5 Influencer Marketing Predictions for 2021 and Beyond

Increasingly a driving force behind many brands, influencer marketing isn’t always an easy road to navigate. Even if you’re already a marketing expert, it can be difficult to find influencers who align with your brand. And in addition to just finding influencers, you have to make sure they’re not fake, something that continues to be a top challenge for marketers.

However, influencer marketing continues to grow as an industry. Research shows that the industry is set to value $15 billion by 2022, almost double what it was worth in 2019. So despite the above-mentioned challenges, marketers find the strategy useful. In fact, a 2020 study found that 91% of marketers believe influencer marketing is an effective strategy.

As influencer marketing growth shows no signs of slowing down in 2021, here are some predictions for what we will see this year.

Continued developments in marketing tools will allow for more direct and transparent communication between brands and influencers

As technology continues to develop, so do the digital tools available to marketers. Finding influencers and avoiding fake ones is still a top challenge for marketers, as we mentioned above. Therefore, I think techies will capitalize on this pain point and provide us with new tools to streamline the brand-influencer relationship even further.

Social networks will further crack down on the disclosure of collaborations in order to ensure their users know which of influencers’ posts are advertisements

The American Federal Trade Commission,  the British Competition and Markets Authority and parallel agencies from other governments require influencers (and brands) to state whenever a social media post is part of a paid collaboration. We’ve known about these guidelines for years, yet some influencers and brands still don’t properly disclose their partnerships.

This past October, Instagram stated that it would be cracking down on improper disclosures after an investigation found the platform wasn’t doing enough to ensure that consumers weren’t being tricked by hidden ads. Instagram said it planned to roll out new tools this year to address this issue, including prompts asking influencers if they were paid for content, as well as algorithms designed to pick up on hidden ads.

Instagram is a major voice in influencer marketing. But other companies will want to keep up, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same happening with the other social networks.

Both brands and influencers will be held to new levels of accountability in wake of the coronavirus pandemic and recent socio-political conversations being had across social media

Back in 2017, research showed that 81% of US consumers said that social media increases brand accountability. And in 2020, we’ve seen that hold up, as some brands were called out for their response to sociopolitical issues like Black Lives Matter, greenwashing, or for their response to the pandemic.

Accountability means being responsible for your brand, its practices, and the messages you transmit to the world. In 2021, I don’t think this accountability trend is going anywhere. If anything, social media users will be watching both brands and influencers with even more scrutiny.

Diversity will continue to be a hot topic, and brands should think about their inclusion of different races, genders and abilities. Fortunately, influencer marketing can help with that, if brands put in the legwork to find influencers of diverse experiences who can not only create content from their POV, but also advise brands with respect to any malpractices they pick up on.

Post-pandemic, nano and micro influencers will continue to be attractive options for brands looking to improve their ROI and connect to audiences in authentic ways

Micro influencers, or influencers who have between 5-50K followers, have become the darlings of influencer marketing in recent years. In 2019 for example, there were 10 micro influencers used for every mega influencer.

The change in use of micro influencers from 2016 to 2019. Source: Influencer Marketing Hub and Creator IQ.

Why? Micro influencers have higher engagement rates, as we can see in the graphic below. They come across as more authentic, and they can help brands connect to valuable niche markets better than their peers with more followers. Micro influencers are like real people giving recommendations, while celebrity influencers can come across like revolving display cases whose opinions are bought and sold.

A comparison of the average engagement rates for micro influencers and macro influencers. Source: Heepsy.

I don’t see this strategy going away anytime soon. For brands struggling due to Covid-19, micro influencers offer an affordable way to keep up with influencer marketing. Further, their authentic style is ever more valuable for brands dealing with their own authenticity and accountability issues.

TikTok will continue its reign as the top marketing channel for Gen Z

TikTok was the most downloaded app worldwide in 2020. It’s often named in the media as the favorite social network of Generation Z, or people born between the mid 90s and early 2010s. So basically, teenagers.

Looking at 2020 data from the US, we can see that 32.5% of TikTok users are between the ages of 10-19, putting them firmly in that Generation Z category. Almost another third of American TikTok users are 20-29 years old, which includes some Gen Zers and Millennials.

A breakdown of TikTok users in the US by age. Source: Statista.

I don’t think this will change in 2021. TikTok will continue to be the it place for Generation Z. They’ve carved out their own corner of the Internet, and their trends dominate the content on TikTok. Moreover, I’d say that TikTok is made even more appealing to Gen Zers when authority figures try to prohibit them from using the app, like when former president Donald Trump tried to ban the app in the US this past summer.

Considering all of this, TikTok will continue to be the best channel for marketers to make a real impact on Generation Z audiences. It’s where they live online, and they’ve shown that despite what we think, they’re not moving.

Wrap Up

If there’s one thing I’d advise you to embrace for your 2021 marketing, it would be adaptability. We’ve seen how things can change a lot in a small amount of time, and the businesses that made strides in 2020 were those that were able to reorient themselves and their strategies.

Stay on your toes, keep up with the news, and make your decisions based on observable data and best practices. Finally, be transparent with and accountable to your clients, customers and followers.