Influencer marketing reached a market value of $13.8 billion in 2021—more than double what it was in 2019 and more than quadruple its worth in 2017. It’s important that brands and influencers look back at this year and the events that shaped the industry so that they can strengthen their strategies going into 2022. Ahead, HypeAuditor co-founder and chief executive officer Alexander Frolov shares five influencer marketing predictions and some insight behind each.
#1. There will be an increase in long-term brand ambassadors
As brands pursue long-term relationships with their influencer partners, brand ambassadorship will overtake one-off influencer arrangements in 2022, according to Frolov.
Research on influencer marketing over the last few years reveals that, unsurprisingly, influencers who promote fewer brands appear to followers as more authentic than those who consistently publicize several brands.
One reason why brand ambassadors have soared in popularity recently is due to the fact that brands have found it difficult to convey their identities and stories in a single influencer post. In response, they opt for prolonged influencer partnerships. Additionally, brands and products become more familiar—and thus, more authentic—when audiences have multiple touchpoints with branded content.
Take, for example, Hollister’s partnership with US influencers Charli and Dixie D’Amelio, which led to the launch of the sisters’ own Hollister line ‘Social Tourist.’
#2. Influencers will have more opportunities to monetize their audiences and will continue to blur the traditional lines of influence
According to Frolov, 2021 was the first year that saw influencers leave the nest, so to speak. In other words, they have more readily blurred the lines of traditional influence by expanding into other non-social media platforms like reality television and books. With this expansion comes more opportunities to monetize audiences. And although brand collaborations still account for a sizable portion of influencers’ income, other income sources will begin to take up a noticeably larger share in the near future.
HypeAuditor reports that career influencers may not earn as much as you’d expect. The average influencer earns $2,970 per month on Instagram while micro-influencers (between 1,000 and 10,000 followers) earn an average of $1,420 per month and mega-influencers (1 million or more followers) earn an average of $15,536 per month. The survey reported that only 4 percent of respondents live on income from a social media account.
Expanding into other platforms is imperative if individuals intend on earning a steady income from influencing. Social media hacks and disruptions—such as Facebook and Instagram’s recent outage—further illustrate the need for influencers to diversify their sources of income.
#3. New categories of influencers will continue to emerge
Influencers have branched out into countless new categories in recent years and some now produce content across multiple categories—something virtually unheard of at the dawn of social media influence. This year saw the emergence of new types of influencers such as those on ‘fintok’ as well as petfluencers, skinfluencers and granfluencers. Niche categories like these will continue to gain steam in 2022, notes Frolov.
One category of influencers that adequately illustrates the emergence of new and unique categories is the ‘finfluencer.’ Finfluencers have gained considerable popularity in the US as of late given that they translate traditionally difficult-to-navigate information into digestible content, particularly for millennials and Gen Z. And brands are taking notice. For example, Austin Hankwitz, a finance and investing influencer with over 525,000 followers on TikTok, was hired by financial advisory company Betterment.
#4. Virtual influencers are here to stay
For the second year in a row, virtual Influencers have engagement rates almost three times higher than those of real influencers, according to HypeAuditor’s third annual report on virtual influencers. Emerging onto the scene a few years ago, virtual influencers are computer-generated characters with a complete identity and all of the workings of traditional (living) influencers. Though HypeAuditor found that 57 percent of virtual influencers have negative follower growth, Frolov anticipates they’ll continue to gain popularity especially given the implications of Facebook’s Metaverse. Despite their engagement rates and success, virtual influencers must combat negative follower growth (it is unknown whether this is due to losing bots or audiences not liking the content and unfollowing) by producing more video content, according to HypeBeast.
Despite their negative follower growth, virtual influencers’ figures are impressive. In 2021, Superplastic raised $20 million to expand its cartoon influencer universe while South Korean virtual influencer Rozy earned roughly $1 million in sponsorships. Beyond dollar amounts, the number of followers some virtual influencers boast is staggering. Brazilian virtual influencer Magazineluiza, for example, has 5.6 million TikTok followers and 5.7 million Instagram followers. And the fastest-growing virtual influencer this year, The Nobody Sausage, amassed over 8 million TikTok followers and 2.4 million Instagram followers in 2021 alone.
#5. Social commerce will rise in power and popularity
Eighty percent of consumers report that brand awareness makes them more likely to buy on social. Since the pandemic caused the majority of purchases to occur on websites and mobile apps, and with so many consumers shifting brand loyalties, brand awareness is increasingly important. To this aim, social platforms have started focusing on features and services that streamline the process of purchasing through their apps. Heading into 2022, brands seeking to capitalize on these new avenues for business should reevaluate the purchasing paths they offer and innovate their selling/marketing strategies.
Instagram recently launched weekly interactive livestreams and broadcasts, including a holiday “Pop-Up Shop LIVE” and a weekly feature of “Guest Edit” collections—including a collection from model and mega-influencer like Paloma Elsesser—offering brands the opportunity to engage with potential customers without coming off as sales-y while providing a seamless checkout experience. Brands that are able to utilize new social commerce features as they launch will stay ahead of the competition.