Raise your hand if you have ever felt personally targeted by an influencer on a social network such as YouTube, Snapchat, and Pinterest?
Whether you love them or hate them, influencers are here to stay (and #slay!).
Now before you start rolling your eyes (because we all know influencers don’t have the *best* rep), take a squizz at the numbers that have got marketers world-over seeing dollar signs...
According to research from Business Insider, the influencer industry will be worth a jaw-dropping $15 billion dollar by 2022. That means if you want your brand or product to succeed, you should probably start incorporating influencers in your future marketing strategies.
Still don't buy the hype?
Well, according to Statista, nearly 60% of millennials rely heavily on online reviews before buying something new. And 79% say they trust what friends share about products and services compared to just 28% who trust advertisements or commercials. Look, the numbers don’t lie...
Instagram is the O.G breeding ground for influencer marketing. Home to countless exciting creators with ever-growing numbers of followers, this platform continues to provide fresh n’ hip ways for brands and social media influencers to meet, interact, and form powerful partnerships with brands.
But first thing's first, to understand how influencer marketing works on Instagram, let’s talk about the actual difference between traditional advertising and digital influencer marketing.
Traditional advertising relies on spending money to attract potential buyers. For example, you might place an advertisement in a magazine expecting someone to notice it. You would hope that people will read the article and learn something interesting.
However, more than not, this process is often expensive, time-consuming, and ineffective. As a result, many advertisers turn to digital influencer marketing instead. And while COVID halted or slowed down businesses across many industries (no shit eh?), Instagram influencers simply adapted to the “new normal” by offering content that wasn’t just promotional, but also informative and useful to stop the spread of the deadly virus.
The reality? Well, it's safe to say that there are always plenty of opportunities for Instagram influencers to thrive, regardless of the external circumstances, yet it’s worth asking ourselves what the future of this industry might look like.
Will Instagram influencer marketing keep being this prominent? Will it continue to grow exponentially, or will it reach some sort of plateau? What trends can we expect for the medium and long-term?
To find the answers (or at least, a clued-in prediction!) to these and more questions, stay with us. This guide is going to give you the lowdown on Instagram influencer marketing and what their future holds.
Instagram Influencer Marketing Trends to Keep an Eye Out For
In short, below are the eight most interesting Instagram influencer marketing trends that we are witnessing that we believe will keep being prominent in 2021 and beyond:
- New Social Media Platforms
- Nano and Micro-Influencers
- Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Causes
- Ongoing Projects with Brands
- Hyper-Specialisation of Influencers
- Collaboration Among Influencers
- Video Content Boom
- Authentic, Unfiltered Content Creation
What a list, right? Let’s dig into the benefits of each trend...
1. New Social Media Platforms
One of the biggest challenges for Instagram is the continuous emergence of new social media platforms, like TikTok, which have the potential to win over many of its most influential creators. But how come new apps like Clubhouse and TikTok gained such huge popularity this past year?
Well, the coronavirus pandemic might have something to do with it. With people (influencers included) stuck indoors all of a sudden, there was a lot more time to get creative and inventive. This is just one of the main reasons why influencers swiftly jumped on the TikTok bandwagon, either in parallel or instead of leveraging their Instagram accounts.
TikTok offers users the possibility to create and share to-the-point and engaging short-form video content. Many influencers found this to be the perfect way to express themselves and gain a huge following, during the unprecedented times of the first global lockdowns.
TikTok has continued to grow in popularity since the outbreak of the pandemic and is showing no sign of slowing down. But new social media platforms are not the only novelty in the influencer world.
Fresh, experimental forms of creating and sharing content on AI-backed platforms and through CGI influencers (yep, the future is here gang!) are also gaining traction right now, and we expect to keep seeing this trend evolve in the near future.
2. Nano and Micro-Influencers
It’s important to bear in mind that not all influencers are created equal. For example, take someone like Shay Mitchell. At the time of writing, the actress-turned-influencer-turned-entrepreneur (check out her Bèis accessory range) has amassed a whopping 30.7 million followers. Celebrity influencers like her are super-popular on Instagram, but what is getting brands and users alike even more excited are the so-called nano and micro-influencers.
Who are they, exactly? As the name probably suggests, these influencers only have a few thousand followers, but guess what? Their engagement rates are even better than those of celebs. If you think about it, it’s actually easy to understand why.
Influencers with a smaller following feel more approachable, authentic, and relatable, compared to the Shay Mitchells of Instagram. Because of this, users are more inclined to establish a connection with them, whether it be by commenting on their posts, sharing their videos, or even sending DMs.
Take for example Tia Kirby, one of the most loved micro-influencers in the fashion world. A Texas girl, Tia is on a mission “to inspire others to learn and love themselves while discovering & enhancing their own individual style and beauty.” Her straightforward, genuine attitude is highly appealing to Instagram users, which makes her partnerships with JCPenney and Walmart more convincing and cost-effective.
So, what does this trend mean for brands, then?
Simple: regardless of their influencer marketing budgets, brands will be able to leverage those popular micro accounts in their favour, by establishing profitable partnerships and publicising endorsements.
3. Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Causes
While most of us consider 2020 the single-greatest shitstorm of a year we’ve experienced in our lives - it was also the year where social activism, environmental awareness, and authentic inclusion began to penetrate more lives than ever before.
Social media, and Instagram above all, were instrumental in taking complex discourses around race, equality, climate change, and gender violence and bringing them into our homes in a way that no news report or other traditional media was ever able to.
Brands and influencers were quick to embrace this new, global wave of activism. From organising Blackout days in support of the Black Lives Matter movement to promoting Greta Thunberg’s “Fridays for Future”, 2020 was truly a year that drove people closer together – albeit virtually – in a genuine, concerted effort to create a better world for everybody.
But wait, there was more...
2020 was also the year that marked the powerful, essential emergence of Black influencers and influencers from historically marginalised and discriminated communities. These creators began to share fresh, eye-opening content that forward-thinking brands immediately lauded and got on board with through successful projects and partnerships.
While there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to ensure a fairer and more equal world, it’s worth noting that Instagram influencers and the brands that work with them are moving in the right direction.
4. Ongoing Projects with Brands
If one-off sponsored ads and posts were the names of the game in the past, the future of Instagram influencer marketing will more consistently veer towards stable, long-term projects between influencers and brands. The reasons are many, but the main one is, of course, money-related.
It takes a lot of time (and effort) to finalise a sale, even though effective influencer marketing. So, it makes a lot more financial sense to invest in longer-term partnerships with fewer, and more trusted influencers, as opposed to keeping opening new, single contracts with a larger pool of creators.
Influencers, on the other hand, can capitalise on this trend by offering comprehensive and convenient packages that they can present to the brands they would like to work with. Similarly, influencers are also finding it useful to join influencer marketing networks, which helps them to acquire more legitimacy and close more deals with credible individuals and brands.
5. Hyper-Specialisation of Influencers
One of the reasons why Instagram influencers are so popular, both with brands and with consumers, is because they present and establish themselves as experts in their particular niche. It’s this expertise – whether earned through time or talent or both - that drives user engagement and captures the interest of businesses.
The boom of influencer campaigns has led to a more diverse range of influencers for companies to choose from. Influencers are expected to become even more specialised, in 2021 and beyond. This hyper-specialisation of their content is largely due to the increased competitiveness within the influencer marketing industry, marked by the emergence of those nano influencers that we talked about earlier.
Looks tasty right?
Hyper-specialised influencers will be able to attract brands that cater to hyper-specific niches. Let’s think, for example, of the home fitness industry, which has experienced a boom throughout the various coronavirus lockdowns.
This new wave of influencers is also expected to use a slightly different language, as they are keener on presenting themselves as “content creators” as opposed to “Instagram influencers”, or even “internet celebrities”.
6. Collaboration Among Influencers
In 2021 and beyond, it is very likely that we will see more and more collaborations between influencers, particularly on Instagram and TikTok. Influencer houses, for example, have already become incredibly popular, which makes it plausible that other similar projects will continue to be launched in the future.
After all, Instagram influencers need to see more return on their creative efforts and commitments, and teaming up with like-minded people through networks and communities can prove incredibly beneficial – and profitable.
7. Video Content Boom
This might not be surprising (especially given the amount we shoot in any given week), but video content continues to be up there with the best and most exciting digital marketing trends – and this includes Instagram influencer marketing, too. Just consider this: in 2020, the number of Facebook users watching live video content literally doubled.
Great videos have the power to create high levels of engagement, inform, entertain, and convince audiences, and have long been one of the most effective marketing tools. What’s new, then? Not so much the content itself, but the ways that it gets shared by Instagram creators.
Collaborative, live videos, for example, are all the rage at the moment, and this trend is likely to keep growing in popularity. Instagram itself has also introduced new ways to create videos, such as with Instagram Reels and IGTV, and both brands and influencers are tapping into these to gain more traction and reach out to wider audiences.
The name of the game, when it comes to video, is one: authenticity. Showing real, unfiltered content is a huge trend right now, and brands are quickly getting on board to reap its (profitable) benefits.
8. Authentic, Unfiltered Content
As much as Instagram keeps pulling new, fun filters out of its basket to add to videos and images, influencers are steering towards a different direction: authentic, unfiltered content. From showing bodies exactly like they are to guiding followers through product tutorials in a fun, playful way, the atmosphere that authentic content delivers is relaxed, friendly, and approachable.
Content that is presented as genuine and unfiltered has a much bigger pull with audiences: after all, humans are driven towards what feels similar, relatable, and familiar to them, whether it be a person, a product, or even a social cause.
So, why gloss it over and deliver content that looks unattainable and unnatural? Brands and influencers have understood this (2016 me thanks them!), and are on a mission to offer content that levels with their audiences and speaks to them in a way they understand, like, and relate to.
For this reason, we can expect influencers to team up with brands that they genuinely love and appreciate, whether it be because they offer amazing products, or for their social and environmental activism. By promoting brands in a way that feels real and not purely “salesy”, influencers have the potential to convince more followers to check out the brand that they are partnering with.
To wrap up our list, we’ll bring things full circle by reinforcing our original point: Instagram influencers are here to stay.
Influencers have the ability to tap into the creativity of others while providing you with valuable exposure and credibility. As a result, Instagram users will keep being driven to discover new products and brands that truly resonate with them and respond to their specific needs and expectations. Authentic, unfiltered Instagram influencer marketing content leads to meaningful, useful purchases – and that’s surely a win-win situation for influencers, brands, and consumers, right? So whether you’re looking to promote a specific event, launch a campaign, or simply gain some free publicity, you know who to call.