4 ways influencer marketing evolved in 2020

by | Jan 5, 2021 | Analysis, Public Relations

The widespread halt of travel and decrease of in-person activities after the initial outbreak of COVID-19 has radically changed the way we work and live, causing PR and social media pros to reexamine their plans—and, in many cases, shift course. The impact of these changes has been felt across all areas of the marketing and media landscape, including influencer marketing. On the one hand, more people are online than ever before, as evidenced by the fact that social media use increased 61 percent over the summer.

Yet the disruption of so many industries has undeniably affected the way that brands and influencers work together. Here are four key shifts that PR practitioners should keep in mind when planning future influencer campaigns.

Increased flexibility

Since the pandemic all but stopped travel, it should be noted that travel influencers, one of the largest segments, have adapted their content. There has been a shift in the types of projects influencers in all verticals will work on, moving outside of their original space to include more lifestyle. That added level of flexibility means influencers will accept more options and partner with a diverse set of brands, especially brands that are a natural fit. Consumer technology companies, for example, could potentially partner with travel, lifestyle, gaming and parenting influencers, as all these categories are using technology in new ways.

Steady partnerships

Influencers who normally may have been interested in one-off partnerships are looking for mutually beneficial longer-term relationships or options to join an ambassador program. Long-term partnerships are more effective for brands’ marketing and help influencers achieve stability, which is a win-win for both parties. The right ambassador programs also provide longevity, which builds on the influencer’s audience as it grows and establishes trust. Brands that offer long-term partnerships provide a steady source of income for influencers, who create regular content in return.

Heightened focus on ROI

Marketing initiatives can get scrutinized when companies are seeking ways to reduce costs. Brands that have invested in influencer marketing campaigns are looking for a high return-on-investment and may often end partnerships with content creators whose metrics do not measure up. Seek out collaborations that require low investment from businesses but generate returns from influencers. Depending on the reach, or the number of people that see the content, social media posts can inexpensively generate leads and sales. Trade opportunities present another option for brands looking to obtain ROI and content, as influencers have a chance to get to know the product or service more fully and share their experience with others.

Small but mighty

Nano- and micro-influencers—those with under 10,000 followers—are seeing increased interest from brands these days given their higher engagement rates and propensity to work for trade. An engagement rate measures the relationship between interactions with social content and social media reach, or reactions, comments and shares. Nano- and micro-influencers’ audiences are also highly motivated to support the influencer and trust their judgment on recommendations. Not only are they a more cost-effective option for the brand, but they often create more authentic content that better connects with customers.

The influencer marketing industry continues to be robust and, given the uptick in social media use, there are many opportunities for brands and influencers to forge mutually beneficial partnerships. However, as you plan for 2021 it is critical to keep in mind how the changes in the business and social media environments (and algorithms) continue to alter the influencer marketing landscape.

Anna Crowe
Anna Crowe is founder and CEO of Crowe PR, an Amazon best-selling author and speaker, and an adjunct marketing professor at the University of San Diego.