Four trends shaping influencer marketing
by Pieter Groenewald. Within a few years, influencer marketing will be worth $20 billion, dominated by ‘nano-influencers’.
by Pieter Groenewald. Famous celebrities endorsing big brands has been a staple of marketing for over two centuries. The only real difference between 2021 and 1921, is that instead of large billboard advertisements, stars have taken to Instagram, Facebook and TikTok to promote products. And, theoretically, the reach of social media means that more people are being exposed to big-name celebrity marketing than ever before.
The important thing to understand about influencer marketing, however, is that celebrities are just one piece of the puzzle – and a small piece at that. We saw a huge uptake in influencer marketing in 2020. One obvious reason for this was lockdown and the move to remote working. With people spending more time online, marketing naturally shifted to online platforms. However, there’s another reason that influencer marketing is experiencing such growth – it’s authentic, built on trust, and has moved into the realm of micro and nano-influencers. These are four key trends shaping influencer marketing today:
1. The rise of the trust economy
Sure, Michael Jordan is synonymous with Nike, but when you’re choosing a new pair of running shoes for your weekend trail runs, you’re not turning to him for advice. You’re going to ask your friends and family which shoes they’ve had the best experiences with, you’ll probably do some research online, and you’ll be interested to see which shoes the trail runners you follow on Instagram are using. That’s influencer marketing, all the way from celebrity endorsements right down to personal Facebook, Instagram and TikTok accounts where ordinary people are sharing their lives. The key to these personal accounts is that they’re real. They’re another form of word-of-mouth marketing because they don’t only tell you about all the good things associated with a product, but rather how that product fits into the influencer’s specific lifestyle.
This doesn’t mean that celebrity and macro influencers are going anywhere. It’s a strategy that’s worked for decades. While big names give brands recognition, we make purchasing decisions based on direct referrals, which is where online trust and conversations have become so important: the type of content that moves the needle come from the photographer who highlights which camera housing and lens she used for a shot; or the iron man contender who shares which supplements he uses for training and competing.
2. The shift from macro-influencers to nano-influencers
Celebrities are associated with a certain lifestyle that fascinates consumers. However, as much as we love our celebs, trust levels remain low when it comes to products because we know they are being paid (and in most cases, paid well) to partner with brands. Macro-influencers are not at celebrity status, but they are still well-known and have large numbers of social media followers. The same rules apply though – their followers are interested in their lives and what they have to say, but they understand that any endorsements made by macro-influencers are paid for, and so trust levels remain low.
Micro-influencers have been the real gamechanger in influencer marketing. They have loyal followers which subscribe to them because they create great content. They are entertaining, authentic and tend to be experts in their fields. If you follow a micro-influencer, it’s because you care about their opinions, which means you’re naturally inclined to trust them. Nano-influencers niche this down even further. Their circles of influence are even smaller than micro-influencers, but they are incredibly strong.
In 2015, influencer marketing was worth $1.5 billion, and it was dominated by celebrities and macro-influencers with huge followings. Within the next few years, we expect the market to grow to $20 billion, and it will be dominated by nano-influencers. This shift highlights the important role that micro- and nano-influencers play within their online communities.
3. The power of authentic content
The key to all of this is authentic content, however. Influencer content always outperforms brand content. Once brands experience this, they tend to become increasingly comfortable with the authenticity of influencers. Think of your own social media habits as a consumer. We trust micro- and nano-influencers because they create their own content. It’s not slick, production quality content – it’s social media content that is interesting, educational or entertaining. If it’s exceptional content, it’s all three. There are many ways for brands to tap into this. The first is simply to ask their customers to photograph or video themselves using a specific product and then to tag the post. Trust levels are extremely high because this is someone who has already chosen to spend money on that product, and so we’re going to listen to them.
The second is to partner with micro- and nano-influencers whose lifestyle suits a product. For example, a cycling brand connects with a mountain biker who then creates their own content to promote the product. The key to success with any influencer marketing, however, is that the content must be authentic, which means brands need to give influencers latitude to do what they do – this is the influencer’s personal brand, not the look and feel of the advertiser.
4. Organic reach versus paid reach
Technology is what makes influencer marketing possible. Previously, word-of-mouth referrals were made in person. Now, influencers have a microphone. But paid content is where we’ve seen the most success. Social media algorithms limit the organic reach of a post. This means that a macro-influencer might have 3 million followers, but only 300 000 of them will see a post. Micro and nano-influencers offer a different opportunity. It’s far more affordable for brands – big and small – to partner with them and seed multiple posts of authentic content into the market. The best-performing content can then be boosted through paid advertising, reaching users that suit a specific buying persona but are not necessarily followers of the influencer. Trust remains the same because even if content is paid for, influencers do not sell products, they showcase them in their own lives, and the brand’s reach is extended.
Pulling it all together
Anyone can be an influencer, which is changing the way brands engage with consumers. When we launched Webfluential, we wanted to connect social media influencers with brands in a smart, simple way that meant brands could find the influencers who were already embedded in their consumers’ social media feeds. With these trends accelerating, what we’ve found is that more and more the conversation is moving into the hands of micro- and nano-influencers. The brands that understand where these conversations and engagements are happening will be best positioned to leverage the rise of the nano-influencer.
Pieter Groenewald is CEO of Nfinity influencer marketing group. Channels include theSALT, Webfluential, Echocast, theInternship and Nfluential. Groenewald founded theSALT, the first to market nano influencer channel in SA, which is currently being rolled out internationally as a technology solution. He is a qualified Chartered Accountant who worked in the media industry and has spent the past 11 years focusing on influencer marketing and assisting businesses with grow the via this fast developing channel.
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