Five years ago, the influencer marketing industry was an afterthought for many brands. Five years before that, influencer marketing was barely even a term people knew.
Fast forward to 2021, the influencer industry is expected to be worth $13.8 billion and has become a standard in any effective marketing strategy. Companies are setting aside thousands, sometimes millions of dollars, to fund influencer campaigns and get their brand out there and into the minds of their audiences.
Prior to the pandemic, mega-influencers (1 million+ followers) were highly sought after for their large following. In the past year, however, social media and PR professionals have begun to realize that engagement, not numbers, increases sales. This is where nano- (< 5,000) and micro-influencers (5,000-100,000) come in. These influencers specialize in niche content that their followers have more of a local tie to, and therefore they have more propensity to engage.
Back in 2018, Warby Parker ran a #WearingWarby series, using 7 ‘non-traditional’ influencers who had posted them wearing Warby Parker glasses prior to the campaign. This strategy resulted in 844,111 people reached, 55,250 likes, 640 comments, and a 3.4% engagement rate.
The Power of Platform
Instagram has been the most widely used avenue for influencer marketing. In 2020, however, TikTok exploded. As social media evolves, influencers follow where their audience is going to and 16% of marketers said they were planning to use the platform in their influencer marketing. In 2021, that number has since risen to 68%.
In 2020, Ralph Lauren became the first brand to launch a TikTok campaign tied to a sporting event. They called on actress Diana Silvers to promote the U.S. Open using #USOpen, giving the brand access to the two different audiences. The first three videos each received around 100,000 likes, while the hashtag garnered 600 million views.
Long-Run vs. One-Off Campaigns
On the same note, brands are investing more time and money into long-run rather than one-off campaigns, that incorporate personalization and more quality content. According to Forbes, influencers who engage in long-run campaigns build more trust and authenticity in their followers, as they are seen as a ‘representative’ of the brand.
The influencer marketing industry has drastically changed over the past few years and will continue to evolve over time. Companies that learn to leverage and navigate the influencer marketing industry have leg up on their competitors in terms of both sales and brand exposure.