In the early stages of the pandemic, marketers temporarily paused their influencer campaigns but as lockdowns persisted and consumers spent more time on social media, influencers quickly became a surefire way to reach those audiences.
As a result, eMarketer estimates influencer marketing spending—defined as payments made to influencers to promote products and services, excluding free products or trips—in the US will increase by 33.6 percent to reach $3.69 billion.
Though spending on influencer marketing grew modestly, by 14.4 percent last year, eMarketer said it will surpass $4 billion next year.
In addition to pandemic-induced social media trends, such as the rise of short-form video and social commerce, the return of travel is another driver of this year’s strong growth in influencer marketing.
“Many had to pivot their strategies to collaborate with brands in new categories, like finance and CPG. Continued improvements in branded content tools from the social platforms, combined with influencers’ increasing role in lower-funnel marketing goals, will help drive more money into the influencer marketing space over the next few years,” said Jasmine Enberg, eMarketer senior analyst at Insider Intelligence.
According to Klear’s 2021 Summer Travel Report, sponsored travel content surged by 210 percent in June 2021 versus June 2020. Last year in June, travel influencers created 19,280 sponsored posts; this year in June, they produced 40,500 sponsored posts.
One case study Klear cites is the #VisitOrlando campaign, which paid five influencers from across the world including the US, Sweden and Wales to promote travel content encouraging people to visit Orlando. One of the participating influencers. Brittany Nichols of @themommynichols, created 72 Instagram posts for the campaign featuring the city’s attractions, such as the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. The event is held at Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida near Orlando.
Nichols’ posts generated 13,400 engagements, a 0.11 percent engagement rate and $73,900 in earned media value (EMV), according to Klear. Overall, the #VisitOrlando campaign produced 166 sponsored influencer posts, which received 21,000 engagements and $125,000 in EMV.
In Europe, the #VisitFaroeIslands campaign recruited photography and travel influencer Andy Donath of @signaphoto to create 35 Instagram posts, which garnered 148,000 in engagements, a 3.08 percent engagement rate and $268,900 in EMV.
Last year, international arrivals dropped by 73 percent from pre-pandemic levels in 2019, causing estimated losses of $2.4 trillion in tourism and related sectors, according to a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the U.N. World Tourism Organization.
Though some fashion of recovery is expected to occur in the second half of this year, a recent U.N. study found that International tourism isn’t expected to fully rebound until 2023. As domestic and international travel bounce back slowly, influencers will play an integral role in helping the travel and hospitality industry communicate ways to travel safely post-pandemic.
Emarketer estimates that Instagram accounts for roughly half of influencer marketing spend, while YouTube and Facebook see a significant level of spending as well. TikTok is likely smaller but on the rise, according to eMarketer.
Though growing rapidly, influencer marketing spending is still a small portion of social media advertising, as eMarketer forecasts social media ad spending in the US will reach $58.66 billion.