When the pandemic first hit the U.S. earlier this year, we saw many articles asking if this was the end of influencer marketing as we know it (or at least, the tipping point). Influencers had a bit of a make-or-break moment as some had to completely shift their content strategies, while others were called tactless as some fled hotspots like New York City against CDC guidelines, and others continued to promote swipe ups and link clicks while many were dealing with sick loved ones or loss of jobs.
But don’t count out influencer marketing. It’s been underestimated before, and is proving to come out on top again. Many influencers rose to the top as they listened to their audiences and pivoted content to be helpful, and created places online for their followers to escape to, while still acknowledging the hardships they were facing. The shift in influencer marketing continued throughout the summer, following George Floyd and the nationwide response, when many utilized their platforms – and influence – to support the Black community and the fight against racial injustice, putting influencers of color at the rightful forefront.
2020 has been anything but business as usual for influencer marketing, but the numbers speak for themselves. Just consider this: sponsored influencer posts reached 57 million as of July 2020, which was five times greater than pre-pandemic (early March 2020).
Seeking to better understand how this year has shaped those we work closest with, The Motherhood surveyed our community of trusted influencers to understand and unveil the top five trends which shaped influencer marketing in 2020.
The Facebook Family Still Reigns
Facebook was the first social network to hit 1 billion monthly active users, with Instagram hitting that same milestone in 2018. Despite a boycott and yet another lawsuit this year, Facebook still has the most active users of all the social networks, with WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram not far behind, all of which are owned by Facebook.
According to our survey, when asked which channel they found most effective for promoting giveaways, 70% of influencers agreed Facebook and Instagram. Nearly half of all surveyed said that Instagram was the channel they found most effective for engaging with their readers as well as brands they love, with Facebook not far behind. And, one-third said Instagram garnered the most engagement within their communities.
Long-Term Partnerships Prevail
While “one and done” posting works in certain circumstances, longer-term brand partnerships resonate well with influencer audiences. When a partnership is longer-term, an influencer learns a brand better and can organically talk about them more often – and more naturally, building trust with their followers.
We love partnering with clients for long-term engagements. It helps when they have key events or activations throughout the year, that we can execute a steady drumbeat of influencer content for.
One of our influencers surveyed said, “I would love more longer-term opportunities. I love working with some brands because they give me regular work and I know how to schedule and plan for it.”
Still Navigating Social Issues
Some of the influencers surveyed said a challenge they faced in 2020 was navigating social issues. While many posted a black square on their Instagram feed to show support for Blackout Tuesday, many were left asking “but what next?” Many influencers remained quiet for some time to reflect. Others shared influencers of color and Black-owned businesses in their feeds and stories. But as 2020 went on, many went back to sharing their usual content, only to pick back up during the presidential election. Some of the responses in our survey touched on the importance of showing empathy – and the importance of brands walking the walk when it comes to diversity.
One woman in our influencer network Brandi Riley has stepped up tremendously in 2020 with the launch of The Influencer Activist Toolkit, a resource to support those who might be new to using their platforms to educate and inform about difficult topics. Her goal is two-fold: to not only educate fellow influencers, but to educate their audiences as well. A powerful step as we continue to navigate these important conversations.
Today more than ever, influencers are really investigating the brands they work with on a deeper level, too – and this is informing their partnerships. They want to work with organizations who support diversity and inclusion, social justice issues and more. It’s imperative that brands are transparent in these practices.
Short and Sweet Video
When asked what the biggest social media trend that emerged in 2020, short-form video rose to the top – mostly in the form of Instagram Reels and Stories, and TikTok.
More than one-third of influencers say they have started to use TikTok more frequently over the past year, according to a recent report. But they are still navigating this new platform. The influencers we surveyed noted that TikTok is gaining in popularity, but have not moved branded content here yet.
And while Reels is still gathering stats, the Instagram algorithm definitely favors this newest feature on the platform, which can help influencers get more visibility. When we asked our influencers which channel they find most effective for prerecorded short form video; more than half said Instagram.
A new study even noted that shorter video ads are now on par with longer video promotions in terms of effectiveness.
Perfect is Out, Real Life is In
When Instagram really took off several years ago, it was all about a perfectly curated feed, ensuring your aesthetic was always just right. But after the pandemic hit, it was less about perfection and more about real life. Not to mention, budgets were cut and photo and video shoots were cancelled, causing brands to turn to influencers for created content. The result? Followers loved it. Especially as stories continue to gain more momentum and are more in the moment.
One influencer in our survey said, “My followers want to see it all. Everything about my life. What I wear, what I eat, what I do, what I buy.” Especially during a most trying year, followers want relatable content.
Looking Ahead to 2021
What does 2021 hold? At The Motherhood, we anticipate the 2020 trends to trickle into 2021, as the pandemic continues. The influencers in the survey really stressed the value of video, and as TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat continue to compete for viewers, we can expect to see more video features unveiled. And this holds true for ads, too. Story ads with videos have a higher CTR than story ads with images: 0.59% vs. 0.29%.
Not only that, but we anticipate a closer eye on all influencer content and maybe even changes in measurement, as another advisory group has been established, The Influencer Marketing Advisory Board by The Association of National Advertisers. Their goals include increasing “trust and transparency in influencer marketing by reducing fraud, improving measurement and spearheading industry commitments to advancing and improving the discipline.”
When it comes to working with influencers in 2021, having a long-term approach, working with video, and letting them create real, authentic content will resonate. Are you ready to move the needle in the new year? Contact us today to get started.