Why nano influencers don’t work – this time, bigger is really better

With the influencer phenomenon still very much in its growing stages, brands have begun experimenting with social media advocates of nano-sized influence. Chris Morfis doesn’t buy it. According to him, nano influencers are hardly worth it in comparison to the real thing.

With brands constantly looking for new ways to engage consumers, nano influencers have risen as a low-cost means to do just that. They have small follower numbers, sometimes as low as 500, and a highly-engaged follower base, making them appear to be a cheap alternative to gain easy exposure — it’s even being considered as a sexy new guerilla-style marketing tactic. But the reality is if you dig beneath the surface of their beautifully crafted Instagram posts, nano influencers don’t have the ability to influence the measurable purchasing decisions that bigger name brands need to factor into their marketing plans. So why are they receiving so much hype?

Here are a few reasons you need to think about before shipping your products to nano influencers:

Cheap but not so cheerful

Nano influencers are said to have a small, yet engaged follower base. But herein lies the problem. Considering the reach of content on Instagram is between 8-15% of followers, for a nano influencer with a following of 1000, you’ll be reaching (at best) 150 people. Add to the fact that followers of nano influencers are largely made up of friends and family who feel obligated to engage with them, their value slowly diminishes.

You’ll also be hard-pressed to measure the success of any nano influencers’ campaigns. Most rely on a standard Instagram account, rather than a business account, which means you’ll be left looking at vanity metrics like likes and comments to measure a campaign’s success. This information simply doesn’t provide the level of insights needed to understand the impact and ROI of a campaign or post. Brands need to have clear visibility into metrics like the sentiment of comments, the percentage of unique impressions and resulting audience action that directly stems from their greater awareness of the brand. This is something that you just can’t get from the standard Instagram account many nano influencers rely on.

So without the ability to reach consumers at scale or measure campaign success, brands must ask themselves: why invest time and resources into these campaigns?

High risk, little reward

When working with macro, tier one and even large micro influencers, there is a level of collaboration between both parties. Influencers make suggestions on how to present a product in posts based on their own style and the brand makes similar recommendations based on their brand guidelines — both find a happy middle ensuring everyone is on the same page. But when dealing with nano influencers, this concept is thrown by the wayside.

Scarlett London Listerine Instagram

The process typically works by simply sending a nano influencer a product to showcase on their social feed, but that is where the collaboration ends. As a brand, you can’t review posts or make suggestions on how the product should be placed. Nor are you guaranteed they’ll even upload a post featuring your product. All it takes is one look at Scarlett London’s poorly-conceived post about Listerine last year, and the backlash it received, to see just how crucial the process of collaboration and workshopping content from the initial idea to the final post is to creating engaging, well-thought out content.

Without mutual collaboration, you’re leaving yourself open to misrepresentation and misalignment. When major influencers offer brands the peace of mind to collaborate with brands through every step of the process from crafting a message to the final post, it quickly becomes a question of why bother with nano influencers? It’s not worth the risk.

Getting back to basics

Still convinced nano influencers are the real deal? Just think about how influence happens in the real world. There are people who set the trends that everyone takes notice of — the ‘tastemakers’. And there are those who follow these trends and embrace them. Nano influencers are simply providing social proof that the trends tastemakers are setting are being echoed. They may possess engaged followers but their ability to make waves is questionable as their voice does not carry.

Brands can, by all means, dabble with nano influencers, especially for smaller brands with a limited budget — it’s a simple way to test the waters. But the truth is, nano influencers will always remain trend-followers rather than setters. Influencer marketing does work — it’s why spending on the tactic is expected to increase from $5 billion to $10 billion by 2020, but only when working with real influencers who have proved their influence and are trusted trendsetters.

Right now, nano influencers simply don’t hold enough power to distribute their voice or have the measurable market impact that big brands are looking for to quantify ROI. Even with 20 to 50 micro influencers, you won’t be able to create enough groundswell to move the needle. In the end, influencer marketing, like any marketing effort, must support a business goal and provide measurable outcomes for this. Nano influencers are yet to live up to this.

Chris Morfis is general manager at Hypetap

Further Reading:

Image credit: Owen Young