Council Post: The State Of Influencer Marketing: Top Insights For 2021

Co-Founder and CEO of SocialPubli, an award-winning influencer marketing platform with 200,000+ opt-in influencers across 35 countries.

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2020 wasn’t what anyone expected with the Covid-19 pandemic impacting most industries and wreaking havoc on best-laid plans. With that in mind, planning for 2021 will require flexibility and a willingness to make fast-paced changes where necessary. We see plenty of opportunity ahead for influencer marketing if firms are willing to experiment, engage and be flexible.

1. Video content is exploding.

People are watching more online videos than ever before. Along with well-established platforms like Facebook and YouTube, TikTok and Instagram Reels (launched in August) are feeding consumer’s avid desires for video.

Live video in particular has boomed. In the first months of the pandemic alone, the number of U.S. Facebook users watching live video increased 50%, prompting the platform to roll out additional features to support video creators.

How brands can benefit: Allowing influencers to create their own content (which we’ve found that most brands prefer) can increase the authenticity and attractiveness of your feed. We’ve seen realistic and genuine videos create a much stronger connection than scripted ones, even if they’re not perfectly produced or edited.

2. TikTok can’t be stopped.

While Instagram continues to be the dominant force in influencer marketing, TikTok is gaining ground. In our survey of 200 digital marketing professionals, more than 30% cited TikTok as their preferred platform for influencer marketing campaigns.

Users love the easy-to-watch, creative videos on the platform, while brands love the fact that it’s easy for content to reach a wide audience. And TikTok’s audience continues to grow — it currently has about 850 million monthly active users.

How brands can benefit: TikTok is a more informal platform and is thus well-suited for pandemic life, where many people seem to crave connectivity and realism. You can create casual, humorous, authentic connections by taking your influencer partners’ suggestions on how to use this platform and adding variety and human interest to your overall content strategy.

3. Focus is shifting to the collective good.

During the pandemic, both brands and influencers have experienced a shift in perspective, away from superficial, sales-driven content and toward more purposeful content with deeper meaning. With mounting pressure from their communities to step up their game and stand for something, both brands and influencers are becoming more vocal about the causes they believe in.

We expect this shift to continue into 2021. In a time when many households are affected by job loss and financial setbacks, it makes sense to grow trust and create stronger relationships so buyers will choose you when they’re once again able to allocate discretionary income for purchases.

How brands can benefit: Make sure you, and the influencers you partner with, come across as authentic. In my experience, a higher level of expectation comes with a belief-driven connection; you’ll need to promote causes for their own sake, not as a shortcut to gaining sales. 

4. Brands are seeking deeper, long-term relationships with influencers.

Many consumers are becoming savvier at spotting paid influencer campaigns and have no issue with ignoring a brand or influencer that proves to be inauthentic. In an effort to maintain genuine influencer partnerships and keep those loyal, high-performing influencers in their inner circles, many brands are switching from one-off campaigns to the creation of influencer communities and ambassador programs.

Influencer fraud continues to be a top issue. More than half of the marketers we surveyed expressed concern about guaranteeing the authenticity of followers. Having an ambassador program made up of fully vetted influencers who have demonstrated their professionalism and affinity for the brand can be an effective way to ensure brand safety.

How brands can benefit: Pay attention to campaign success data so you can track which influencers resonate most with consumers. As more data becomes available, this process will become easier and you will be able to quickly identify who those ideal candidates are for your influencer community or ambassador program.

5. Partnering with employees can help you build advocacy.

Social media users seem to love getting the inside scoop from their preferred brands. Wendy’s repost of a video of an employee building a Baconator has received more than 3 million views. Along with Wendy’s, an increasing number of brands have begun to notice the potential for influence through their employees and have implemented employee advocacy programs.

As an example, Macy’s Style Crew gives employees the chance to show off the products they use in their everyday lives and receive financial rewards if their content leads to sales. This program works because it encourages employees to live their daily lives and incorporate Macy’s products where they fit in.

Your employees are your first line of connection with customers and can be an untapped source of valuable content. Audiences love hearing from the people behind the scenes, especially in these days of loneliness, where even friendly chit-chat with cashiers and customer service people is in short supply.

How brands can benefit: Develop programs that make it fun and rewarding for employees who represent your company. Use your employees for casual behind-the-scenes footage as well as for tutorials and how-to guides.

Give employees guidance on how to promote the brand and the freedom to do so in an authentic way that reflects their personal style. Leverage their informed viewpoints to amplify your company’s reach.

The past year will be hard to top for unexpected situations. When it comes to influencer marketing in the new year, anticipating the value of authentic relationships will not steer you wrong.

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