The Covid-19 recession of 2020 devastated marketing and advertising spending. Influencing marketing budgets were not immune. Especially hard hit were brands in travel and hospitality, a popular influencer topic.
Yet influencer marketing proved resilient and in some ways grew stronger, buoyed by TikTok, Generation Z, and the popular Stories format, according to the State of Influencer Marketing 2021 report from Klear Research.
Bright Spots within the Darkness
Use of the #ad hashtag in Instagram posts declined 19% from last year, indicating a drop in sponsored posts on the most popular influencer marketing network. However, influencers delivered greater marketing impact. In 2020, sponsored posts received an average of 7,806 impressions (unique views), a 57% increase from 2019 when sponsored posts averaged 4,827 impressions.
Creators’ use of sponsored Stories increased 32% in 2020. In addition, sponsorship activity overall increased on TikTok by 130%.
Generation Z, defined as aged18-24, contributed to a 9% lift in the production of influencer #ad content, and was the only cohort to increase its volume of sponsored Instagram posts. In 2020, influencers aged 18-24 made up 34% of the influencer industry; in 2019, influencers in that age group made up 31% of the industry.
In 2020, influencers created 38.1 sponsored stories a week, in 2019 they created 28.8.
The report shows how influencers are shifting away from full posts and toward shorter snippets on TikTok and Instagram Stories, mirroring changes in consumer behavior on the social platforms, points out Chris Kelley at Marketing Drive.
Stronger in 2021
Previous research indicated that influencer marketing weathered this year relatively well and may become a more valuable marketing tactic in the post-Covid-19 world. Although 67% of marketers said their digital marketing budgets have decreased, only 41% said the same for their influencer marketing budgets, according to a survey by Linquia completed early this year. In addition, nearly 60% of marketers said their influencer marketing budgets will remain the same or increase after Covid-19.
That’s possibly due to the results content influencers produce: 71% of marketers surveyed said influencers can make a positive impact for their brand. And 63% believe that the content is strong enough to use in other channels — including TV.
Covid-19 Impacts Content
While the pandemic crimped marketing budgets and shut down opportunities to produce content, especially in the travel and hospitality sector, it also increased opportunities since consumers spent more time online and particularly more time on social media.
Many enterprising influencers gained more attention by showing people how to cook at home, complete do-it-yourself home projects, and how to dress and save money during economic uncertainty.
Marketers who embrace more sophisticated social media measurement of influencer posts will be the most successful and win additional funding, experts say. With marketing budgets under scrutiny, brands are re-assessing the effectiveness of different strategies and closely reviewing their ROI. Measuring influencer marketing results with more than likes will be essential for the strategy to grow.
“Influencer marketing represents a unique channel that builds trust with consumers, an industry that for years has prioritized sentiment and engagement KPIs such as likes, comments and shares over ROI,” says writes Dave Murray, managing director of rewardStyle London. That must now change.
Bottom Line: While the number of influencers’ sponsored posts may have dropped this year, their posts gained more attention this year, new research reveals. The finding shows that brands that maintained their influencer marketing budgets in the face of the Covid-19 disruptions may have gained a competitive advantage. If influencers hold their sway over followers, brands may prioritize influencer marketing.
Michael Kling is manager of public relations, marketing and social media at Glean.info, a media monitoring and measurement service that provides customized media monitoring and PR analytics solutions.