Hello and welcome to my very long TedTalk on what trends I expect in 2021 when it comes to influencer marketing.
Before we start, I would just like to put out a disclaimer that I am not an influencer marketing expert, just someone that is very, very interested in the sector and writes too many blog posts about it.
From what we learnt and witnessed in 2020, I have put a list together of 15 things I expect to happen, stay the same or no longer exist in the influencer marketing world in 2021.
Do let me know what you think in the comments below or tweet me at @orlaghshanksPR with your thoughts!
1. Greater focus on metrics and results
Long-gone are the vanity metrics of followers and likes. We all know by now that those numbers can be easily faked and purchased.
Instead, I expect a lot more influencer marketers to start focusing on engagement results before working with influencers. Marketers will want to see how many views influencers are averaging on their Instagram stories, how many people their Instagram posts are reaching and how (hashtags, home page, location etc.) and how many comments they receive.
Yes, it’s a lot more work for marketers rather than just seeing 200,000 followers and thinking, Yes, they’re the right fit. But the more analytics performed pre working with the influencer, the better the outcome of the partnership.
Marketers should know the audience demographics of the influencer – will this partnership be targeting the right audience to equal sales? Are we pushing a product used by women to an influencer that has an audience of 75% men?
What are previous partnerships this influencer has worked on before and what are some of the results this influencer gained from that partnership?
A small and engaged audience is worth a lot more than a large, unengaged audience.
2. Brands will focus more on diversity and inclusion
2020 was a huge wakeup call for brands and their focus on diversity. The general public soon realised what brands were inclusive, which were simply trying because they had to and others who were failing miserably.
We all remember when Munroe Bergdorf called out L’Oreal, the brands that added a #BlackLivesMatter post to their Instagram yet only employed and worked with white influencers and those that stayed silent.
Brands have to consider diversity and inclusion in every campaign going forward. No more using the generic white models of the moment for their ads as it just isn’t going to work and the public won’t wait to call them out on it.
Personally, I’ve started noticing brand campaigns that lack diversity. I turn my nose up and think there are more people in the world to represent and that use this brand’s products than people that look like me. Where is their representation?
Related post: Why Brands Need Diversity in Marketing
3. Longer influencer relationships and less one-offs
Brands will want to create longer-term relationships with influencers to create a more round and compelling story.
An influencer that posts a one-off ad for a product they don’t use and never mention again isn’t going to work. A long-term partnership that spreads over a few months or more, with regular mentions and posts of the product is what’s really going to work and what’s going to draw consumer buy-in.
It’s better for the influencer (income-wise) and it’s better for the marketer for brand exposure and product sales.
4. A rise in no-filter content
For me, I saw a huge shift in social media content in 2020. More and more influencers started posting about the ‘real’ angles to their photos, the parts we don’t see and they don’t usually post.
There seemed to be an uptake in influencers posting about body-positivity, all their curves and dips and how to be happy with your body, no matter what it looks like.
It seems the days of photoshopping, tweaking and sucking in are in the past with this new group of influencers.
This is an Instagram trend I can get behind.
5. Brands become more aware of their social responsibility
Like diversity and inclusion, brands are becoming more and more aware of their ethical stance and their social responsibility.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of brands behaviours and manufacturing procedures, boycotting those that don’t pay their workers enough or give them good working conditions.
Recently, brands like Pretty Little Thing and Boohoo came under scrutiny for selling clothing items for as little as 6p. This led to consumers questioning how much their workforce was getting paid to produce the clothing items.
As well as this, with climate change a very hot topic for the last few years, consumers are more aware of what brands are doing for the environment, how they are helping slow down climate change or how they may be speeding up the process.
Does a brand have too much packaging for their online orders? Are they still giving plastic bags in-store? Is there unnecessary waste that could be eliminated? Are there ways the brand could source things locally?
6. The rise of audio content
It seems that podcasts are growing ever more popular, as well as audio books. With the recent release of A Promised Land by Barack Obama and Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, two very well-known voices, audio books by famous faces (and voices) are on the rise.
And so is the form of audio content in general.
With everyone and their mum starting or releasing podcasts, listening to them has become an every day activity. As so many lockdowns have forced the nation to get out and walk, instead of listening to music, people are choosing to listen to podcasts.
Whether these are informational, conversational or motivational, it makes for easy, passive listening and the listener feels like they are learning something while doing something menial such as getting steps up or doing household chores.
For me, podcasts are definitely something to add to your media kit.
7. More clarity on influencer income
How much influencers should be paid has been a debate since influencer marketing and sponsored posts began. With the creation of the Influencer Pay-Gap Instagram account, we have more transparency on the terms influencers are being offered, and are rejecting.
We know that influencers can charge thousands of pounds for a post on their Instagram feed, but who sets those price ranges and who puts that value on a social media post?
In 2021, I think a lot more micro-influencers are going to say no to ‘gifting opportunities’ or opportunities that are unpaid as they can’t expect to work for free. I think we’re going to see more transparency with how much influencers are charging across different platforms as new ones like TikTok, start to emerge.
I’ll be debating next week whether influencers make too much money, so look out for that blog post!
8. A rise in value-driven content
Over the past few months, I’ve noticed a rise in value-driven content. What I mean by that, is content on social media that users are going to save and return to, or can learn something from.
With the ever-changing Instagram algorithm, users have to adapt to what Instagram is favouring and pushing. Recently, that has been posts with lots of saves and shares.
Because of this, influencers are providing a lot of text-based posts and longer captions, giving followers a lot of very useful content that will make followers keep coming back and engaging and also pave the way for new followers because the content is adding value, for free.
9. More clarity on social media advertising
Advertising on social media is probably one of the biggest annoyances for me in the influencer marketing industry. I have nothing against adverts on social media, I only have a problem when influencers don’t declare that the post is an ad.
The influencer marketing industry needs to be monitored so much more. There are too many influencers flouting the rules and getting away with it. Understandably, the influencer marketing industry is so vast that there are perhaps too many influencers to review, but it’s the reality TV stars who are always the biggest culprits.
The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) need to give more fines to make examples of the people not declaring adverts in order to get control of the entire situation. Both the brand and the influencer should be held responsible when no declaration is made.
In 2021, I’m hoping that there will be more clarity from the ASA, more enforcement from them on influencers that don’t declare and that more influencers will actually start making it clear which posts have been paid for and which haven’t.
Related post: No Ad, No Consequences?
10. More influencer marketing on TikTok
2020 saw the explosion of TikTok during the first lockdown in March. Next thing we know it, TikTok Houses are being created which we saw happen with YouTube where stars of the platform live together in order to create more content.
TikTok has proved that it’s going to be around for the long-haul as the app is still as popular today as it was nine months before. Instagram have tried their hand at replicating TikTok with their Reels function, but I don’t think users are convinced just yet.
Some even think that there may be room for TikTok to outgrow Instagram as Instagram slowly transforms itself into a shopping app. If TikTok started to allow the posting of photos as well as videos, who knows what the social media world is in for?
I can only see more and more brand partnerships coming to TikTok in 2021. With challenges being a huge craze, brands may start creating TikTok ambassadors to help make a campaign viral.
Related post: How Influencer Marketing Will Work on TikTok
11. Micro-influencers continue to shine
Long live the micro-influencer is what I have to say. Often the most engaged influencer, their smaller following allows for more influencer-to-consumer trust and offers great campaign results.
A small following does not equal a small influence. Micro-influencers have their niche and usually a dedicated following within that niche. If your product or service is suited to that niche, you’re going to have a much better time paying 10 micro-influencers rather than two macro-influencers that have an audience interested in a range of subjects.
Kim K may get you the reach and exposure, but she won’t get you engaged, interested and loyal customers.
Related post: Five Reasons to Work With Micro-influencers
12. A rise in real-life content
The worldwide pandemic put a halt on a lot of people’s plans. There was no more travel, there was a loss of jobs, no concerts, no partying, no spending time with loved ones.
Social media can often be seen as an aspirational world. We follow people we want to be like and we follow people who live their best lives in the hopes that someday our lives may be the same.
And so, influencers had to change their content. The travel bloggers started travelling around their own countries, the beauty bloggers stayed at home and gave a deeper insight on how to perfect your makeup look for when the time comes to go out again. Food bloggers started cooking at home, and fashion influencers bought too much loungewear.
What we did see more of, was influencers everyday lives. We watched them tell how they were coping with lockdown, what they would get up to on a normal day and when they just weren’t feeling great – we started to see more real-life content, no-holds-barred.
For once, we were all in the same position, locked inside our houses with nowhere to go and little work coming in. It gave a lot of influencers a more personal side, and something we’ll see more of in 2021.
13. Brand ‘challenges’ become popular
Nation-wide crazes can take off in a matter of seconds. We watched as Joe Wicks became the nation’s favourite PE teacher via his YouTube channel, we noticed more and more young people out in the streets recording themselves dancing for TikTok and how things like chess can have a resurgence thanks to a Netflix series.
With the nation still spending a lot more time indoors, this gives an opportunity to brands to seek out trends and create challenges.
Makeup brands could run a competition on TikTok for the best or craziest eye look, sports brands could create a trick-shot challenge, or publishers could get the nation reading again with reading challenges.
All of these things can be run on social media, with some paid influencers to promote the challenge and get people involved. Pringles have recently carried out something similar with their ‘Pringles Challenge’ on TikTok.
2021 is the year brands get even more creative with their campaigns.
14. Video content reigns
Even with the rise of audio content in 2020, I don’t think video content is going anywhere and will in fact, only get bigger.
With the introduction of TikTok and Instagram Reels in 2020, video content is getting shorter. Users have very small attention spans when it comes to scrolling through videos, but they still watch.
YouTube is a different format as users usually go looking for that video content and are prepared to watch for longer, whereas when scrolling on apps and TikTok, the user usually doesn’t want to sit back for 15 minutes to watch something they didn’t actively look for.
This is where shorter video content is going to win on social media apps like Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. The shorter the better, as we see with 10 second Instagram stories and 60 second Reels and TikToks.
If you haven’t started producing video content, you will very likely get left behind (speaking to myself).
15. The creation of employee influencers
An employee influencer? What’s that?
Personally, I think we may be passed the ‘Come work for us, we have sleeping pods, ping-pong tables and coffee shop,’ sell when it comes to finding new employees.
Since we’re all working from home and want to continue doing so, all of these down-with-the-kids office features aren’t going to sell a company anymore.
So herein comes the employee influencer. Someone that loves working for the company and wants to tell anyone who will listen. An employee influencer can become an ambassador for the company, taking their followers through a day-in-the-life, what it’s like to work for their company and how much they enjoy it.
If the content comes across as genuine and real, this could be a great sell for the company. If handled incorrectly, it could be a PR nightmare that has the opposite effect.