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Originally published on Performance Marketing World

As consumers remained tethered to their computers (thank you, Delta variant) for working, shopping, and socialising in 2021, online influencers retained their vital role as trusted voices and go-to resources. That kept influencer marketing squarely in the high-priority column for brands, and spend in the channel is expected to reach $15B in 2022

This influencer marketing uptick also reveals a number of interesting trends that brands should keep in mind to inform 2022 strategies, budgets, and partnerships. 

Three influencer trends to watch

  1. More platforms are getting shoppable. With the emergence of more venues for “shoppable” commerce content, creators on Pinterest and other social networks are now poised to get a larger piece of the influencer marketing pie that was previously monopolized by Instagram creators. As more platforms offer creator monetisation tools, develop features that make content more shoppable, and add more ways to buy, more creators can get involved. 

    For brands, this means more options and opportunities to diversify their programs and work with new creators to engage new audiences. The verdict is still out whether consumers are comfortable making purchases outside of more established shopping experiences, so be on the lookout for influencers who successfully drive purchases on social platforms, and consider inviting them into your larger partnership programme.
  1. Long-term influencer partnerships are preferred. Longer-term influencer engagements are becoming the norm as brands trend away from one-and-done sponcon (“sponsored content”) campaigns. By nurturing more long-term relationships with influencers, brands can lock in a consistent flow of content that can be repurposed across multiple distribution channels (i.e. social media and email marketing). There’s also data to show that increasing the frequency of content leads to higher conversion rates. Longer-term contracts are also a cost-effective way to partner with a small number of on-brand influencers instead of spending significant amounts of budget on continual discovery and onboarding.

    In addition, according to a new Forrester report, marketers who focus on the long term have more leverage to recruit and commission influencers and ultimately get more value from them. The report also acknowledges that long-term partnerships must be built on alignment on goals and values, ongoing value generation for both parties, and explicit and consensual agreements.

    “An approach that accommodates and accepts that both the brand and its partners have long-term interests and needs, partnerships provide more predictability, more authenticity, and more value for both parties. Customers benefit because it increases their trust in both parties’ collaboration. Aligning these interests and needs allows brands and partners to accomplish what more short-term approaches cannot.” (For sound advice on building long-term harmony with your influencer bench, read Getting to happily-ever-after influencer partnerships.)

    A tip for 2022: Paying per post has long been the predominant mode of compensating influencers, and engagement remains the most common metric used for measuring influencer marketing success. But long-term partnerships often require a different approach. Shifting your focus from paying for posts to paying partners for value will increase the volume and duration of commissions for your best partners. In return, you will get more of their attention, loyalty, and effort that results in the most engaging content and lucrative long-term relationships. For more on value-based commissions, explore Seven ways to pay influencers today and tomorrow.
  1. Cause has effect. As consumers (especially Gen Z) become more socially and environmentally conscious, authentic cause-oriented influencer campaigns are picking up steam. Many consumers are more inclined to spend on products if a portion of their purchase is donated to charitable organizations, but there are a wide array of creative ways you can build influencer partnerships that have a meaningful social impact. 

    There are all kinds of inspiring influencers out there who advocate for environmental and social progress, but authenticity is vital. Take care that the social good aspect of your campaign aligns with your brand, with the influencer’s brand, and with the values of your audience.

Gen Zers leave differences aside for causes they believe in stats

For inspiration, check out this session on partnerships with purpose. The global panel of experts from cause-minded brands like Ivory Ella and Catcher in the Style and affiliates like Giving Assistant provides practical insights into building influencer relationships and other kinds of partnerships that promote sustainable goods, lead with ethics, or add value to their communities.

Get your influencer programme ready for 2022

The influencer marketing trends we’ve seen this year are all good news for brands, whether you’re hoping to refine your current strategy or take the influencer plunge for the first time. 

It’s unlikely that any of them are flash-in-the-pan, either, because they represent sound best practices. Diversifying your partnerships to create opportunities across more social channels; building strong relationships that last, and doing well by doing good — those are smart partnership investments in any business climate.

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