The influencer marketing industry has been on a rapid upward trajectory over the last decade and shows no signs of slowing down. This year, it’s expected to be bigger than ever and continue growing to a $15 billion industry by 2022. The majority of marketing managers are intending to increase their influencer marketing budget over the next year.
As an incredibly new industry, it’s gone through many changes already. Combined with the constant shift in brand and consumer habits as well as new platforms and tools coming out seemingly every week, its evolution is likely to continue throughout this year.
We’re going to run through the top fifteen trends of influencer marketing to expect over the rest of 2021. We’re pretty good at understanding the influencer marketing industry. We’ve been working in this space for years now with talent all over the world from the most famous celebrities on the planet, to super-niche nano influencers and have witnessed the industry change a lot over that time. So we’d like to think we know a trend or two when we see them!
Whether you’re a brand or content creator, it’s important to keep tabs on the shifting goals, new changes and anticipated direction of the industry as a whole to keep on top and stay ahead of the game.
Video content is king and this year it’ll buttress its position as the top form of content. With the rise of short-form video platforms such as TikTok and the introduction of Instagram Reels and IGTV, the emphasis on video on these influencer friendly platforms is massive.
Video captures the attention of followers and brands love to see their promotions shared in this way, giving a more human connection and “in the moment” feel to the content.
2. Social Commerce
With an emphasis on purchasing products “in app”, social media platforms have integrated store functions for brands to list and feature their products, with consumers being able to make a purchase without having to navigate away from the platform.
Social marketplaces are likely to become more widely adopted and brands will move to include them in their influencer collaborations as much as possible.
3. No Filter
The “no-edit edit” has seen a plethora of influencers adopting a more realistic representation of themselves with a deliberate focus on using no edits and no filters – or at least, less – in their content.
A positive reaction to mental health campaigns after years of opaque and unrealistic body image standards perpetuated by not just influencers, but vast amounts of social media users, this new trend is likely to become the norm. Social media audiences want to see something real, not a cartoon-like grainy filter or skin tone altering edits and influencers are reacting to that in a good way.
4. Micro and Nano Influencers
There’s nothing quite like a big shiny campaign with a celebrity. Believe me, we’ve worked in celebrity marketing long enough to know the impact a collaboration with the biggest names on the planet can deliver.
However, brands have become more and more aware of the benefits that micro and nano influencers can offer. Marketing managers can target hyper specific demographics and consumer profiles through specialised and niche influencers who cater for smaller audiences. Not only that, they deliver more value for marketing spend with much higher engagement rates compared to their A-list counterparts. This year, nano and micro influencers are going to build on this trend and leverage their attractiveness to brands to secure even more partnerships.
5. New Platforms
TikTok has dominated around the world, not only with its all encompassing user base, but with brands and influencers too. With its superior engagement rates and strict focus on short form video content, TikTok has become a playground for content creators and brands to promote products and services in an instant gratification style.
But what about the other new players? Clubhouse has pushed the boundaries by stripping it back. This audio-focused platform has made waves recently and is in high demand. Until its system is capable of hosting new users at scale, users can only join up via an invite from an existing user, with each user allowed to hand out just 2 invites in total.
It’s an interesting concept and it remains to be seen how the influencer industry will adapt to this platform, but with notable names such as Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish already becoming prevalent on Clubhouse, it’s likely to become integrated into influencer marketing campaigns over the year. So much is the interest, Twitter has launched its own audio-based offering with Twitter Spaces. Again we’ll have to wait and see the impact of this form of social media, but either way it’s going to be a hot trend for 2021.
Other potential platforms to break into the mainstream this year include Caffeine, the live broadcast platform created by ex-Apple designers hoping to rival offerings such as Twitch. Bebo has made a comeback too (no, seriously!) and even Donald Trump is apparently starting up his own social media platform, perhaps a last recourse to avoid being banned? Whether it takes off with influencers will depend, but his reach means it could be “yuge”!
6. Data and Insights
Most of the time influencer marketing, just like any marketing efforts, is a numbers game. The objectives of a campaign can vary and will determine the metrics that are key to measuring success, but it all comes down to the results.
As more and more collaborations occur, insights are critical for brands to understand whether a campaign has been a success for them and worth their resources. With more brands committing bigger budgets to influencer marketing, the need for marketing teams to have thorough planning and detailed strategies in place will be amplified.
This trend will increase the importance of tools and influencer marketing platforms in delivering data and information such as audience demographics, campaign performance and fake follower detection.
7. Diversity and Inclusion
After a year of social activism throughout 2020 highlighted a lack of diversity in influencer marketing and inequality in the industry, especially faced by Black content creators, many brands are now being held accountable.
We’ll likely see the trend of diversity and inclusion continue through 2021 with better representation becoming common in the industry.
8. Purpose-Driven Campaigns
Purpose-driven campaigns will continue to become more popular over 2021. Brands that have previously been allowed to shy away from certain negative business practices are now being pressed to take a stand in a way that’s more than symbolic.
Consumers understand this too. In fact, 62% of consumers are more likely to purchase a product or service from a company that is purpose-driven in some way, for example, supporting a political, social or environmental cause.
At Kinsume we’ve noticed this trend, that’s why all of our campaigns have an eco-twist that sees us plant trees with every sale via our platform. Not only does this help the whole world by adding more carbon absorbing trees to our planet, it helps local communities that need it most by providing them with a source of food and income. To read more about our tree planting initiative, check out Planting Trees For The Future.
Authenticity, and I can’t stress this enough, is key in influencer marketing. In fact, it always has been. But it’s taken a while for the consensus to agree just how important it is. The best performing campaigns are the ones that the influencers themselves actually believe in. If they’re genuinely impressed by a brand or its products, it’s going to be clear in their content.
Audiences are becoming more and more turned off by influencers spamming their stories with anything they can find and in turn, become numb and resistant to that promotion. Further long term consequences of this lead to the erosion of trust between a content creator and their followers, a real nail in the coffin for future campaigns.
When an influencer clearly believes in a brand, their endorsement of their products is going to appear authentic to their followers. This will likely lead to influencers working with fewer brands, and focusing more on the ones they truly care about and becoming effective brand ambassadors.
10. Ongoing Partnerships
Linked with the rising trend of more authenticity, we’ll see more ongoing partnerships and less one-off campaigns occurring. Brands will invest in ongoing relationships with influencers and allow them to act as real brand partners over an extended period of time.
As it usually takes more than 6 touches or message exposures to make a sale, one-off paid posts are likely to become less attractive to brands. Instead, multiple posts and honest review style content over time will take its place. We’ll also see brands working more closely with their favourite influencers in a bespoke way and building trust and commitment. Integrated partnerships such as long term product collaborations or signature lines will become more common over 2021.
11. Performance Based Deals
Again, this one stems in some way from the demand for authenticity in influencer marketing and the rise of ongoing partnerships. Influencers will be expected to deliver the promotions and results they’ve agreed and many will opt for an ongoing commission or royalty-based partnership.
At Kinsume, we’ve adopted the commission-based affiliate style as a compensation model to make it a win-win for everyone involved. Content creators that deliver outstanding results are rewarded accordingly and brands can leave the risk of overpaying or wasting budgets promoting to fake followers behind. This is likely to increase in popularity over 2021 with many brands adopting this fair compensation model for their collaborations. For more info on how to get the most out of your affiliate game on Instagram, read our article 10 Tips For Instagram Affiliate Marketing.
The demand for transparency will increase and become more strictly enforced over 2021. Regulatory bodies such as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have been constantly trying to enforce the disclosure of sponsored content in the influencer marketing industry. Quite often, they’ve had to shift the rules and reach of their efforts to keep up with the constantly evolving industry that they police.
The vast majority of influencers adhere to the rules such as disclosing a paid partnership, sponsored post or affiliate commissions with relevant hashtags like #ad, #sponsored, #pr or #gifted, but the concern that not all influencers follow the guidelines recently prompted the CMA to launch an investigation into Instagram. Instagram, in turn, committed to launching new tools that require influencers to confirm whether they’ve been incentivised to promote a product.
Influencers, especially micro and nano influencers, have been carving out their own niches for years. More and more, we’re going to see influencers continue to develop their expertise in specific areas and become a voice of authority in their niche.
This will help secure more relevant and more authentic brand partnerships, as well as allowing the brands to hone in on their target demographics even more.
14. Value Driven
With a push for deeper connections between influencers and their followers, we’re going to see a more approachable persona adopted by many influencers. The influencers who nurture and engage with their community the most are in hot demand with brands hoping to piggy-back their marketing message on that good faith, so more content creators will pivot to this trend and strive to build a meaningful connection with their audience.
Showing their “real side” and encouraging more participation with their followers will become increasingly important throughout the industry. Letting their guard down and inviting followers to have a more personal glimpse into their lives will be a method many influencers embrace over the rest of the year and beyond. For some tips on how to create a real connection with your audience, find out everything you need to know in our article The Ultimate Guide to Building Community.
15. Social Responsibility
The last year or so has been turbulent for everyone. With those challenges has come the need for action, with a lot of content creators taking a stand and becoming more vocal on issues they feel passionate about. With the need for greater authenticity in their work, we’ll see stricter criteria some influencers use when assessing whether to work with a brand or not.
We’ll likely see more brands being turned down by influencers, no matter how attractive the campaign reward might be, purely based on ethical and moral alignment. This will lead to more socially conscious and cause-driven campaigns that are all the more worthwhile because of it.
At any point in the evolution of the influencer marketing industry’s evolution, trends and changes are constantly cropping up and 2021 is no different. Usually, they’re for the better and this year seems likely a particularly critical turning point with many trends pointing to a fairer, more transparent and more socially aware direction across the board.
Only time will tell how the radical game changers of new platforms and regulations will impact these changes, but one thing is clear; if you’re a brand or an influencer, it’s vital to keep your finger on the pulse to stay on trend and make sure you can continue to make the most out of influencer marketing. For some essential stats check out our post 23 Stats Every Fresh-Faced Influencer Should Know.