As we start a new year, our commercial director, Alec Harden-Henry has pooled the knowledge of his agency, brand and influencer connections and put pen to paper on what changes we’ll see in influencer marketing in 2021.
Sales-driven campaigns are coming.
Brand building, awareness generation and engagement creation will continue to be a focus for many, but as influencer marketing spreads far and wide and sales departments get wind of what marketing is doing, the pressure is coming for influencer campaigns that directly generate sales.
How this will work out remains to be seen. Are influencers pushing their loyal audience too far if they say ‘buy this here now’? Or will a loyal following and well placed product be seen as a great way to support a trusted social media personality?
Whatever the answers to the questions, brands are going to ask those questions in a drive to solve sales-driven influencer campaigns and they’re going to ask those questions throughout 2021.
If you ask those questions you get answers. You might not always like those answers, but at least you have them.
The truth with sales-driven campaigns to date is that brands and agencies tell us those that they have run (not on our platform) haven’t worked.
Whether the right questions haven’t been asked or there was some other problem; influencer marketing that’s designed to sell a discrete product during a discrete campaign has not produced the results brands are used to from the sector.
But ask enough questions and someone will find the right answer.
Given that 2021 is going to be the year of trying to solve sales-driven influencer marketing campaigns, it is also going to be the year when someone cracks it and reaps the rewards.
There are almost 50 influencer marketing platforms in the sector and I don’t need to be Nostradamus to tell you that that’s unsustainable (don’t worry - we’re here for the long term).
As the market matures and brands, agencies and influencers alike settle on their own personal ‘favourites’, the platform market will consolidate, which will make it easier for new brands and agencies to do their research and settle on their favourite. In turn, fewer platforms will grow at acceptable rates and we’ll have consolidations within the marketplace.
Some will exit entirely, there will probably be a merger or two (or at least one or two discussed and in the pipeline) and by the end of the year we’ll see a few emerging winners, with clearly defined service offerings, floating to the very top.
These are very clever. I’ve recently seen the ability to place shoppable product ads into a video. Clicking the product in the video keeps the video playing but allows you to purchase the product clicked, whilst still in the video environment you were in. Like I say; very clever.
If you think Facebook isn’t looking long and hard at this sort of thing for both Facebook and Instagram then you haven’t been paying attention to Facebook’s megalithic growth cycle and the reduction of public facing metrics such as ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ - there was a good reason that they started hiding these and sadly it wasn’t to appease our competitive anxiety... They believe there’s more to come from ads and introducing new advertising options is one of the ways of doing that.
How does this impact influencer marketing? Well, see the above point on sales-driven campaigns. This is another question that’s going to get asked in that quest: ‘what if we did influencer marketing, but in a new way no-one’s seen before, with the express aim to generate sales?’
Maybe it’s in-video purchases or maybe it’s something else, but we will see this sort of unique ‘trick’ that makes consumers go ‘oh!’ and hopefully purchase something during 2021.
You can find various figures for the predicted and actual size of the influencer marketing marketplace, depending on how you choose to measure it.
All of them agree; influencer marketing spend is heading ‘up and to the right’.
What they don’t quite agree on is how sharp the climb is or will be. It remains very possible that all the predictions are serious under-estimations.
The evidence of that can be seen in reports like this, where 50% of FMCG businesses say they are planning to allocate up to 50% of their entire marketing budget to influencer marketing in 2021. That is an extremely significant commitment. 19% have already upped their influencer spending commitment ‘significantly’ during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we see more figures like that there will be a ‘me too’ effect, to the point where brands not involved with influencers will no longer be able to look the other way.
And yes, you guessed it, that’s going to drive influencer marketing’s growth ‘up and to the right’, possibly more so than anyone has so far predicted.
I’ve both saved this one till last and borrowed it from this Talking Influencer article. It’s a little self-serving (micro influencers represent 95%+ of our work), but Talking Influence made this prediction first, I agree with them and, actually, I think the final figure could be more than 50%.
Micro influencers currently stand at a share of 46.4% of uses of the #Ad hashtag on Instagram. We know that micro influencer campaigns are successful; brands love the ability to communicate with a niche (at scale, if you’re working with us), drive buyer behaviour and collect impressive engagement metrics versus influencers with larger follower counts. With all that in mind and with brands now in possession of all of the 2020 data, a 3.6% increase doesn’t feel like much to me.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see that increase hit double figures and micro influencers to end up in the 55-60% share range by the end of 2021 but then, hey, more so than any of my other forecasts for the year, this is the one I’m really rooting for!
What do you think? Let me know on our social accounts if you think some of these could come true this year or if I’m way off. And what are your predictions for where the sector goes in 2021?
Written by Alec Harden-Henry
Commercial Director, Influence Network
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© 2022 Influence Network.
Registered in England and Wales: 10815710
20-22 Wenlock Road, London, N1 7GU