If you work in marketing, PR, or communications, staying current with the latest influencer marketing trends is essential. While influencer marketing isn’t necessarily a new concept, the space constantly evolves. What works today may not work tomorrow, so staying up to speed is important.
Why this matters:
- Your competitors are doing it. And, if they aren’t doing it yet, they will be soon. This alone isn’t a reason to jump in headfirst with proper planning. Your customers and prospects are being influenced by influencers, whether you’re working with them. If you’re not part of the conversation, you’re missing out.
- You need to appeal to millennial and Gen Z consumers. These generations are skeptical of traditional marketing. To reach them, you need to meet them where they are… and that’s on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat.
- The cancel culture is real. You need to avoid mistakes. Influencer marketing can be a minefield if you’re not careful. Staying current with the latest trends will help you avoid missteps that could damage your brand’s reputation.
Take a look at this influencer eBook. It’s more focused on B2B and tech programs, but some additional tips will help.
Influencer Marketing Trends for 2021 and Beyond
I have never been the type of person to make predictions or trends about the upcoming year. Most of the time, the trends I read are recycled from years before. One of my good friends, Jason Falls, just released his new book, “Winfluence – Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand.” As a part of his promotional efforts, he launched a newsletter and podcast discussing influencer relationship marketing. I highly recommend you give it a listen.
The following are five influencer marketing trends inspired by my good friend Jason Falls.
Influencer Follower Counts are Now Irrelevant
Follower counts as a standalone metric are not helpful. But it is a part of a more extensive algorithm that measures influence across various data points. I prefer to call it audience size, measured by the number of followers across all channels. The other three metrics surrounding measurement include the following:
- Relevance: I prefer to call this topical relevance. It’s a data point that measures authority around specific topics. To simplify it, it’s a volume metric that also considers engagement.
- Resonance: This metric is related to the engagement of all content shared about a specific topic. For example, let’s assume that a cybersecurity influencer talks about various topics like cloud security, data protection, or SIEM but their audience only engages with his content when it’s about data protection. This means that his topical relevance is more about data protection than other topics discussed.
- Reference: This data point measures whether or not other influencers, the media, and various audiences are referencing the influencer. This can also measure media mentions or mentions within analyst reports.
Here’s a breakdown of influencer analytics, which breaks this down even further and includes measuring paid influencer programs’ performance.
The Shift from Influencers to Content Creators
I see a lot of technology influencers who share other people’s content. These aren’t influencers but more content promoters. True influencers create content in the form of thought leadership and give their perspectives on various topics. I am not saying that content promoters are bad because they are needed in any influencer marketing program. But the actual value comes when brands work with influencers to create content; in this case, long-form content is the most effective.
It’s effective because this content can be repurposed and used across multiple channels, not just on the influencer’s blog. It can be a slide presentation, infographics, video assets, etc. The goal is to have an evergreen asset that can live on your website or blog long after the campaign has ended and become visible in Google search results.
The best part about this type of content is that it allows influencers to share their story, experiences, and knowledge with their audience. It also allows brands to establish themselves as industry leaders by featuring experts on their websites through blog posts, podcasts, or videos.
Looking Beyond “Influencers” to Customer Advocates
Years ago, there was something called customer advocacy. It was when brands would rally behind their customers and create an environment to collaborate, share information, and converse. Over the last 5-7 years, though, brands have shifted to work with fewer, more “influential” people. While this is not a bad strategy, I am also seeing a shift in brands working with micro audiences and building a solid reputation and relationships with these groups.
The beauty of this approach is that customer advocates already have “brand love.” They are talking about the brand, products, or services they love without compensation or being asked to do so. This is extremely powerful for two reasons:
- The content that advocates create is viewed by others as more trustworthy because it’s authentic.
- The content can be directed to a particular audience that the advocate is already talking to.
For example, I am a huge fan of a consumer intelligence platform called Infegy. I talk about it often, reference the software in blog posts and create video content around it, share it on social media, and more. Infegy can use this content and share it with prospects deciding on a social listening solution for their company. Infegy isn’t paying me. They don’t ask me to post content. I do it because they have the best product on the market.
Widening of the Celebrity (and Advertising) Gap Trend
I have never been a fan of celebrity influencers. However, I did buy Total Gym about 20 years ago after watching Chuck Norris on a late-night infomercial. I believe most consumers can see right through programs when celebrities are endorsing products and services. I don’t necessarily consider this influencer marketing but more about advertising. Consumers are influenced by people like themselves, not Hollywood.
The celebrity gap is widening as we see a new trend of anti-celebrity influencers. These people have a large social media following and are considered famous but aren’t in the traditional sense. They don’t appear on late-night talk shows, on red carpets, or in People Magazine. Instead, they use TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube; and they have built a solid personal brand and tribe of loyal followers.
This is important because brands are now starting to partner with these types of influencers to reach consumers in new ways. These influencers are more relatable because they’re just like their audience. They’re also more affordable than traditional celebrities.
Increased Tension Between “Transaction” versus “Relationship”
I would never walk into the CMO’s office and say, “we’re going to measure the ROI of this influencer campaign based on how many relationships we can form with influencers.” However, marketing and PR teams are pressured to demonstrate value and ROI when asking for a digital marketing budget to fund programs like influencer marketing. Impressions and engagement are just vanity metrics.
For brands to stay relevant in the marketplace, they must embrace influencer marketing that delivers business value and ROI. Understanding these influencer marketing trends are the first step in planning and doing just that.
Helpful Influencer Marketing Resources
Below is a list of influencer marketing resources you can use and reference for planning purposes. I’ll try and keep this list up to date as best I can. These influencer marketing resources are from this blog, bylines I have written in the past, and 3rd party resources I have found helpful for my learning.
A Complete Guide to B2B Influencer Marketing: This is an in-depth approach and step-by-step guide that can help you plan your B2B influencer programs.
Influencer Marketing Case Studies: This summary of consumer and B2B micro case studies helps prove why influencer marketing should be an integral part of your digital marketing plan.
Activating B2B Influencers Across PESO: This is a byline I wrote for MarketingLand that explores the tactics on how marketers can leverage influencer marketing across all of the brand’s channels–paid, earned, shared, and owned media. All tactics have been tested and have produced tangible results for consumers, B2B, and healthcare brands.
How Researching B2B influencers Can Deliver Actionable Intelligence: This is a byline I wrote for MarketingLand that examines how marketers can use data, analytics, and research to study groups of influencers. It’s accurate data, no fluff whatsoever because that’s how I do it.
B2B Decision Makers Are Tired of the Same Old Marketing: This is a byline I wrote for Adweek that shows how marketers can profile influencers to understand their unique characteristics and behaviors.
The 1:9:90 Model: A New Approach To B2B Influencer Marketing: This is a byline I wrote in Forbes that examines the 1:9:90 model of influence and how that applies to B2B marketers. It applies to consumer and healthcare brands too.
Influencer Model – 1:9:90 Rule of Social & Influencer Segmentation: This is a deeper analysis of the 1:90:90 model with examples.
2018: The Year of Influencer Marketing for B2B Brands: A byline I wrote for MarketingLand about the need to segment B2B audiences, closely examining the 1%–of influencers.
Top Tech Influencers: 5 Critical Things You Need To Know: This post explains the five critical factors you need to know before you hire tech influencers.
Unlocking Value with Influencer Analytics + Data + Insights: A deep-dive post that explains how you can use data to identify influencers and measure your influencer campaigns’ performance.
Influencer Marketing Software Platforms: An overview of the different types of influencer marketing resources and software available.
How Do You Measure Influence on Social Media?: A quick summary of how you can measure influence on social media.
Influencer Intelligence: Using Data to Understand the Influencer Community: A breakdown of using influencer intelligence for research, with actionable examples.
How to Launch an Organic Influencer Engagement Strategy: A step-by-step guide on launching an organic influencer engagement program.
Influencer Mapping is Essential to Understand Influential Connections: A post where I define influencer mapping and show examples of various influencer graphs from Traackr and Onalytica.
Influencer Relations: The New Relationship Marketing Model: A post where I break down the critical differences between influencer relations and influencer marketing. It’s not the same thing.
Audience Profile: Critical for All Social Media Marketing Campaigns: A post that examines the audience profile of a specific influencer.
Winning the War of Brand Relevance B2B Influencer Marketing: This is a white paper I wrote a few years ago that breaks down the who, what, where, and why of influencer marketing resources.
3rd Party Influencer Resources
Influencer Marketing Hub: This is one of my favorite influencer marketing resources. You’ll find reports, data, and software reviews related to influencer marketing.
G2 (Influencer Marketing Platforms): G2 provides software reviews from real users, and they also have the “G2 Grid”, which scores software based on reviews from the community, and data aggregated from other sources.
Statista: Global influencer marketing statistics, trends, and facts.