Must-Know Micro-Influencer Predictions for 2021

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Micro-influencers have captured the attention of brands worldwide as they command far superior engagement rates to any others and are much more intimately linked with their audiences. These fascinating creators pose an opportunity so alluring that there’s hardly a brand out there that hasn’t caught wind of their potential or demoed a campaign or two.

As the newest to come onto the scene of influencer marketing there is much for us still to learn about their power and the best practices for working alongside them. In today’s post we’ll dive into the many factors affecting their growth and see what we can draw about the future from them.

1: Authenticity continues to grow in importance

Authenticity remains the name of the game for all influencers and has, perhaps, become even more important as time has progressed. Believe it or not, the oldest members of Gen Z will be turning twenty-four this year. Having grown up in the digital age these tech-savvy consumers are often characterised by a desire for individuality and look for authenticity and charitableness from their brands.

As these digital natives make up a large portion of the population interested in influencers, we can expect to see them being a driving force behind the growth of the well-respected, authentic and transparent nano-influencers of today.

If, in 2020, 46.4% of brand mentions featuring the hashtag #ad were published by Instagram accounts with 1k-20k followers, we can certainly expect to see this figure surpassing 50% by the end of 2021 as more and more micro-influencers emerge. When you consider that 44% of Gen Zs have purchased a product at the recommendation of an influencer, along with their increasing desire for authenticity, this prediction could even be viewed as conservative.

2: New kinds of platforms and agencies emerge

As the widespread benefits of micro-influencers reach larger audiences and brands continue to employ them for campaigns, we can expect to see new nano and micro-specific influencer agencies and platforms cropping up.

Specialisation is a particularly current theme in today’s world. With the emergence of micro-influencers, typically honing in on a particular sub-niche, it will be no surprise to see private companies looking to follow suit and specialise in working with these kinds of creators. Driven by the prospect of adopting the position of the go-to micro-influencer expert, who will get there first?

3: Social causes and initiatives continue to spring up

We’ve all heard it before, but 2020 was a tumultuous year for planet earth. For many of us around the world it acted as a kind of reset, allowing us to view our lives from a different perspective; almost like seeing it from the outside. This introspection, along with the harrowing events of 2020, has led to a number of shifts in consumer habits.

A global consciousness has emerged around sustainability and consumers are demanding that brands do more to take a stand against the social and environmental issues we face. As a result, consumers are increasingly demanding to see the human element behind the brand and observe actions, instead of the lip service they’ve become so accustomed to.

Since micro-influencers wield such influence with their audiences, we are very likely to see brands utilising this for getting their new eco-initiatives out there. Especially the creators who already back environmental or social causes, which are becoming more numerous by the day.

4: Smaller businesses are joining in

As the news about these smaller and budget-friendly creators trickles down to all the small businesses out there, we’ll see more and more joining the party. Celebrity and influencer partnerships are notoriously pricey and so with the emergence of these budget-friendly influencers it’ll hardly be surprising to see smaller businesses jumping at the chance to benefit from their highly engaged audience.

In fact, a recent survey found that micro-influencers have an average engagement rate of up to 8.8%; an astounding figure when compared to celebrities who were found to wield a 1.7% average. As a result of their comparably high engagement rates and low-costs we can be sure these creators will be a driving force behind the powerhouse influencer industry in 2021.

5: Consumer habits are changing

Another shift in consumer behavior has arisen from a need to support local businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic. A recent survey conducted by Bright Pearl found that “over the next twelve months 63% of shoppers will buy more from local businesses and 60% plan to increase shopping with independent retailers”.

Off the back of this we can expect many micro-influencers to be reactive and follow suit by offering their followers what they want. Where geographical location may not have come into play in the influencer landscape of 2020, it is much more likely to play a larger role in 2021.

More creators will get back to their roots, start looking more locally and support smaller businesses, driven also by the growing number of collaboration requests from smaller and more local businesses mentioned in #4.

6: Waving goodbye to the “one-off” strategy age

As discussed, authenticity is king for any influencer campaign. I’m sure, one thing we can all agree on is the least authentic endorsements are easy to spot. Clearly just paid for the promotion on a one-off basis, you can see through the endorsement in a second.

In 2021, we can expect to see brands bidding goodbye to the one-off campaigns of the last few years and embrace influencers who’ve provided decent results for them. Longer-term brand-influencer partnerships, quite logically, inspire greater trust with audiences.

What with the Gen Z population driving demand for authentic partnerships and the consumer shifts as a result of 2020, it’ll hardly be surprising to see brands doing away with one-off collaborations and moving to grow their authenticity with longer-term relationships with their influencers.

7: Brand advocates step onto the scene as a new, even more specialised, type of influencer

As brands across the globe race to find new and authentic means of communicating with audiences we can expect to see the number of brand advocates employed increase exponentially.

Brand advocates are widely known for their ability to sway their peers’ purchase decisions as they are everyday people like you or I. Believe it or not, 92% of consumers trust brand advocates.

This makes a lot of sense when you consider the power of word of mouth in marketing. Identified to bring in 5x more sales than paid media and with 92% of consumers trusting recommendations from friends, if brands work out how to scale the use of these influencers they’ll blow all others out of the water.

When you think about it, many influencers are driven by their own agenda; whether that’s growing or monetising their audience. In contrast, brand advocates will jump at the chance to engage with their favourite brands and are eager to support them. This blatant difference in priorities is definitely likely to become more apparent to brands as they focus in on authenticity in 2021.

Final Thoughts

In the chaotic environment we coexist in today there are many moving parts affecting how widespread the use of micro-influencers will be this year. Whilst COVID has slashed brands’ marketing budgets for 2021, this will predominantly affect larger influencers.

In stark comparison, we can expect to see the use of micro-influencers skyrocket this year as brands paddle to stay afloat, consumers move toward more sustainable purchasing habits and authenticity continues its reign as the most important factor affecting successful brand-influencer partnerships.

The top 17 influencer marketers at brands who plan creative campaigns and partner effectively with creators on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube

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Insider is recognizing the top influencer-marketing execs at brands like Chipotle and HelloFresh.

These 17 power players have run innovative campaigns and created lasting partnerships.

They work with creators on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Being an effective influencer-marketing exec sometimes means knowing when to give up control.

“I think a lot of brands make the mistake of sending over these incredibly complex and restrictive creative briefs,” said Ian Borthwick, SeatGeek’s director of influencer marketing. “Ultimately, those produce bad influencer marketing. It’s important to take the backseat and let the influencer do what they do best.”

As the influencer industry grows, more companies are turning to digital stars to help drive sales. By 2022, brands are set to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing, according to Insider Intelligence.

Influencer-marketing campaigns happen across all major social-media platforms, like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Pinterest, and podcasting apps. Marketers hire social stars to promote a brand or product in exchange for compensation.

Typically, the goal of a campaign is to promote a product or service and convert an influencer’s followers into paying customers.

Some brands hire an outside agency to run all influencer marketing efforts, and others have built a in-house team.

These professionals will set out with a specific goal, expectation, and way to measure the overall campaign. They decide what audience the brand they work for should reach and then pair with an influencer who has the right target audience.

Insider is recognizing the leading execs in influencer marketing who work for a brand’s in-house team. In this inaugural list, we are highlighting professionals that have built lasting and creative partnerships with influencers.

Their work ranges from funding a YouTube reality show (Seatgeek) to giving a student a $25,000 scholarship (Chipotle) to naming a drink after TikTok’s top creator (Dunkin'). All of them have found creative ways to promote their brands in partnership with digital creators.

In 2020, Dunkin' launched a drink with TikTok star Charli D’Amelio called “The Charli.” Rachel Framingheddu Murray/Dunkin’ via Getty Images

The state of influencer marketing in 2021

There are a few trends that are driving the influencer-marketing industry in 2021.

Long-term partnerships have become vital for both brands and influencers. Brands have begun to hire more “nano” and “micro” level influencers. And TikTok, the popular short-form video app, has caught the attention of brands looking to reach Gen-Z customers.

“TikTok is here to stay and brands know that,” said Brian Sorel, the COO of the influencer-marketing company NeoReach. “I don’t think anything compares to the rush we are seeing on TikTok. Even when Instagram releases something like Reels or Snap responds with Spotlight, most of the new market spend is being funneled to TikTok.”

But even with TikTok’s viral success, Instagram remains the top platform for running a campaign. 79% of brands predominantly use Instagram for influencer campaigns, according to Influencer Marketing Hub.

And when it comes to a campaign on Instagram, brands are hiring more nano and micro influencers. Nano influencers generally have between 2,500 and 10,000 followers on Instagram and often specialize in a specific niche, with a small and engaged community. Micro influencers have between 10,000 and 100,000 followers on Instagram.

An example: FabFitFun, a lifestyle subscription box brand, looks for influencers who haven’t worked with brands before, said Jolie Jankowitz, the brand’s senior director of influencer marketing and talent partnerships.

“We’re seeing, especially from really big brands, a real excitement over nano and micro,” said Danielle Wiley, the founder and CEO of the influencer-marketing agency Sway Group. “When you’re keeping a close eye on your budgets and looking at every single dollar, it just becomes a lot harder to justify some of those celebrity spends because they don’t have the results.”

But top marketers aren’t cutting out mega influencers completely. Top stars with high engagement, like David Dobrik and Charli D’Amelio, have driven interest with numerous brands from Chipotle to Dunkin'.

Many marketers on this power list derive their success from working with a mix of mega influencers and those with smaller follower counts.

To form this list, Insider relied on a mix of our own reporting, nominations from readers, and industry experts to narrow down the finalists. We chose these professionals based on who is successfully building partnerships with influencers on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok; planning the most creative campaigns; and on their impact on the influencer space broadly.

The influencer marketing executives are listed in alphabetical order by brand below:

Worldwide Fashion Influencer Marketing Industry to 2026 - Key Players Include IZEA Worldwide, Launchmetrics and Klear Among Others

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Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) – There is nothing about the finances of Blink Charging Co. that would suggest it’s one of the hottest stocks in America.It’s never posted an annual profit in its 11-year history; it warned last year it could go bankrupt; it’s losing market share, pulls in anemic revenue and has churned through management in recent years.And yet a hot stock it is. Investors have bid Blink’s share price up 3,000% over the past eight months. Only seven stocks – out of about 2,700 that are worth at least $1 billion – have risen more over that time. The reason: Blink is a green-energy company, an owner and operator of charging stations that power up electric vehicles. And if investors are certain of one thing in the mania that is sweeping through financial markets, it is that green companies are can’t-miss, must-own investments of the future.No stock better captures this euphoria than Blink. With a market capitalization of $2.17 billion as of Monday, its enterprise value-to-sales ratio – a common metric to gauge whether a stock is overvalued – has blown out to 481. For some context, at Tesla Inc. – the darling of the EV world and a company with a very rich valuation itself – that number is just 26.“Everything about it is wrong,” said Andrew Left, the founder of Citron Research. “It is just a cute name which caught the eye of retail investors.”Citron was one of a handful of firms that bet against Blink last year, putting on short-sale trades that would pay off if the share price fell. It’s one of several wagers against stocks favored by the retail-investment crowd that have gone against Citron – with GameStop Corp. being the most high-profile – and prompted Left to declare Jan. 29 that the firm was abandoning its research into short-selling targets. Overall short interest on Blink – a gauge of the amount of wagers against the stock – has fallen to under 25% of free-floating shares from more than 40% in late December.For the short-sellers, one of the things that raised alarms is that several figures tied to Blink, including CEO and Chairman Michael Farkas, were linked to companies that ran afoul of securities regulations years ago.Farkas dismisses this and the other criticisms lobbied by the shorts. “There have been and always will be naysayers,” Farkas said in an email. “When I founded the business, the naysayers questioned whether the shift to EV was real. Now, as the value of our business grows, the naysayers tend to be the short sellers.”Also See: Bloomberg Intelligence’s Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance DashboardIn the CrosshairsMaking money on charging is, historically, a losing proposition. In theory, a model like Blink’s that involves both equipment sales and collecting user fees could become consistently profitable as government support accelerates EV adoption. But no one’s done it yet.“This market is still too small and early-stage,” said Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates. “It will take time for economies of scale to materialize.”Even by the industry’s fairly forgiving standards, Blink’s revenue is meager, totaling an estimated $5.5 million in 2020. ChargePoint Inc., which announced plans to go public via a special purpose acquisition company last year, generated $144.5 million in revenue in 2020, according to a January filing. EVgo Services LLC, which is nearing a similar deal to go public through a SPAC, has a smaller charging network than Blink but more than double the sales – an estimated $14 million in 2020. Despite the wildly different revenue figures, all three companies have an enterprise value of between $2.1 billion and $2.4 billion.Blink warned in a May filing that its finances “raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern within a year,” a required disclosure when a company doesn’t have enough cash on hand for 18 months of expenses.“Electric is real. The stock prices of companies in the space are not,” said Erik Gordon, an assistant professor at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “The dot-com boom produced some real companies, but most of the overpriced dot-com companies were lousy investments. The electric boom will be the same story. Some great companies will be built, but most of the investors who chase insanely-priced companies will be crying.”Still, the recent market boom has breathed new life into Blink, allowing it to raise $232.1 million though a share offering in January. Roth Capital Partners as recently as Friday recommended buying the stock, giving it a price target of $67, 29% above the current level.Shares fell 2.3% to $52.10 in New York Monday.The company’s prospects rely on exponential EV growth, and Farkas in January discussed plans to deploy roughly 250,000 chargers “over the next several years” and often touts the company’s ability to generate recurring revenue from its network.Currently, the company says it has 6,944 charging stations in its network. An internal map of Blink’s public fleet lists about 3,700 stations available in the U.S. By contrast, ChargePoint boasts a global public and private charging network that’s more than 15 times larger.Unlike some of its competitors, Blink’s revenue model hinges in part on driving up utilization rates, which for now remain in the “low-single-digits,” too scant to generate significant revenue, Farkas said during a November earnings call. He told Bloomberg that use will increase as EVs become more popular.For most chargers in operation now, utilization probably must reach 10%-15% to break even, although profitability depends on many other factors such as a company’s business model, electricity rates and capital costs, according to BloombergNEF Senior Associate Ryan Fisher.Blink was an early market leader among charging companies but has lost its lead and now controls about 4% of the sector in Level 2 public charging, said Nick Nigro, founder of Atlas Public Policy, an electric car consulting and policy firm.Blink has also acknowledged “material weaknesses” over its financial reporting, disclosed in U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings dating back to 2011. The company says it has hired an accounting consultant to review its controls and is making necessary changes.Origin StoryBlink’s colorful origin story has been a prime target of short-sellers. It traces back to 2006 when it formed as shell company New Image Concepts Inc. to provide “top-drawer” personal consulting services related to grooming, wardrobe and entertainment, according to an SEC filing.In December 2009, the company entered a share exchange agreement with Car Charging Inc. Farkas joined the company as CEO in 2010, after working as a stockbroker and investing in companies including Skyway Communications Holding Corp., which the SEC deemed a “pump-and-dump scheme” during the years Farkas held shares. (Farkas said he was a passive investor, was unaware of any misdeeds and “had no involvement in any capacity in the activities of Skyway.”)In 2013, Farkas oversaw Car Charging’s $3.3 million purchase of bankrupt Ecotality, which had received more than $100 million in U.S. Department of Energy grants to install chargers nationwide. The company later changed its name to Blink.Since then, Blink has been plagued by executive turnover, with three of five board members departing between November 2018 and November 2019. The company has had two chief financial officers and three chief operating officers since 2017. One former COO, James Christodoulou, was fired in March 2020. He sued the company, accusing it of potential securities violations, and reached a settlement with Blink, which denied any wrongdoing, for $400,000 in October.Financier Justin Keener, a one-time major Blink shareholder whose capital assisted the company’s 2018 Nasdaq listing, and the company he operated were charged last year for failing to register as a securities dealer while allegedly selling billions of penny-stock shares unrelated to Blink. He said he has since divested from Blink and now owns “a relatively small number of common shares” as a result of a settlement of a warrant dispute with the company. Keener denies the SEC allegations.Farkas told Bloomberg he has cut all ties to Keener, was unaware of any investigations going on while they worked together and has no knowledge of any wrongdoing by Keener.The surging stock has brought a windfall to Farkas, Blink’s largest shareholder. On Jan. 12, after shares rallied to records, he sold $22 million of stock, according to Bloomberg data. Farkas’s total compensation, including stock awards, totaled $6.5 million from 2016 to 2019, equivalent to more than half the company’s revenue. Included in his 2018 compensation were $394,466 in commissions to Farkas Group Inc., a third-party entity he controlled that Blink hired to install chargers.Farkas said his compensation is justified given that he had personally invested in the company’s formation and had for many years received shares in lieu of salary.More recently, Blink board member Donald Engel followed the CEO’s lead.He sold more than $18 million of shares during the past two weeks.(Updates share price in 15th paragraph and market value in fourth.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.