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5 Influencer Marketing Trends to Watch for in 2021

Celeste Grant

The term “influencer” has changed drastically over the years. Initially used to describe anyone with a large following on social media, the word is now associated with content creators who monetize their online presence. They have—quite literally—the _influence _that brands will pay money to get out in front of. This symbiotic relationship is called influencer marketing.

In an ideal partnership, the influencer has access to the brand’s audience. And vice versa. It’s the multiplicative power of brand partnerships that makes influencer marketing a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

So, should your organization be tapping into social media influencers? To answer that, let’s explore some predictions we think will make influencer marketing reach new heights this year.

Trend No. 1: Follower Counts Are Now (Largely) Irrelevant

Gone are the days of wanting to work with influencers just because of their astronomical follower counts. With followers and likes now considered vanity metrics, brands have begun to value niche and influence more. Are they able to compel their audience to make decisions or take actions? Are they authentic enough that audiences will listen when they speak?

This isn’t to say follower counts are sidelined entirely. It’s just that proven track records for moving and shaking people in a noisy digital world weigh more.

TIP: 2021 influencer marketing prediction: Brands will value niche and influence over follower count and likes.

Trend No. 2: Static Posts Are So 2020

Influencer marketing has transformed because of platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram. While promotional posts of years past would feature still images of a product they vouched for, now it’s hard to get excited about anything that doesn’t move.

As audiences shift to consuming more dynamic content on social media, we predict that influencer marketing will trend toward more creative storytelling—beyond the constraints of just a single post. Brands also know that videos featuring their product or service in the wild tend to paint a better picture anyway.

This shift is happening already on TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram. We expect this will only continue to expand. (Think influencer Zoom calls or sponsored Patreons.)

TIP: 2021 influencer marketing prediction: We’ll be seeing a lot more dynamic storytelling from brands and influencers.

Trend No. 3: Long-Term Relationships

That’s right: No more one-night stands. Brands and influencers want to have long, meaningful relationships with each other. We’ll see fewer freebies from influencers as they start to leverage the power they have as content creators.

Brands are also looking for more long-term partnerships because of the trust they can build with shared audiences over time. This positive reinforcement from consistent brand awareness can lead to better returns on their investment versus hopping from one partnership to the next.

TIP: 2021 influencer marketing prediction: Brands and influencers will look to build long-term partnerships.

Trend No. 4: Executive Thought Leaders Are (Social Media) Influencers

CEOs moonlighting as pop stars? OK, maybe we’re reaching. But we are starting to see businesses bring in their own thought leaders for co-marketing opportunities with other brands. Organizations are realizing some of the best sources of expertise and influence are in their own backyard. (Or boardroom.)

Executives are increasingly launching podcasts, YouTube channels, and other kinds of digital projects that take social media by storm. Their digital presence makes them valuable as the online face of their own organization, but also as interview-worthy partners for brands around them.

TIP: 2021 influencer marketing prediction: You’ll see more thought leaders on social media as they become familiar faces for their own organizations and for partners.

Trend No. 5: A New (Socially Aware) Kind Of Partnership

Influencer marketing is starting to enter spaces we’re not used to seeing. 2020 saw a complete awakening with brands taking more vocal stances on social justice. In 2021, audiences are paying attention to whether or not they’ll practice what they preach.

We expect brands will start partnering with activists and local community leaders to amplify their voices. In return, brands will get a chance to publicly stand in the gaps for groups they’ve committed to supporting.

TIP: 2021 influencer marketing prediction: Brands will be emboldened to lean into social justice conversations.

Take all these trends with a grain of salt. No one saw what 2020 had in store, and we’re still grappling with a global pandemic. In the meantime, do you have any influencer marketing trend predictions of your own this year? Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Let’s have a conversation.