The COVID-19 pandemic tuned everyone into their screens almost 24/7 last year. Not only for business, but for pleasure, too. With more and more people socializing online versus in-person, the average screen time by April 2020 was up to 5h 40m per day; an 18% increase from weeks prior according to Later.
The changes have affected how we communicate with each other in many ways, but for brands especially, the pandemic era has really changed the influencer marketing landscape and how they work to get their message out. More eyes on screens and social media = more potential for eyes on sponsored content via influencers = ultimately, more sales!
This way of marketing is more valuable now than ever before. Influencer Marketing Hub states that the influencer marketing market reached $9.7 billion in 2020. That number is expected to jump to $13.8 billion in 2021. If your brand isn’t cashing in on the opportunities that influencers bring, you absolutely should get on board.
Although 2021 hasn’t been the complete bounceback we all hoped it would be, we’re slowly (but surely) getting back to living more in-person again. Retailers are bringing brick and mortar back into the picture, conferences and events are starting up again. What will influencer marketing look like, post-COVID? We tapped WITHIN’s Influencer Marketing team to chat about the changes and trends they’re noticing within the influencer marketing landscape this year and beyond.
How Has COVID-19 Changed the Way Brands Run Influencer Marketing Campaigns Versus Prior to the Pandemic?
According to WITHIN’s Head of Influencer Skylar Borucke, more brands are putting money into eCommerce and in turn, into influencer marketing. “Brands are turning away from just running brand awareness plays like they have in the past, they’re really looking for those return-driven campaign results,” she notes.
The messaging has changed, too. One major focus point during the pandemic that has resulted in ongoing changes is the rise of brands addressing social issues. It was unavoidable for most brands to take a stance regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, sustainability practices, politics, and more. With many audience eyes and ample time to poke at brand statements and values, brands needed to make sure they said the right thing and followed through with their actions and words.
Translating alignment on shared values and authenticity to the viewer means that building the right kind of influencer relationships is critical.
The Rise of TikTok
In 2020, brands began getting more creative on TikTok, especially. With no more live or in-person events to use as a showcase, the competition grew stronger with everyone turning their efforts to digital. The need to stand out from competitors became essential. Engaging with customers where they are and grabbing their attention through relatable tactics such as user-generated content became crucial to brands’ success.
Despite the boom in TikTok usage, a 2020 Kantar study shows that Facebook and Instagram traffic also experienced a 40% increase in traffic from consumers under 35. The audience increase allowed influencers to build loyalty and followers over time through these platforms.
How Has the Pandemic Affected Content Creators?
Influencers who were on the fence about becoming full-time influencers either chose to or were compelled to do so due to the circumstances brought on by the pandemic. With factors ranging from job losses, kids being home full-time and learning virtually, and working from home becoming our new normal, the pool of creative talent to choose from grew significantly.
“TikTok has made virality a lot easier and the potential of becoming an influencer is attractive,” says Skylar. “Just about anyone can become an influencer, and the number of people trying it keeps going up, which means the opportunities are only growing.”
There are more content creators now than before, which is a great thing for brands who are looking at diversifying their influencer marketing efforts. There are influencers available on nearly every channel, from TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Amazon, and so many more. There’s a wide range of talent to choose from to achieve brand goals and objectives.
How Have Influencer Marketing Campaign Rates Changed?
The WITHIN influencer marketing team says that one of the biggest changes they’ve seen regarding rates was the cost of usage by month. In some cases, partnership rates could double in price for brands who want to use the content in other ways (such as creative content in paid ads versus organic social media).
An A&E survey states that in 2020 on average, there was 3.1% increase in pricing per 1,000 followers, with some influencers keeping pricing the same while others increased their rates by 25%. Our team has also noticed an increase in influencer agencies popping up and growing teams quickly due to the fact that it’s something that can easily be done remotely.
How Are Brands Shifting Their Marketing Strategies to Include Influencer Marketing, Now and Beyond 2021?
“Right now, brands aren’t saying, ‘What’s influencer marketing and how should we do it?’, but rather, ‘I know I have to do influencer marketing, I just need to figure out how and what’s right for my brand,’” says Skylar. Brands that engage in influencer marketing need to find the happy medium of influencers, content, and promoting that content. Avoiding oversaturation through intentional promotion and messaging will be key for brands now and post-pandemic.
What Other Influencer Marketing Trends Should Brands and Marketers Expect to See in the Future?
Affiliate marketing is getting strong in cooperation with influencer marketing. Brands are finding useful ways to track influencer campaign success via affiliate links and platforms. Affiliate is becoming an alternative payment method for influencers too, via commission from products sold or a hybrid of a flat rate and commission percentage.
Another trend WITHIN experts are seeing is the growth of cross-channel reporting. Holistically looking at influencer costs and considering not only organic KPIs, but also paid media, email marketing, clicks on influencer sponsored content, and more has become crucial for brands growing their digital presence.
WITHIN experts also predict that TikTok’s influence is just going to keep growing. TikTok even has the potential to surpass Instagram, as long as they can provide better tracking capabilities, open their API, and allow for whitelisting capabilities in the future.
When all is said and done, influencer marketing is here to stay and we can only expect its value to increase as a marketing method for brands and content creators alike.
To discuss how to get the most out of your influencer partnerships and drive profitable growth for your brand, connect with us.
Featured image by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash.