Clicks and confidence: the rise of women nano-influencers in Pakistan

Platforms like CIRCLE and Walee Pakistan are helping budding nano-influencers, as women smash stereotypes and build businesses from their homes

In Pakistan, where smartphones light up villages and megacities alike, a revolution is brewing under the glow of social media screens. Women, long confined by tradition and limited access, are breaking free: specifically, through the curated realms of Instagram and TikTok. These are the nano and micro-influencers, and they’re rewriting the script of what it means to be a woman in Pakistan.  

Programs like the Nano Influencer Academy by the CIRCLE Women Association, and platforms like Walee Pakistan, now encourage influencers to be a part of the working community in Pakistan. These influencers are trained to build businesses, challenge stereotypes, and shape the future of their communities – all from the comfort of their homes. This is their story, a story of pixels and progress, of clicks and confidence, where Pakistani women are finally taking the helm, one tap at a time.

 Refining social media influencer marketing

 So who is a nano-influencer? These are  content creators with a following between 1,000 and 10,000 who are becoming widely popular, as small businesses are emerging and looking for content creators with highly engaged social media following.

Those influencers have already learned to craft compelling content, navigate brand collaborations, and build their brand. But they still need that extra help to make money off of their ‘brand’. That is where platforms like Walee Pakistan and the CIRCLE Women Association come in to equip aspiring female influencers with the tools to build a sustainable income from this digital stage.

Founded in 2018, CIRCLE Women Association has pursued its mission of empowering one million women through digital literacy, financial inclusion, and entrepreneurial skills. Recognizing the transformative potential of the digital realm, they launched the innovative Nano Influencer Academy for Women in September 2023. This is a customized, hands-on training curriculum, spanning over 18 hours of basic training and 6-week advanced training, and is part of their Digital Literacy Program. It helps low-income women with the compass they need to navigate online platforms, understand digital tools, and harness the internet’s power for personal and professional growth. Delivered in Urdu and complemented by online engagement and WhatsApp groups, the program ensures accessibility and fosters a supportive community.

“L’Oreal Women’s initial funding ignited the program, but sustainable funding is crucial for expansion. By building relationships with participants and fostering a supportive ecosystem, the academy aims to secure partnerships and adapt to evolving technology, ensuring continued growth and wider outreach,” said CIRCLE Founder and CEO Sadaffe Abid.

 The four-day training program lays the foundation for economic empowerment. Women learn the intricacies of content creation, influencer marketing strategies, and affiliate marketing, equipping them to monetize their social media presence. From brand pitching to building personal brands, the Academy opens doors to financial independence and entrepreneurial ventures.

Women learn to build small businesses and personal brands, driving economic growth at both individual and community levels. Mobility limitations that may have previously restricted their options become irrelevant in the virtual world.

The impact transcends individual success. These women become role models, challenging traditional gender roles and inspiring others to participate in the digital labour market. Beyond passive participation, the Nano Influencer training academy fosters entrepreneurial spirit. 

Similarly, Walee is a platform with over 150,000 registrations and a unique focus on amplifying brands’ voices while empowering creators. More than just a bridge between brands and consumers, Walee has grown into a comprehensive ecosystem for digital content and social commerce, serving campaigns across 10 countries. But in Pakistan, where traditional employment can pose unique challenges for women, influencer marketing shines as a beacon of opportunity. The flexibility and income potential of home-based work like this resonates deeply with women seeking economic independence. 

 According to Walee Pakistan’s influencer industry report 2021-2022, the influencer landscape is undergoing a shift, with micro- and nano-influencers gaining prominence. Their smaller followings translate to higher engagement rates and niche expertise, attracting brands looking for authentic connections. Video content is at the forefront, with platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels driving influencer partnerships. 

Brands are increasingly focusing on local languages and cultural nuances, recognizing the importance of tailored campaigns for specific audiences. Data-driven influencer selection is on the rise, as metrics like engagement, affinity, and reach become crucial. Simultaneously, influencers and brands are adapting to evolving regulations, prioritizing transparency in paid partnerships.

 Ali Imran Memon, senior vice president creator media and marketing at Walee stated that the company recognised this trend and has been supporting women influencers. In fact, Walee’s data revealed that 62% of their platform’s profiles belong to women. 

 “This isn’t just a reflection of the global ‘femfluencer’ (female influencer) surge, which sees 84% of sponsored Instagram posts coming from women; it’s a deliberate choice by Walee to tap into a powerful market driving force,” Memon told Profit. “The rise of micro-influencers with highly engaged niche audiences presents another exciting opportunity. Walee recognizes the potential of “Go Big” strategies that utilize diverse micro-influencers across demographics and regions for wider reach and deeper impact.” 

Walee emphasizes the importance of “adapting to evolving regulations, embracing new technologies like e-commerce integration and video content creation, carving out specialized niches, and making data-driven influencer selections”. Women who can embrace these trends, excel in metric-driven performance, and navigate the changing landscape have the potential to truly own this space.

 Walee, similar to the CIRCLE Women Association, has a range of initiatives, such as the Digital Literacy Program, She Loves Tech, Digital Agent Program and Elevate. These various initiatives encompass performance training programs, coaching, work opportunities, collaborations, and transparent payment systems. They help influencers refine their content and maximize campaign outcomes. 

 “Walee’s vision goes beyond audience monetization, we offer training on diverse income streams like photography and social media management,” Memon said.

Walee also started the Creator’s Academy, which featured content targeted to aspiring creators learning from each other, and growing their business and influence efficiently. The first season featured established creators like Hamza Bhatti and Muzamil Hasan, demonstrating their dedication to fostering a healthy ecosystem. The second season of the Academy promises even greater support, and features 36 influencers who will share their journeys and hacks to tackle content and platforms.

Results so far

The Nano Influencer Training Academy has completed three cohorts of the four-day training program, with participants in Lahore and Skardu experiencing noticeable changes.  

“Online engagement and follower growth are rising, a testament to the program’s effectiveness in helping women build their online presence. Two participants even received interview invitations to share their stories, while another attracted the interest of a PR agency, opening doors to future collaborations,” Abid emphasized.

These seemingly small wins hold immense significance. For participants facing economic hardship and limited digital knowledge, these initial successes are powerful motivators. Abid further told Profit that one of the students from a cohort was a jewelry maker who successfully integrated personal branding into her business is a prime example of the success of the program. 

“By utilizing social media strategies learned at the academy, she’s reached new audiences and showcased her work at exhibitions, paving the way for business growth,” Abid said, adding that measuring the program’s full impact is still in its early stages. 

With the four-month tracking period yet to be completed, the long-term effects remain to be seen. These success stories, however, paint a promising picture. It offers a glimpse into a future where social media becomes not just a platform for entertainment, but a powerful tool for economic empowerment.

Similarly, the success stories of micro-influencers who have thrived under Walee’s guidance speak volumes. From securing their first paid brand collaborations to mastering industry practices and gaining access to further opportunities, these women have made their mark in the industry already.

Walee’s Creator Academy generated over 2.5 million views on their social media platforms for their first season. In 2023, the platform partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Influencers of Pakistan to train 150 women influencers and onboard 20 women-led SMEs through “Power of Influence” workshops. 

Founder and CEO of Walee Pakistan, Ahsan Tahir applauded CIRCLE’s initiative and said, “Platforms like the ‘Nano Influencer Academy for Women,’ are recognizing the significant impact such programs can have on social inclusion and economic growth. They actively seek collaboration with similar initiatives, understanding the immense potential within this space.”

 What does the future look like for these influencers and platforms? 

CIRCLE academy’s impact shines through in the improved online presence and the growing recognition its graduates experience. While small-scale, these achievements hold weight. The organization now aims to reach more women, such as in new districts in Gilgit-Baltistan and eventually major cities in Pakistan. However, the focus remains on low-income women, both within existing project communities and new areas. 

“To maximize reach and inclusivity, exploring an online version of the program is also on the table,” Abid told Profit.

Similarly, Walee Pakistan is also anticipating a rise in popularity driven by micro- and nano-influencers, whose historically higher engagement rates are a magnet for brands.  

But sustainability goes beyond mere expansion. It’s about creating an ecosystem where successful influencers  thrive. Increased internet penetration and smartphone adoption in Pakistan have created fertile ground for this dynamic market, but the journey toward a truly inclusive digital landscape is still in its early chapters. But these influencers are all armed to make a change in the future and claim their place in the digital era.

Saneela Jawad
Saneela Jawad
The author is a staff member. She tweets at @SaneelaJawad Email: [email protected]

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