When you hear the phrase “influencer marketing,” what image pops into your head?
If your first thought is a photo or a video of your product being used by a world-famous celebrity Instagrammer or YouTuber with hundreds of thousands of followers, your vision of influencer marketing needs a serious refresh for 2020.
Based on insights from leading marketers all across the U.S., Talkwalker’s “Social Media Trends 2020” report reveals that influencer marketing has reached a major turning point in terms of authenticity and effectiveness. Influencer marketing strategies that worked as recently as last year are no longer quite as reliable, while new opportunities are starting to move the needle in new directions.
So, which influencer marketing tactics should you keep using in 2020, and which emerging trends will replace ineffective or outdated approaches? Let’s dive into the data and find out.
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Influencers (and audiences) are moving to new platforms
Where do digital influencers spend their time online?
The answer to this question differs by demographic, and it’s not necessarily the same as it was even three years ago. While Facebook, Twitter and YouTube make headlines due to growing public concern about privacy, transparency and ethics, social media users are increasingly looking for new alternatives to these traditional channels.
Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) continues to attract new users, becoming the fifth-largest social media channel in 2019, as it finally surpassed 1 billion total users. But younger audiences are bypassing the Facebook ecosystem entirely, flocking instead to TikTok.
TikTok has quickly become the most popular destination for Generation Z, reportedly surpassing 500 million monthly users in 2019.
This makes the platform’s user base larger than LinkedIn, Twitter or Snapchat.
While you don’t need to reduce your Facebook, Twitter or YouTube ad spend just yet, investing in rising platforms like TikTok will provide you with valuable insights into the behavior of younger users and early adopters. (This is especially important if your target customers are under the age of 30).
Size matters, in reverse
As I mentioned in my article on digital marketing insights for 2020, 9 percent of consumers cite influencer recommendations as a factor in their own purchasing process. But whose recommendations are these consumers really paying attention to?
These days, they’re less likely to be influenced by a product mention from a celebrity than they are by a context-rich post from micro-influencers whose expertise in their niche far outweighs their follower count.
Why the move toward micro-influencers? Well, it’s not just about authenticity (although that is a factor), but also about value and connection.
Micro-influencers (who generally have between 2,000 and 50,000 followers) are often more directly engaged with their audience than the “big names” are. This means they’re more likely to respond to questions and interact with their audience in a way that feels highly personal. Because of this, they’re better positioned to explain how your product or service actually works for them — what do they love about it, how have they incorporated it into their lifestyle, and how does it make them feel?
These are the kinds of meaningful personal insights that a celebrity is unlikely to share with millions of people, but it’s exactly why micro-influencers’ stories resonate so deeply with their smaller (but dedicated) groups of followers.
No matter what market you’re in, start drilling deeper to find the micro-influencers whose insights are truly driving engagement and purchases among your target audience.
For example, if you’re a beauty or fashion brand, you’re more likely to get a bigger bang for your ad spend buck by leveraging 100 micro-influencers who truly connect with their individual audiences than you are from one celebrity placement that grabs eyeballs but doesn’t offer any relevant context (or results).
According to Talkwalker’s analysis of social media in 2019, there were more than 78,000 online discussions on the topic of social media wellness in just the first half of the year. Wellness is a rising concern among social media users of all ages and demographics, and it’s not likely to recede anytime soon.
In our current era of stressful online interactions and negative newsfeeds, people are more aware than ever of how their online interactions affect their mental, emotional and physical health. As a result, some users have begun their own personal digital detox of sorts. These social media users spend less time online and are more proactive about the conversations and discussions they choose to have — as well as the channels and voices they choose to avoid.
This is an important consideration for your brand and for the use cases you highlight in your influencer marketing strategy.
For example, one upside to consumers becoming more discerning of their social media interactions is an increase of intentionality — and this is great news for some influencers.
Those influencers who cultivate a sense of positivity, authenticity and community are helping to create online experiences that people actually want to spend time with, even if their digital time is reduced. This means you have a new way to think about how you tell your brand’s story.
Which elements of your products or services actually make life better for your end users? What do you empower them to do that they couldn’t do before? What aspects of your design or your experience help put a smile on their face and cause them to prefer your brand over a competitor? What personal touches, from your product team to your post-sale follow-up marketing to your customer service, reinforce the humanity of your brand and help your customer feel like they are truly appreciated? Those are your special brand assets that you want to give influencers the ability to share.
As Julia Bramble of Bramblebuzz notes in Talkwalker’s “Social Media Trends 2020” report:
“The increased awareness of the link between social media and mental health means users are more mindful of what they allow to influence them and are more skeptical than before. In order to attract attention and engagement in this evolving world, you need to model your social media posts and behaviors on those of your audience’s friends, rather than on accepted marketing wisdom. Share stories, tell jokes, let them know you care, ask questions, show an interest, share what you believe in, and make your audience feel valued and that they belong.”
If some consumers are spending less time online and paying more attention to the quality of their online experiences than they previously did, your opportunity to reach them through ads will only get narrower.
To maximize the impact of your time spent with these potential customers, you need to clearly convey why your brand is more than just another white noise distraction in their day. Firsthand accounts from influencers who feel strongly about your brand’s upside can be a powerful way to cut through the digital clutter while also creating a positive impression, even in a short amount of time.
In 2020, the concept of who qualifies as an influencer, and how they influence their audience, is changing. As a result, your influencer marketing strategy will need to evolve, too.
Smart brands are experimenting with new channels to reach new consumers, partnering with micro-influencers to tell more authentic and informative stories, and taking more responsibility for the emotional impact that their brand’s message and experience can create for their audience.
By being proactive about these trends, your 2020 micro-influencer marketing strategy can stay ahead of the curve and build a stronger relationship with influencers and consumers alike.