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Influencer Marketing: An ever-changing industry that is here to stay

As social media becomes more rooted in people’s lives and takes on other functional roles beyond communication, the aspect of what an influencer means is set to grow. Influencers will become key intermediates, connecting brands with consumers on social media in resonating, authentic ways that can deliver in returns as e-commerce and social media blend together. It is an industry that is just as changeable as it is a given in brands marketing mix these days. The definitions and trends of how to utilize this force is a necessity if a brand wants to stay relevant and connected in the future. 

Today, the word ‘influencer’ is a term widely spoken about and generally tends to be misunderstood. According to the Cambridge Dictionary the word influencer has two different definitions. The first is the origin of the word, and explains that a person of influence is someone that can affect or change the way other people behave. The second definition is the occupation most of us associate the word with, a person that is paid by a company to show and describe its product or services on social media, encouraging other people to buy them.

An influencer, aka a creative, content creator and entrepreneur, is a person with the skill and knowledge of creating content that can affect people’s behavior. I would say something like: Though some may not understand the phenomenon of influencer marketing, brand ambassadors have been proven to benefit said brands by working alongside professional creatives with entrepreneurial drive, loyalty and of course, influence. By 2022, influencer marketing is expected to rise from $8 billion in 2019 to a $15 billion market, writes Business Insider Intelligence, based on Mediakix Data. Collaborating with an influencer is also a way for brands to establish new trends, which you can read more about in our previous DNA of trends article.

The ideas “reach” or “niche” are two factors to consider when deciding on what influencer to work with. Before making that decision, a brand needs to find out who their audience is, where they rank on socials and what aligning values are key drivers in the future partnership. Those components will determine if it is a successful collaboration or not. We at VOCAST have gathered ongoing and future trends when it comes to influencer marketing, that was embarking before the pandemic and also the changes that have been made in the light of Covid-19.

Vocabulary

 

Nano-Influencer
A niche influencer that could have less than 1,000 followers

Micro-Influencer
An influencer with a following from 3,000 – 100,000

Macro-Influencer
An influencer with a following from 100,000 and more

Collaboration
The action of working with someone to produce something, a partnership

Engagement rate
A metric that measures the level of engagement that a piece of created content receives from an audience (likes, comments, shares) 

Authentic
Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine. The
quality of being real or true

CGI
Computer-Generated Imagery 

Niche
Interesting to, aimed at, or affecting only a small number of people

Alignment
An agreement between a group of people who want to work together because of shared interests

Spotted trends before Covid-19


Nano-influencers with professional access and passionate artistic skills

In the beginning of the influencer boom, a large following was the most important factor, but today the market is saturated and filled with paid, fake followers which has led to distrust from followers towards influencers with big numbers. Then, brands turned their attention to micro-influencers that have about 3,000 to 100,000 followers. As the request for authenticity got stronger, the new person holding influence is the Nano-influencer, which could have a following of fewer than 1,000 people. This genre of influencer has a high impact on their community, has a strong recommendation power and generally has a higher engagement rate on Instagram (7,2%) than micro and macro-influencers. 

But why is that? According to Influencer Marketing Hub, it’s important to select an influencer that operates in the same social space as your audience as well as having the same values and culture, preferably with an expert position in their niche field. Some nano-influencers are industry professionals who just share what they actually work with and use the products in a genuine environment that is expert-approved. This is common in the field like cosmetics, athletics and interior design, says Amine Rahal, guest writer at Forbes. Kati Chirakorn at Vogue Business writes about the up and coming influencer-editor, who are editors working at popular magazines and have a big network and followers, consisting of both retailers and customers. 

The other side of nano-influencers are passionate and skilled people. To work with people with a passion like stylists, photographers, designers, sculptors, dancers, writers and musicians helps brands tap into micro-cultures where the person is an advocate with their own values, creating out of pure passion and interest. It is important to have the common niche audience align with both the brand narrative and the influencer narrative for a powerful and value-adding effect. 


New deals that are data-driven

Partnerships between a creator and a brand will see more pay per performance-based deals in 2020 like pay-per-click, pay-per-sale or pay-per-view according to Forbes Agency Council. With this data-driven approach, metrics will have a bigger impact on the decision-making process when it comes to starting a new partnership with a content creator or signing a long-term contract. Since brands spend a lot of their budget on influencer marketing, they need to validate what they get for their money hence data is a new focal point, for both parts. With this trend bort parts need to practice transparency and be honest about the goal or expectation when it comes to engagement, reach or ROI.


Expanding platforms 

According to Ismael El Qudsi, CEO at Social Publi, a leading influencer platform in 25 countries, Instagram is the biggest platform for influencer marketing today. Based on a study, 75% of 2,500 influencers ranked the channel as the top platform to carry out their business on. But with a younger generation leading the way on social media, new channels like TikTok and Twitch are emerging. Brands need to know where their audience spends time and who they look to for influence when it comes to promoting new products.


From looking to listening

Since a profile online has about 2,7 seconds to grab someone’s attention, immediate attention through video is crucial for getting a message across. Facebook Live, IGTV and Youtube are all visual tools that have proven to be successful for both influencers and brands and by 2021 video will represent 80% of all internet traffic, compared to 67% in 2016. Video includes the best out of two worlds for maximized storytelling, audio and moving imagery.

Audio and specifically podcasts is another niche market that is increasing in popularity and expanding its user base. With a podcast, the brand or influencer comes closer to their audience and communicates in a less formal way which breaks down barriers and a deeper relationship is established. 27% of all Americans, that is 73 million people, listen to podcasts monthly, with 85% of them finishing or almost finishing each episode. They are a great communication tool for a brand to highlight features, success stories and the brand’s benefit’s by collaborating with a niche podcaster.


Virtual influencers

Lindsay Dodgson at the Insider says it is still a bit uncertain where this trend will go, but along with technology like AI, people are fascinated by so-called 3D art CGI influencers. This is a form of futuristic influencer marketing that brands should consider. These influencers are fiction and computer-generated personas who have realistic characteristics and personalities of humans. Brands and individuals with a skilled mind for technology are behind these creations and they are the ones managing their partnerships with brands and Instagram accounts. Two CGI influencers to have a look at are Lil Miquela (2,3 M followers) who attends red carpets and has collaborated with Prada and Shudu (201K followers) who was the first digital supermodel. 


Co-creators and communication experts

The influencer market has matured over the years and has equipped experienced storytellers and communicators who know how to engage an audience in a genuine and personal fashion. Ismael El Qudsi explains that the role of the classical influencer is evolving from a “pose as a salesperson with a product” partnership,to being an actively important associate in consulting and shaping campaigns as a co-creator alongside the brand. “Since they are social media experts this can help support brands in strategically navigate their social channels and engagement”, further explains El Qudsi. 

Another expert in the field is the platform, Instagram. They’ve been a part of creating and shaping the influencer market as it is today. Instagram’s new “Branded Content Ads tool” allows a business to “share their story from a creator’s point of view and use the authentic content in their ads”. This means that a brand can share and promote a creator’s post in stories and peoples’ feed as an ad, reaching beyond the creator’s own followers. This will give Instagram an even more important role as a third party in the relationship brand-creator.

Spotted trends in effect of
Covid-19


From employee to brand ambassador

This trend was spotted even before the outbreak of covid-19 but escalated during the pandemic. Employees on all levels are hidden in-house experts and a loyal asset in troubling times. It has also been shown that there is 8 times the engagement on the content featuring and created by employees shared on brand channels than other posts. Featuring employees gives a behind the scene affect that aligns with the transparency approach requested by consumers. GANNI is a brand utilizing this by featuring its staff wearing favourite pieces and utilising #GANNIWFH. By showing that the product is suitable for the current situation, the employees become ambassadors and a familiar face to the brand’s audience. This also builds on the image of being transparent. 

The realization of long-term partnerships

Forbes Agency Council talks about brands realising that short-term partnerships won’t get them the same kind of advocacy and trust-building that a long-term partnership with the right influencer will generate. This has proven very true in a season of crises like covid-19 placed the world in. A brand that could benefit from these partnerships is the Danish fashion brand Stine Goya. The brand has built a house of Goya-friends over the years, and in a reality where social distancing is dictating content creation, a brand with a lot of loyal friends does not struggle as much as a brand without. Stine Goya received a lot of support on social media and had a full house of loyal friends to help them create interesting and authentic content to share during these uncertain times.  

A is for Authenticity

While having brand employees and collaborating partners stuck at home with no place to go, the only thing to do was to open the lens to influencers homes, press “live” and make the private and sacred place called home, public. This has shown a new side of influencers when their followers have been invited into the bathroom for a sheet-mask session, the living-room for a 15-minute workout or the kitchen, making food together but apart. 

The classic influencer lifestyle with sponsored travels and sparkling events haven’t just been canceled, it has become irrelevant in the light of an ongoing pandemic. This “naked” and forced approach has sparked creativity for both brands and influencers and has led the way to more authentic partnerships being sealed. A match between brand and creator, made as a mutual adoration of each other’s skills, designs and talents. A close and organic relationship can help and works as a safety net that “can drive conversion even when ads aren’t running as normal” – says Kaleigh Moore at Vogue Business.

Industry perspective 

 

 

Eleonora Milella
@eleonoramilella
Micro-influencer from Turin, Italy.
Digital content creator.
Does collaborations with several Italian fashion and beauty brands

 

 

 

 

 

Victoria Bond
@victoriabond007
London based Make-Up Artist.
Industry professional.
Have been featured in British Vogue, Elle, L’Officiel

 

 

 

Have you noticed any changes in how brands approach you in the last couple of years?

 

Eleonora: “The most evident difference in fashion brands’ approach to us content creators, is undoubtedly linked with the authenticity and spontaneity of the content creation process: Brands are no longer giving guidelines, but instead leave it to the creators to express and narrate the stories in the way he/she thinks is best. It’s precisely based on these ways of being and communicating that brands choose who to work with on social media.”

Victoria:My relationships with brands tend to be organic. I will have worked with them for many years as a makeup artist and built up a strong relationship. I have noticed that more brands want authenticity and industry professionals. I think this is because the general public are realising that influencers are paid to say they like a product so don’t feel it’s genuine. Obviously this isn’t always the case but does tend to be the norm.”

 

When you create content for brands on social media, have you experienced a shift in audience engagement?

 

Eleonora: Linking back to the answer of the previous question, my followers have never asked me to change: I’ve chosen to gradually adopt a less “polished” approach to content, such as more authentic photos with imperfections, which then have received appreciation. In this way, I insert a product in an authentic context linked to everyday life. I think this approach has reached a peak now “thanks” to the times that we’re living: we found ourselves stuck in our homes without seeing the world that surrounds us, still having to use our minds to create. And what better location to narrate our everyday lives than our houses?!”

Victoria: “I think it’s harder to engage an audience. Instagram has a tendency to tinker with algorithms although if I’m honest I don’t know what that means. I just know it’s hard to get content seen to a wider audience. Any content I do create is purely because I think the products are great and I want to share the love/knowledge. I don’t receive any payments for this only products which are for my kit. Any products I recommend are tried and tested first on multiple people so I know it works!”

 

What does the future hold for you? Are you optimistic about what the influencer industry has to hold for creatives and artists?

 

Eleonora: “In the future I hope to continue to work in this industry, I find it stimulating and full of challenges. I’m optimistic because I believe there is always room for creativity and communication. We all want to feel inspired and inspire, and this industry allows us to do so.”

 

Victoria: “I think it might be the return of the expert rising like a Phoenix from the fire. A lot of professional Makeup Artists have been ignored or overlooked by some brands in favour of ‘influencers’ without a professional background. Although I definitely think there’s room for everyone as I do understand that an non expert can speak to people too. I just worry that their content can be technically incorrect and can lead to worrying trends. They also put on far too much makeup which is really misleading to the average woman looking for advice!”

 

Say whatever you want, influencer marketing is a creative asset for brands that’s here to stay. The role, format and expression, as we know it, will change as technology, social media platforms and the audiences’ demands and values evolve. But, the benefits from having a communicative expert and a friendly face connected to your brand will build vital interacting relationships. Consider digging into up and coming nano-influencers, videos on TikTok and long-term creative partnerships to stay up to date and relevant with future marketing initiatives. 

 

Image credit: Unsplash

 

 

Josefine is the Swedish Fashion & Design Researcher at VOCAST. When not working Josefine can be found studying design technology at KEA, dancing to Abba music, or practicing the art of creativity. 

 

 

Our lifestyle researchers constantly create and update curated lists with handpicked media, experts and high profile contacts from the fashion, home interior and lifestyle industries in 10 different markets. We provide contacts from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, The UK, The US, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and Italy.

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