Trends are always at the forefront of our minds in marketing. Impactful 2020 trends shaped the state of the industry, and influencer marketing has proved to be an effective way to reach new audiences and share stories. Influencer marketing as an industry continues to grow, but passing fads and fading platforms naturally lose momentum. The changes we've seen in 2020 (and those we expect to see this year) aren't a decrease in ROI.
With more influencers in the space than ever, we can learn from what works and take cues to help avoid missteps in future campaigns. Influencer marketing is no longer uncharted territory. There's still room to be innovative and creative, but now there's plenty of data about what's worked in the past. Using this information facilitates developing campaign strategies that work and avoiding pitfalls.
The events of 2020 brought tight budgets, and many businesses entered influencer marketing for the first time in an effort to reconnect with consumers. For influencers, it meant the ability to attract a wider audience—but also more competition. With so many voices in the influencer marketing space, it's more important than ever to stay up to date on best practices and to stay in touch with new and emerging trends.
Here are five influencer marketing trends to build on in 2021.
1. Reaching new audiences through inclusion
Diversity and inclusion are two major themes that 2020 brought to the forefront of the conversation, and it’s an important step in the right direction. We've seen major strides in bridging gaps in the workforce, and in our social media conversations. We've seen public figures, entertainers, and everyday people discuss different facets of diversity in both our country and around the world. Julius, too, has taken part in progressing inclusion in the industry through our #InfluencersForInclusion program on Instagram and recent Influence Live panel event, co-hosted by Day One Agency.
But what does it mean for your influencer marketing campaigns? It's more important than ever to make sure that your influencer partners represent a variety of communities, and that your campaigns are inclusive. To establish authentic connections with consumers from all walks of life, they should reflect the diverse nature of our world. The data overwhelmingly shows that the audience wants to see diversity on brand messaging, and that the messaging is often off. How do you bridge this gap? By making sure that your influencers reflect the audience that you’re trying to reach.
2. Mastering short-form video content
TikTok was the biggest conversation of the last year, and the platform looks like it will continue to thrive. Not only can content get great reach on TikTok, but short-form video is continuing to bloom across other platforms. Instagram’s Reels is gaining in appeal since its launch in 2020, and has already increased its original 15-second time limit. The data is not definitive, because Reels is new and there is some concern that it may not stay a prevalent model if TikTok remains a viable option in America or if the ban is lifted in India. Snapchat released its own TikTok-style content feature, Spotlight, and they recently announced plans to award top video creators $1 million a day, making it a pretty inviting platform for savvy influencers.
This type of content gives influencers a visual way to interact with their audience in short bursts that tell an amazing story. Recent statistics suggest that 72% of consumers would rather watch a video about a product they intend to purchase than read written content about it. Getting in on early adoption of these trends is a solid bet.
3. Rebuilding confidence after a year of uncertainty
Influencers offer a real connection to their communities. Today's audience is adept at ignoring boosted advertisements, so influencer marketing performs well comparatively. Some estimates show influencer marketing performs at a rate of 11 times higher in ROI than traditional marketing. Combining these with traditional and influencer marketing channels can help you reach audiences you couldn’t engage with one alone.
2021 will double-down on influencer-audience relationships. Influencers who deeply connect with their audience will be more open, honest, and authentic. There are more personal interactions and fewer cultivated voices. Audiences want to interact with social media personalities who are vulnerable and share their experience in a meaningful way they can relate to. Take Gen Z as your cue, when you look to where influencer marketing is going. They’re more likely to trust brands that use real customers in their marketing, and they form real relationships with people they know solely online.
4. Setting strategic criteria for choosing the right influencers
Choosing the right influencers is the most important part of your influencer marketing strategy. It's essential to partner with creators who will speak on your behalf to your target audience and deliver heightened ROI. There are different types of influencers: you'll typically hear about micro-influencers (fewer followers but a high engagement) and mega influencers (who have amazing reach), but these definitions really only touch on scale. But there are other, more niche influencers that may categorize themselves by the type of voice, style or topic. Just like bloggers, authors, or actors, you’ll find that influencers are creating their own unique voices that resonate with their audience.
5. Building relationships with influencers
The industry has officially shifted and adopted a professional business model, and many influencers will want creative control when creating content on behalf of brands. For businesses, it's important to do your research. Know who your influencer is, and who their audience is. Influencers spend a great deal of time cultivating their communities, and building a relationship with their audience based on trust. The partnerships they make are as important to them as yours are to your brand.
To develop solid, beneficial relationships with influencers, brands need to be clear on how they manage their partnerships. Unlike other marketing models, having complete control over content isn't optimal because it often makes it seem less authentic and can diminish its impact.
Influencers are artists, and their audience craves authenticity. Like any online marketing endeavor, the analytics help them improve their campaigns. Their business is creation, and they need to have control in what they post and choose to champion. For your brand, they are business partners. Developing a solid relationship is beneficial for all parties and ensures the potential for long-term success.
As we roll into 2021, influencer marketing will continue to help brands build meaningful connections with their audience. New tools will definitely emerge, and we’re looking to see where the needle moves in areas like short-form video content. At the heart of influencer marketing is authentic connection, and that will continue to be a defining characteristic of great campaigns.