A lot happened on social media this year. Instagram lost the ‘like’, administrators decided to restrict and/or censor ‘harmful content’, Shoppable Instagram Posts and IG Stories became a thing, we saw the rise of virtual influencers and micro influencers respectively, Branded Content Ads allowed brands to turn sponsored posts into advertisements, regular users flocked to create AR filters (starting with @dvoshansky’s remake of Flappy Bird), Jennifer Anniston broke Instagram, a whole lot of brands jumped on board the influencer marketing bandwagon and TikTok hit 1.5 Billion downloads.
It’s useful to look back on trends in 2019 as we gear up for a whole new year of work and life on the ‘gram. Here’s what we anticipate for 2020, based on what we’ve learnt:
1 – The Rise of the Nano Influencer
The smallest rung of influencers will likely, finally, have their chance to shine as brands gravitate towards working with smaller influencers. The reason behind this is not dissimilar from the move to micro influencers this year — smaller accounts generally experience a higher engagement rate as compared to macro / celebrity influencers and are also a lot closer to their audiences, both of which are reasons beneficial to brands.
Our benchmarks for the UK, for example, reflect an almost 200% difference in engagement rate between a nano and celebrity (or mega) influencer.
If brands can be sure that a smaller influencer will perform better and cost less for sponsored content, there is no question about who to work with on campaigns and ambassadorships. A good case study to look at here is the Nike Women’s Campaign from July featuring Jorja Smith, Adwoa Aboah, Beatrice Vio, and Dina Asher Smith. They each had vastly different niches and followings (which ultimately fit the campaign goals), but in terms of black and white metrics like engagement rate and interest distribution, the micro influencer in the group really came through.
Amongst the four women she [Dina Smith] has the smallest audience but the second highest engagement rate of 7.05%, which is double the average engagement for micro influencers in the UK. Additionally, it is Dina who pulls in the audience that is interested in fitness.
That being said, I’m almost certain that once the micro magic wears off, nano influencers will fall next in line.
2 – CGI Influencers > Human Influencers
To be fair, we saw this one coming ages ago. Perhaps just not in the way we expected. If early sci-fi and the likes of Black Mirror postulated that robots were going to take over the world in one way or another, 2020 might be the year it happens on Instagram.
@lilmiquela is by far the most popular virtual influencer and her repertoire includes brand ambassadorships, social work, music, as well as ‘fraternising’ with celebrities. After equal parts hype and controversy, virtual influencers have proven to be more boon than bane. Working with them ensures creative freedom, being able to craft & sell a story, creating feedback loops, as well as the necessary all-roundedness that influencers aspire to have.
Additionally, they typically tend to benefit from a higher engagement rate than regular influencers.
A number of bigger brands have already begun to use CGI influencers in their marketing collateral, so what I see happening in 2020 is a more normalized and wholesale adoption of this technology, as opposed to something novel and remarkable.
3 – TikTok and The Demand for Creativity
TikTok’s entrance into the social media landscape arguably changed the game for content creators for the simple reason that TikTok functions solely on entertainment value, which essentially means that if the videos are not widely regarded as entertaining, they will not survive on the app. This is quite unlike Instagram, which is ultimately controlled and mediated by certain algorithms.
What TikTok can, and will do, in due time is highlight the strong demographic niche on the platform and concentrate marketing efforts that are targeted at Gen Z’s to a space they use the most.
This means that investing in a platform that appears to solely target one facet of society might have better payoffs than you think.
The move to TikTok has already begun, and a notable case study this year was from @elfcosmetics with their #eyeslipsface challenge. They managed to very successfully penetrate the platform and hit 3 Billion views on the campaign hashtag, starting a trend that some TikTok users are still on board with today.
TikTok’s demands are admittedly very different from what marketers and influencers are used to on Instagram, so 2020 will be a year of working out how to capitalise on both.
4 – More Brand Ambassadorships
Brand Ambassador Campaigns are one of the more popular aspects of Influencer Marketing, fundamentally because they really delve into the relationship between the brand and influencer over a prolonged period. This is unlike one-off #sponcon posts that do not require the same depth.
One of my favourite case studies from this year was Thinx, who worked with Ilana Glazer. Their brand account on Instagram reflects an audience growth rate of 6.38% which is more than 6 times higher than the average audience growth rate for brand accounts. People appreciate when they can follow along the journey of an influencer in relation to a particular product, and experiential marketing is always more likely to engage audiences.
Considering a single face of a brand or one-off sponsored posts haven’t picked up as much as they once did, it is safe to say that we’ll be seeing a lot more brand ambassador campaigns in the coming year.
Luckily for you, we do! And we hope that identifying these trends better helps you to plan your campaigns and initiatives for the next year. If you are looking to start keeping up with tips and insights on influencer marketing, sign up for our newsletter! If you are a brand, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to gain access to our AI-Driven Influencer Marketing Platform.