The age of nano-influencers: How everyday South African social media users are stealing the show

The age of nano-influencers: How everyday South African social media users are stealing the show
The age of nano-influencers: How everyday South African social media users are stealing the show

With over 32.7 million active social media users across South Africa, the growing impact of influencer marketing is a force that no leading brand can afford to ignore.

According to Statista, the value of the global influencer market more than doubled in the three years between 2019 and 2021, climbing from $6.5 billion to $13.8 billion. In South Africa alone, experts estimate that the influencer economy has nearly reached the R1 billion milestone.

“The meteoric transition to digital platforms fuelled by the pandemic has increasingly forced companies to innovate in an attempt to stay connected with their customers. This in turn has seen the local influencer industry simply explode over the past few years,” notes Eskort Group Marketing Manager Marcelle Pienaar.

“The South African influencer industry is relatively young in comparison to the United States and Europe, but the age of the influencer is officially here.”

Significantly, the rise of influencers has not been driven by celebrities and famous names one might expect, but rather the smaller nano- and micro-influencers that represent brands’ everyday customers.

Unlike celebrities, nano- and micro- influencers are part of close-knit communities that typically share a personal connection with one another, enabling marketers to reach niche, highly targeted audiences with a genuine interest in their product or service.

As real, relatable people unobscured by the haze of celebrity status, nano- and micro-influencers’ content also tends to be seen as more genuine and authentic. This works to enhance trust and credibility, reducing the likelihood that social media users will simply scroll past the content, and will instead actively engage with brand content.

For example, a 2020 study by influencer marketing platform Humanz revealed that South African celebrities with over one million followers typically deliver an engagement rate of just 1.7%, compared to over 7.1% delivered by nano-influencers with less than 10,000 followers

“Evidence proves that smaller influencers can deliver far greater returns on investment for marketing spend than one big-name celebrity, delivering higher engagement rates at lower costs. By leveraging the power of numbers, brands are also able to help social media campaigns gain greater momentum, creating more memorable moments for their audiences, and achieving far greater impact.”

The Real Hot Dogs of Mzansi case study

Demonstrating the phenomenal effect of nano- and micro-influencers, Pienaar points to Eskort’s latest brand campaign, The Real Hot Dogs of Mzansi awards, run throughout March and April this year. Celebrating the people, places and experiences that tie South Africans together, these awards featured a series of 12 tongue-in-cheek videos with hot dog recipes inspired by local heroes’ unique characteristics.

From the Schalk Bezuidenhout hot dog honouring his slapstick comedy and trademark style with a cheese griller wrapped in bacon and covered in a woollen knit jacket, to the saucy Load Shedding hot dog with “just enough flavour to knock your lights out”, the videos proved enormously popular on social media.

But the success of the campaign was ultimately attributable to the support of a legion of 400 nano- and micro-influencers who came on board to join in the excitement.

“The idea for The Real Hot Dogs of Mzansi was to bring ordinary South Africans from all walks of life together in the spirit of fun to honour the things that define and exemplify our unique national culture.

“In keeping with our vision, we chose to draw on the services of nano- and micro-influencers to boost the campaign’s reach and emphasising the point that there really is a hot dog for everyone.”

The results of this strategy surpassed all expectations, garnering the hot dog videos over four million views, and achieving a combined total of nearly 20 million impressions for its influencer posts – enough to reach nearly two-thirds of all social media users in the country.

The campaign’s total engagements reached a whopping 1.6 million – more than double the local influencer industry’s average engagement rate of 3.5%. Additionally, Eskort achieved as many as 123,000 clicks through to its website, exceeding expectations by some 6,400%.

“The amazing levels of engagement not only highlighted the success of the campaign’s spirit of humour, but more importantly the incredible value of the real, authentic content created by our nano- and micro-influencers as genuine Eskort fans,” concludes Pienaar.

“This was a campaign for South Africans driven by South Africans, and the results of this approach speak for themselves.”