Influencer Marketing Bridged the Digital Gap to Consumers: Where Are We Now?

October 25, 2021
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Last updated on
December 13, 2021

In the past 18 months, influencer marketing spend upgraded from an experimental budget line-item to a staple. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, from $1.7 billion in 2016, influencer marketing is estimated to have grown to have a market size of $9.7 billion in 2020. That's expected to reach $13.8 billion in 2021. But why?

An Increase in Social Media Usage

Last year, the COVID-19 global pandemic and lockdown restrictions required many marketing channels to shut down production. Companies funneled their planned marketing budget for events, activation moments, or big-budget commercials instead to long-term influencer campaigns and independent content creators.

Brands have always had to shift gears to adapt to external forces. And still, no one could predict what 2020 would bring or how it would call for more authenticity, transparency, and compassion for consumer wants and needs.

As social media usage increased last year, influencers gained more, well, influence. As businesses closed physical doors, influencers bridged a digital gap to reach and inspire new customers on social media and e-commerce platforms.

According to a Fohr survey conducted in May of 2020, 70% of respondents stated their relationship with social media changed as a result of quarantine, 66% believed for the better.

Consumer behavior will continue to change and demand real connections to brands. Influencers will be here to bridge that gap.

"This pandemic and this crisis has only shown the world how important social media is. I think that we will never go back to a world before that. I don't think that you can ever deny how important these platforms are again." - James Nord, Founder of Fohr, Fohrcast ep. 193

This digital boom will continue to have lasting effects on consumer trends far beyond the 2021 holidays.

Aspirational or Relatable?

During lockdowns, no one cared to see mega-influencers or celebrities that had access to travel, luxury items, or high-end fashion. They wanted to see influencers that reflected their struggle, their problems, and their small wins. Those who were successful built their content on a foundation of honesty--what they were thinking, feeling, and buying at the time.

Influencers are the most effective drivers of awareness, traffic, consideration, and sales.

Why? Because the content is personal, relatable, and approachable.

According to the Fohr the Holidays Report 2021 survey:

  • 82% of consumers stated that they trust influencers.
  • On a scale of 1-5, 94% rated the influence on their purchasing decisions as a 3 or higher.

There has been a reprioritization of aspiration and a move toward content that is relatable, honest, sincere, and helpful. Small wins and helpful hacks that audiences may have considered mundane 18 months ago are now a modal for connection, joy, and gratification.

Ambassador marketing stepped in last year where in-person events couldn't. They didn't only cross a digital divide. They forged a stronger connection with audiences through empathy, transparency, and authenticity when we needed it most.

Convinced that influencers are the way to go for your holiday campaigns? (We like them, too.) Check out our 2021 Fohr the Holidays report for survey insights, expert influencer marketing campaign tips, and takeaway strategies.

And where are we now?

2021 influencer marketing holiday campaigns forecast

We're only at the tip of the iceberg of where this industry will go.

Brand ambassadors are now an integral part of marketing campaigns, with more robust strategies than ever. Their content is no longer a form of amplification—it acts as the nucleus of the entire campaign strategy. Some brands use their influencer marketing campaigns as an A/B test to find out what their customers want to hear, and what resonates.

Other channels are emulating, repurposing, or even faking influencer content. Picture candid selfie unboxing videos on TV commercials, or fake families dancing, edited to feel like a TikTok video. Across marketing channels, advertisers now emulate the intimate one-to-one quality of influencer content.

Historically, influencer marketing succeeds as a top-of-the-funnel, first-click, powerful brand discovery engine. Bottom-of-the-funnel efforts belonged more to Google, email marketing, and Facebook ads.

New roadblocks like Apple privacy updates, Google's cookie phase-out, and massive shifts in the advertising landscape make sending targeted messages to your audience more and more difficult.

Today, one of the larger trends we’re tracking is the increased investment driving users to in-app shopping through Shopify, TikTok, collaboration efforts, and Instagram Shopping. In fact, 71% of consumers from our latest Fohr surveys said they’ll be searching for gift ideas on Instagram this year.

With these shifts, influencers are becoming the entire funnel. They’re the brand discovery engine AND the storefront.

Influencer Marketing Content Then and Now

That's why the future of a brand's marketing success is predicated on the ability to inspire, guide and harness the conversations that your audience is having about your brand.

The possibilities for influencer marketing are ripe for experimentation and exploring new ways to speak to customers.

In our webinar ‘The End of the Advertising World as We Know It,’ we approach three massive shifts happening in the advertising landscape, why the power dynamics are shifting, and more importantly, what you can do about it.

Download our key takeaways PDF here.

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