Consumers are discovering new brands thanks to influencers

by Murray Legg. The rise of nano influencers is a leveller for small local ecommerce businesses competing against big brands. Here’s how.

by Murray Legg. The rise of nano-influencers is levelling the playing field for small local ecommerce businesses competing against big brands. Here’s how.

Marketing has always been a bit hit and miss. One hundred years ago, the father of marketing, John Wanamaker, famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Not much changed in the following century, with most brands agreeing that marketing was essential, but never quite knowing which campaigns had the biggest impact – or why.

This became easier once search engines and social media became ubiquitous. Marketing teams could pinpoint search terms and who clicks on which content. Brands started gaining a better understanding of their consumers and buying personas began to be segmented into niche profiles. Everything became measurable. And then the landscape changed again, because the way people use social media and the type of content they follow (and more importantly, respond to) has shifted, and marketing strategies need to adapt accordingly. The good news is that this gives smaller brands an unprecedented opportunity to access consumers.

Rise of the nano influencer

Celebrities are associated with a certain lifestyle that traditionally has fascinated consumers. Think of any big brand, and you’ll most likely be able to link a big-name celeb and their endorsements to them. However, as much as we love our celebs, the power of influencer marketing is increasingly moving away from the glitz and glamour of celebrity lifestyles towards real people with real lives (and problems). Consumers today aren’t interested in unattainable lifestyles, holidays or even products. Instead, they are following real people who share their values and interests online. These authentic profiles create meaningful and entertaining content that speaks directly to ordinary people.

As a result, micro-influencers and nano-influencers have been the real game-changers in influencer marketing. Let’s start with micro-influencers. These are influencers who have loyal followers who subscribe to them because they create great content. They are entertaining, authentic and tend to be experts in their fields. If you follow a micro-influencer, it’s because you care about their opinions, which means you’re naturally inclined to trust them.

Nano-influencers niche this down even further. Their circles of influence are even smaller than micro-influencers, but they are incredibly strong. In 2015, influencer marketing was worth $1.5 billion, and it was dominated by celebrities and macro-influencers with huge followings. Within the next few years, we expect the market to grow to $20 billion, and it will be dominated by nano-influencers. This shift highlights the important role that micro- and nano-influencers play within their online communities.

Nano-influencers and the trust economy

It’s clear that authentic content resonates with individuals, and more and more, it’s influencing the way people shop online. Afterall, what can be more authentic than a micro or nano influencer offering unfiltered insights into their purchasing decisions and preferences? A study by Twitter highlights just how much of an impact influencers have on consumer behaviour: 49% of people said they rely on influencer recommendations when it comes to making purchase decisions, and 40% admitted that they’ve bought an item from an online store after seeing an influencer using it on Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube.

Seth Godin says, “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.” The challenge is that it’s very difficult for a brand to tell a story – brands need people to do that for them. Let’s put what this looks like online into context. Gen Zs are almost as likely to follow influencers as brands, followed closely by millennials. More importantly, the influencers they are predominantly following are not celebrities – they’re role models, nano-influencers who have a wide variety of interests, from wildlife photography and triathlons to personal health and wellness. They share their DIY interests and where they are volunteering. They are individuals who like learning new skills, challenging themselves, and contributing to their communities. The experiences, tips and insights that they share with their followers aren’t just influencing how the next generation thinks, but shaping how they choose and consume brands.

More importantly, how we all consume social media means that if an influencer recommends a product or solution, consumers are going to see it as they scroll through their feeds. They are actively looking to discover new brands through social media, and are trusting the people they follow to help them do that.

Linking nano-influencers to small businesses

The opportunity for small businesses is that while celebrity and macro influencers famously come with a hefty price tag, nano-influencers do not. A nano-influencer is defined as an influencer with between 1,000 and 10,000 followers. This may seem small, but it’s important to remember that these audiences are highly engaged, which means they take any recommendations seriously. And of course, a smaller, local business can not only afford to engage with a nano-influencer, but because they tend to be authentic and value-driven, they are more likely to support small and local as well – it’s a win-win.

What’s even more exciting – particularly for eCommerce businesses – is that solutions like Instagram’s shopping feature are linking small businesses directly to their consumers. The feature enables businesses to add product tags in their posts, allowing buyers to click on pictures displayed in posts and instantly see prices, fabric types, sizes, and any other information they need at a single click. Customers can even order products directly on Instagram.

Influencers use hashtags to drive traffic, they share personal and authentic experiences to win the trust of their followers, and they often make use of promotion codes to boost sales. We believe that the next evolution will be influencers who create curated collections on their own platforms that can be purchased then and there, effectively closing the loop in how brands are discovered, researched and finally purchased through influencer accounts.


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Murray Legg leads the strategy of Webfluential, a digital platform linking influencers with brands as it expands globally. He has experience across investment banking, technology businesses and has a Ph.D in biomedical engineering. He’s an active investor in the technology sector.

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