Last year we saw the rise of the micro-influencer, with consumers turning to the online recommendations of everyday people over the endorsements of celebrities and mega-influencers getting paid significant sums for their posts on behalf of brands. (Though high-profile collaborations can still prove profitable for brands; last fall Nordstrom extended its partnership with blogger and mega-influencer Arielle Charnas in its largest deal with an influencer to date. The Charnas-designed clothing line reportedly drove $4 million in gross sales for Nordstrom in a single day. )
The trend toward smaller, niche pools of influence continues to gain traction. As consumers increasingly seek out sources of recommendations they can trust, brands are choosing authenticity (over fame) and engagement (over reach) as the key qualities in identifying influencers.
At the start of the year, we asked 13 of our SJC marketing-related subject experts for their individual 2019 trend predictions for brands. Three of them highlighted a different type of influencer rising in popularity: the nano-influencer, the influencer-editor and the employee-influencer. (Notice that none of these categories include the likes of a Jenner sister.) As more authentic – and less expensive – sources than the influencers of years’ past, each type holds interesting and promising potential for brands this year.
Who are they: Even more “everyday” than the micro-influencer, nanos have as few as 1,000 followers. An inexpensive option for brands, they are generally given a small commission or free product in return for a post. You likely have some “nanos” in your own feed: relatable friends or acquaintances with an engaged community who you’ve noticed have #ad start appearing in their posts.
Power of influence: A nano-influencer’s audience – largely made up family and friends – is small, niche, and highly engaged. Since they are everyday consumers, and personally acquainted with many people in their feed, they are trusted by their friends while creating valuable content for brands. Consumers are almost twice as likely to consider a product recommended from a friend rather than an influencer or celebrity. 
Example: In this New York Times article, we learn how nino-influencers such as Erin Gee, a 34-year-old government worker and spin-class instructor in Ottawa, are approached by beauty brands with free product offers and specific posting instructions.
Who are they: “Influencer editors are journalists first and foremost,” explains FASHION Magazine editor-in-chief Noreen Flanagan.“We are looking for experiences that allow us to create engaging and thoughtful reportage; it’s not about creating “content” for personal platforms. Instagram-worthy props and environments are welcomed, but influencer editors also want to do their own 1:1 interviews with key people attached to a project so they can ask insightful questions and write stories that offer depth beyond the Insta-moment.”
Power of influence: Editors’ experience, expertise and insights make then an authentic source of influence with an audience that already trusts and values their recommendations.
Examples: Here are two brands that tapped into the authenticity and expertise of FASHION editor-in-chief Noreen Flanagan by providing unique, exclusive or early-access opportunities to experience their product. The result is an in-depth editorial feature shared amongst FASHION’s loyal readers and followers.
Who are they: Every-day citizens encouraged by their employer to help promote the company’s brands and products.
Power of influence: Employees are natural brand ambassadors; they understand and can communicate the brand better than any celebrity of mega-influencer could. Employee advocacy is gaining traction as consumers’ demand for authenticity increases.
Example: Last year, Macy’s launched a brand ambassador program called Style Crew that is open only to Macy’s employes. Acting as influencers for the company, Style Crew members share Macy’s-sponsored posts to their respective social media feeds and are financially rewarded if their content converts into sales for the brand. “Macy’s employees are passionate about design and aesthetics,” said Cassandra Jones, Macy’s senior vice president of fashion. “It makes sense to engage and empower them to showcase what’s new and next to our customers.” You can read more about the Macy’s program here.
With a recent study stating 90 per cent of marketers agree authenticity is critical to the future of influencer marketing , nanos, editors and employees are three types of non-traditional influencers worth exploring to promote and share brand content this year.