Influencer marketing has proven itself to be a highly effective marketing strategy, and it shows no signs of slowing down in 2020. In 2019, 90 percent of marketers maintained or increased their investment in influencer marketing. Companies like Estée Lauder plan to invest even more in 2020. Stay ahead of the competition and follow the tips we’ve laid out for implementing 20 influencer marketing trends you’ll see in 2020.
Influencer Marketing Trends of 2020
- Video Content Dominates
- Authenticity Is Attractive
- Long-Term Relationships Overpower One-Offs
- Nano- and Micro-Influencers Emerge
- TikTok Shines
- Twitch Gets More Traction
- Sleeper Social Media Platforms and New Features Surface
- Employees Become Influencers
- New Visual Technology Attracts Attention
- Influencers Diversify
- Marketers Merge Their Strategies
- Instagram Continues to Rule
- Ads Feature Influencers
- Vanity Metrics Take a Back Seat
- Brands and Influencers Are Better Matched
- Influencer Platforms Gain Importance
- AI Takes Charge
- Influencer Marketing Budgets Increase
- An Influencer Community Emerges
- Compliance Is Expected
Video is easy to view, and it’s a quick way for people to get the information they’re looking for. On mobile, people can mute videos and view them almost any time and anywhere. With more and more viewers using mobile screens, video makes sense for marketers to reach more people. Bandwidth speed is not as much as a problem as it used to be, so videos load quickly and play smoothly.
Video also promotes storytelling. This has a variety of benefits in the marketing arena:
- Storytelling evokes emotion. Purchasing decisions often begin with an emotional response, then the buyer back-rationalizes by adding in facts like customer reviews, price and availability.
- Storytelling holds a viewer’s attention. A storyline constantly creates and releases tension, explains WireBuzz. And since our brains crave certainty and closure, we stay tuned in to hear the rest of the story. Video storytelling is even more effective because the viewer is taking in the information visually as well as through sounds.
- Storytelling also creates beliefs. When you see someone actually using a product, you know it works and how it works. This helps customers make purchasing decisions based on what they know, not just what they’re being told.
- Storytelling is memorable. Processing a story activates more of our brains than taking in facts or logic, making stories up to 22 times more memorable, according to WireBuzz. Delivering your message via video can make your brand stand out in potential customers’ memories.
Stats on Video Content and Influencer Marketing
Let’s let the numbers speak for themselves. Take a look at how video is affecting the marketplace, as reported by Biteable’s compilation of recent surveys conducted by leaders in the industry:
- Each year, mobile video watching rises by 100 percent.
- After watching branded videos on social platforms, 64 percent of consumers will make a purchase.
- Video posts on social media have 48 percent more views than other content.
- After viewing a product in a Facebook Story, 62 percent said they were more interested in the product.
- Video is shared 1,200 percent more often on social media than text and image content combined.
- Before visiting a store, almost 50 percent of Internet users check for videos related to a product.
- Organic search traffic increases 157 percent when video content is on a website.
- Among marketers, 52 percent say video content has the best return on investment (ROI).
- Your email click rates can increase by 300 percent if you include video.
- Half of viewers between the ages of 18 and 34 say they’d stop what they’re doing to watch a video from their favorite creator.
Ways Brands Can Collaborate With Influencers to Create Video Content
Video content is the way to go in 2020. Cisco predicts that by 2021 video will make up 82 percent of Internet traffic. Influencers use video content across all social media platforms, and here are some ways brands can collaborate with them to get their message out:
- Product reviews – An influencer’s audience trusts their opinion. So when an influencer gives you a positive review, they’re affecting the buying decision of hundreds to millions of potential customers.
- How-tos – A product demonstration shows viewers exactly how the product works and how it can benefit them. People are almost twice as likely to buy a product after watching a video demo, according to Insivia.
- Q&As – Question and answer sessions make your brand more accessible and personal to the consumer. An influencer can field questions directly from their audience members about your brand, product or event.
- Interviews – An influencer interview with your company’s top management personnel can make your brand seem more personable. This approach also takes advantage of storytelling.
- Tip of the day – Short, 30-second informational videos help establish a brand as an industry authority. This strategy also takes advantage of an influencer’s reach. Tip-of-the-day video content can include how-tos on cleaning or repairing a product, using a product, topics related to the industry, FAQs and so on.
Brands can also use influencers in their video ads and ask for product mentions in influencer vlogs and live streams. Influencers can use video to promote events sponsored by brands.
What started as a big push in 2019 looks to continue in 2020. Influencers are striving to stay authentic. They’re choosing to partner with brands that align with their message, rather than brands that simply pay well.
Brands are focusing more on creating quality content that’s helpful to their customers, instead of focusing primarily on monetization. The Meaningful Brands® 2019 survey revealed there’s a 72 percent correlation between content that impacts a person’s well-being and its effectiveness. And Adobe reports that 79 percent of consumers expect a brand to prove it cares and understands them before they consider making a purchase. Nichole Ciotti is the co-founder of Storyluxe, a popular Instagram design app. She says, “Authenticity is key. If you nail that, the money will come.”
You can observe this trend on Instagram where more influencers are writing longer, more personal captions for their photos. The character limit on Instagram is approximately 360 words, so influencers have a good amount of text real estate to connect with their audience members. Content that is motivational, reflective, descriptive or tells a story engages readers and encourages them to come back for more of the same. When a product is associated with the post, readers connect the authenticity with the brand.
Long-form captions also allow influencers to ask a question and include calls to action, which encourages more engagement from readers. Plus, longer narratives lend credibility to the influencer, as readers are better able to get to know them. That translates to a stronger connection with the brand too.
Influencers are also moving away from the perfect-photo post and towards more of a no-edit, no-filter look. A home that looks lived in rather than picture-perfect lets the reader connect with the influencer and brand on a more human level. In-the-moment shots are trending over perfect poses. And minimal to no editing gives a picture a more authentic feel rather than a salesy approach.
Ways Brands Can Use Influencers to Be More Authentic
- Build relationships with customers – Influencers naturally build relationships with their followers through consistently posting helpful or entertaining content, engaging with them through comments and responding to their requests.
- Engage customers in conversation – Influencers can share news about your brand in their posts as well as answer questions. They can also look for pain points when asking questions. When your customers know you care about solving their problems, they’re more likely to stay loyal to your brand.
- Keep your values aligned – It’s important for brands to be diligent about choosing influencers who align closely with their values, and vice versa. A closely matched relationship makes the relationship more natural, which translates to authenticity to the audience.
Be transparent and honest – Teaming with an influencer helps brands stay farther away from the sales approach to gaining and keeping customers. Influencers are real people connecting with others who share similar interests. People participating in a survey conducted by Cohn & Wolfe said their top expectation from a brand is that it communicates honestly about its products and services.
When influencer marketing came on the scene, most collaborations between brands and influencers functioned on a campaign-by-campaign basis. The trend now is towards developing longer-lasting relationships. Since content creators build long-term relationships with people to become and remain influencers, it makes sense that the same principle applies to partnerships with brands. Brands might opt to work with more than one influencer, based on their various target markets. But once they find a good match, it’s wise to capitalize on the stronger partnership built on trust and mutual interests.
Benefits of Brands Collaborating With Influencers on a Long-Term Basis
Both the brand and the influencer reap benefits from longer-term collaborations. Take a look at a few of the advantages of choosing long-term relationships over one-offs:
- It saves the brand the time, effort and expense of searching for and vetting new influencers and establishing if they’re a good match.
- Brands can define their goals and expectations over a period of time.
- Consumers identify the influencer with the brand for a stronger, more meaningful relationship that can translate to repeat sales.
- It encourages influencers to create high-quality, consistent content since they’re invested in a future with the brand.
Influencers benefit from the stability of having a more reliable income and content source. Brands are also more likely to consult influencers for their creative and strategic insights when they’ve formed a long-term relationship. This creates more of a partnership between the brand and the influencer, which should lead to more successful influencer marketing campaigns.
Manu Muraro is an Instagram trainer and founder of Your Social Team. She says it takes a brand six to eight exposures to a potential customer to make a sale. So, one-offs are not as effective with influencer marketing as a longer-term contract is. Muraro suggests influencers pitch ideas such as a signature line of products and go beyond the ideas of a sponsored post or story. This makes both the influencer and brand feel more invested in the relationship.
What really makes influencer marketing work is the strength of the influencer’s dedicated following and the influencer’s power to persuade their followers to take action. With that in mind, it’s not solely the number of followers that makes an effective influencer. It’s more about the connection the influencer has with their audience; in other words, an influencer influences people. That’s why nano- and micro-influencers can be highly effective in influencer marketing. They tend to have a tighter, more personal relationship with their followers.
Viewers see nano- and micro-influencers as relatable, normal people who haven’t yet reached the nearly-celebrity-type status of macro-influencers. Definitions vary by source, but in general, here’s the breakdown of the various types of influencers by follower count:
- Nano-influencers: 1K-10K followers
- Micro-influencers: 10K-50K followers
- Mid-tier-influencers: 50K-500K followers
- Macro-influencers: 500K-1M followers
- Mega-influencers: 1M or more followers
How Brands Benefit from Collaborating With Nano- and Micro-Influencers
Nano- and micro-influencers tend to have higher engagement rates with followers and don’t cost as much as their counterparts. But that’s not all. Take a look at the benefits of working with these influencers:
- Higher engagement – Influencers with zero to 25K followers have 7 percent engagement rates on average, according to a report compiled by Later. All other influencers have 3.21 percent and lower engagement rates. Mention reports that nano-influencers have an average 5.6 percent engagement rate, while micro-influencers have 2.43 percent.
- Closer relationships – Nano- and micro-influencers by nature are able to form more intimate relationships with their smaller audiences. They develop trust and authenticity by replying to comments, answering questions and seeking out their followers’ opinions and needs regularly. Brands that collaborate with these influencers benefit from the higher level of influence they have with their followers.
- More trust – Nano-influencers are more like friends than social media personalities. Friends tend to go to each other for advice on purchasing decisions because they trust their opinions.
- Relevance – Nano- and micro-influencers also tend to focus on a specific niche. This lets you zero in on the right creators who line up directly with your target audience.
- Less competition – Because their following is small and they’re just getting some momentum, these influencers are less likely to have competitors’ ads on their accounts. Your sponsored content may be their first. They’ll likely need more direction from you, but the initial time investment can pay off in the long run as their experience and audience grow.
Cost-effective – Nano- and micro-influencers are more likely to recommend your brand in exchange for free products. Forty-four percent of smaller influencers prefer monetary compensation, according to Mention, but the dollar amount will be much less than more influencers with larger followings.
Since its merger with Musical.ly in 2017, the Chinese-owned short video app TikTok has grown exponentially in popularity. It’s most popular with teens, with 66 percent of its users under the age of 30, according to MediaKix. Check out the statistics on TikTok’s rapid growth, which is expected to continue through 2020:
- In 2017, the number of first-time TikTok installs was 131.5 billion. That number grew to 655 million a year later. In 2019, the app had 738 new installs.
- User engagement increased by 1,533 percent from 2017 to 2019 on the platform. Twitter ranks in second place with only a 13 percent increase in engagement over the same time period.
- As of September 2019, TikTok is the most popular mobile social networking app as measured by average session duration. Users stay on the app an average of 10.85 minutes per session as compared with second place Pinterest at 5.06 minutes.
- TikTok and its Chinese counterpart Douyin are ranked ninth worldwide in active monthly users with 500 million. Leading the duo are Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Instagram, QQ and QZone.
- TikTok is ranked the second most popular social networking app by user engagement in the U.S. with 498 minutes per month. It trails only behind Facebook with 769 minutes per month.
One reason for the rise in TikTok’s popularity is its quick, 15-second video content that’s easy to share with friends. Brands are starting to use influencers on the platform to integrate their message in just a few seconds. TikTok also promotes content on the platform, unlike other platforms like Instagram, which can work to a brand’s advantage. TikTok’s algorithm also allows for content to skyrocket in virality.
Tips for Brands to Collaborate Successfully With TikTok Influencers
Since TikTok’s main demographic is youth in Generation Z — who typically turn away from anything that feels like traditional advertising — brands need to appeal to this audience. Consider these tips when making the decision to collaborate with TikTok influencers:
- Decide if your target audience aligns with TikTok’s audience of people in their teens and twenties. If not, the platform is likely not a good fit for your influencer marketing campaigns.
- Determine what type of video content your target audience is most attracted to. On TikTok, this could be its core music videos or comedy skits or more niche-specific content such as beauty tips or sports clips.
Search for TikTok influencers within your brand’s niche to keep your content relevant instead of opting solely for the platform’s most popular influencers.
Over the past two years, Twitch has gained more traction with influencer marketers. The platform has long been the go-to place for gamers to live stream games such as Call of Duty, Minecraft, League of Legends and Fortnite. But it’s also increasingly becoming a spot for other creators to live stream content, including art, beauty, cooking and fitness. Brands are seeing the potential for partnering with Twitch influencers, including:
- Uber Eats with Twitch influencer Ninja, which resulted in record sales for Uber Eats
- Gillette with DrDisRespect to promote its range of razors
- Monster Energy with Summit1G, which focused on subtle product placement
- KFC with DrLupo for free dinner giveaways for his fans to promote brand awareness and connect with the company’s target audience
- Ubisoft with LIRIK and iiJeriichoii to promote its games, which the influencers promoted while they streamed
- Electronic Arts (EA) with RoryPlays to promote one of its games
On Twitch, creators can apply to become Twitch Partners when they’ve gained a significant, engaged audience and are ready to monetize their channel. In 2017, 27,000 creators were Twitch Partners, reports Twitch Tracker. By the following year, that number rose to 3,390,000. And at the end of 2019, the platform approved 3,640,000 Twitch Partners. Plenty of Twitch influencers are poised to collaborate with brands for influencer marketing campaigns in 2020.
Ways Brands Can Collaborate With Twitch Influencers
Since Twitch is a live streaming platform, ways to market a brand using influencers may seem a little different than on other social media platforms. However, the site offers a variety of ways to boost sales and increase brand awareness through influencer marketing:
- Reviews of games, gear, makeup, sports equipment and other products
- Product placement during live streaming
- Giveaways to generate more leads and create positive buzz around a brand
- Events such as gaming competitions or charity fundraisers that stream for an extended period of time
- Unboxing for product releases and product demonstrations
Everyone knows the dominant social media platforms are the places to focus your marketing efforts for the widest audience reach and pick of influencers. In 2020, these include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest at least. But other platforms are worthy of attention too, with TikTok and Twitch being two of them. Influencer marketers — and influencers themselves — are wise to look at some additional platforms and new features to diversify their efforts. Consider these two examples:
Snapchat. First of all, Snapchat is a video-sharing platform, so it’s poised to ride that trend and make an impact in 2020. But more than that, Snapchat put a lot of effort and money into upgrading its design features in 2019. It added popular editing and sharing options such as Lenses, Geofilters, Discover, Stickers and Snap Map to increase the fun, entertaining vibe of the platform. Snapchat also launched Spectacles, which are the first wearables that have social media capabilities. And it acquired several companies that will keep its tech capabilities on the cutting edge in 2020, too:
- Cimagine Media for augmented reality
- Obvious Engineering for 3D and virtual reality
- Vurb, a mobile discovery app
Generation Z enjoys Snapchat, with 53 percent of its users between the ages of 15 and 25. The remaining bulk of users (34 percent) are 26- to 35-year-olds. Snapchat users loyally frequent the platform regularly too:
- Several times a day: 32 percent
- Daily: 21 percent
- Several times a week: 19 percent
- Weekly: 11 percent
Marketers can collaborate with Snapchat influencers in all of the typical ways, including product releases, contests, unboxing, events and so on. One of the best types of strategies on Snapchat includes taking viewers behind the scenes at an event or tour, for instance.
IGTV. Although not a separate platform from its creator, Instagram, IGTV is a relatively new feature that will see more traffic in 2020. It’s a video-sharing app that capitalizes on storytelling, using long-form, vertical videos like YouTube. Videos for most users are up to 10 minutes long, with larger, verified accounts able to post hour-long videos. This extends Instagram’s appeal, which allows for only one-minute videos on its main platform. Vertical videos are also mobile-friendly.
IGTV lets brands focus on their unique niche as they collaborate with Instagram influencers. It’s an engaging way for brands to connect with their audience as well as have an extended time of 10 to 60 minutes to share valuable content.
Brands are realizing that they have a cadre of influencers in-house: their employees. Activating an employee advocacy program within your company lets you tap into the brand loyalty and knowledge that’s already there. This higher level of enthusiasm and expertise can make up for the employee influencer’s smaller social reach. Employee influencer programs can increase a brand’s annual revenue by 26 percent, according to DSMN8. Some additional benefits to employee influencer campaigns include:
- Morale boosting – Relationships within your company are strengthened by employees feeling empowered to create positive change for the brand. Management and employees come together to brainstorm and identify each employee’s strengths. The company also helps employees build their social media presence.
- Economical – The company can save money on sourcing talent. Employee compensation for their influencer role can take the form of bonuses, product discounts, free products or services or other incentives.
- Trustworthy – When an employee is behind a brand on social media, the relationship can seem more organic and credible.
- Efficient – Employees are already aware of the goals and mission of the company. They’re a part of marketing, design, strategy, content and other aspects of the brand, making it an easy transition to promote the brand.
Ways Brands Can Activate Employees as Influencers
Some employees — especially those who are social media gurus — will see this as fun and exciting, while others will need some training and motivation. Follow these tips for successful ways to implement an employee influencer strategy:
- Provide resources – Show your staff where they can go to get content to post. This could be reposts of your company’s social media pages or website. Give examples of how they can create their own content as well. They might post about a new product release, how they repaired a product or where they wore or used the product in their everyday life.
- Train your staff – Schedule time when staff can get together to receive training on how to be an influencer. Make sure staff knows the fundamentals of posting on the various social media channels, what hashtags to use and so on. Outline any guidelines you have for content that you consider inappropriate or that you don’t want to be associated with your brand.
- Offer incentives – Keep staff motivated by holding contests for the most received shares, likes or engagement, the most creative posts or other ideas specific to your personnel. Incentives can take the form of gift cards, time off, gift baskets, lunch with management or breakfast for the whole office. Don’t make your employee influencer program a requirement for your staff. You want the content to be genuine instead of forced, so customers see it as trustworthy and not like an advertisement.
- Facilitate collaboration – Regularly schedule time when staff can collaborate with one another to share successes, failures and ideas on how they can be effective influencers. Keep staff members up to date on how other brands are using employee influencer marketing for fresh ideas too.
Monitor progress – Software programs and social analytics platforms help you manage your employee influencer program. They keep track of metrics so you know how each employee is doing and how this influencer marketing strategy is affecting your brand.
Technology is constantly evolving, and influencers often stay on the cutting edge to keep up and remain relevant. Brands also find success using the latest advances in visual technology to enhance customer experience and make marketing more efficient. Take a look at some ways brands can collaborate with influencers to use new visual technology:
- Infographics – Capture the attention of viewers with infographics. Use data-driven analysis to show at a glance helpful information like product benefits, customer survey results, product variations, ways your brand is sustainable and more.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) – Companies, including Coca Cola, Harley-Davidson and Quartz use AI to create successful advertisements. Brands can also use AI to streamline customer service by using chatbots and give personal shopping assistance online. AI is extremely helpful for SEO, editing and website design as well.
- Computer-generated intelligence (CGI) – Virtual influencers are an actual thing now, and the trend is sure to continue in 2020. They look and act lifelike, interact with their audience, pose with real-life celebrities and wear brand name clothing but they’re created using CGI technology. Lil Miquela, for example, is a 19-year old Brazilian-American musician and fashion influencer who has 1.9 million followers on Instagram and 120K subscribers on YouTube. A survey conducted by Fullscreen indicates CGI influencers are effective: 55 percent of CGI followers made a purchase and 55 percent attended an event.
- Drones – Camera drones make it easier and less costly to capture stunning aerial video footage and photos. Drones can serve as advertising tools that are mobile instead of static billboards, for dropping promotional items at sponsored events and flying banners. Many influencers are masters at taking stunning photography and video, and using drones enhances their ability to draw attention to your brand.
360 video – Giving your audience the opportunity to view your products and other footage in 360 immerses them in the experience and conveys information in detail. It puts them right into the action, almost as if they’re participating in the experience instead of simply viewing it. Collaborate with influencers to showcase your brand, highlight live events, take a tour, create a short film or go on an adventure with 360 video.
Because of their wide reach and strong relationships with their audience, influencers drive sales and exposure for brands. But influencers are also looking to be even more entrepreneurial and grow their own brands to drive revenue to. This goes beyond branded merchandise and swag. Musicians can release their own albums without the backing of a record label. Writers can publish their own books without paying a publishing company.
Influencers are finding more ways to connect directly with their audience members beyond social media platforms. Hosting a podcast is one example that’s trending for content creators. Podcasts move blogging from the written word to audio, which makes it more accessible. People listen to content in places where they can’t read, such as when driving, commuting, cooking, cleaning and exercising. Listening to podcasts saves time, making it more likely for fans to tune in more often.
In 2018, the world had 550,000 podcasts and over 18.5 million episodes, reported Apple at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2018). By January 2020, people had 29 million podcast episodes on 700,000 active podcasts in 100 different languages to listen to, says MusicOomph. Additional U.S. statistics compiled by MusicOomph show how podcasting is on the rise and how it can be an effective independent platform for influencers:
- Seventy percent of the U.S. population is familiar with the term “podcasting.”
- Fifty-one percent of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast.
- Thirty-two percent of Americans listen to a podcast at least every month.
- Twenty-two percent of Americans listen to podcasts weekly.
- Twenty-eight percent of podcast listeners are between the ages of 25 and 34.
- Twenty-one percent of podcast listeners are 35 to 44 years old.
- Men and women listen to podcasts at about an equal ratio: 52 percent male and 48 percent female.
- Eighty percent of listeners listen to the entire podcast episode or most of it.
Podcasts are effective for brands too. Here’s why:
- Sixty-nine percent of podcast listeners agree that podcast ads make them aware of new products and services.
- In 2015, ad revenue from podcasts was $69 million. In 2017, it was $314 million and rose to $514 million in 2019. Ad revenue generated by podcasts in 2020 could reach $659 million.
- Podcast ads lift listeners’ purchase intent to very or somewhat likely to purchase a product or service after hearing an ad. The percentage increase varies depending on the topic niche of the podcast:
- Society and culture: 9.2 percent lift
- News and politics: 12.8 percent lift
- Comedy: 7.3 percent lift
- Sports: 9.3 percent lift
- Business: 14 percent lift
The trend of brands forming long-term relationships with influencers has given way to another benefit for influencers. More brands are offering product collaborations for influencers to launch collections of their own. This is especially true in the beauty and fashion industries, where social media influencers make a huge impact on customer engagement.
For example, clothing e-tailer Revolve created a 50-piece apparel collection branded as Song of Style with Instagram fashion influencer Aimme Song in May 2019. Beauty vlogger Manny MUA’s eye shadow palette by Makeup Geek sold out in 20 minutes when it debuted. Makeup Geek hired more staff and added four servers to support their online store to keep the influencer’s palette in stock.
Influencers are launching their own product lines and partnering with retailers to sell their products, instead of the other way around. With this type of partnership, influencers get to endorse their own product and own the rights to it. And the brand still gets to reap the benefits of having exposure to the influencer’s audience.
Marketers and brands use a variety of strategies to engage customers, increase brand awareness and drive sales. Three common marketing strategies — content marketing, social media marketing and influencer marketing — are closely related but differ in approach.
- Content marketing involves content created by the brand and shared across social media and websites. Content takes many forms, including blogs, videos, photographs, podcasts, webinars, ebooks, whitepapers and graphics.
- Social media marketing focuses on a brand engaging with the public via its own social media accounts. Brands use their social media accounts to announce product launches, answer questions, advertise products, give insights into the company and offer customer service.
- Influencer marketing uses an influencer to share information about and endorse the brand across the Internet, instead of the brand itself producing the content.
All three marketing strategies have to do with producing content, but what differs is who makes the content and what platforms are used. While they are separate strategies, they really work best when used together. The trend in 2020 is to merge the three and use the best parts of each.
By allocating your marketing budget to incorporate all three strategies, along with others such as employee influencers and advertisements, you’ll reap the maximum benefits. Consider these reasons to merge your marketing strategies:
- While content marketing and social media marketing get information out to people, influencer marketing adds a human touch.
- A brand’s own content establishes it as a proven, reputable brand, while an influencer’s content amplifies that and spreads the message to new audiences.
- Content on a brand’s blog may not convert to a lot of sales alone. But when the same viewers see more of your content on social media, they’re more likely to become a fan.
Ways Brands Can Integrate Influencer Marketing Into Their Strategy
Depending on your marketing goals, target market and brand niche, you’ll choose the strategies that work best for your brand. When it comes to integrating influencers into your marketing strategy, consider these various approaches:
- Affiliate marketing – Give your influencer an affiliate link to add to their social media and blog posts. They’ll receive a commission from each click-through that results in a sale. It’s an easy way to track ROI for your influencer campaign. It also encourages influencers to actively support your product because they’ll want to drive more sales.
- Brand ambassador – This is a long-term relationship between an influencer and a brand that have found a good match. The influencer becomes the face of the brand, much like celebrities who serve as brand ambassadors.
- Competitions and giveaways – Have your influencer host a competition or giveaway on their social media account or promote one that’s on your account or website. These campaigns are effective for promoting brand awareness, increasing social followers, capturing consumer data and growing an email marketing list.
- Discount codes – Your influencer adds a unique discount code to their post when promoting your products. When customers use the code to make a purchase on your site, they receive a discount, and the influencer receives a commission. Discount codes are great to use if your marketing goals include driving sales and converting leads into customers.
- Guest posting – Invite an influencer to write content for your brand’s website or blog. They will direct their audience to the post to give your site more exposure. You, in turn, will compensate them for writing the post and direct your audience to their social media accounts or blog.
- Influencer takeover – Let an influencer provide all of the content for your social media account temporarily. Either hand over access to your account or have them send content to you to post. Influencer takeovers increase brand exposure, gain new followers and build trust in the brand.
- Social media mentions – Each time influencers mention your brand in their social media posts, awareness for your brand grows, as does the potential for increasing your customer base.
- Sponsored blog posts – Blog posts have a much longer life span than social media posts, which is important for search engine optimization (SEO). Pay influencers to include content about your brand or product in their blog posts.
Bring the influencer on board – The ultimate long-term relationship with an influencer is to make them part of the internal personnel. This is most effective when you’ve built a relationship with the influencer and have found an excellent match. Choose the position that aligns with their skills, such as creative director, designer, advisor or digital consultant, for instance.
In 2018, Instagram passed the one billion mark for monthly active users across the globe. The social media platform is highly popular in countries such as India, Brazil, Indonesia and Russia. But its greatest number of users is in the United States. As of October 2019, 116 million Americans use Instagram. Thirty-four percent of them say they visit the site to follow their favorite brands and companies.
In 2016, Instagram influencers posted 1.26 million brand-sponsored posts. By 2019, the number of sponsored posts nearly quadrupled. The platform might have 6.12 brand-sponsored influencer posts by the end of 2020, according to Statista. Luxury and fashion brands, in particular, prefer using Instagram due to the success they find on this platform. But you can find content and potential influencers in just about any niche, including hot sauce, ocean trash art and pets. As in, the pets themselves are influencers.
A large part of Instagram’s popularity is that it’s visual and has an easy-to-use layout. Users share photos, videos and stories and scroll through their feed to see what their friends, family, and favorite athletes, celebrities and influencers have posted. Fifty-nine percent of Instagram users visit the platform at least once a day (37 percent visit several times a day).
Instagram users also shop on the platform now. In March 2018, Instagram rolled out shoppable posts to approved influencers and brands that use Instagram Business. By December 2019, 8 percent of U.S. Instagram users say they’ve purchased an item directly through Instagram
Tips for Brands to Collaborate With Instagram Influencers
Brands are increasingly allocating more of their budgets to influencer marketing on Instagram. When MediaKix asked marketers in 2019 which social media channels were the most important for influencer marketing, 89 percent said Instagram. Join in, and keep in mind these tips for collaborating with Instagram influencers to promote your brand:
- Make use of the various types of posts Instagram offers: photo, video and stories. This includes long-form videos on IGTV too. When asked which Instagram formats are the most effective, here’s the percentage of marketers that chose each type, as reported by MediaKix:
- Instagram post: 78 percent
- Instagram stories: 73 percent
- Instagram video: 54 percent
The only other type of post that came close to these accolades out of all of the other social media platforms was YouTube videos. Fifty-six percent of marketers feel it’s a most effective format for influencer marketing.
- Collaborating with nano and micro Instagram influencers costs less and takes advantage of the higher engagement rates and authenticity these influencers have.
- Using Shoppable Posts streamlines the buying process since customers don’t have to leave Instagram to make a purchase. This can encourage users to buy more.
- When looking for the right match, choose an influencer whose principles are in line with your brand’s values by carefully reviewing the content they post. And make sure they haven’t already collaborated with your competitors. Collaborating with you would make them appear untrustworthy to their audience.
Look for Instagram influencers who are naturally comfortable putting more content in their captions since longer captions increase engagement rate.
The year 2020 looks to be a time when influencers will appear in banner ads and ads that pop up in your social media account feed. Whereas celebrity faces have traditionally appeared in ads, influencers can make a big impact too. It’s a natural progression from sponsored content and brand ambassadors as influencer’s gain more widespread notoriety.
Social media platforms are likely to encourage influencer ads because of the direct revenue they receive, which is not the case with sponsored posts. Instagram has already spearheaded this movement by introducing branded content ads in mid-2019. Its paid partnership tool features a toggle that lets influencers give permission for their post to be boosted by the sponsoring brand. The ad can then go out to a wider audience, appearing in feeds and stories of Instagram users outside of the influencer’s followers.
Other social media platforms may follow Instagram’s example by making ads featuring influencers — or paid amplification — the norm. This has several benefits:
- It’s easier to play to the brand’s target audience.
- It broadens the brand and influencer’s reach.
- It fulfills two marketing campaign strategies with one effort.
It lets brands work with metrics they’re used to seeing.
As influencer marketing has developed, marketers have gotten better at understanding which factors influence ROI. It’s becoming clear that vanity metrics — likes and followers — are not the major qualifiers for a successful influencer marketing campaign. So, paying a lot of money for an influencer mega-influencer does not always bring a comparable monetary return.
Being the social media leader that it is, Instagram initiated hiding likes on its platforms in seven counties, including Canada, Australia and Brazil in 2019. At the end of the year, it started testing hiding likes from some accounts in the U.S. Adam Mosseri, the CEO of Instagram, explained that the platform wants to try to depressurize the social media experience. Instagram wants the platform to be less about competition and more about connecting people with content they love and things that inspire them. According to Wired, “It’s the latest step in Instagram’s quest to become the safest place on the Internet.”
So far on Instagram, users can still like a post, but the like count is hidden from the public. Users can also view the list of who liked a post, but the total count won’t appear. The user who made the post, however, can see the like count within a few taps. Instagram feels that taking the focus off of vanity metrics will put more emphasis on creating authentic, engaging content.
Ways Brands Can Choose Influencers and Measure Campaign Success Beyond Vanity Metrics
Marketers will be savvier in 2020 about how they choose influencers and how they measure campaign success. Moving beyond vanity metrics is one reason for the push toward using nano- and micro-influencers more, since they typically have higher engagement rates. As a brand, ask yourself these questions when looking for the right influencer for your brand and analyzing the success of your influencer marketing campaign:
- Is the influencer aligned with your brand? Are they someone who would normally use your product? If so, their content will be authentic and they’ll be genuinely enthusiastic about promoting it.
- Who is the influencer’s target audience? What is their age, gender, location, interests and social media preferences? An influencer’s audience should align closely with the brand’s target audience.
- What does the influencer’s content look like, including sponsored content? Is it a quick shout out or lone hashtag, or is it more thoughtful, creative and organic? The latter appeals to potential customers, as it appears less like an ad and more authentic and trustworthy.
- Did the influencer campaign drive sales? Track this by using custom links, redemption codes and landing pages. If this is your campaign’s goal, compare the amount you spent on the campaign to the amount gained from sales to gauge its effectiveness.
- Did the influencer campaign drive lead generation? Measure this with the number of names and emails collected through giveaway entries, app downloads, account setups, newsletter subscriptions or other targeted means.
- What is the engagement rate of the influencer’s sponsored post? This is measured in a variety of ways, but one effective formula that takes into account engagements and impressions is:
Likes + Comments + Saved or Shared / Impressions x 100 = Engagement Rate
Impressions are the total number of times someone saw the post. This includes unique visitors and multiple views. Saves and shares show the number of unique accounts that saved your post or shared it across social media. This formula takes into account several types of engagement (likes, comments, saves, shares) and compares it to the number of people who viewed the post. The result is a more accurate impression of how well-received and effective the post was.
- What emojis did viewers use to react to the post? Platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn give options beyond a like, such as love, haha, wow, sad and angry. Check the comments too for emojis to get a sense of how the post made people feel.
- What is the sentiment expressed in the comments? By identifying a keyword or hashtag related to your brand, you can use social listening tools to help gauge if the campaign was positive or negative.
- What is the reach of the post or campaign? This means how many people saw it, and it’s an important metric when your campaign goal is to build brand image. Use follower increases, impressions, traffic and page views to measure reach. Take advantage of tools like Google Analytics to measure audience demographics if your goal was to target a certain location. It will also help you identify new visitors — or referral traffic — to your site.
What is the conversion rate of the campaign? Define campaign goals ahead of time, such as increase brand awareness, reach new audiences, improve brand advocacy, boost sales or manage brand reputation. Then, decide how you’ll track conversion, which is the action you want the viewer to take after viewing the post. This might involve discount codes, unique landing pages, affiliate links, downloads, sales, sign-ups, click-throughs or reactions.
In 2020, businesses will put more emphasis on protecting their brands and producing quality content as they search for the right influencers to partner with. Gone are the days of working with an influencer just because they’re famous or have a similar target audience. Instead, values must align so a brand is not caught off guard by behavior that will lead to negative light attention. This might take the form of the targeted audience turning away, embarrassment, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) violations or even lawsuits.
Marketers are following a more careful process when vetting both the influencer and their content. They’re keeping brand safety and reputation in mind. Brands don’t want to associate with material that may be harmful to their image. And they don’t want to partner with a controversial influencer who can potentially cause damage to the brand’s reputation. Unless the brand lives on the wild side too, that is.
How Brands Can Find — And Keep — The Right Influencer Match
Beyond assessing an influencer’s reach and engagement and making sure your audiences match, brands have other tools to find the right influencer. Consider these factors before drawing up a contract:
- Brand lift – Analyze how much potential the influencer has to increase interaction with your brand. Smaller influencers have the rapport with their audience to boost brand awareness, but will they reach an audience large enough to meet your campaign goals? Partnering with larger influencers or a team of micro-influencers may be the answer.
- Platform – Look at the social media platforms the influencer uses and make sure they’re a good match for your brand. Consider factors such as audience demographics, the popularity of the platform and formats of posts (video, photo, text and so on).
- Reputation – Determine if you’re happy with the influencer’s reputation. Are you looking for someone who’s an authority within your brand’s niche or someone that will bring a trendy, cool factor? Do you want to spread the message that your brand is environmentally conscious or perhaps that you’re inclusive? Assessing an influencer’s reputation includes looking at their old posts before their popularity grew too. The reputation of several influencers — and their partnered brands — have come into question when offensive or questionable behavior from their past resurfaced.
- Content – Read the influencer’s content and evaluate it for quality and tone. Check visual and audio quality, consistency, the categories their content appears in and substance.
- Voice – Understand how the influencer talks to their audience, which cues you in on their personality. What do they say when they talk about people, things and places? Determine if you want their voice to be the voice of your brand.
- Price – This is a major factor in determining which influencers a brand can work with. So far, there are no standardized rates for how much influencers charge. Brands can look at an influencer’s reach, engagement and other key factors to negotiate compensation that’s fair and incentivizing to both the brand and influencer.
- Potential for a long-term partnership – Unless a one-off partnership is clearly your goal, determine how sustainable the influencer is for a long-term partnership. As we’ve discussed earlier, long-term relationships with influencers have distinct advantages.
Tips for a Successful Influencer Marketing Campaign
Casting a balance between giving the influencer too little or too much creative freedom is essential. Micromanaging the content the influencer produces results in unauthentic content that doesn’t match the influencer or their audience. Giving an influencer too much creative control can have its downfalls too. It may result in sponsored content that’s popular with the audience but doesn’t lead to conversions or have a positive effect on the brand.
The key is to define the campaign goals and deliver a solid brief to the influencer, including them in the contract writing process. Adhere to the following expectations for best results at a successful influencer marketing campaign:
- Influencers must follow all FTC sponsorship disclosure guidelines.
- Give the influencer the proper resources they need to carry out the campaign. Make sure they have the skills to do so as well before launching.
- Stay away from publicity stunts, and make sure your campaigns are authentic. PR stunts make people angry and disappointed and turn followers away.
- Be sure there are no misunderstandings between the influencer and the brand concerning expectations. Write a clear contract and campaign brief, and communicate expectations verbally as well as in written form. This keeps everyone on the same page and helps avoid influencers not fulfilling their end of the agreement because of things they “didn’t know” or consider.
- Understand what types of campaigns are appropriate for the particular social media channel you’re using.
- Keep the lines of communication between influencer and brand constantly open. This will help ensure success with deadlines, payments, performance, avoiding potential negative publicity and more.
- Schedule realistic deadlines so the influencer doesn’t feel rushed, which can lead to less creative posts that appear sloppy. Quality over quantity is the standard to follow.
- Continually measure performance through each step of the campaign. This helps you put the brakes on a strategy that looks like it’s going awry and capitalize on things that are going really well.
As brands discover the time, effort and learning curve involved in creating a successful influencer marketing program, more are turning to experts for help. This is where agencies and influencer marketer platforms come in. The former has plenty of clients, but in 2020, more brands will turn to influencer marketing platforms. In 2018, the value of the global influencer marketing platform market was $137 million, as calculated by Statista. It’s expected to grow to $162 million in 2020 and exceed $370 million in 2027.
Influencer marketing platforms automate the process of running influencer campaigns through software programs. They support brands — as well as agencies — with the aspects of running a campaign, from influencer discovery through campaign management, analytics, payments and content amplification. Some platforms are an all-in-one solution, while newer platforms specialize in a few aspects of the process.
How IZEA Can Help Brands and Influencers Create Successful Influencer Marketing Campaigns
Dozens of influencer marketing platforms are poised to help brands connect with the influencers and manage campaigns. Our favorite, for obvious reasons, is IZEA, a pioneer as well as a leader in the influencer marketing arena. IZEA started out in 2006 by paying bloggers to make sponsored content for brands. It’s now a global, publically traded company with a host of services. Industry professionals consistently list it among the top influencer marketing platforms. IZEA offers a suite of software as a service (SaaS) tools to serve both marketers and influencers:
For brands and agencies
- IZEAx 3.0 is IZEA’s most technologically advanced version of its influencer marketing platform. It can give brands more scale, flexibility and freedom when running their influencer marketing campaigns. It covers six elements of influencer marketing:
- Discover – Find influencers and creators to match your brand.
- Engage – Communicate with influencers and creators for bidding, offers and messaging.
- Create – Build content, including videos, photos, articles and infographics.
- Transact – Make secure payments to creators and keep track of budgeting.
- Distribute – Distribute content across multiple social media channels.
- Measure – Analyze content performance in real-time.
FTC compliance and brand safety features are built into the IZEAx 3.0 platform. It also adds Twitch to the lineup of social media platforms it integrates with, which include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
- IZEAx Discovery is an influencer and creator search tool that focuses on the discovery stage of influencer marketing. It’s where most marketers begin their influencer marketing journey, as it connects the talent and experience of creators and influencers with brands. The database contains information on over four million influencers and content creators. The full-featured influencer search software includes data filters, list building and exporting, data-rich profiles and VizSearch for discovering creators through their visual content.
- Managed Services connects brands and agencies with influencers and content experts for fully managed influencer marketing campaigns. It guides brands through content creation, project management, ideation, optimization and reporting.
For influencers and creators
- IZEA provides a platform that influencers and creators can use to market themselves to brands so they can monetize their content.
- Influencers connect with brands, publishers and advertisers for the opportunity to create sponsored content on their social media accounts and blogs for compensation.
Content creators produce custom content for brands, publishers, advertisers and e-commerce companies. It’s an opportunity for freelance writers, photographers, videographers, animators, musicians, composers, designers and journalists to make money by creating content.
We mentioned AI earlier, but advances in artificial intelligence are trending enough in 2020 to give you more details. AI is making it easier and easier for brands to find the right influencers to partner with. And through geolocation, brands are better able to track customers through the purchasing process and retarget their message as appropriate. AI is making it easier to weed out fake followers as well as find influencers who have the highest engagement rates too.
Take a look at additional ways AI is transforming influencer marketing, as outlined by Single Grain:
- Image recognition lets marketers scan thousands of photos in a matter of seconds to sort them according to specified criteria. Marketers may be looking for influencers who feature a certain brand in their photos, facial expressions and emotions or specific scenery, for example. Image recognition saves time and the expense of paying someone to look through individual photos.
- Natural language processing (NLP) can analyze human language. Marketers use NLP to read every post by an influencer and analyze the results to see if they’re a good match for a brand. NLP makes finding influencers less time-consuming, less of a burden on resources and more accurate.
- Artificial neural networks (ANN) technology can predict what level of incentives works best to encourage an influencer to post. Marketers can then offer the incentive when the influencer is most likely to post.
- AI can also evaluate an influencer’s posts and predict when they’re likely to see an increase or decrease in their influence. Marketers can then adjust incentives accordingly.
- Flagging posts that don’t follow FTC disclosure guidelines is easy with AI, which saves marketers time and avoids potential problems.
In 2019, 65 percent of marketers said they would increase their spending on influencer marketing, allocating a higher percentage of their marketing budgets to influencers. Eighteen percent of advertisers devoted more than half their budget to influencer marketing, according to SocialPubli. Why? Because influencer marketing produced just as good or better ROI than other marketing channels, say 89 percent of marketers. And 71 percent of marketers find the quality of traffic and customers from influencer marketing to exceed that of other marketing sources.
With the success brands are seeing with influencer marketing, this trend will continue through 2020. An example is the massive beauty manufacturer Estée Lauder. In August 2019, the company announced it would spend 75 percent of its marketing budget on digital marketing, especially social media influencers. By 2022, brands could spend as much as $15 billion on influencer marketing, according to data compiled by Mediakix.
Influencer collaborations, common experiences and the rise of influencer marketing have created a community among influencers. And influencers have become an industry of their own. With that, brands have recently created the hot trend of hosting influencer events, which we will see more of in 2020.
Influencer events bring influencers together all in one place, and the publicity serves to boost brand image. The main purpose is to connect with influencers on an in-person, more meaningful level, but influencer events have additional benefits:
- Influencers get to know the brand better, understanding more what the company stands for.
- Buzz and brand awareness are built around new product releases.
- Influencers build a stronger community around the brand they work with.
Tips for Brands on Hosting an Awesome Influencer Event
Influencer events can be pricey, but they don’t have to break your budget. Some brands fly influencers to Instagram-worthy locales such as Hawaii and Bangkok and spend a sizable budget on entertainment and accommodations. Others host local, smaller events. Whichever route a company chooses, a successful influencer event follows these guidelines offered by Pixlee:
- Invite influencers outside your niche. Broaden your customer reach by inviting influencers within your industry, but not directly in your immediate niche.
- Invest generously in your swag bags. One of the major reasons influencers attend influencer events is to receive the complimentary merchandise brands offer. Make the contents of your swag bags memorable. Influencers will take your products home, try them out and post their reviews, unboxings and experiences on social media. Gifting your new product releases is a great way to get the word out and make your influencers thrilled about your brand.
- Make the event exciting. You want to create positive buzz around your brand, so use the opportunity to get influencers excited about your brand. They’ll share that with their audience in an authentic, organic way. Book excellent entertainment, invite special guests, cater delicious food and drinks and have an exclusive unveiling of a new product.
- Provide meaningful interactions. Go beyond a cocktail party atmosphere to create an atmosphere that is fun and engaging. Create opportunities for attendees to interact with one another beyond small talk. Consider including games, awesome photo ops and challenges.
- Remember to mingle. Delegate the logistics during the event to others so you can focus on representing your brand. The influencer event is the perfect time for you to make important connections and be the face of your brand.
- Keep it trendy. Influencers are largely about keeping up with what’s new and trending within their niche. Make sure your event is too, which will encourage attendees to post pictures about the event and rave about your brand.
- Create an event hashtag. This is an essential component to your influencer event. Create a hashtag for your event and widely publicize it to your influencers. Encourage them to distribute it before, during and after the event to increase your brand’s exposure.
Provide photo quality lighting. Remember that you want attendees to take plenty of photos and shoot lots of video during the event. Make sure the lighting at your event is optimal for taking excellent footage so they’ll post them on social media.
With the FTC instituting clear guidelines for influencers and strictly enforcing them, 2020 will be the year where there’s less ambiguity and more compliance. Influencers, marketers and brands know the regulations they need to follow in order to disclose their partnerships. And following those guidelines is now an expectation within the industry.
The responsibility for letting viewers know they’re watching or reading sponsored content lies on the influencer, says the FTC. When an influencer is working with a brand to endorse or recommend its products, they must disclose this clearly and openly to the public. And they must do so within each sponsored post.
The FTC says, “If you endorse a product through social media, your endorsement message should make it obvious when you have a relationship (“material connection”) with the brand. A “material connection” to the brand includes a personal, family, or employment relationship or a financial relationship – such as the brand paying you or giving you free or discounted products or services.”
Even likes, tags, pins and other similar actions are endorsements when you’re working directly with a brand. Disclosing relationships with brands helps influencers keep their endorsements honest and allows people to make more candid judgments about the endorsed product.
How Influencers Can Comply With FTC Disclosure Requirements
The FTC gives influencers clear guidelines on how to disclose partnerships, and these guidelines appear in its Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers guide. Influencers should also keep up to date on any changes that affect them. Changes appear on the official FTC website. We’ve summarized the disclosure guidelines as an overview for you here, but consult the guide for important details:
- Place your disclosure in a way that’s hard to miss and within the post itself, not on your profile page. It should not be at the end of a post or video or any place that requires a person to click MORE.
- The disclosure shouldn’t mix in with your hashtags or links.
- Endorsements in a picture, such as in Snapchat or a story should be superimposed on the picture. Viewers should have enough time to see it and read it.
- Endorsements in a video should appear in the video and not just in the description. Make the endorsement clear in audio as well as in written form.
- Endorsements in a live stream should be repeated periodically so latecomers to the stream will see and hear it too.
- Use language that’s simple and clear. Saying something like, “Thanks to Acme brand for the free product,” is acceptable, says the FTC, if it’s in a place that’s hard to miss. Using the words “advertisement,” “ad” and “sponsored” are also acceptable, but not abbreviations, such as “sp,” “spon” or “collab.” Stand-alone terms like “thanks” and “ambassador” are also not clear enough. Hashtags such as #ad or #sponsored are acceptable.
- The disclosure should be in the same language as the endorsement.
- Don’t assume the platform’s disclosure tool is enough. Make sure you’re using your own disclosure that follows the FTC guidelines too.
- You must try a product before you talk about your experience with it.
- Your endorsement must be honest. In other words, if you don’t like the product, don’t endorse it.
- Only use claims about the product that are true. For instance, you cannot say a product can treat a health condition if there’s no scientific proof of it.
Fake Bots and Fake Followers
Another transparency issue that we should see less of in influencer marketing in 2020 involves fake bots, fake followers and fake influencers. This was the number one concern of marketers in 2019. Half of the marketers polled by Mediakix named their chief influencer marketing challenge as spotting fake followers and inauthentic engagement.
As marketers invest more money into influencer marketing, they can’t afford to be deceived. The issue is one factor that’s leading brands to vet influencers more carefully. You can expect to see fewer fake bots and fake followers in 2020 as brands and platforms continue to crack down.
Where do fake followers come from? Companies and individuals create fake social media accounts with the purpose of selling the accounts’ likes, comments and follows. These accounts are bots. They’re automated accounts that mimic the behavior of real accounts, so it’s difficult to spot them. Mediakix’s experiment on fake bots found that social media platforms, brands and influencer marketer platforms don’t readily identify fake bots without digging deeper.
One subtle giveaway, however, is that fake influencers don’t deliver a positive ROI on sponsored influencer content, only on vanity metrics. With more sophisticated technology and the issue of transparency given so much attention in 2019, 2020 should see compliance as a norm.