As the world emerges from the pandemic and the aftermath left in its wake, influencer marketing, not unlike a vast majority of industries, will find itself changed. As people were forced to rely on virtual instead of in-person experiences and spent more time on social networks instead of in-person events and meetings, influencer marketing suddenly found itself at the forefront of an opportunity for brands to reach consumers through social media in meaningful and authentic ways. Now as the world begins to shift to a post-pandemic world, influencer marketing is also transitioning to a new normal, taking with it many adaptations that shaped the industry in the last year.
These are seven trends influencer marketing can expect to see in the second half of 2021 as the world moves past the pandemic:
Trend 1: Brands Are Shifting Ad Spend to Influencer Marketers
While COVID-19 slowed the overall growth of the advertising industry, influencer marketing did not feel the burden as much as other industries.
63% of marketers intend to increase their influencer marketing budget in 2021.
As social network usage continues to grow across many different industries, brands are redirecting advertising spend from offline to online channels as brands understand social media marketing is one of the best methods to connect with audiences online and share their messaging. Influencer marketing will become even more imperative as brands seek opportunities to connect with their audiences in real and authentic ways online.
Trend 2: Marketers Are Keeping A Closer Eye on Metrics
Influencer marketing metrics will continue to become more widely established, and as a result, brands will depend on individual influencer marketing performance and ROI of their influencers. And, with brands having seen an uptick in performance from influencer marketing campaigns steadily over the past year, influencer marketing budgets are bound to increase. At the same time, with an increase in spend, comes a closer eye on metrics. These metrics will become increasingly critical as marketers plan their campaigns with an analysis of influencer audience, engagement rate, post frequency, audience authenticity, and key performance indicators.
There is no denying the impact if the right influencer engages. Consider Nicki Minaj’s Instagram post featuring her wearing bright pink Crocs, which subsequently crashed Crocs’ website due to a surge in web traffic immediately following the post. Marketers need to map their campaigns according to concrete KPIs including Brand awareness, increased sales, content collaboration, website traffic, and growing social media presence.
Trend 3: Virtual Influencers are Growing in Popularity Among Brands
Virtual influencers or computer-generated influencers that operate like real-life ones, are quite possibly the next “big thing” in influencer marketing among brands. These robot-influencers are created with personalities, made-up lives they share with their following and make connections via social media with consumers. These virtual influencers are an attractive option for brands for a few reasons. First, new content is easily created by graphic designers, placing the robot-influencer anywhere in the world at any time, eliminating the need for travel of real-life influencers.
While this has become especially important in the last year, as the pandemic caused travel to slow considerably, the trend will continue. According to recent research, we conducted in our The Top Instagram Virtual Influencers in 2020 report, robot-influencers are effective at reaching their audience and closing the gap between brands and their audiences. In our analysis, we found that virtual influencers had almost three times the engagement of real human influencers. Lastly, virtual influencers are safer in terms of a brand's reputation, as these robots are able to be controlled, scripted, and monitored by their creators. Virtual influencers pose a smaller chance for offensive, outlandish or controversial social media postings that could throw a brand into damage control mode.
Trend 4: There's A Growing Rise In Nano and Micro-Influencer Marketing
Nano and micro-influencers are gaining in popularity as they are demonstrating strong connections with niche audiences.
- Nano-influencers have 1,000 to 5,000 followers
- Micro-influencers have 5,000 to 20,000 followers.
Often followers of these nano and micro-influencers feel these influencers are more real and personal, providing content, messaging, and product promotions that feel more genuine, as opposed to mainstream influencers, who can be accused of profiting off of the influence. These nano and micro-influencers are skilled at developing deep connections with their following, who are also highly engaged. These close-knit communities are supportive, trusted, and influencers are likely able to tap into the “friendships” in their community for positive reviews and feedback. Small brands have typically tapped micro-influencers, but big companies are starting to utilize these groups of influencers as well.
In 2020, 46.4% of brand mentions using the hashtag #ad were made by Instagram accounts with 1,000-20,000 followers.
Trend 5: Influencers Are Leveraging Social Commerce to Spur the Launch of Their Own Brands/Businesses
Social media influencers spend years building their following, establishing rapport with their audience, and creating content that fits with their niche. These influencers are regarded as personal shoppers and recommendation gurus for their following. Promoting products to drive revenue is an influencer’s top skillset, and as e-commerce and social media intersect more frequently, the rise of social commerce is gaining traction and proving to be a lucrative opportunity for influencers.
Influencers are capitalizing on social commerce by launching their own brands and businesses, leveraging their product selling power. Instead of promoting products for other brands, these influencers are “turning the tables” and competing for market share. Influencers are using personal connections and trust to fuel the growth of their own brands and businesses, which is something most retailers lack.
Trend 6: Marketers Are Paying More Attention To Influencer Marketing Fraud
Fraud among social media platforms, which includes buying followers, buying likes and comments, buying stories views, and comment pods, is making its way to the forefront of influencer marketing. Increasing awareness around fraud for both influencers and their followings is an important step to minimizing fraudulent activity. One social media platform committed to more carefully monitoring fraud is Instagram. The platform imposed restrictions that banned The Follow/Unfollow trick, and thus compared to 2019, the average percent of Instagram accounts involved in fraud decreased by 8.14%. However, the number of influencers impacted by fraud still remains high (53.39%), and 45% of Instagram followers are bots, inactive accounts, and mass followers. Fake influencer accounts can cost advertisers millions of dollars each year, and as ad spend increases in influencer marketing, fraud detection becomes increasingly crucial.
Trend 7: TikTok Expects to Gain Traction as Marketing Platform
TikTok is the most prominent social media success story of 2020 with 689 million monthly active users. The social media platform had a 60% increase in active social media users last year, making it the fastest growing social media platform in the world. The app, which began as a dance and music app for teenagers, has since grown to interest adults, businesses, and brands.
TikTok’s simple platform allows users to easily create content, post videos, and like and follow frequently, which encourages higher engagement than other social media platforms such as Instagram. Their unique user interaction methods offer both brands and influencers new marketing opportunities and the ability to reach a wide user base. HypeAuditor predicts TikTok will have over 100 million monthly US users in 2021.
An important factor to consider when determining which marketing platform to use is understanding your target audience. The success of influencer marketing campaigns often hinges on knowing your audience and how to get their attention. Once your audience is clearly defined, deciding which marketing platform to reach your target audience is an easy choice. Different age groups are more likely to use certain marketing platforms, thus choosing a platform with your target age is a wise strategy.
43% of global Instagram users are between 25 and 34 years old and more than half of TikTok users (69%) are under the age of 24 with 39% between 18 and 24, which makes people of this age the largest user group.
In summary, Instagram caters to a more mature audience, while TikTok favors the younger audience.