What to Know About Influencer Marketing in 2020

Brand Strategy

As a public relations firm specializing in health care, nonprofit, law firm and professional services PR, we know firsthand the communications challenges facing organizations of all sizes. We are excited to continue our ‘Adapting to the New Normal’ blog series featuring PR tips and communications advice for navigating the new business climate.

This week, we’re taking a deep dive focus on everyone’s favorite topic (cue, immediate sarcasm):


influencer marketing

^ We had to. A meme just too good to not share, and not to mention a prime example of how social media plays a powerful role in business marketing. This joke alone from @cxcope on Twitter garnered over 23,500 retweets in April, 2019 and grew this man’s platform from 2,000 followers to 100,000 basically overnight. It’s just too bad he wasn’t representing a company while doing it. 

While the word ”influencer” incites a grimace – the impact of influencers and social media on the public is undeniable. In 2020, in part due to COVID-19 and social justice reform, marketers and digital creators are adjusting to rapid changes in the influencer-marketing industry as life as we know it continues to globally shift.

In 2020, people want relatability and transparency

COVID-19 has increased existing consumer trends, with people now spending up to 50% more time on social media, according to Forbes. In turn, this creates a huge opportunity for companies, but also a giant conundrum of how to create relevant content to reach their audiences. 

Influencers, without a doubt, have the unique ability to humanize an issue or company mission and create conversation, appeal and demand for a cause, product, or service in the context of real-life. This has become especially important as followers seek normality, assurance and guidance from those they trust during “uncertain” times (another word we PR folks cringe at these days). 

Given the many years influencers spend developing communities that know and trust them, influencers have appeal in the ways they connect with and communicate to niches based on regions, age and socioeconomics that require specific, relevant messaging to resonate.

Due to the needed social reform conversation currently taking place in the United States, now more than ever followers are peering deeper into the personal lives of influencers to see what they stand for. Any brands influencers choose to align with therefore become even more important to their followers than pre-COVID and pre-BLM. 

In 2020, it’s All About the Micro-Influencers

Okay, okay. Tiering influencers is about as cringe-worthy as having to say ‘influencer’ in a marketing meeting, but the distinction is valuable. 

Micro-influencers are people who fall somewhere between the 10,000 – 100,000 range of followers on social media platforms. 

They tend to have higher engagement rates with followers and don’t cost as much as, say, celebrity influencers who request $1 million per post (cough, Kylie Jenner). Influencers with 1- ~100K followers have 7% engagement rates on average, according to a report compiled by Later, while all other “larger” influencers have ~3.21% and lower engagement rates. 

Because their following is small(er) and they’re just getting momentum, these influencers are less likely to have competitors messaging/ads on their accounts. Your mission or content partnership could be their first, which means they’ll spend time really diving into the work. 

Micro-influencers Matter Partly Because Relatability Matters 

As stated above, micro-influencers by nature are able to form closer relationships with their smaller audiences. They develop trust and authenticity because they have the capacity to reply to comments, answer questions and seek out their followers’ opinions and needs regularly without being inundated by millions of people. Basically, micro-influencers feel more like friends than larger “macro” social media personalities. And friends tend to “influence” each other. 

Micro-influencers also tend to focus on a specific niche. This lets you zero in on the right creators who line up directly with your target audience. 

And, some additional good news for mission-driven companies, creating relatable content isn’t just important for companies and consumers – it’s something that influencers also pay attention to. 48% of influencers will work with a brand for free if they really love their message or product, and are conscious in the content they present to audiences. If there is an inauthentic match between brand and influencer, creators run the risk of alienating their audience, and brands almost undoubtedly will not see a return.

Influencer Fatigue is Real … Yet Influencer Budgets are Continuously on the Rise

If you’ve been on social media in the past few years, you’ve seen a celebrity or “mega” influencer posting about their skin care or teeth-whitening kit. But the truth is people are tired of all the cookie-cutter posts showing celebrities posing with boutique clothing, or even appetite-suppressing lollipops (ahem, Kim Kardashian). In light of current events, humans are looking for real content – and missions – to engage with.

Platforms like Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Facebook often offer a promise for users of all ages around the world: a socially accepted place for self-expression, authentic engagement, and a sense of community. But increasingly, social media has also become a breeding ground for sponsored posts and advertising, and social media users are sick of it. (If you don’t believe us, check any celebrity or meme account on Instagram and scroll the comments to their #sponsoredposts.)

… However, the irony of this is that 39% of professionals claim that their brands invest more than $20K a year in influencer programs. Now, whether that’s true is up for debate since they don’t actually have to disclose the numbers to the public. However, it’s food for thought.

influencer marketing 2

Credit: LaunchMetrics

So, Now What TikTok? 

Think we’d forget to touch on TikTok? Although Instagram is still the number one platform for influencer marketing, TikTok has taken the stage when it comes to capturing Millennial and Gen Z consumers. Of the brands investing in new channels, specifically TikTok, 55% say it is because they want to engage with a new consumer. The channel is designed for users to create viral, quirky moments and take part in challenges that everyone can get involved in, making it increasingly popular, especially in today’s current pandemic climate.

However, with the recent government-sanctioned bans on the app, it’s certainly an unknown landscape. While optimistic about Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of TikTok, influencers are still leaning into other options, like the newly (coincidental?) launch of Instagram Reels, as well as Triller and Byte. We’re not going to speculate too much in this post about TikTok, given that its future is still very uncertain, but it’s worth mentioning in regard to overall influencer marketing.

What Influencers Care about in 2020

Perhaps the biggest question to answer: how do you interact with influencers in 2020? Interestingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, according to a study done by LaunchMetrics, the biggest pain point for influencers is still ‘unclear creative briefs’ (56%) followed by ‘too many guidelines’ (35%) and ‘lack of transparency’ (35%) when it comes to collaborations. 

There is a real desire from influencers for an increase in more open communication between brands and influencers, in order to form more successful partnerships. Transparency is key in an industry that is constantly evolving. On the flipside, the top two motivations for working with brands in the first place are (unfortunately) still monetary compensation followed by valuable content for their community. The lowest motivation is the number of followers they may receive as a result of a collaboration, making it important to reiterate that campaign partnerships have to make sense for the influencer’s overall platform. Creating valuable content for an influencer’s community requires that said content really resonates with their audience. Careful and considered matches between brand and influencer are therefore fundamental in making a partnership a win-win situation, where brands reach engaged audiences, and creators are able to remain in line with their brand and voice.

Metrics are still…. Confusing. 

And finally …. what metrics do professionals use? And why is it SO confusing? The number one way that brands measure the effectiveness of their influencer marketing campaigns is via social media engagement (30.85%). 25.21% look at the impact on sales and 22.55% look at the increase in website traffic.

While of course there will always be caveats associated with influencer marketing (like unclear ROI), the increase in social media usage during the coronavirus pandemic has the potential to alter habits forever. These trends appear likely to give influencer marketing a boost going forward into 2021 and beyond.

At Pushkin PR, located in Denver, Colorado, we have more than 23 years of experience helping nonprofits communicate their story, reach new audiences and successfully meet their fundraising goals. If you are in need of assistance to update your public relations strategy to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are offering a free one-hour consultation. Contact us at info@pushkinpr.com or 303.733.3441.

Author: Caty Carrico