with these accounts, and the goal is to make relatable connections and referrals, we want to ensure the quality of that engagement is excellent. Evaluate post comments and questions and look for signs that the influencer is trusted, looked up to, and viewed positively. There may not be a lot of comments to look at, but ideally, you want to eliminate accounts that have a high amount of negative or fake engagement on their account.
- Quality of content: Most nano-sized accounts have likely never worked with or been approached by a brand in the past. That doesn’t mean they won’t be able to create valuable, relatable, and high-quality content that delivers, but it does mean you should evaluate their account to determine if they are likely to be able to create the quality of content that you are looking for. In general, you’ll be looking for accounts that show they can create bright, engaging content or posts that aligns with your brand’s look and feel. Also, be prepared to offer more structured guidance and feedback about expectations to influencers of this size.
The benefits of using actual customers as influencers
In most cases, a brand’s customers will have nano-sized accounts (aka “real people” in influencer marketing terms). They bring with them all the benefits of nano-influencers but with some significant additional perks:
- Natural brand advocates: A brand’s real and loyal customers are often the strongest influencers that you can use to advocate for your brand. Not only are they already knowledgeable about your products or services, but they’re able to share their honest and genuine opinion, making them authentic and natural brand advocates. They already know and love your brand, which can shine through in their posts by allowing them to tell a longer and more personal story or simply with a willingness to go above and beyond.
- Boost & build brand loyalty: Recognizing a customer’s loyalty and featuring them as influencers provides the opportunity to strengthen relationships, boost brand affinity, and allow customers to feel a part of the brand. Everyone likes to be recognized and appreciated, and this is a way brands can do so with their customers while capturing it in relatable content and boosting that loyalty to an engaged audience.
- Cost-effective: Typically, your customers will be smaller nano-sized accounts, which, as we mentioned above, can be more cost-effective. Also, because your customers already know and love your brand, they are likely to be even more willing to accept free products in exchange for creating posts.
- True user-generated content: Your customers are actual users of your product and services, which allows them to create real user-generated content and social proof for your brand. Actual customers have the potential to tell a longer story and to create more trustworthy content than an influencer who is trying the product for the very first time. You can also negotiate usage rights for their content to be reused on your social pages and paid ads, which often performs better than brand-created content.
Where to find customer accounts
Nano-influencers are typically found through the more traditional methods that you would use when looking for larger influencers, but finding your actual customers’ accounts is a bit more of a challenge. Let’s take a look at several ways a brand can find customers to engage as influencers.
Instagram Creator Marketplace
Through Instagram’s branded content tools, most brands have access to participate in Instagram’s Creator Marketplace tools. This gives brands access to a list of “top” content creators who are following them or have tagged their accounts. The list will only show accounts that are currently listed as creator accounts and who have joined the Instagram Creator Marketplace, but it’s a fantastic starting place to find potential real customers who are already interested in creating content for the brand.
Through this tool, brands can also access a list of influencers who have specifically indicated they want to work with the brand, as well as other creator accounts who may be a good fit with the brand.
Social media followers
Another fantastic place to find real customers is to take a deep dive into your brand’s Instagram and TikTok followers and find follower accounts of a certain size that fit your ideal influencer or customer profile. Since they are following your account, they are likely to be actual customers or, at the very least, be aware of your products and services.
Tags and mentions
Another great place to find actual customers is to look at who is tagging and mentioning you on social media. These are likely real customers sharing their experiences or opinions about the brand. This method also allows you to preview how the influencer’s audience responds to the posts and brand to determine if initiating a partnership is worthwhile.
In-store, social media, or email list promotion
Another way to find actual customers to participate as influencers is to reach out in-store or via social media and email lists. This strategy is also ideal for long-term campaigns or brand ambassador programs. Brands can have signage in-store, and you can reach out to your followers via social media your email list, asking for interested individuals.
Influencer marketing is a rapidly growing industry gaining greater importance as consumers turn to social proof to make purchasing decisions. Luckily, the industry is also continuously evolving, allowing brands of all sizes to take advantage of its many benefits.