We’re well and truly living in the age of the influencer. As our access to different forms of media and social interaction continues to broaden, so too does our sense of connection with the people we see making waves online.
While 2020 has shaped up to be a year to forget for many, it has also seen huge evolutions in the way influencers are interacting with their followers – some carrying positive consequences and others less so.
Let’s take a deeper look into the ever-expanding world of the influencer and check out the biggest emerging trends that we’ve observed this year so far:
Amazingly, 2020 has seen our obsession with celebrity endorsements begin to unravel. Celebrity efforts to engage with followers during widespread Coronavirus lockdowns appeared to grate on users.
With large-scale sing-a-long covers of John Lennon’s Imagine striking the wrong chord with social media users, and clips of some celebrities clapping healthcare workers from secluded balconies, there’s some evidence that people are wising up to the content they’re seeing.
Evidence of fatigue over celebrity influencers was mounting following the marketing disaster of Fyre Festival and its $250,000 payouts to figures like Kendall Jenner in return for promotion.
With global influencer spending from marketers reaching an all-time high of over $10 billion in 2020, businesses are beginning to wise up to the sorts of faces they want to be attached to their brands.
There’s an emerging trend of confusion that meets marketing campaigns like that of Khloe Kardashian and Febreeze’s partnership at the beginning of the year, with more users craving more ‘authentic’ influencers.
2020 appears to have brought to light the clear gaps in social and financial equality that distorts the message that celebrities send to followers when endorsing products. This has led to more success being enjoyed among ‘micro-influencers’ within more nuanced social channels, like Instagram, TikTok and Twitch. Because these influencers can be younger and more informal within newer social networks, their message can feel more authentic.
Another driving force of this emerging trend is that ‘micro-influencers are typically cheaper to recruit – helping to ease marketing budgets for businesses. As the year progresses, we can expect to see more of these ‘authentic’ influencers promoting products and services in a more hands-on manner than their celebrity counterparts.
The hunt for authenticity has prompted more influencers to take a step back from the pursuit of pictorial perfection on social channels in favour of invoking a wider sense of realism in their content.
One of the biggest challenges influencers face is engaging with followers when more social networks are emerging each year causing audiences to spend less time on single channels. However, with fewer crowds to sift through, this has helped influencers to forge valuable connections with their more loyal followers – helping to pave the way for more value-driven content and personable posts.
Speaking to Later, Instagram-based influencer, Rohini Mauk said “I think providing some type of content that shows your real-life personality is key to growing online these days. Audiences are craving people they can connect with and I see 2020 as the year where people start (or continue) to share a real glimpse into their life.” “People are starting to see through the perfection found online.”
To connect better with audiences, Mauk believes great ways for influencers to build bonds with followers can be by inviting Q&A sessions, creating YouTube videos, sharing memes and opening up on the not-so-glamorous side of life.
Sadly, influencer marketing doesn’t always consist of innocent endorsements. The lines can often be blurred between organic and sponsored content, and advertisers often work hard to locate influencers who’ll be willing to pass off affiliate posts as if they were entirely natural.
Recently, worrying trends on new social site, TikTok, have emerged where videos of users whitening their teeth with bleach have been seen a total of 12 million times. The promotion of the unsafe whitening products has prompted dentists to scramble together responses highlighting the dangers of using bleach in such a way and even left them pointing to safe alternatives like whitening strips and toothpaste in a bid to discourage users on the social media site.
The rise of disinformation on social media is likely to increase as spending continues to rise from businesses. However, federal regulators have begun to act to help restore levels of safety and security for users online.
In the US, the Federal Trade Commission has called for a review of its endorsement guidelines, taking into account a new Facebook policy that allows advertisers to pay in order to promote ‘organic’ influencer posts of Instagram as a particular cause for concern.
The regulator has been busy sending warning letters to assorted influencers but intends to nip the problem in the bud with advertisers. Commissioner, Rohit Chopra clarifies: “When individual influencers are able to post about their interests to earn extra money on the side, this is not a cause for major concern. But when companies launder advertising by paying someone for a seemingly authentic endorsement or review, this is illegal payola.”
One issue is that advertisers don’t necessarily have to directly adhere to guidelines when looking for influencers to promote their products, however, some existing guidelines could soon be reappropriated as formal rules – leaving advertisers facing civil penalties should they be found to be breaking them.
There are also plans from the FTC to create a set of requirements for platforms, as well as requirements for influencer contracts. Furthermore, children’s privacy and safety policies could also come into review moving forward.
Global efforts to stem the flow of misinformation throughout social media will certainly be a huge talking point as 2020 moves on. Especially in the face of rising levels of fake news regarding COVID-19 and the US presidential election entering the social landscape. As more influencers search for a platform to show their authenticity, we may see more users flock to networks that appear to be more trustworthy in the coming months.