The evolution of influencer marketing in 2021

Influencer marketing is a strategy that has become much more popular over the past few years. Where traditional marketing might involve putting up an advert – next to an actual road – in the hopes that people passing by will see your advertisement, influencer marketing involves gifting products to people who are popular on social media. They then wear, use, or talk about the product on their channels. 


For example, if it’s headphones for joggers, they’re posting pictures of them jogging with those headphones in. If it’s a party dress, they post a video of themselves wearing it to a party. And so on, applied to all kinds of products, from food and drink to tech and engineering supplies. Essentially, the people who follow that person are influenced to buy the product because someone they trust is using it.   


That’s the basic setup, but influencer marketing is changing in 2021. The key trends are: 


1) The rise of the micro-influencer or nano-influencer and specialism generally. Whereas influencers are traditionally thought of as famous celebrities with huge followings, a well-respected person in a particular field with only a few followers can still shift a lot of products. A well-regarded model railway builder on YouTube, for example, may have far fewer followers than a famous sports player but those followers are much keener to buy the specific products the influencer endorses. The same applies to things like specific kinds of cheese and wine, and other speciality products. 


2) The emergence of new social media websites. The basic concept of social media has been established by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, but new and more specialised social media websites are being floated all the time. These might be associated with a particular generation, for example, young people using TikTok, or a particular profession or class of person. It can be worth looking into new social media platforms beyond the more common names.   


3) Longer, more substantial contracts and deals are becoming the norm. The rise of the influencer came about largely by accident – users of social media simply shared products they liked with their friends, brands noticed, and deals were made. Now established, this process has become more formalised. Rather than one-off deals, a brand is likely to enter into a long-term contract with its influencers, where they agree to promote products for a year or more. It means an influencer has become almost like a regular employee. 


4) Data is starting to matter even more than you might imagine. Now that everyone knows influencer marketing is key, the use of data analytics to track, plan, and create influencer marketing projects will increase. This means that the targets and KPIs of the conventional workplace might start to be a feature of influencer deals, and it also means that brands who find a way to track which of their influencer deals are bringing in the most sales will have the edge on their competition.