As the global pandemic has unravelled since last year, consumer behaviours, needs, and disposable incomes have seen a drastic shift. While some businesses have seen unprecedented gains from this, others have struggled to cope.

In 2021, it is quite evident that marketers will use social media to a greater extent following the rise of social commerce. Over the years influencer marketing has become an integral part of a robust marketing strategy. We will take a closer look at how influencer marketing can be used by marketers and what trends in influencer marketing will dominate in the year ahead.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing can help brands grow their social following, brand awareness, and website traffic, by introducing a large number of targeted followers. Consumers tend to trust the opinion of their peers and people they admire more than just brand messaging. Influencer marketing has proven to be a useful way to reach more potential customers.

The impact of COVID

In the aftermath of the outbreak and lockdowns in 2020, marketers have faced challenges in utilising channels effectively as well as pressures to deliver results whilst constantly revising goals and budgets. Many brands postponed influencer-marketing campaigns in an effort to cut costs, in the face of travel restrictions and to avoid appearing insensitive during the public-health crisis.

Additionally, within the influencer industry, it is notable that the five most popular categories with a share of 57% were lifestyle, travel, food, parenting, and fashion and beauty. They were all heavily impacted by the pandemic and restrictions.

So where do we stand now?

It wasn't all bad news as brands began adapting early on, and shifted their marketing budget to focus more on digital. The majority of influencers also rapidly pivoted to create relatable content and resources for their audiences stuck at home. While some individual influencers may have courted controversy last year, nothing is a bigger testament to our continuing faith in influencers than the news that the UK government has enrolled the help of a number of social media influencers to promote the vaccine programme such as the TV presenter, Pru Leith. Similarly, other influencers have used their 'power' to do good. Marchested United's Marcus Rashford started a campaign to help supply food for underprivileged kids.

On the consumers' side, with the start of the pandemic, an increasing number of people were going online and more importantly spending a greater amount of time there. A Kantar study reported an increase of 61% in social media engagement, whist the time spend on social media has also increased by and 36%. So we saw and continue to see more competition to get consumers' attention. It is here that influencer marketing has proved its utility among the arsenal of digital marketing techniques.

Influencer marketing in 2021

Brands that may have previously done well on their own are now seeing the need to put a human face on social media in their messaging. With budget constraints, unpredictable lockdowns, and travel restrictions, it has proven difficult to create a steady stream of brand content and visuals. Collaborating with influencers who match your brand's demographics and values, can help address this issue and further amplify the importance of influencer marketing for your business.

Influencer marketing trends we are likely to see in 2021

1. Growing importance of micro or nano influencers

Micro-influencers are those with often comparatively small but committed following, often in niche areas. Usually, the word 'influencers' brings to mind celebrities with a massive following. But brands, both big and small, are increasingly looking to work with micro-influencers who have captured that niche audience. Micro-influencers have demonstrated better ROIs and engagement. They are committed brand advocates, authentic, innovative and enjoy high trust and relatability as they engage with, and respond to their followers frequently. They are also ideal partners for small businesses who may not have huge marketing budgets but can benefit from a 'word-of-mouth' approach. For bigger brands, micro-influencers can provide content that is seen as more authentic and relatable to everyday life.

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