Why nano-influencing will be key to small business marketing in 2022

We spoke to UniTaskr, the brand behind one of the biggest nano-influencer networks, to find out more about the benefits it can bring to small businesses.

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For as long as we’ve had advertising and marketing, brands have capitalised on famous faces to sell their products.

In today’s remote working world, that means influencers – people with large online followings who are usually models or minor celebrities.

Indeed, the influencer market has boomed as a result of lockdown. According to the 2021 State of Influencer Marketing report, the industry has grown by 42% from 2020 to be worth £10.18 billion at the end of last year.

But influencers are becoming increasingly unaffordable, with some mega influencers charging as much as £12,000 per post. As a result, more and more businesses are being drawn to nano-influencers and the impressive marketing results they can create.

So what exactly is nano-influencing, and how does it differ from normal influencer marketing?

We sat down with Joseph Black and Oliver Jacobs, co-founders of huge nano-influencer platform SHOUT by UniTaskr, to find out more about this new phenomenon and the many benefits it can bring to SMEs.

What is SHOUT all about?

Childhood friends Oliver and Joseph first discovered the power that online communities have when they founded UniTaskr in 2016, a student-focused jobs app which businesses can join for free.

“We wanted students to have a safe platform so they could both work and save money during their studies,” said Oliver. “At the time, we had a number of friends who had to leave university because they didn’t have parents or full-time jobs to support them.”

UniTaskr

Since March 2020, UniTaskr has grown its member base from 3,500 to 200,000 – with around 1,000 new members signing up everyday. “It sounds bad,” Joseph said, “but Covid-19 helped propel us. When lockdown began, we found that we were well-primed to help students build work experience from their own homes.”

But where UniTaskr has really found its niche, and where it's seen the most impressive amount of growth, is in SHOUT, its nano-influencing agency.

What is nano-influencing?

You might imagine nano-influencing to be like influencer marketing, but on a smaller scale. And in some ways, it is.

Large-scale influencers promote a huge range of products that can span multiple industries and interests. Comparatively, nano-influencers typically have smaller social media followings and focus on more specialist, targeted areas.

The parameters can differ depending on who you ask, but for Joseph and Oliver, a nano-influencer is anyone who has “between 500-5000” followers on a platform.

Did you know?

90% of survey respondents in Influencer Marketing Hub's 2021 State of Influencer Marketing report said they believe influencer marketing to be an effective form of marketing.

But while it might sound counter-intuitive, this more niche focus can be far more successful for marketing outreach, and bring much bigger wins for brands at a more affordable cost.

In fact, the success of nano-influencing is driving many brands to move away from influencers with large followings.

Eric Dahan, co-founder of influencer marketing agency, OpenInfluence, recently recommended that “for a standout campaign, brands must strive to build a community in smaller niches. This will help you find superfans who’ll feel comfortable shopping with you and will support you all the way.”

SHOUT’s army of student subscribers has become TikTok’s official, largest nano-influencer network. Currently, it boasts over 100,000 student influencers, combining to reach a huge audience of 500 million social media users.

Nano influencer case studies

SHOUT's partnership with online music platform, Spotify

“Our nano-influencer agency, SHOUT taps into our army of research panellists, influencers and content creators,” said Joseph. “It’s another way for students to build income and work with household names, and helps them to monetise their online following no matter how small.”

So how can small businesses utilise this growing network?

Oliver explained that, from a business perspective, “nano-influencing is a new and improved way of reaching massive UK audiences.”

“More and more brands are recognising the added-value this brings to their business. Over the last year and a half, we have been able to attract and work with world-class industry names like Spotify, Red Bull, the NHS, and Warner Bros”, he added proudly.

Why should small businesses use nano-influencers?

There are lots of different approaches to using nano-influencers.

But Joseph and Oliver pick out three key benefits that can bring the most marketing success for small businesses: higher engagement, added authenticity and testing capability.

Higher engagement

One of the key benefits of using nano-influencer marketing is that it generally ensures higher rates of engagement than brands with larger, less intimate followings.

“Nano-influencer engagement is ten-fold,” said Joseph. “If you imagine an influencer with 50,000 followers with a really good engagement rate, they’ll still likely only have around 2-3% of their following that interacts with their posts.

“This is compared to a nano-influencer with just 1,000 influencers, who we can expect an average engagement rate of 10-20%.”

For example, you might have heard of Francis Bourgeois, TikTok’s ‘train guy’. As a keen trainspotter, Francis began posting videos on his social media platform and sparked a huge new interest in train travel (yes, really).

Since first joining TikTok in 2021, Francis has partnered with brands like the Railway Touring Company, as well as the development site at the old Mancunian railway station, Mayfield Depot. He’s outgrown his nano-influencer origin and now has 1.2 million followers.

But he hasn’t forgotten his roots, and continues to post trainspotting videos for his original following.

Added authenticity 

One of the best-known criticisms of big-name influencers is that they struggle to appear genuine in their brand partnerships.

Most followers understand that they are viewing sponsored content. Still, fans can easily grow tired, or even sceptical, of content that appears overly “salesy“ or unrelated to an influencer’s curated brand.

Earlier this month, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) accused six of the UK’s top influencers of failing to disclose ads and partnerships on their own accounts. The regulatory body’s rules state that any advertising on social media must be clearly signposted with a label such as ‘#ad’ within the image or caption.

Brands that use nano-influencers tend to have less of an issue using this label, as the product they are advertising is likely to be something that sits within their personal branding.

For example, a gaming nano-influencer promoting a new headset might feel more believable than an ex-TV reality dating contestant.

As Oliver explained, nano-influencers also tend to have large family and friend followings, who are more likely to accept a recommendation.

“Nano-influencing is far more authentic than traditional influencer partnerships,” he said. “If you see your favourite celebrity holding up a bottle of suncream at a 90 degree angle, it doesn’t feel genuine. But if Sarah from down the street takes a photo of the same product, you’re more likely to buy into the promotion.”

The relationship also works better both ways. Nano-influencers have smaller followings, which means that it’s easier for them to establish meaningful communication and connection with their followers. They’ll typically have more time, and are more likely, to answer almost every comment.

“That’s where nano-influencers win,” Joseph nodded. “It’s a completely different model and way of working.”

Nano influencer case studies

SHOUT's partnership with audio equipment manufacturer, Audio Technica

Testing capability 

Another way to approach nano-influencing is as part of your planning strategy.

“If small businesses want to use a major influencer, it’s going to cost a lot of money,” Joseph warned. “It’s far better to test out the reaction to your product, and how you should brand it, by using a nano-influencer to trial different audiences, images, and copy at a much lower cost.”

If you’re not 100% sure of your market penetration aims, or are still in the product development stages, one benefit to working with nano-influencers is that it allows you to test your business’s goals and objectives with reduced financial risk.

This leads us to perhaps the most obvious reason for small businesses to work with nano-influencers: cost.

Affordability

Liniqa’s 2021 market report found that 71% of marketing managers plan to up their influencer marketing budgets this year, as a response to their growing impact on consumer purchasing habits.

Sourcing this finance can be difficult. When asked, more than four out of five (83%) said they would borrow this money from other marketing channels, which could be costly if your endeavour doesn’t pay off.

Nano-influencers are the lowest bracket of influencers. They therefore charge the lowest price per post and are the cheapest way to engage in influencer marketing.

This makes them a popular choice amongst small businesses, which commonly have less money to spare.

Type of InfluencerFollowing
Nano1-10k
Micro10-100k
Mid100-500k
Macro500k-1m
Mega1m +

According to Joseph and Oliver’s estimations, larger influencers, with a following of around 500,000 followers, will charge £1,500 per post.

Using a nano-influencer account with 5,000 followers means you will be charged about £50 per post. Plus, they’ll have a significantly higher engagement rate when compared to a regular influencer.

How do you find the right nano-influencers?

There’s clearly plenty of benefits that a nano-influencer partnership can bring to your branding. But how do you go about finding such a specialist marketing resource?

Pre-SHOUT, the answer was simple: with hard work. Small business owners could spend hours scouting on Facebook and Instagram, and pouring through hashtags to find relevant accounts for their firm to work with.

“There’s really not a platform out there to source nano-influencers,” said Oliver. “We created SHOUT because it gives you access to nano-influencers at volume, which is harder to find.”

Oliver does give a couple of tips for how to direct your search, however. A smart option is to look at your existing customer base before spending resources on outreach.

“Your existing customers are most likely your perfect micro-influencers,” he advised. “They’re going to be the easiest to engage with, as you’ll likely already have their information in your customer database.”

Repeat customers, and those that are already posting organically about your brand, are another clever route. As Joseph acknowledged, “you’ll be able to incentivise them to share information on a product or service they already like using.”

Other ways to get people posting about your products include integrating your website with social media pages, to increase your following and ensure you are posting omnichannel content and increasing the ways online traffic can learn about your business.

The best website builders will integrate with your existing social media pages, so you can attract traffic from all over the web.

Find out more with our guide to the top website builders for small businesses.

SHOUTing about the future of nano-influencing

There are many reasons that businesses are turning away from so-called mega or macro influencers, and looking instead to nano-influencers. In a nutshell, there is simply a lot more to gain.

Partnering with accounts that have fewer followers, but higher levels of engagement, can help small businesses to generate new customers online at the lowest possible cost.

SHOUT is continuing to grow its network and further this new marketing route for SMEs. As well as a remote expansion into the US next month, UniTaskr has also announced a new service called Recruit, which will essentially act as a graduate recruiting tool – something Oliver said was a “natural progression” for the startup.

“Some students have been with us from the age of 15, through to 23-24,” he said, “so we are well-placed to help to position them in a job that’s well-suited to them.”

“I think our biggest success so far has been the impact we are having on the student financial crisis,” Joseph agreed. “We’ve so far been able to offer over £12 million worth of jobs to students.

“For a young person never again to have to sacrifice going to university or graduating because they can’t afford the cost of living – that’s our ultimate goal.”

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Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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