According to Business Insider, influencer marketing is on track to become a $15 billion industry by 2022. While this trend shows no sign of slowing down, the pandemic has changed what we expect from influencers, with authenticity making its way to the top of the list.
During COVID-19, many influencers who were used to posting about their travel adventures, or the latest fashion, parties and dining experiences, received significant backlash for not being relatable to everyday consumers. For example:
- Influencer Arielle Charnas was criticized for heading to the Hamptons with her family after a positive COVID-19 test result.
- Kim Kardashian West was accused of being “tone deaf” after spending her 40th birthday on a private island with a large group of family and friends.
- Ellen DeGeneres got considerable pushback when she joked that being trapped in one of her multimillion-dollar mansions was “like being in jail.”
What Does This Mean?
The negative reaction to these posts has caused a noticeable shift away from lavish displays of wealth and privilege in influencer culture. Whereas in the past social influencers provided a welcome glimpse of an aspirational lifestyle, today’s consumers have gravitated toward influencers who reflect a more authentic point of view that’s consistent with their own reality.
Authenticity on social media is one of the most effective ways to build a digital community, and we’re seeing that trend take hold post-COVID across a number of platforms. On Instagram, for instance, many influencers are embracing the #nofilter trend by applying subtle edits to their photos to create an “in-the-moment,” unvarnished look into their lives. Even newer platforms like TikTok are reflecting this subtle shift in content.
What Should Marketers Be Doing?
First, brands should consider increasing their focus on working with micro- or nano-influencers as opposed to those with hundreds of thousands of followers. Because their engagement rates are often much higher than celebrities with huge audiences, their messages tend to connect more authentically with their followers. It’s no coincidence that new-age influencers who have become popular during the pandemic have been thought leaders in their communities.
Also, last year’s increase in social activism has spotlighted a lack of diversity in influencer marketing – particularly the inequality faced by Black content creators. With many brands being held more accountable for their diversity initiatives, a lot of content creators have been demanding more representation in influencer marketing. You’ll need to build diversity and inclusion into your influencer marketing efforts – alongside many other aspects of your business – to create effective change in how people see themselves and your brand.
As for the content itself, brands should follow the example being set by many influencers post-COVID and move away from perfectly curated posts to be more real with their followers. Authentic content will increasingly become an expectation among consumers in choosing the brands with which to have a relationship on their favorite social channels.
Can a new approach to influencer marketing help your business?