It’s 2022, and influencer marketing is a firmly established marketing strategy. It’s matured to the point that influencer deals accounted for some $13.8 billion in 2021 and is forecast to reach $15 million by the end of 2022.
By 2028, the global influencer marketing platform market size is predicted to have inflated even more to $84.89 billion.
People trust the authenticity of influencers and digital content creators more than they trust brands. Even the social platforms themselves are increasingly emphasizing creators’ posts in their newsfeed algorithms and endearing themselves to creators with new tools and monetization programs.
So it’s no surprise that all parties – creators and marketers alike – are doing what they can to get in on the action and ride the momentum. The trouble is that when every other brand is using it, you need to do more to stand out.
Social media audiences have come to expect their favorite online personalities partner with brands, so they are more discerning about accepting recommendations and more savvy about spotting when people have a vested interest in promoting products. Simply partnering with a TikTok star or Instagram sensation isn’t enough to drive interest.
But don’t worry, influencer marketing can still be highly effective – if you do it right, that is. If you’re trying to get more bang for your influencer marketing buck, try these six rising trends in influencer marketing.
1. Partnerships are going deeper
Influencer sponsorships are no longer just one-night stands, as brands recognize that the power of influencer marketing lies in influencers’ relationships with their followers and take steps to become a tighter part of it.
This translates into longer-term engagements, where creators are given more input into products. This way, the brand-influencer collaboration is more authentic, the creator doesn’t come across as merely a presenter, and their audience considers the product to be genuinely connected to their lifestyle.
Lightricks offers a prime example as it walks the walk with a partnership with the D'Amelio family. As part of the deal, the D’Amelios acquired an equity stake in Lightricks, and designed custom templates for Lightricks’ Link in Bio tool, proof of a true collaborative relationship. This way, the D’Amelios will benefit from the company’s success while also having a real impact on that growth.
2. Creator partnerships are chosen more carefully
Influencer marketing has moved on from the “connect to any celebrity” mindset. Brands are choosing creators more carefully to make sure they match the brand’s purpose, impact and audience.
It’s similar to the evolution we saw in the maturation of SEO, where keywords shifted from one or two words to longtail, targeted queries. For example, brands aren’t just looking for creators in the parenting space, but for middle school parenting experts, or creators who are athlete parents. In response, creators are moving to establish themselves in more specialized niches.
Feeding into this trend is the realization that smaller creators are often more effective, because engagement and trust are more significant than followership size. In a RealEyes study, TikTok creators with 1M to 50M followers outperformed accounts with over 50M followers in key metrics.
Sunwink drinks understood this when it chose to partner with certified herbalist Briana Cherniak, who has fewer than 5,000 followers, to create Instagram Reels for a product launch. Cherniak’s video garnered 11,000 views.
3. The influencer mix is growing
Along with this move to micro and nano influencers comes a need to partner with more influencers, because each one speaks to a different aspect of your target audience. Granular targeting means higher engagement rates, but to achieve audience reach targets, you’ll need a higher volume of collaborations.
This means carefully curating a mix of influencers that covers different audiences and is truly diverse, incorporating people of color, LGBTQ+, differently abled, plus-sized, and more. These influencers have authentic voices, and authentic communities within which they make an impact.
This level of representation is particularly important to younger Millennials and Gen Z audiences, who are the most impacted by influencer marketing.
Dove is a great example, having built its reputation on accepting all bodies. It’s famous for its diverse advertising with POC, body positivity, and other diverse representation, like plus-size POC Instagram personality and #dovepartner Krychele Valenzuela.
4. Creators are rising up from within
Turning influencer marketing on its head, brands are looking for employees who are – or could become – creators, thereby taking advantage of the authentic relationship they already have with the company.
DoorDash set the tone by looking for “dashers” to work with them as creators, and found Bentley Koup, whose “DoorDash Diaries” YouTube channel is a popular resource for fellow delivery people.
Elsewhere, in an example of what not to do, Sherwin-Williams fired employee Tony Piloseno, after videos of him mixing brightly colored paints went viral. Tony joined Florida Paints instead, and now they benefit from his viral videos.
5. Relationships are lasting beyond the partnership
Instead of making the partnership look authentic, brands are now allowing it to be authentic by extending the relationship beyond any sponsorship or collaboration deals. It’s an expression of and an incubator for trust, which is the foundation for everything good.
This means inviting creators to events, sharing new products, and even returning the favor and investing in their side projects.
This approach helps the creator understand the brand’s values and vision, leading to even better content, plus informal advertising that shows a creator’s regular habits is more effective than conscious advertising.
6. Creators are taking the reins
Brands are increasingly encouraging creators to choose how to communicate the message and express their voice. What’s the point of sending a script? It’s neither original nor authentic – it’s just the brand broadcasting on another account, and consumers quickly see through that facade.
At the same time, creators are turning to more natural, minimalist, and less polished content that expresses their personality more faithfully and is more popular with social media users.
Alcohol importer and distributor Proximo Spirits wanted to drive awareness for its 1800 Cristalino tequila around Cinco de Mayo, so the company turned to creator Benny Soliven, with whom it already had a strong relationship. Because of their trusting relationship, Proximo let Soliven develop content his way, which wasn’t how Proximo had intended the campaign to play out.
Proximo’s trust was rewarded. Soliven’s content outperformed all the rest of the campaign, exceeding predicted views on his Instagram Stories by 13x.
In 2022, influencer marketing is moving on a stage
As influencer marketing becomes mainstream it may become harder to do well, but with the right tactics, it’s still possible. By nurturing the partnership to be deeper and longer-lasting, giving up control, and choosing a more diverse mix of influencers who are a more precise match for your branding, brands can still succeed at influencer marketing in 2022.