As a result of both the factors affecting 2020 and maturation of the industry, the overarching influencer marketing trends of 2021 touch upon 1) social values, 2) strategy, 3) emerging and breakout platforms, and 4) the emphasis of live streaming and video content.
Here are the influencer marketing trends worth noting for 2021:
While some brands and influencers previously emphasized socially-driven campaigns, the events of last year prompted many to realign their messaging and campaign objectives to support the social causes brought to light.
Far from experimental, influencer marketing has become a major part (and sometimes the only part) of brands’ advertising arsenal. Influencer marketing has proven to net ROI as good if not far better than other advertising channels.
For 2021, the trend for influencer marketing is to be strategic with influencers with many brands incorporating influencers into other types of marketing (e.g. juxtaposing influencer marketing with content marketing, influencer marketing with paid ads, influencer marketing with PR, etc.).
Influencer-created content no longer lives soley on the created platform. Companies are repurposing influencer campaigns in multichannel strategies and cross-promoting influencer videos as ads on streaming services is becoming increasingly common.
While TikTok dominated 2020, other existing or emerging platforms also trended and are prime channels to watch and/or test for 2021. TikTok’s U.S. woes (the app faced a possible ban) opened the door for competitors to break through, namely Triller.
Twitch, while around since 2011, became a popular live streaming platform of choice in 2020.
In 2021 —
Is 2021 the year to become an influencer? Maybe. In 2021 —
With the addition of TikTok as a viable influencer channel, everyday users have more avenues and opportunities to start influencer channels. A quick look through TikTok also gives aspiring influencers an idea of just how many niches, topics and categories people are interested in.
Heading into 2021, influencers now have more opportunities to monetize their channels and seek alternative revenue streams that did not exist before (e.g. TikTok’s partnership with Teespring allows creators to design and sell merchandise to their fans and followers).
Seen as a direct by product of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, 2020 saw a distinct rise in live streaming and video content. Much like the rest of the world, many influencers saw this period as a time to connect candidly and more frequently with their followers (via live stream) and build their video content.
2021 will see –
In recent years, we’ve seen the influencer marketing industry grow significantly. Brands are spending more and more on marketing strategies that utilize influencers and we estimate that the industry as a whole will be worth between $5-10 billion by 2020.
Skeptics, unsure about the viability and effectiveness of influencer marketing in its earlier days, have since come to embrace it. The numbers speak for themselves, with 80% of marketers finding it effective and nearly two-thirds having upped their budgets this year.
As we steadily move towards 2020, the landscape of the industry will continue to evolve. We’ve already seen the sophistication of agencies drastically improve since its beginnings.
Brands want the personalities who represent them to be the best possible match available, giving rise to complex platforms that use data and automation techniques to complement the more familiar human review for influencer vetting. This is just one of many trends that has made a huge impact on the industry.
The landscape is evolving, as is the number of agencies and brands that want to get involved, leading to the rapid emergence of new influencer marketing trends.
We know how hard it is to keep up, so we compiled the most pressing influencer marketing trends to know in 2020:
Brands are feeling more confident and emboldened by the positive ROI influencer marketing generates, leading to larger budgets. 89% of marketers say that ROI from influencer marketing is comparable or better than other marketing channels.
Our survey indicates that 17% of companies will spend over half their marketing budget on influencer marketing. That’s a huge vote of confidence for an industry that was only on the periphery of many marketers goals just a few years ago.
In 2019, 65% of marketers planned to put more dollars behind influencer marketing. Only 39% could say the same in 2018. Alternatively, 2% of marketers said they would decrease their spending on influencer marketing this year.
Heading into 2020, expect to see these figures grow once again as the industry matures and marketers invest in better influencer marketing strategies.
Looking for standard terminology to define influencer tiers? Broadly speaking, there are five on Instagram, arguably the most important channel for influencer marketing. Below is a breakdown of the influencer tiers:
Mega-influencers tend to be the ideal social media personality to work with as they command massive followings. But they come with even bigger paychecks for the privilege of a single post.
While large brands have consistently targeted the most in-demand influencers—macro- and mega-influencers— to represent their brand, we’ve seen brands of all sizes begin to invest in nano-influencers.
Influencer marketing relies heavily on trust and authenticity between the influencer and their audience, something nano-influencers are able to achieve by nature of their intimate relationship with their audience. Not to mention, they offer amazing ROI at very little cost. As a result, we’ve seen brands opt more frequently for campaigns that involve a fleet of nano-influencers (see here), as well as campaigns that utilize a variety of influencer tiers (see here).
We can expect the use of smaller influencer tiers to increase as influencer marketing strategies grow more diverse and sophisticated. As one of the hottest influencer marketing trends on marketers’ radars, we’ll see influencer tiers continue to evolve.
Bots and fake followers can completely derail an influencer marketing campaign. It’s one of the main reasons a properly-vetted roster of influencer partners is so essential when launching a campaign.
We ran an experiment that revealed just how easy it is to buy fake followers and for fake influencers to secure brand endorsements from major companies. Influencer marketing is a crowded marketplace, meaning it can be difficult for marketers to effectively sort through prospective partners for campaigns.
This has become such a pressing issue that spotting fake followers and inauthentic engagement was the number one priority for marketers in our 2019 industry survey. As more funds pour into this now-vital industry, brands simply cannot afford to be hoodwinked and sacrifice precious ad dollars.
Of course, the proof is in the pudding, and endorsements with fake influencers will end up failing to deliver meaningful ROI. If the sponsor has already handed over the money, it’s too late.
Fortunately, brands are improving the way they approach and negotiate deals, and they’re more aware of what to expect when vetting an influencer. This means they’re better at spotting red flags.
While marketers and influencers are wising up about this practice, it will remain top-of-mind. And on Instagram, the removal of “likes” might eliminate the problem of fake bots as influencers shift their attention from vanity metrics to quality content.
Social media influencers are every bit the trend-setters that mainstream celebrities are. Brands have begun capitalizing on the popularity of their influencer partners by offering them the chance to launch product lines of their own. As brands move away from the one-and-done method of influencer marketing, long-term influencer partnerships have given rise to product collaborations.
Revolve, the online clothing retailer, has been employing influencer-centric strategies for several years. Establishing influencer clothing lines was one of the strokes of genius that led to the brand earning substantial support online among its younger demographics.
There’s also the reverse side, where successful entrepreneurial influencers are launching their own products and securing lucrative deals with big retailers. Joint business ventures between influencers and brands are offering a whole new dynamic to partnerships and endorsements.
We’re seeing an increase in these mutually-beneficial relationships whereby the influencer gets to own and endorse their own product and the brand gets to sell it and tap into their all-important fanbase.
There is also the additional benefit that endorsing their own product is a much easier sell. As we mentioned earlier, trust and authenticity are important aspects of an influencer marketing campaign.
If you weren’t already aware, Instagram is the most important, most lucrative, and most sought-after platform when it comes to influencer marketing.
While influencer marketing is prominent on almost every social media platform, Instagram is front-and-center for most brands. Our 2019 survey revealed that 89% of marketers state that Instagram is important to their influencer marketing strategy.
Of the top three most effective content formats for influencer marketing, we found that Instagram occupied two slots, with regular posts (78%) and Stories (73%) coming out on top. YouTube videos came third with 56% of marketers calling it effective.
In addition to the dominance that the main platform provides, Stories has swept aside Snapchat to become the leading short-form video social network in the world. Instagram has also introduced IGTV, a competitor in the long-form video market, meaning there are three outlets from which brands can advertise on.
The platform has also launched “Creator Accounts,” giving influencers more actionable insights than before. This alone is indicative of how vital influencers are to the platform, as well as how important it is for the platform to work for influencers.
Instagram might be king of the influencer marketing world, but there’s plenty of room for other platforms, too. TikTok and Twitch have emerged as major players in influencer marketing.
TikTok, the short-form video network that has become a worldwide sensation over the last year, has become a go-to platform for Gen Z audiences. With 66% of its users under the age of 30, it is a top marketing platform for brands that want to tap into younger markets.
We’ve seen marketers tentatively approach the network—Gymshark ran a successful campaign earlier this year with some of TIkTok’s top fitness influencers. With its top performers collectively commanding a following of nearly half-a-billion users, we can expect brands to take a more vested interest as the platform continues to grow its user base.
Twitch, meanwhile, is a familiar network which now boasts many of the top gamers and streamers in the world. Its partner program has grown significantly over the last two years, and Twitch events like TwitchCon are garnering huge amounts of support and interest.
We’ve become accustomed to gaming brand activations on Twitch, but several large non-gaming brands are making their presence felt on the platform. Brands recognize the potential of partnering with top Twitch influencers.
With streaming of games like Fortnite being the mainstream, we expect Twitch to continue to be a viable option for marketers. Similarly, TikTok shows no signs of slowing down and will also present new marketing avenues for brands.
Influencers have become an industry unto themselves. Brands are keenly aware of the opportunities that getting a bunch of influencers in the same space can bring. By hosting influencer events, brands can amplify their campaign.
This includes exclusive, invite-only events where influencers are typically invited to party or vacation. All expenses paid so long as they upload a post or two to promote the brand.
These events can be extravagant. From Bangkok to Hawaii, social media stars are being flown around the world for these events. Fashion and beauty brands are most commonly found to be gifting these elaborate trips.
Revolve is well-known for its festival-within-a-festival at Coachella; an invite-only influencer event hosting A-list music acts like Snoop Dogg and A$AP Rocky.
Influencer events are costly and require a ton of planning. They are also more than worth it. When executed well, they generate enormous amounts of buzz and give a brand that all-important exposure.
Expect this inventive method to become a prominent influencer marketing trend, mostly with big brands that have the financial firepower to pull them off. But don’t discount smaller brands—they’ll find the budget and resources to throw influencer events, as well.
As we alluded to earlier, it’s becoming ever-more important for brands to nurture long-term influencer relationships.
Just as any partnership requires trust and mutual interests, brands and influencers realize the importance of forging strong relationships. In other words, marketers are moving away from the transactional approach of paying for a single post.
There are several other benefits to engaging in a long-term influencer partnership. Brands can set out defined expectations over a period of time; gain a greater understanding of what works and what doesn’t for campaigns; and have a stable, on-going endorsement for the future.
In addition, brands have a greater opportunity to build trust between themselves, the influencers, and their audience. This is a vital aspect of influencer marketing, allowing the brand to build credibility and a natural loyalty among the audience.
Lastly, influencers are more likely to engage in and produce high-quality content if they are invested in the partnership. A longer relationship can mean a bigger incentive to perform well than a one-off or short-term sponsorship.
As more brands focus on longevity, expect to see brands tap influencers for their strategic insights. This will lead to more successful influencer marketing campaigns.
In influencer marketing’s infancy, brands were unsure how to properly utilize influencer marketing. Big money was spent on top celebrities for one-off campaigns, and the resulting ROI was not always positive.
Thanks to improved ways of measuring ROI, brands have started optimizing their strategies. This has led a substantial decrease in vanity marketing—that is, paying big money for a mega-influencer to endorse a product and generate millions of impressions.
Now that marketers are better at judging the things that matter—authentic engagement rates and sales conversions—we’ve seen a rise in more sophisticated and organized campaigns. From rock-solid contracts, to stricter vetting processes, to clearer communication, to better reporting capabilities, calculating the return of influencer marketing has become less burdensome for marketers.
Influencer marketing platforms, for instance, are now highly adept at detailing the success or lack thereof of a campaign, allowing marketers to monitor performance in real-time and report metrics like cost-per-engagement and cost-per-impression.
It should be noted, however, that while marketers feel influencer marketing is effective in driving ROI, 78% report measuring and improving ROI as a primary concern. But as the industry matures and marketers become more savvy, expect to see further improvements in measuring the ROI of influencer marketing.
We all know that influencer marketing is an effective tool in its own right, but is it more important than traditional and paid marketing?
Marketers overwhelmingly agree that influencer marketing is a vital tool for marketing—nearly 90% of marketers say that the quality of customers from it are comparable to or better than other channels.
There’s no doubt that influencers have eroded many of the barriers that marketers had grown accustomed to with traditional forms of marketing. Stories, blogs, YouTube vlogs, and everything in-between has broken down the usual obstacles that exist between celebrities and fans.
Unlike celebrities, influencers are more open, more approachable, and offer better avenues for engagement. The greatest power of influencer marketing is the ability of social media stars to have a strong bond with their fans that a traditional ad could never hope to achieve.
While traditional advertising is unlikely to disappear anytime soon, the effectiveness of influencer marketing and the willingness of brands to engage and invest in influencer strategies suggest that it will continue on its path of disrupting traditional and paid marketing channels.
Gamers command huge, loyal followings. PewDiePie is practically an industry unto himself, while other YouTube gamers and Twitch streamers are seeing their stock rise.
Top gamers are tantalizing prospects for marketers—they hold enormous sway over the lucrative Gen Z and Millennial audiences. The growth of streaming has meant bigger audiences than ever before, and non-gaming brands are now comfortable with sponsorships in a previously niche landscape.
Female gamers, in particular, have seen their influence surge. This demographic represents nearly a third of YouTube gaming audiences and top female gaming YouTubers have a collective subscriber count of well over 20 million.
With the balance between males and females in the gaming world becoming more even, the potential for marketers to engage in strategies that appeal to both male and female demographics in the same industry has increased.
Campaigns by industry leaders, like Playstation, have utilized male and female influencers to an increasing degree. This demonstrates the improvement of the gaming industry in its mainstream appeal. Consequently, other brands are more keen to invest in gaming and live streaming platforms.
Influencer marketing can be a tricky business. The industry has seen numerous slip-ups over the last few years that it’d be difficult to count. Influencers can be unpredictable—they are human, after all. It could be fans feeling ripped off or influencers violating FTC guidelines the industry isn’t a stranger to an error or two.
There have been several high-profile cases where a brand winds up with a controversy on their plate. That’s just about the last thing a marketer wants to deal with when orchestrating a campaign.
Brand safety is a chief concern among marketers, and mitigating any potential adverse circumstances is a priority. This means vetting both the influencers and the content they produce. Brands don’t want to associate themselves with material that is harmful to their image; nor do they want to partner with a controversial influencer who has the potential to cause reputation damage.
This is why brands are putting more effort than ever into collaborations with influencers who are a good fit for the brand and the audience they are trying to engage. Whether it’s YouTube or Instagram, finding the right person to endorse is a vital step in ensuring that brand safety is ensured.
With improved processes for finding the right influencers, brands are better positioned to manage brand safety and guarantee high quality content. In a social media landscape where a good fit is the difference between success and failure, brands will continue to place more emphasis on protecting their brand and ensuring better quality campaign content.
As the stock of influencers has increased, so have demands. Mega-influencers have priced many brands out of the market, with top talent charging over $1 million per post. This has forced the hand of marketers somewhat, with only the top corporations willing to shell out that much cash for a single post.
In our 2019 survey, one-third of marketers said that the rising cost of influencers was a leading challenge in the industry. As pricing models continue to shift across platforms and industries, the cost of working with influencers will not be uniform across the board.
This is an influencer marketing trend that will continue as influencers grow more adept at incorporating sponsored content and endorsements into their work—an increase in professionalism that is a premium in itself.
Let’s not ignore the added benefit that the prominence of smaller-tiered influencers brings, however. The cost of endorsing a nano-influencer is still typically low, and often a product exchange or nominal fee will be sufficient. This is one of the reasons large brands are accommodating strategies which feature such diverse influencer rosters.
Influencers want to cultivate stronger connections with their followers, and many have found that using long-form captioning partially allows them to achieve this.
The character limit on Instagram is 2,200; roughly 360 words. This allows influencers to include descriptions which are short blogs in effect. They can be reflective or motivational and often form part of a narrative which is important to the influencer’s image.
It also means more engagement with their audience. Long-form captions are frequently used for direct interaction with followers, whether it’s through a question asking them to share their own experiences or a CTA which prompts engagement.
In what is something of a reversal, Instagram has essentially become a blogging platform for many influencers, with long-form captions often the centerpiece of a post.
This is great news for marketers. The personal nature of the long-form caption format lends credibility to the influencer, and if brands can convincingly position themselves in the midst of these posts, it comes pretty close to what marketers would consider the highest potential that influencer marketing can bring.
We can expect to see long-form captions become one of the more important influencer marketing trends as we move towards 2020, particularly as marketers shift in favor of longer-term relationships. Brands want to be involved with personalities who can form genuine bonds with their audience.
Influencer marketing has produced a great revenue stream for social media stars, and platforms realize the significance of continually improving creator monetization options.
YouTube introduced a paid subscription model for influencers to use in 2018, allowing fans to pay $4.99/month to access exclusive content. Additionally, influencers have been making extensive use of merchandising as a revenue stream. Never one to miss out on a money-making opportunity, YouTube has launched its own initiatives to help and take part in the merch process.
Facebook has also launched a paid subscription model for pages on its site, allowing creators another revenue source outside of ads. Other influencers have turned to crowdfunding and other means in order to earn revenue—whether its fitness programs or cookbooks, they’re finding ways to monetize content more extensively than ever.
Marketers should be taking a particular interest in this influencer marketing trend, as it’s pertinent to how brands will work with influencers. As influencers are likely to focus on multiple revenue streams, their sole reliance on sponsored posts is becoming less significant. Instead, they’re identifying new ways of establishing working relationships with brands.
In addition, successful influencers are becoming more confident and selective in which brands they partner with. As important as it is for brands to partner with the right personality, it’s equally important for influencers to endorse a product or service that makes sense for their personal brand.
Overall, creators are diversifying their monetization avenues in a quest to stay abreast of the ever-changing social media landscape.