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Research shows that micro-influencers, social media users with followings that are larger than average but smaller than those of celebrities and other popular influencers, garner higher engagement rates and greater trust.

Now some say nano-influencers, or social media users with as few as 1,000 followers, offer an even greater PR and marketing opportunity.

Research by Socialpubli.com, an influencer marketing platform, revels that micro-influencers deliver seven times more engagement on Instagram than influencers with more followers. But its research shows that nano-influencers, which it defines as those with 1,000 to 10,000 followers, have even higher engagement rates. Most “nanos” have full-time day jobs and started posting on social media as a hobby with no thought of a future income stream. Many endorse products for free samples.

As influencer marketing exploded in popularity, celebrities and top influencers increased their advertising charges. Even prices for mid-level influencers have increased. Marketers also determined that an enormous number of followers does not necessarily equal influence. Mega-influencers might not convince many people to purchase a product. In response, brands sought influencers with smaller followings but more reasonable costs and who hopefully produce better results.

The Influencer Next Door

“Everyone who’s on Instagram has that friend who is just really popular and is racking up ‘likes’ and comments and has great content,” Mae Karwowski, CEO of influencer marketing agency Obviously told The New York Times. “They’ve probably never worked with a brand before, but they’re just really good at social media.”

Karwowski says her firm has 7,500 nano-influencers, which it defines as people with 1,000 to 5,000 followers, in its database and plans to double that number by March. One is Alexis Baker who has about 2,700 followers on Instagram. Friends were surprised when Baker began advertising shampoo, cosmetics and other products.

“If it does happen to blow up and take off full time, then great,” Baker told the Times. “But that is not what I’m looking for at all. It’s just something I love doing.”

The Question of Producing Measurable Results

While Karwowski says nanos are more affordable as well as easier to work with than more established influencers, others doubt that nano-influencer marketing will take off.

“Are they able to actually measure something out of it and say, ‘This is successful, we want to do more of it’?” asked Krishna Subramanian, a founder of Captiv8, another influencer marketing firm, according to the Times

Overseeing the large number of nanos needed to produce an impact could prove overwhelmingly labor-intensive. The task could be extra challenging since nanos are typically novices at marketing and advertising. Marketers will need to handle contracts, advertising disclosures, and measurement. In addition, even nanos could lose trust if they push products too aggressively and appear disingenuous.

A PR firm’s recent lawsuit against an Instagram influencer for allegedly failing to promote Snapchat Spectacles and provide measurement reports as promised highlights the pitfalls of influencer marketing.

Bottom Line: Are nano-influencers a new PR and marketing opportunity? Some brands are promoting their products by partnering with people with as few as 1,000 social media followers.  While proponents say nanos are more affordable and effective, skeptics question if the strategy can be scaled up to provide meaningful results.

William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.