With all the changes we experience on fast forward due to the pandemic, there is no doubt we need to redefine the role of the influencers and how to collaborate with them in 2021.
Theoretically, they have always been defined as “topic experts, thought leaders, or brand advocates who possess strong credibility and/or an extended reach with their target audience.”
Practically, there are many cases in which both people and brands were tricked into believing that the number of followers on social media would be enough to transform anybody into a “voice worth hearing.” That created immense frustrations for lots of specialists who suddenly had to compete for attention with plenty of “fake celebs” and a series of surprises for brands who invested money in campaigns that generated low to no ROI.
A recent study published by Later underlines that nano influencers with just a few thousands of followers and micro-influencers with a maximum of 25.000 followers, showing real expertise in the niche they approach, get the highest engagement rate (7%).
It basically comes with no surprise because these people are more connected with their audience and have more credibility than celebs when making recommendations about products or services. Therefore businesses opting for long-term cooperation with them will get more chances to generate results and improve their users' experience.
It became vital to stop being impressed by the number of followers a person may have on social media and start scrutinizing the content this person creates and shares before deciding whether he or she represents an excellent match for your brand.
“One-shot” collaborations rarely worked, but since 2020 it has become more and more difficult for influencers, no matter how famous and talented they may be, to make a valuable contribution to your success when approached only for mentioning your brand in one of their sponsored posts.
Therefore, we assume that many companies will start valuing long-term cooperation and join influencers on a common sales journey with clear predefined objectives.
Performance-based deals will be the new norm. Brands will expect influencers to deliver a specific number of clicks, leads, or sales. Thus, it is clear that planning, metrics, and social media KPIs will play a more critical role with businesses willing to know what to track to sort out fruitful collaborations.
Paid Ads will be vital for reaching your goals.
We are aware that most brands did not use influencer marketing in conjunction with paid ads. Still, as long as the rules of the game are changing and influencers are supposed to contribute to sales directly, it will become a custom to support their efforts of reaching out to specific audiences with high-quality content.
Collaborations with influencers are brilliant not only when it comes to e-commerce but also in B2B projects. Here is a classic example that continues to stand out many years after it’s been launched.
General Electric redefined relationships with influencers by working with YouTube promising creators. They knew that 70% of B2B clients watched videos throughout their buying process and wanted to entertain them with “geek topics” they created in cooperation with influencers who hold authority in a particular subject. Katrina Craigwell, who was back then the GE Global Manager for Digital Marketing, designed the campaign to raise brand awareness, impress potential investors, and present GE as a great place to build a career. She decided to harness the power of creators to tell GE’s story through their own voices. Here’s how they did it.
GE invited The Slow Mo Guys to one of their labs in New York, where Gav and Dan used nanotechnology to showcase excellent liquid physics at 2500fps. The Slow Mo Guys channel has 14.1 M subscribers, and the GE video got more than 14 million views.
GE also cooperated with AsapSCIENCE to create a series of whiteboard animation videos such as “7Myths about the Brain you thought were true.” AsapSCIENCE channel has 9.6 M subscribers, and only this episode from the entire series got 6.2 million views.
Musician Matthew Dear and General Electric Acoustics Engineer Andrew Gorton teamed up collecting and composing thousands of audio emissions from the world’s most powerful machines. The full track is available on SoundCloud .
Marquese Scott (2.47 M subscribers) danced on the track, and the video got 1.5 million views.
“It’s easy to make fun of stuff - it’s cooler to make stuff! Kid President had a life-long wish fulfilled when he saw how jet engines were made and was provided with the inspiration to finish a project of his own.”
GE worked together with SoulPancake and invited Robby Novak, who portrays the character Kid President to visit GE Aviation. The channel has 3.46 M subscribers, and the video got 1.7 M views.
CGI (computer - generated imagery) influencers already exist on social media, but will characters like Miquela, Bermuda, Blawko, and Shudu soon replace the real influencers?
Brud, the company that created the first three of them, is the “Banksy of the tech world,” keeping the mystery around itself and forcing people to raise many questions about why such things appeared in the first place. Are they here to stay, or are they just a satire of the entire social media and the “fake it till you make it"culture?
Miquela has 3 million followers on Instagram and entered the top 25 most influential people on the Internet, according to a post from Time Magazine 2018. She also appeared in a Calvin Klein commercial.
And Miquela is not alone online. Brud created her friend Bermuda, a blonde supporter of Trump, who was exactly because of that, very provocative from Day 1. Then Blawko appeared. He was initially the lover of Bermuda and now the friend of Miquela. The three characters started interacting with each other like they’ve been part of a reality show.
How trustful are they?
Will people be willing to consider recommendations of restaurants, healthy recipes, yoga centers, and styling coming from someone with absolutely zero experience in the real world? Will the body positivity movement get back again to unrealistic perfection standards that can be even more absurd than before but quickly obtained with CGI?
Virtual influencers created a lot of buzz around the industry.
Let’s face it: it might be tempting to work with them because their aura of novelty and mystery will reflect on brands more than any new product line they would launch.
Despite all controversy, there are many voices considering them more efficient than real influencers because it takes less for such characters to become prominent, plus they are easier to work with. Some real influencers are hard to get. Others may forgive to post your stuff at the right time and in the right place. Such inconveniences can be eliminated when collaborating with virtual influencers, but how ethical is the entire process?
Besides the fact that this new trend needs strict regulations to protect all parts involved, the main question remains why these CGI creatures are so followed, and by whom? Understanding their audience will be crucial in unlocking the mystery around these accounts and their value to the real world.