We are at the end of 2020. To most of us, 2020 has been a rough year: challenging businesses’ survival, pushing many to expand horizontally, and force-pivoting from offline to online. All said and done, 2020 also proved to be the nitro-gas many brands needed to fully transform into the digital era.
With influencer marketing, it met with the right opportunity this year for the digital transformations happening. Where previously it was a secondary consideration to include influencer engagements, they are now more likely to be the core of the brand’s communication with their audience. However, there were still some shifts within the industry that we observed for brands to take note of.
Here is what we have observed:
1. Overall, Influencer marketing demand grew
At the start of the pandemic and Malaysia’s MCO, there appeared to be a bleak outlook. Brands were postponing or canceling their influencer engagements in view of better days after the MCO. However, it was becoming evident that the global pandemic would never have an overnight solution and the new normal was about to be our forever reality (at least for the foreseeable years).
Around mid-2020, marketing spends gradually increased and we observed that many brands were focusing more on digital efforts with influencers playing a role in their integrated campaigns. Categories such as toys, cars/vehicles, and pets which were previously setting their influencer marketing on a lower priority now see influencers as their core channel to reach out to their audiences.
With this increase in branded postings on social media, it is more important than ever to relook into our influencer strategy to ensure that postings stand out and produce impactful results. The incorporation of influencer marketing into an integrated strategy allows campaigns to go from awareness to conversion if done right. This means more stakeholders, better thought out consumer journeys, and finding the right channels to work cohesively together.
2. Influencers who thrived had a diverse niche
Certain influencers such as travel influencers were at a halt this year, with borders closed and traveling sentiments at an all-time low. Opportunities for travel in Malaysia were confined to just inter-state travel and even so, the traveling gap was small before we all went back into CMCO.
However, influencers were smart to incorporate a wider range of talking points into their platform: including more home-bodied content such as homemade recipes, workout routines, and even some niche hobbies such as journaling and indoor gardening. An influencer’s content who previously targeted wanderlusters, would today also speak to a variety of different audiences as they expand their talking points.
For brands, this a sign to consider influencers beyond their usual preference aligned with their product or services. As with most Malaysians, we would likely have cultivated new hobbies and interests in the course of staying home over the last few months. Previous consumer profiles that we had of a brand’s consumer could have changed in some ways – signaling that there would be new audiences that brands can speak to through a wider range of influencers with a different niches.
3. Influencers recognise the rise in long-form content
With everyone stuck at home, influencers now fill the role to entertain even more. With the right content, audiences now have more time to tune into long-form content that is 30mins, or longer – making way for the rise of YouTube videos, live commerce, and even podcasts as well.
This year, we see influencers investing more time and effort towards growing their long-form content channels. For most of our YouTubers, we see a min of 15-25% acceleration in their platform growth (views or subscribers), an increasing amount of IGTV content created (despite a slow start for this vertical video trend previously), and have observed at least 1 new/revived podcast series every month. Between the bigger payout potential or the increasing engagements on long-form content, we are expecting this format of content to only grow in 2021.
Where previously it was difficult to get influencers to buy-in or there was a scarcity of creators for long-form content creation, the situation has improved to the benefit of the brands as well. Long-form content is usually needed for a more thorough education of a brand’s products and services, and also to allow more opportunities to seamlessly weave between organic and branded content. This trend means that brands can now engage influencers to go beyond driving awareness but to also go deep into education and instilling trust – putting influencers at the forefront of their digital marketing plans.