If you spend any time on social media, you’ll know that it’s common for unsuspecting individuals to go from everyday person to a hotshot celebrity. You can go viral overnight, from mega/celebrity influencers to nano influencers. One that caught my eye (and over a million other people’s eyes) was Francis Bourgeois: a nerdy train spotter who shot to fame for his comedic, yet informative, videos about the train-spotting world. Since then, Francis has recently quit his day job, signed with an agency and has worked with the likes of Gucci and North Face to promote their collaboration.
Despite questions being raised about his authenticity, after photos from his past surfaced and the revelation that Francis is not in fact his real name, he has won the hearts of millions…and it got me thinking about what the future holds for influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing is increasingly popular amongst followers and brands alike. The industry will continue to grow in 2022, projected to expand to a $15 billion industry. As more brands are expected to increase their budgets for influencer marketing, it’s important to consider trends for the upcoming year and focus attention and spend in the right places.
But are we growing bored of the 'cookie-cutter mould' of influencers, showing us their perfectly curated life full of dreamy aesthetics, luxury and #goals? The recent backlash to Molly Mae’s “same 24 hours in a day” comment on poverty indicates a growing discontent with the current influencer model.
Here are the 3 trends we expect to see in the influencer space in 2022.
A desire for more authenticity
60% of marketers report a better performance from influencer content than brand content. Influencers can provide personal testimonial, demonstrations and calls to action when talking about a brand or product – for example, it’s not uncommon to see influencers host live Q&A sessions; providing the extra layer of real-ness. They have a unique positioning that feels independent which is essential to helping their follower community through the entire sales funnel from awareness to purchase. TikTok has pioneered this end-to-end influencer approach, promoting their social commerce solution “TikTok Shopping” and expanding their partnership with shopify.
The controversy around how real Francis Bourgeois is highlights a growing trend in the value and importance of influencers feeling authentic (whether they are or not) – we want to feel like we know the real version of them in a way that feels consistent and predictable to us. This extends to the content they post – making sure it’s in their style and words. Cultivating an influencer audience means convincing followers you are genuinely recommending a product to them; despite being paid to promote it. This means influencers are able to tell their followers what they don’t love (and why), as well as what they do. This is why influencer-led content, over brand-led content is so important, allowing products to naturally fit into the influencer’s life and profile. Expect to see brands to give more creative freedom to influencers in marketing content.
A break away from homogeneity
Micro and nano influencers are set to grow above and beyond the traditional influencer marketing. They tend to have the highest engagement rate (averaging 5% in 2020) and their followers more likely to take action. By focusing on influencers with a smaller base of followers, brands will be able to stretch their budget further and leverage the trust influencers have established with their community.
There is no denying that the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of connecting with like-minded people – and influencers (and their follower communities) can provide this. Influencers cultivate a following of people with similar interests and establish themselves as trusted advisors. Unlike other forms of marketing, their content is designed to target a tiny niche in the market, proving they know their stuff and making followers feel heard. It’s this implicit trust and recognisability that likely drives their engagement.
While popular influencing categories like beauty and lifestyle lead the way in the influencing world, more recently we see increasing numbers of new influencer categories are emerging, from Francis Bourgeois’ trainspotting to pets and game-specific influencers (such as The Sims). However, this isn’t to say that influencers find their ‘thing’ and stick to it – people want to feel like they’re following a true life, building up a story around how a person lives. As such, there is an audience for everything. Brands can look to increasingly niche influencers speaking to engaged, hyper-targeted audiences.
A renewed importance of brand fit
56% of brands use the same influencers across different campaigns, as opposed to finding another influencer every time. Influencer @nimiblackwell explains that she prefers working on repeat campaigns because “it allows me (her) to build an online community based on transparency and honesty…they can see it’s a brand I would genuinely promote”. This year, we can expect to see more repeat influencer partnerships – demonstrating genuine brand affinity, developing a brand-specific audience and a deeper level of believability. Moving towards influencers as brand ambassadors as opposed to a tool for sales.
It takes time to sell a product truly and genuinely. Followers want to feel like they know the complete person as a friend, and so have high expectations on influencers to remain consistent with their vision of this person. As a result, it’s increasingly important for brands and influencers to navigate this space and research influencers. Brands need to identify the perfect partner that builds on the work they’ve ready put in, as opposed to those with the largest following or widest reach. Blatantly sponsored posts aren’t the problem – it just needs to feel like a natural extension of the influencer’s profile: their opinions, their lifestyle, and the other products they use.
Influencer marketing is big and it’s only going to get bigger. However, influencer marketing is a difficult art to perfect and there is a lot to learn from looking at rising stars in the influencer world. Whilst there are influencers with millions of followers, this doesn’t always make them a trusted ambassador. Brands should focus on collaborating with authentic creators, who are a trusted adviser to their following and feel like a natural partnership. As influencing becomes increasingly crucial in marketing, and brands continue to increase their spend, it’s key to keep an eye on trends and make informed investment decisions.