Why the pandemic has led to the rise of the nano-influencer

The past two years have had a marked effect on how we interact with social media, with stay-at-home orders resulting in people spending longer online than ever before

The past two years have had a marked effect on how we interact with social media, with stay-at-home orders resulting in people spending longer online than ever before, whether it is to shop, socialise or just feel connected to the outside world.

Social media usage saw a global rise of 10.5% by July 2020 according to Datareportal, along with a sharp increase in active users across nearly every online platform between 2019 – 2021. TikTok saw the biggest jump at 38%, with Facebook and Instagram up by 19% and 16% respectively, as reported by Statista.

This has resulted in a rapid evolution of digital behaviours, and despite lockdown restrictions being eased across the world, these new online habits have endured, and are posing new challenges for brands that want to connect and build trust with their target audiences.

As Joseph Black, Co-Founder of UniTaskr explains Influencer marketing has become highly popular in recent years, with a 2021 report from InfluencerMarketingHub identifying 67% of brands already using Instagram for influencer marketing, and a colossal 90% believing it to be an effective form of marketing.

Why bigger isn’t always better

The pandemic has seen a shift in consumer priorities when it comes to how they interact with brands, so marketing messages must be personally relevant if they are to stand a chance of instilling trust. Influencer marketing does exactly this by leveraging the existing reputation of an established online personality, allowing companies to create trust and awareness in their brand.

Celebrity endorsements have seen a decline, with MarketingDive reporting 78% of younger consumers are simply not influenced by them. The role of these celebrity endorsements have become increasingly overtaken by online influencers on platforms such as Instagram and YouTube.

However, as these creators grow in size, with some possessing followings in the millions, they become increasingly disconnected from their audience, resulting in low rates of engagement and questionable ROIs for brands. Consumers, now more than ever, want to feel they have a personal, emotional connection with the creators they follow, and larger influencers are rarely able to offer this.

This might explain why nano-influencers, though possessing fewer followers, usually somewhere between 1000-5000, enjoy much higher levels of engagement with their audiences. They are able to cultivate closer, more meaningful relationships with their followers that simply would not be possible for a larger creator.

These smaller influencers can offer a dimension of authenticity and honesty that can effectivity build trust in a brand message. With Forbes reporting 84% of millennials state a distrust for traditional forms of advertising, and research from 99Firms finding 67% of Gen Z prefer to see real people over celebrities in branded content, nano-influencers offer a way for brands to effectivity engage these demographics.

Knowing your customer segments

While there has been a growing trend towards targeted marketing for several years, the pandemic has truly cemented this transition. It has reinforced the idea that for brands to be successful in their marketing efforts, they must communicate in local terms, in a way that chimes with their intended audience.

Gone are the days of the “one-size-fits-all” marketing message. Instead, nano-influencers offer a way for companies to tailor their message to specific segments of their target audience. Brands can target nano-influencers based on their location, interests, values along with a whole host of other aspects, to ensure they are not only reaching as much of their target audience as possible, but also connecting their brand to each of these niches in a meaningful and relatable way.

Nano-influencers possess this localised appeal, and in virtue of their smaller followings, are more able to place an emphasis on connection and community in a way that is immediately relatable and genuine. Though nano-influencers cover almost every conceivable niche and demographic a brand might wish to reach, the role of the student influencer has become a huge opportunity for those looking to extend their reach amongst Gen Z.

The student nano-influencer

Students are true digital natives, being social media savvy and comfortable within the digital spaces they create. Given that they are particularly interconnected and social, they have the ability to participate and engage with their communities, who in turn tend to see them as the perfect combination of influencer and friend.

This is particularly important for brands targeting Gen Z consumers, who place more importance on peer recommendations over other forms of marketing. A study from Digital Information World revealed that 52% of Gen Z trust the influencers they follow, while nearly 60% are more willing to engage with brands that have been endorsed by an influencer they like and trust.

Student nano-influencers already have the trust of their audiences, and fulfil that need for peer-to-peer recommendations while staying true to themselves and the niches they represent. They are a powerful marketing tool for brands, especially given the fact that Gen Z currently makes up 40% of global consumers and account for a huge $143 billion in spending power, according to statistics from McKinsey & Company.

A powerful marketing opportunity

While influencer marketing has been around for years in some form or another, it is a rapidly changing industry that offers incredible opportunities for forward thinking brands. Gen Z represent the next generation of consumers, and brands that establish early relationships with the nano-influencers that resonate the most with them are the ones who will stand the best chance of instilling trust and extending their reach far into the future.