How to Optimize Your Influencer Marketing to Reach Gen Z

Gen Z isn’t falling for traditional advertising. With 82% of Gen Z students saying they don’t trust traditional influencers to give an honest opinion on a brand, marketers are having to adapt to meet this media-savvy generation. Gone are the celebrity influencers with millions of followers and overproduced social media ads — in comes the nanoinfluencers.

How to Optimize Your Influencer Marketing to Reach Gen Z

The switch to nanoinfluencers comes with a new set of challenges, mainly how can brands successfully find and partner with them. In this article, we explore the rise of nanoinfluencers, what makes them so successful, and the best ways brands can start incorporating nanoinfluencers in campaigns. Read now for detailed insights on:

  • What is a nanoinfluencer
  • How to identify the right nanoinfluencer for your brand
  • Top 10 tips for working with nanoinfluencers

Content Summary

WHEN BIGGER ISN’T BETTER — WHAT IS A NANOINFLUENCER?
WHY ARE NANOINFLUENCERS HAVING A MOMENT?
HOW CAN BRANDS IDENTIFY THE RIGHT NANOINFLUENCER?
STUDENT BEANS’ TOP TIPS FOR WORKING WITH NANOINFLUENCERS

There’s no question that influencers are trending, with U.S. spending on influencer marketing predicted to exceed $4 billion in 2022. But while the overall clout of the entire influencer category has increased, there has been a noticeable resistance to those who might be considered a traditional high-profile influencer.

In fact, a survey from Savanta found that subject matter experts and everyday acquaintances such as friends or family — at 39% and 38%, respectively — far outpaced celebrities (14%) and social media stars (9%) as the most trusted sources for authentic and genuine content. Enter the nanoinfluencer, who is just a regular, real person, such as a student on campus.

While nanoinfluencers have been around since 2018, “today the influencer marketing ecosystem needs nanos in order to survive,” said Ruby Soave, VP of Influencer Marketing for Student Beans, a Gen Z student technology company that creates lasting relationships between Gen Z and brands. “Our research resoundingly shows that Gen Z has filter fatigue, and they distrust the slurry of unrealistic-looking, one-off brand mentions from influencers who are keen to jump on the billion-dollar industry and prioritize quick money over true brand affinity,” she said.

In fact, in a recent Student Beans survey, 82% of Gen Z students in the United States and United Kingdom said they don’t trust traditional influencers to give an honest opinion on a brand or product.

Is your brand taking advantage of this rising force in the world of influencers? Here’s what you need to know.

“Our research resoundingly shows that Gen Z has filter fatigue,and they distrust the slurry of unrealistic-looking, one-off brand mentions from influencers who are keen to jump on the billion-dollar industry and prioritize quick money over true brand affinity.” – Ruby Soave, VP of Influencer Marketing, Student Beans

WHEN BIGGER ISN’T BETTER — WHAT IS A NANOINFLUENCER?

A nanoinfluencer could be the leader of the campus’s ally network, the guy who gets the crowd cheering at sporting events or the tutor who explains organic chemistry in a way that everyone understands. In other words, they are just everyday people who are nonetheless influential in their own sphere and whose opinions are seen as genuine and noteworthy.

These could be the ideal representatives for a brand campaign, according to a recent Student Beans survey, which found that 45% of Gen Z respondents ranked influencers with 5,000 to 20,000 followers as the most trustworthy, followed by 30% who chose those with 20,000 to 100,000 followers, 15% who selected 100,000 to 1 million followers, and only 10% choosing influencers with more than 1 million followers.

Bianca Lee Garcia, who works in social media for skin care and beauty brand Glossier, compares these closer-knit social media ties to the experience of participating in a group chat with your friends. “On social media, a nanoinfluencer provides that same confidence you get when a ‘friend’ recommends something, rather than someone who has 7 million followers.”

Student Beans has helped brands find great success working with nanoinfluencers to help promote exclusive discounts to peers, as one part of a more robust marketing engagement. The company collaborates with its most-engaged users, whom it calls “Student Beans Creators’’ to form its extensive nanoinfluencer network. The company verifies that anyone who promotes student discounts on its behalf is a verified student who is familiar with the product. “While they may not have huge social media followings, these nanos are powerful within their respective social media communities, and that allows them to outperform larger content creators who do this as a full-time job,” Soave said.

A Student Beans Creator Feebeye, who built a social media following by posting her drag looks, became connected with Student Beans when she was looking for student discounts during the first year of college. In one of Feebeye’s most popular postings, she showcased different outfits alongside available fashion discounts. “Working with Student Beans has been particularly rewarding for me as they have clearly valued the time that goes into my videos and are amenable to working around my schedule as a student,” she said.

“Working with Student Beans has been particularly rewarding for me as they have clearly valued the time that goes into my videos and are amenable to working around my schedule as a student.” – Feebeye, Student Beans Creator

WHY ARE NANOINFLUENCERS HAVING A MOMENT?

In a word: authenticity.

“I can’t stress enough that Gen Z can sniff out inauthenticity and identify a fraud from a million miles away,” Garcia said.

Previously, influencing was polished and idealistic, but today Gen Z prefers genuine content, flaws and all, which is why nanoinfluencers are the ideal campaign addition. Garcia shared that often the content that had been filmed in a studio with a production team and professional lighting garnered just a few comments and a limited 20,000 views, compared with a typical video shot in the bedroom of a suburban house that could earn around a million views. “We realized how much fans relate to these communities and gravitate toward content they feel they could make themselves.”

Soave noted nanoinfluencers are a valuable asset to brands because of their ability to create, publish and optimize content that doesn’t appear like an ad and won’t be perceived as one. “Gen Z’s demand for more unfiltered, genuine and raw content has been met in real time by the continued diversification of social media platforms,” Soave said.

A common pet peeve of students is sponsored content that doesn’t contain a genuine analysis of the product. Said one member of the Student Beans panel, “I like an honest review, like someone putting on makeup and then wearing it for the day to see how it actually works or doesn’t work.”

“I like an honest review, like someone putting on makeup and then wearing it for the day to see how it actually works or doesn’t work.” – Student Beans panel member

HOW CAN BRANDS IDENTIFY THE RIGHT NANOINFLUENCER?

Identifying the perfect nanoinfluencer is key to a campaign’s success. Looking beyond follower metrics is important, yet it also adds ambiguity to the process, which means brands need to consider a host of other variables.

Garcia likes to work with people who have a niche, such as someone who covers the best makeup looks for people with green eyes or specializes in beauty for people with disabilities. For example, one video that stood out featured a creator who had tremors talking about which eyeliner products helped them achieve steady lines. “If we can work with 30 nanoinfluencers who each have a niche, it’s so much better than having one person who just talks about beauty in general,” Garcia pointed out.

Because they know their audience so well, the content ends up being very natural to the creator. “We always emphasize, ‘it’s your platform, your channel. It’s this thing that you’ve built.’ That’s what leads to authenticity,” Garcia said.

Another perk to using a nanoinfluencer is their ability to organically share discount codes that can boost sales. It’s a common and almost expected occurrence among Gen Z; a Student Beans survey found that 68% of college students in the U.S. and 73% in the U.K. said they shared discount codes with friends, while 73% in the U.S. and 56% in the U.K. said they used them.

“If we can work with 30 nanoinfluencers who each have a niche, it’s so much better than having one person who just talks about beauty in general.” – Bianca Lee Garcia, Social media, Glossier

Questions to ask yourself in the process of selecting nanoinfluencers to work with:

Do they like and use your brand?

Brand affinity is a prerequisite for any campaign, because if the influencer is not a current user of or aligned to a brand, there is no genuine advocacy.

Have you looked at quantitative and qualitative criteria?

Dig into the relevant audience metrics to ensure effective media spend (audience age, gender, location), and vet that the influencer creates the type of content their community actually engages with.

How are their engagement rates and quality of engagement?

Comment sentiment and number of shares will help indicate a community that interacts with, enjoys and trusts the influencer’s content.

Do their values align with your brand?

Values have become increasingly important for Gen Z. For example, our research has found that 55% of Gen Zs want brands to encourage people to get the Covid vaccine; 95% say it’s important that brands care about sustainability and the environment; and 80% think brands should use their platform to spread awareness about racism in light of the BLM movement. With all of this in mind, ensure you have thoroughly vetted the influencer to know what they stand for. Dig deep to make sure they aren’t doing questionable one-off brand mentions or have said anything in the past that may bring your brand into disrepute by way of association.

STUDENT BEANS’ TOP TIPS FOR WORKING WITH NANOINFLUENCERS

  1. Work with a partner who has expertise. For example, Student Beans has more than 15 years of extensive experience working with its student community.
  2. Start with solid objectives and key performance indicators to identify clear, measurable outputs that will get your brand to the desired destination.
  3. Implement a contract when paying any talent, whatever their audience size. Influencers are change agents who can do as much harm as good.
  4. Consider lead times, given the many priorities students have, from studying to additional full-time jobs. You don’t want to add extra stress to their plate.
  5. Develop a brief that’s limited to one key message to allow the influencer to creatively build around and create natural-looking content.
  6. Co-create with your nanoinfluencers; they know their audience and the market better than a brand can imagine. Involve them in campaign brainstorming sessions, rather than just looking to them as publishers. Treat them with respect, and take advantage of their value in informing your strategy and even your product.
  7. Track campaign metrics, and focus on what worked and what could be improved on for the next iteration. This will also help inform next steps for success and how to best adapt any long-term strategy

For many brands, nanoinfluencers can make all the difference in successful campaigns. But choosing the right person to uphold and extend your brand image can be challenging, which is why many brands look to an expert.

Student Beans steps in with its optimization tool that can provide verification based on a vast range of metrics, including existing brand affinity, quality of content, community engagement, quality of sentiment, college location, course studies, interests, values and passion, to name a few, even adding bespoke qualifying criteria according to a brand’s campaign needs.