Influencer marketing can be a massively successful strategy for companies looking to grow brand awareness and increase sales. However, there’s more to influencer marketing than putting products in the hands of high-profile social media users, and that goes double for 2020. After all, this is the year that changed everything.
According to a recent study from Bluecore, 18% of the 1,005 consumers surveyed in Q2 2020 said that influencer marketing had the most significant impact on their purchasing decisions, placing it in third place behind word of mouth and online ads. However, 29% of that same group said influencers were the least impactful, second only to celebrities. While that disparity is enough to make a marketer’s head spin, one thing’s for sure: the times, they are a-changin’.
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Diversity is more important than ever
Social injustice has been at the forefront of 2020, with protests sweeping the globe over police brutality and the too-frequent murders of unarmed people of color. Many brands and corporations have chimed in, though some efforts fell embarrassingly short. With diversity dominating the marketing discussion this year, it’s no surprise that influencer culture is following suit.
According to one study, 36% of influencer-following consumers now follow a more diverse group of influencers than they did before the latest wave of protests kicked off in the summer. Consumers are more aware of the need for social justice than ever, and trends in the influencer community reflect this. Unlike some of the other shifts in the influencer economy this year, added diversity is definitely a good thing that should create new opportunities for influencers from marginalized groups.
TikTok is taking over
The video-sharing social network TikTok has been around in various forms for a few years, but it hit its stride in 2020. With much of the world feeling socially isolated, millennials and zoomers turned to TikTok en masse, creating a whole new influencer ecosystem. That’s great for rising TikTok stars, but the network comes with a new set of obstacles that marketers have to navigate.
Earlier this year, TikTok made headlines when the President of the United States threatened to ban it entirely. Meanwhile, concerns over user data and security have led some politicians to call for a deeper investigation into what they consider a potential threat to national security. TikTok executives have vehemently denied those claims, but the constant back-and-forth is still causing confusion and anxiety, making it hard for influencers to plan their next steps.
Lawsuits are a looming threat
“Influencer” is a relatively new career path, which means the legal issues surrounding disclosure, content, and transparency are still being written. However, the FTC has made some points very clear: when promoting products, influencers must disclose any financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with the brand.
Lack of disclosure is one of the main drivers of influencer lawsuits, but it’s far from the only one. Just ask Bethany Mota – the YouTube sensation with over 10 million subscribers found herself with a fraud lawsuit in 2017 after failing to uphold her end of a contract. With so many potential legal issues, it’s not surprising that some brands would prefer to avoid that minefield entirely.
Influencers haven’t been able to escape the side effects of the most bizarre year in recent memory, but influencer marketing is far from over. It’s up to marketing pros to navigate these shifts and prepare for the future of influencer culture. After that, who knows what 2021 will bring?
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