2019 was the biggest year yet for influencer marketing, and the charge shows no signs of slowing down.
Mindful media has been the comeback kid of the two-thousand-teens, with podcasts on an unstoppable resurgence. We’ve seen surprise domination of download sensation TikTok – partially responsible for video’s long reign as king of content. 2019 was also the year of curveball decisions from OG platforms, like Instagram’s decision to trial the erasure of ‘Like’ visibility. Data ownership came under the microscope, main channel social media faced significant scrutiny, cancel culture came to fruition and yet spend on influencer marketing is still set to increase to $10bn by 2020– in fact, ‘research shows that 59% of marketers plan on increasing their influencer budget in 2020.’ (SocialMediaToday)
With constant growth happening in the social media, leashes have been tightened; no longer can brands or influencers get away with inauthenticity, and that can only be a good thing. Trimming the frayed edges of this powerful world will allow the good eggs to shine. So, what’s our radar for 2020?
1) ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY
Sustainability was a hot topic in 2019 and as Greta Thunberg rightly states, it’s only getting hotter. In 2017, ‘58% of all US consumers consider environmental impacts when purchasing a product’ (Natural Marketing Institute of Data)and according to Forbes, that figure has now risen to a staggering 87%. As the surge of young people taking to the streets to have their voices heard remains unrelenting, more influencers are getting involved in the conversation. Many influencers are boycotting fast-production brands, opting for partnerships that put eco-consciousness first. One brand recognisably adapting to change and stepping into Gen-Z’s new way of doing things, is iconic car company Mini who have worked with an always-on team of influencers throughout 2019 (and some of 2018) to launch their new electric mini cooper. The influencers chosen for the campaign – who include multi-talented influencers Will Darbyshire and Arden Rose– were archetypally aligned, extremely aesthetic individuals, who all have a flair for design, appealing to the aesthetically driven minds of generation Instagram. Mark Robber is an influencer (and former NASA engineer) who recently published a deep dive analysis into some of the tech that can help the reforestation effort. This observation was then catalysed by Mr Beast’spledge to have 20 million trees planted before January 1stof this year. As we get going with 2020, it’s likely we will see more partnerships like this in the future, where influencers focus on partnering with tech companies and beyond that are changing the world ecologically, in a positive light. Venetia Falconer, another environmentally inclined influencer is so authentic in her ways as an activist influencer that she made sure her wedding was zero waste and entirely recycled/recyclable. Authenticity goes without saying when you’re that dedicated to the cause! Brands should be focusing on working out ways to cut down on waste when it comes to packaging, asking influencers first if they want the products you’re sending, and dialling up on your all-round sustainability policies. Remember, you can never be too transparent.
2) THE INFLUENCER BRAND
The ‘Influencer Brand’ picked up some serious steam towards the end of last year; this is a way of working with an influencer that allows for maximum creative collaboration (something that has always been integral to the approach we adopt for influencer marketing strategies here at Connects). It gives influencers a chance to really embody their personal brand, whilst aligning to an already established product based brand, to give customers exactly what they want. We predict that going into 2020, the ‘Influencer Brand’ will further establish itself in a number of ways.
- Rise of the affiliate model: Traditionally, affiliate marketing and influencer marketing have run alongside each other, operating differently. The key difference between the two is mostly down to how the content creator gets paid. With affiliate marketing, content creators are paid on a commission basis and with influencer marketing, they are (usually, if they aren’t part of an always-on network) paid on a per post basis. With the likes of Mrs Hinch(who works primarily through the affiliate model) going viral in 2019, it’s likely we will continue to see these two types of marketing merge into a hybrid relationship for brands. More brands are paying content creators a fee to post on top of commission, lowering the amount that they would normally pay for an earned post. This merge is not only potentially more lucrative for both brands and influencers, it also means everyone is working hard to earn sales, instead of focusing on vanity metrics. The merger allows for greater creative collaboration, more authentic alignment between brands and influencers, and better relationships overall – it’s a win-win.
- Influencers creating and curating their own products: From blogger-endorsed jewels that are retail gold, to entire collections based on Instagram likes, the move to make influencers brand partners and an element of a brand’s integral design team, has so far been nothing but successful for the brands who do it properly. Lucy WilliamsX Missoma Londonis the perfect example of the right alignment and a successful partnership. In 2014, British jewellery brand Missoma London became one of the first brands to tap into influencer marketing in such a cosy way, initially working together to design a small capsule jewellery collection. Fast forward five years and the relationship status between Lucy and Missoma has gone from a casual fling to official. Just a few months ago, Lucy released her third collection with Missoma, almost entirely creative directed by herself, from the jewellery designs to the editorial shoots. So far, this partnership trend seems to be a female driven move, with the likes of Rihanna (albeit a traditional celebrity) practically putting Victoria’s Secret out of business with her Fenty Savage lingerie business, and Kim Kardashian’s shapewear line launch.
3) LONG FORM GAINS
As our digitally intoxicated world becomes increasingly instant, consumers are increasingly moving to engage with longer, more complex content narratives on social and beyond. We are in a ‘Mindful Media’ revolution, and there seems to be no signs of that slowing down as we head into the new year. So, how will this longer content sit on platforms built for immediate consumption?
- Twitter Threads: Twitter themselves admit that we often need more than 280 characters to express ourselves. Enter the Twitter thread: a ‘compelling, incendiary literary form for the Trump political era.’ The thread essentially does what it says on the tin, piecing together tweets to form a longer stream of consciousness. The ‘thread’ isn’t just used for political ranting, in fact the world’s most powerful media company Disney just launched the world’s longest Twitter thread ever, with over 630 tweets clubbed together to market the release of Disney+.
- Instagram Captions: along with the extension of tweets, we are going to be seeing Instagram captions used to their full potential. Instead of a witty one liner, influencers will be pouring their heart and soul into captions, using Instagram as a micro blogging platform to project as much authenticity as possible onto their audience, in 2,200 characters. Scrolling will become a little less mindless and a little more mindful.
- IGTV:a common theme in much of our 2019 editorial content has been expressing the benefits of IGTV, and the strengths it brings to Instagram as a platform that can now host longform video content. Many influencers have found a lot of success from graduating their longform video content from YouTube to Instagram, shortening their audience’s consumption journey by having all content in one place.
- Kyra TV (PAQ + Nayva): for those that don’t know what it is, two-year-old Kyra TV is building a hybrid model of “media owner and talent management studio”, by scouring TikTok and Instagram – and other platforms to a lesser degree – for stars it can cast in series that can then be run (and monetized) on YouTube. Kyra TV saw a big upshot in viewership this past year (predictably because of a rise in popularity for platforms like TikTok), and as a result now do a lot of brand partnerships. Kyra TV are rewriting the rules of video with influencers and branded content, and may even be responsible for the re-emergence of episodic content we’re seeing within online video media. Kyra’s show PAQ is now thought to be the No.1 men’s fashion show online.
- Podcasts:another area that saw significant growth in 2019, the podcast world is only set to continue its dominance within the longform media world. There are now 700K active podcasts, 29Mepisodes globally and 23%of UK adults listen to podcasts each month. Data shows that ‘engagement, emotional intensity and memory encoding around brand mentions beat TV benchmarks by at least 22%’ (podnews), and they also out-perform radio ads. We’re seeing a big rise of daily podcasts – news and sport specifically right now – as well as an increase in successful podcasts being adapted into TV formats; the infamous ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’ and ‘Dirty John’ were turned into successful HBO shows during 2019. In the hope of further monetising content, many podcast producers are opting to film recordings and then uploading them to YouTube, just like JaackMaate’s Happy Hour did and The True Geordie; more eyes and ears = more money!
4) PLATFORM DIVERISTY
TikTok asset: Medium.com
In years gone by, Facebook lead the social media charge – but times are changing, different content is craved and therefore platform diversity is on the up. In 2017, 79% of influencer campaigns existed on Instagram (Influencer Marketing Hub), but 2019 was the year that began to change and 2020 will be the year we see platform diversity increasing ten-fold.
One of the platforms leading this disruption is video mecca TikTok. The app is available in 150 markets, 75 languages and boasts 600M active users, with over 1M videos viewed every single day.A little under a month ago, TikTok reached the champagne-worthy download milestone of 1.5 billion – a huge number that very few other apps have been able to achieve. The power of social video is so strong, we saw it even within mainstream media, since TikTok is in many ways responsible for the virality of Lil Nas’s ‘Old Town Road’. These monumental accomplishments from TikTok’s corner really is evidence that they mean business and are here to stay when it comes to showing face with OG platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Alongside dominating video content, TikTok is busy testing lots of interesting features like social commerce (by allowing the addition of URLs in bio), an e-learning program called EduTok and a ban on political ads in the EU and the US. In 2020, be on the same page as brands like Pretty Little Things, Ralph Lauren and even Burberry, by embracing TikTok early, establishing a fun video presence and a fresh brand voice.
5) HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY
Online socials were once a space for projecting and seeking validation – a place to conform and jump on trend bandwagons, hoping your imitation technique was better than the next guy’s. In the wake of increased mental health awareness, platforms, users and creators have taken a step back and are now beginning to adopt a far more considered, honest and authentic approach to what, how and where they share online. Digital consumption is becoming a measured affair, and as the race for followers, likes and validation slows down, the importance of honesty and authenticity increases.
2019 was the year an inanimate picture of an egg smashed world records and beat Kylie Jenner to becoming the Instagram user with the most liked picture on the platform. The World Record Egg became an internet sensation, but instead of “selling out”, they used their newfound fame to talk about online pressures and how great it is to be honest about our mutual daily struggles. A few months ago we recorded a podcast episode with one of The Egg’s founders, which you can listen to here. Not only are influencers talking openly about the challenges of mental health, we are also seeing new openness about things like influencer finances from Patricia Bright, alongside very raw body positivity discussions from previous ‘Clean Queen’ wellness influencers like Alice Liveing–who we’ve also recorded a podcast with. Along with influencer honesty comes platform advocation, and as we move into 2020 we will see the effects of Instagram’s trials to hide the number of likes people garner on posts, as a way of diminishing dangerous obsessive behaviour, as well as the changing landscape of Twitter after they banned political ads. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, told Buzzfeed News in April that the purpose of the like-less test is to create “a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.”
As ASA guidelines tighten and the number of CGI/AI influencers begin to rise, this isn’t just a period of self-reflection, this is also an opportunity for all of us to truly look at the world we have collectively created online. Cancel culture was a huge theme for 2019, but the aftermath of destruction it leaves behind is often more damaging than whatever causes audiences to betray their favourite influencers in the first place. It is productive when influencer activists fight against the fake news era, calling out dishonesty and highlighting irresponsible use of social media. Jameela Jamil boldly calling out mega influencers like the Kardashians, for their irresponsible flogging of weight loss tea via social media, is the perfect example of how we can find a balance between upholding responsibility without stepping over into chaotic, destructive cancel culture.
TO WRAP THINGS UP
2020 will be the year influencers truly come into their own. The influencer world turns double figures in 2020, and maturity is stepping up; platforms are fine-tuning their offerings, validation is no longer at the top of agendas, honesty is beaming through and content is becoming more considered every single day. The world has sat up and are watching closely, so this is the year to produce measured campaigns that blow sceptics out of the water and propel your brand to satisfying success. Our final message is to make sure collaborations are the right fit, by being transparent with audiences and influencers alike, to disrupt the ebb and flow of generic #ads.
For help on finessing your 2020 influencer content, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!