Influencer marketing isn’t dead but it has evolved, especially for a Gen Z audience. Brands must embrace the new and improved ways to market products to this generation. One great way to do that? With nano influencers (users with about 2,000 to 10,000 followers) and micro influencers (users with about 10,000 to 100,000 followers).
And how better to understand these folks than by getting advice directly from them? We asked several influencers to share key lessons, challenges, and opportunities they’ve seen working with brands.
Do Your Research
Finding a micro or nano influencer to work with isn’t much different than writing a thesis paper—though the end result is usually much more fun. You’ll need to outline what you want your campaign to look like, properly research your topic, and provide supporting evidence to your point (or in this case, your pitch).
Start that process internally. What goals are you trying to achieve with a micro or nano influencer campaign? Who’s your target audience? Are you focusing locally or is your campaign more global? How much are you willing to spend? How long will it run? These are questions you should know the answers to before doing any outreach.
Once your goals are in order, you can begin looking at potential influencer partners. Make sure your content is aligned with both their personal brand and audience. Micro influencers and nano influencers typically have more intimate and engaged audiences who trust and value what they say. An influencer campaign can have up to 11 times the ROI of a display ad, but only if the message comes across as genuine. That won’t happen if you try to shoehorn your product into a space where it doesn’t fit.
“Every influencer is different. In my case, people aren’t tuning in to see my face or watch tech reviews; they want to see dramatic automotive photography, shown in an unexpected way,” says Kevin McCauley of Capturing the Machine.
“The best partnerships are with brands that factor that in—a real collaboration. The best projects are the ones that start from, let’s make something together.”
Don’t Be Fooled by the Numbers
Follower counts have long been a major focus in the influencer space. If an influencer has a million followers, that’s a million people seeing your content, right?
Well, not exactly. As things like the verified check mark became a coveted symbol, it led to a nefarious practice: Buying fake followers to boost that total number.
A New York Times profile published last year dove into the act of buying followers. Social media influencers weren’t the only people doing it, of course. Actors, athletes, or others selling products purchased bots to make their online community look more expansive than it was.
Unfortunately, brands are still swayed by an impressive-looking number under that Followers section. Don’t be one of them.
“It’s important for brands to not just look at the number of followers because many ‘influencers’ buy their followers.”
“Instead, check their engagement rate (likes/comments),” says Noelle Lennon of @tastetravelunravel. Are they answering comments?”
The smaller audiences of micro and nano influencers are more likely to take action because they feel like a bigger part of the influencer’s life. Kendall Jenner, with her 117 million Instagram followers, couldn’t possibly respond to every single comment. But an influencer with 11,700 followers? That’s more manageable—and it can pay major dividends.
“A small and engaged audience is usually open to making changes and trying new things,” says Ashley Pitt of A Lady Goes West. “Brands should also take into account when influencers have large followings in real life, too, such as being a group fitness instructor or having an additional public-facing job in which they can share their work with people offline.”
Personalize Your Campaign
Even if your goals are the same for each person you work with, personalize the outreach to each influencer. Show you’ve personally considered them for this campaign and tailor your approach to their strengths.
“If someone approached me about a product I wouldn’t normally post about, acknowledge that fact, but pitch it as a creative challenge, ‘here’s why we chose you to feature this,’” says McCauley. “It’s not that I need my ass kissed, I just want to know that the brand has put some thought into this. Otherwise, why should I?”
That personalization comes across on social media, too. If your brand uses a hashtag for a campaign, an influencer’s audience will click on that hashtag to learn more. A potential customer might see the same exact wording from dozens of people. That generic tone could lead to distrust of both influencer and brand.
You’d expect an influencer to communicate your messaging effectively; you should do likewise. Email is the most effective tool, though some influencers may prefer an initial Instagram or Twitter direct message. Once you’ve established interest, switching to email helps lay things out more easily.
“Send your correspondence via email instead of Instagram direct message and be sure to follow up. Sometimes emails can get lost in spam,” says Ashley Maiberger of Feed This House. “Be clear on things like payout, terms, vision, and verbiage. Have fun with it! We’re people wanting to help you and enjoy working with you.”
While you can include a press release or additional information, the actual ask should be succinct and obvious. A bulleted list is an easy way to include everything an influencer needs. It’s a two-way street—establish an open line of communication so both brand and influencer have a clear understanding of what the campaign entails.
“Remember that an influencer is just a person running a business,” says Pitt. “Treat them with respect, and they’ll do the same in return.”
Embrace the Power of Long-Term Partnerships
Partnerships with micro and nano influencers don’t have to be a one-time deal. Often, brands say, “Well, we worked together once, that was nice,” and then hunt for a new person to collaborate with. But if you’ve already had a pleasant experience, why not pursue it further?
“Go back to that influencer for future opportunities and also ask them for input on the product, campaigns and even recommendations on other influencers they should work with,” says Maiberger.
“Long-term, multi-channel partnerships are the most effective, and a lot of brands seem hesitant to jump into those, because they are more expensive,” adds Pitt. “However, in my experience, these arrangements always work much better than one-off posts, and when brands have a regular relationship with an influencer, both parties learn to work together more effectively and the partnership is smooth and mutually beneficial.”
An ongoing partnership also helps ensure a brand’s message is being seen—and digested—by their target audience. Remember the “Rule of 7”: a potential customer needs to hear a message seven times before they’ll take action, making longer nano and micro influencer campaigns more effective.
“I see such incredible success with them,” says Gracie Gordon of Hungry Blonde.
“Sometimes it can take some extra time, but when my audience sees that I’m using a product or brand on a continual basis, it builds their trust in the partnership and they more closely associate it with me and my own brand.”
Great Examples of Brands and Micro and Nano Influencers Working Together
We can share tips until we’re blue in the face, but it also helps to see a good partnership in action. We asked our micro and nano influencers to share their favorite campaigns and what made them special.
“I worked with Brandless for a multi-channel, three-month campaign, and this is the final blog post. At this point, I had already introduced the brand to my audience several times, then once this post came out, they got helpful and educational information they could use in their lives, with product information as well.”—Ashley Pitt, A Lady Goes West.
“I just did a campaign with the meditation app Headspace, and I loved it. Not only did they allow me to have creative freedom, but they encouraged it! It was very affirming to me as an influencer that the brand trusted me with that. Furthermore, it was an ongoing campaign that helped me share my story of using the app that really resonated with my audience as they followed along the journey with me.”—Gracie Gordon, Hungry Blonde
“I really enjoyed my partnership with Marriott Palm Beach Singer Island. I had never visited Palm Beach before so it was neat to discover a new area. The grounds were gorgeous at the resort and I am definitely planning to come back.”—Noelle Lennon, @tastetravelunravel.
“Most recently I enjoyed my entire experience with The Kendall Hotel in Boerne, TX. My family and I love to travel, so it is a natural fit for us and every single correspondence with the hotel was delightful. I am passionate to tell my audience to stay there because our experience was outstanding.” —Ashley Maiberger, Feed This House.
“A while back I did a partnership with Autotrader to promote their car classifieds service. But instead of just having me shoot pictures of cars, they actually sent me a bobble-head dashboard hula doll created in my own likeness, with my face and everything. It was such an odd and extravagant idea that I decided to take a road trip to New Mexico just to shoot it in amazing places. I still have it on the shelf in my office.”—Kevin McCauley, Capturing the Machine