This year has been incredibly challenging for the advertising and marketing industries, and the influencer market is no exception. When Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in March, most brands pulled their influencer marketing budgets or held on campaigns until they had more clarity as to what was going to happen.
Meanwhile, with everyone being cooped up indoors and glued to their phones for updates, audience time on social media platforms skyrocketed. “The world went more digital,” says Keith Bielory, a senior digital talent agent at A3 Artists. “People were consuming more digital content, so brands were so aware of that and more careful with how their messaging was going to be perceived. There was a microscope on talent in general.”
Looking ahead, the industry is preparing for any outcome in 2021, but some influencer marketing tactics and strategy pivots are becoming clear. Here are five trends that we predict will emerge in influencer marketing next year.
1. A Focus on Engagement
It has long been said that follower count does not translate to engagement numbers, and this was never truer than in 2020. With attention spans now dwindling and Zoom fatigue setting in, brands still want to continue to engage audiences in a meaningful way.
While in-person events will remain canceled as we begin 2021, virtual events will still be popular—but how can virtual events really translate into the same ROI for both brands and creators? “There is so much free content on the internet that getting people to pay for exclusive content has been difficult, says Colette Patnaude, co-founder and talent manager at Expand Entertainment. “It will be successful, but it’s going to take a lot of infrastructure and a special opportunity.”
Next year, brands will continue to leverage talent who already have high engagement on their channels through more effective virtual concerts and livestreams. Even once we are able to gather again in person, brands will continue their focus on engagement numbers, hoping to maintain the momentum they’re created.
2. Data Drives All
While data has always been a key factor in driving talent recommendations, it will become more important than ever in 2021, driving recommendations ensuring that talent is able to reach target audiences and create the most impact for set KPIs. With the help of tools like CreatorIQ and Tagger, teams will have to prove the value in working with talent who can target and reach key audiences by translating their campaigns into results.
3. Platform and Product Diversification
Brands will lean into new products on existing platforms—or new social media platforms entirely—and monitor cultural trends as content evolves. With extreme digital uncertainty this year, the TikTok saga being just one example, creators know they have to diversify which platforms they are on, and as audiences go there, brand will follow suit.
And as the platforms themselves continue to release new features (think Instagram’s reels, their response to TikTok), creators then lead the conversation about utilizing them, which then affects how the landscape evolves. Remember when Kylie Jenner was over Snap and they saw a huge decrease in users? Or, more recently, when James Charles expressed his frustration for the new Instagram interface? How are we feeling about Twitter’s fleets?
4. Scaled Down Productions
In March, audiences loved the return to authenticity. People didn’t want aspirational content—they wanted to hear how their favorite influencers were really faring in the moment.
And now, with authentic content at the forefront, brand budgets potentially leaner than ever, and COVID-19 restrictions still in place, brands and agencies will increasingly lean on talent to self-tape content and self-produce much more scaled-down productions.
5. Inclusion with Purpose
Brands are under more pressure to release their diversity commitments and show real results for their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
Brands must not only be inclusive and represent diverse talent all year, but consumers also want to see a brand’s corporate practices reflect their marketing and advertising efforts. This expectation from consumers will lead to increased inclusion of BIPOC talent in campaigns and as brand ambassadors, as well as an increase in LGBTQ+-focused campaigns beyond Pride month. In 2021, inclusion will be a year-round effort.