Instagram poses a unique opportunity for brands. It allows them to quite literally appear in the palm of their consumers’ hands, and access people who are likely to be engaged with their product, mission, and ethos. As Instagram enters its tenth year, it is finally getting the recognition it deserves from brands as a powerful tool for partnerships.
This means that we are on the cusp of an exciting new era in influencer marketing, which could change the industry for the better – and that we can anticipate radical new changes in brand strategy in the decade ahead.
An era of authenticity
Society is growing tired of being presented with generic content. Last year, the dating app Tinder reported that the most used word in its user biographies across the UK and U.S. was “real”. We are going to see a bigger push for transparency, authenticity and ethical practice when it comes to the image that influencers present, how they present it, and whether or not they are editing content and thus creating unrealistic standards.
This is going to be the big trend of the decade and will set out the way in which other trends in influencer marketing evolve. A major way in which this will guide influencer marketing strategy is the partners that brands seek out: influencers who are not willing to be ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ with their followers will likely be swapped out for content creators who have a more realistic and accessible style.
Increased scrutiny of tactics and offerings
As influencers find themselves held to higher standards when it comes to the image they present online, so too will brands. There will be increased scrutiny of how brands and influencers alike choose to market themselves online and whether or not the tactics are acceptable and safe.
We have already seen this begin to happen at the end of 2019. Instagram began trialling the removal of likes in order to protect the mental health of users and, in particular, influencers. In the U.S, the Advertising Standards Agency has already begun a crackdown on influencers advertising botox, and more recently Instagram announced that it would be banning influencers from advertising vaping and guns. In Norway, there are now regulations around advertising products that could influence how people perceive their bodies.
The ‘wild-west’ years of Instagram advertising are over. Brands will have to begin thinking more carefully about the influencers they work with, and whether or not the content they produce to advertise their products sets out realistic expectations. Most importantly of all, brands will have to consider how the work they do with influencers could impact the mental health of consumers and, similarly, content creators. Being “authentic” and “honest” will become more than being a desirable quality, it will become a responsibility.
Dawn of the micro-influencers
Micro-influencers are going to become increasingly important for brands in the next decade. This is because they hold a unique value: they are able to reach a niche audience, often with clear and specialised interests, who are highly engaged with their content. Brands are beginning to understand the power of using these influencers. They are cost-effective and have a loyal audience who usually see them as authentic. This holds the potential for brand partnerships that truly convey the desired message across to consumers who are open to hearing it.
What’s more, if Instagram does push ahead with its current trial of like removals, micro-influencers could gain more opportunities for brand collaborations due to an increased emphasis on quality content and a decreased emphasis on followers and likes. Reducing the importance placed on likes will mean that influencers will be rewarded for creating content that is aligned with their own genuine interests and those of their audiences. Marketers will have to shift their strategies by targeting consumers through the influencers that most “speak” to them, rather than through those with the widest reach.
Short and snappy video content
Finally, following on from the theme of authenticity, brands will be placing more importance on video content in order to drive product sales. This is because videos allow the consumer to ‘live’ an experience, by seeing a product in action utilised by their preferred influencer in authentic, ‘behind-the-scenes’ content. Videos, specifically Instagram stories, are also not yet edited in the way that many images are, which means that content is often regarded as being more authentic and true to form. It also gives consumers a more streamlined approach of accessing links, through the swipe up function.
We can expect, then, that influencers will increasingly collaborate with brands on video content for their Instagram stories. We can also anticipate collaborations with emerging channels as the market gets more saturated. Consumers have shown a genuine interest in short, snappy video content. We have seen this previously through the popularity of Vine, which is now back as Byte, and more recently with the emergence of TikTok.
This is happening already on Instagram and we expect this to continue well into 2020. There has been an increase in brands requesting stories. This is because stories allow for more creative content, organic product placement, and a more streamlined approach to accessing links: which can increase both engagement and sales. It makes sense that video content will be important for both brands and influencers across the next decade, as it can help support the overarching strategy which all brands and influencers should be following across the next decade: building stronger, more authentic bonds with their followers and consumers through content which feels ‘real’.