Co-founder and CEO of SocialPubli, an award-winning influencer marketing platform with 200,000+ opt-in influencers across 35 countries.
During the past two years, we’ve learned to be quick on our feet and adjust to the unknown. When the pandemic struck, for example, the influencer marketing industry was uncertain about its potential effect on both creators and brands.
Nearly two years in, influencer marketing is stronger than ever; brands are projected to spend $15 billion on influencer marketing during 2022.
That may leave you wondering — where are they planning to spend those funds? Which platforms are on a positive trajectory, and how can creators and brands leverage them to achieve success?
In my business, we’ve seen growth in influencer activity across multiple platforms. Here’s what we’re predicting:
1. TikTok Will Gain An Even Bigger Share Of The Pie
TikTok is contagious and addicting. It drives some of the strongest engagement numbers across the board and has inspired large-scale shifts and imitation from other platforms such as Instagram (i.e., its Reels feature).
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TikTok’s explosive initial growth was fueled by young adults. Now, the short-form video content platform is gaining cross-generational appeal. This consumer shift will likely drive a shift in brand spending, and we think sponsored content partnerships will become more common on the platform.
At the beginning of 2021, only 9% of marketers were using the platform; by the time we conducted our mid-year influencer marketing survey, more than half of all marketing agencies polled said they intended to do a sponsored TikTok collaboration within the year.
At SocialPubli, we’ve already seen an increase in client requests for TikTok influencer partnerships from clients who are normally very loyal to their Instagram partnerships.
Marketers have a creative task before them — thinking outside the brand box, as TikTok is less conducive to brand-heavy content and more focused on clever, creative, fun material.
2. The Race For Creator-Friendly Tools Is On
Social media platforms make money based on engagement. It’s in their best interest to keep influencers motivated to create and share interesting content. That’s why several leading platforms are investing in resources that encourage collaboration.
Despite TikTok’s popularity, Instagram wins when it comes to new features focused on content creators and brand partnerships. Last year, Instagram developed Collabs, which allows creators to build content together and then take advantage of a larger shared audience, as well as “Add Yours” stickers to boost Story engagement. Instagram’s link stickers also provide new opportunities for nano- and micro-influencers to create direct traffic to brand landing pages, so they can more easily quantify the benefits they create for brands.
Marketers have a great opportunity to use this entire suite of new features and develop more creative influencer partnerships to help them reach more followers, get more engagement and connect with new audiences.
3. Influencers Will Take Over The Entire Marketing Funnel
The pandemic proved the importance of a digital presence and e-commerce capabilities. In 2022, we will probably see a continuing shift toward social commerce as more consumers embrace shopping directly from social networks.
On the development front, Instagram recently announced testing for a native affiliate tool that allows creators to earn commissions for purchases they drive through the app. TikTok has been promoting a suite of social commerce solutions called TikTok Shopping and expanded its partnership with Shopify.
With platforms’ push for in-app shopping, influencers are becoming the entire marketing funnel. Brands will be able to leverage them as an awareness strategy and as a purchase driver.
Social commerce is booming — internal Instagram data from 2019 shows that more than 130 million users tap on shoppable posts each month. We expect the new additions to social commerce functionality will create new opportunities for brand sponsorship and an increased number of sponsored posts for shoppable products.
4. LinkedIn Influencers Will Emerge
In 2020, I shared that a growing number of companies were leveraging their own employees as influencers and content creators on social media. My company has worked with brands on sponsored LinkedIn campaigns for the past several years and the requests we receive continue to increase, especially as B2B companies look to build credibility and relevance with their consumers. LinkedIn has seen a new category of influencers emerge — more executives, CEOs and business owners — and is building tools to support them accordingly.
Last year, LinkedIn launched a new function — “Creator mode” — aimed directly at professionals seeking a foothold in the influencer world. This mode allows business leaders to leverage their expertise and be intentional about building community on the platform.
Brands should look at this as an opportunity to leverage the reach and expertise of LinkedIn influencers in their respective industries and develop cross-promotional partnerships that take advantage of the platform’s broader push to incentivize content creation.
5. Esports Influencers Will Go Mainstream
In 2021, the global esports industry was worth more than $1.08 billion; that number is expected to grow to nearly $1.7 billion by 2024.
In our experience, esports is a natural fit for influencer marketing because of the high level of audience engagement and interaction. Esports fans are loyal, and enthusiasts stay engaged for hours at a time.
While early esports influencer campaigns focused on gaming-related products, we’re seeing a wider variety of brands seeking to capitalize on this audience. For example, mega-brands like Coca-Cola, Nike, Intel and BMW have all gotten in on the game with sponsorships of tournaments and esports influencers.
The audience on esports platforms is more diverse than you might expect, and esports influencers also have a commanding presence across platforms beyond Twitch. For brands, now is the time to start investing in this influencer channel before it becomes too overcrowded and saturated with competing marketing content.
What’s Next For Influencer Marketing
We predict that 2022 will be a year when partnerships between brands and influencers are stronger, more diverse and more purposeful than ever. The digital transformation continues to bring retail online, which means brands need more creative online partnerships to differentiate them in an all-digital space.
We’re looking forward to seeing influencers refine their offerings and take advantage of the growing respect afforded to them by both platforms and brands alike.
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Author: Ismael El Qudsi, Forbes Councils Member