At the Grin Gets Real Podcast we’ve had the opportunity to talk with industry leaders and experts in the world of influencer marketing. We’ve interviewed academics, agency directors, and representatives from various software platforms on which practices work best and how to get the most out of an influencer program. We asked each of our guests what they expect as we move from this tumultuous year into 2021, and what we should look out for. Here is a breakdown of their insights.
Steve Hutt, Shopify
Steve Hutt is the Merchant Success Manager at Shopify Plus and host of the eCommerce Fastlane Podcast. At Shopify Plus, he is a strategic advisor and he works closely with brands to help them develop winning online strategies. Steve identifies two aspects of influencer marketing that bring the most ROI for brands. Steve predicts these will become the standard going into 2021.
- Word-of-mouth This is still the most effective way to build trust in your customers. With so much of our world moving online, influencer marketing has quickly become the new, online word-of-mouth. In 2021, influencers with an engaged audience, no matter the size, are going to fuel many brand’s growth.
- Authenticity Influencer marketing is entering the next stage of maturity. Customers are getting savvy to influencer marketing and they can tell when it’s a fake endorsement. People don’t want to follow influencers if every single post is just another ad. Successful brands are seeking out authenticity when they choose influencers to work with.
“There’s lots of tools available to understand the social footprint of the people that are actually buying from you, and then creating an outreach campaign to start nurturing those people.” – Steve Hutt, Shopify Plus
Neal Schaffer, Author of The Age of Influence
Neal Schaffer has been studying, lecturing and writing about digital marketing strategy for many years. In recent years he’s become increasingly interested in the role of influencer marketing and how brands can leverage their own customers to spread the word and grow their following online. Neal has been preaching for a while about the importance of choosing actual fans of your brand to populate your influencer programs. As we enter 2021, he is finally seeing the industry starting to shift in that direction.
- Customers as Influencers There has already been a shift where brands are now asking potential partners, “Do you use our product?” As the need for authenticity increases, we’re going to see more and more brands looking for influencers that are loyal customers and true fans.
- Effect of Coronavirus Coronavirus has driven most of us online, so there are lots of newcomers in eCommerce. Social media is one of the only ways to reach customers these days, and influencers always outperform brands on social. In 2021, Influencer marketing is going to be the only way to go.
- Algorithm Changes TikTok is going to go through the same algorithm shift that we first saw with Facebook, and now Instagram. It happens with every social network based on supply and demand.
- User Generated Content For many brands, 100% of social content is going to be UGC from influencers.
“I believe that companies that don’t collaborate with influencers are going to be spending more and more money on paid social, as it becomes less and less effective over time.” – Neal Schaffer
Sara Grosz, Mute Six
Sara Grosz is the head of Influencer Marketing at digital marketing agency, Mute Six. Sara works with brands to develop influencer campaign strategies with specific goals that fit into the larger marketing plan. Sara has tips on how to effectively recruit influencers using email as a conversation and she is passionate about repurposing user generated content as creatively as possible. But Sarah also sees pitfalls that many brands encounter. Here are two specific issues to look out for in 2021.
- Engagement Pods Influencers are getting smarter and smarter. Sometimes they say to their family and friends, “Hey, I’m gonna throw you into a group text, and let you know when I’m expecting to post. Then all you have to do is say you love the product and that you’re going to buy.” Brands will see an influencer have a 15% engagement rate and think they must be generating so many sales. But when you go and work with them, there’s zero dollars generated from their discount code.
- Beyond Discount Codes There is so much you can get out of an influencer beyond just a sale through discount codes. Some Influencers are great salespeople and can generate a lot of direct revenue. But many influencers are better at providing increased brand awareness or content that is perfect to re-use on social channels. Other influencers will make perfect landing page content. Brands need to be thinking of how they can leverage all these different ROIs.
“Something that a lot of brands overlook… the captions are such great testimonials, like it is some of the best.” – Sara Grosz, Mute Six
Mac Enright, Lumanu
Mac Enright has spent his whole young career at Lumanu, and he is the expert on the growing sector of influencer whitelisting. As algorithms change across both established and newer platforms, whitelisting is increasingly becoming one of the best ways for brands and influencers to work together in a mutually beneficial capacity. Since whitelisting is still fairly new, many brands are unfamiliar with how it works. Mac predicts this is going to change quickly in 2021 based on a couple important reasons.
- Organic Posting The reach of organic posts will continue to decrease, which will only increase the need for whitelisting as a way to leverage paid social for the benefit of both brands and creators. Whitelisting will become more and more the norm.
- TikTok Whitelisting started out on Facebook and has grown into Instagram. As more and more brands move over to TikTok, whitelisting will become an established practice there as well as on other, newer platforms as they mature.
“Whitelisting is a really great way to get creators to engage with their audiences, whether they’re boosting their own posts, whitelisting their own posts, or working with brands to supercharge an influencer’s organic posts.” – Mac Enright, Lumanu
Kate Chernis, Lately
From her experience as a satellite radio rock DJ to her founding of Lately, Kate Chernis is the expert on how to build engaged audiences through using the right words. Lately uses AI automation to turn longform content, like podcasts or books, into dozens of impactful social posts. Trained as a copywriter, Kate understands that the most powerful combination is when AI and human creativity come together. Her experience working for Walmart and getting them 130% ROI has given Kate perspective on what will work best going into 2021.
- Take Risks Brands need to be willing to take more risks, and be unafraid of “unorthodox” approaches when creating content that will connect with their customers.
- Legacy Content Following the television trend of networks to Netflix, Brands should focus on creating engaging legacy content that will be viewed, not just at the time of launch, but over and over again, in lots of different ways.
“The reality is, it doesn’t matter how good you are at manifesting butts in seats… You’re gonna get exponentially more eyeballs if you clip out the best quotes and push them out over time.” – Kate Chernis, Lately
Shirin Oreizy, Next Step
Next Step, founded by Shirin Oreizy, is a Behavioural Marketing Agency that uses the latest research in behavioural science to understand why people are making decisions about your brand. She uses those findings to direct brands on different aspects of their marketing and beyond. Some of the behavioural science principles that Shirin and her colleagues study are pretty fixed, while others can change dramatically depending on the specific product or service as well as from external circumstances. Coronavirus is an external factor that has impacted everyone on the planet. Shirin identifies how this will affect the way marketers approach things in the new year.
- Rebuilding Connection Since we’ve been so disconnected from each other because of COVID, 2021 is going to be all about rebuilding connection to our brands and creating an emotional appeal.
- Data Driven COVID brought on such a huge digital transformation and it is forcing marketers to take a much more rigorous, date driven, “quantify the results” approach to marketing.
“Really thinking about how you can rebuild the emotional connection to your brand and create connection for people… Is something that I think marketers will continue to need to work on and grapple with.” – Shirin Oreizy, Next Step
Influencer marketing & ecommerce industry expert insights
The experts we interviewed in the Grin Gets Real Podcast provide insights and actionable tips on how brands can leverage influencer marketing to grow their reach online in 2021. We heard from Steve Hutt (Shopify) and Neal Schaffer (Age of Influence) about how to achieve greater authenticity with your influencers. Agency representatives Sara Grosz (Mute Six) and Mac Enright (Lumanu) gave tips on how to best leverage influencer content and increase your reach. And both Kate Chernis (Lately) and Shirin Oreizy (Next Step) provided insight on where brands should focus their energy to really move the needle as we move into the new year.
If you want to hear more on how influencer marketing can help your brand in 2021, tune in to the Grin Gets Real Podcast available wherever you get your podcasts.