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Here Are All the Reasons, 2020 Was an Important Year for Influencer Marketing

Photo credit: Moritz Knöringer

A lot has happened in the last 12 months. In the face of some really intense circumstances, social media and influencer marketing blossomed, making way for some of the more important and thought-provoking content we’ve ever seen. Livestreaming boomed, Instagram began letting you shop from your favorite stores, and the bond between follower and brand became much more intimate. To ring in the new year in style, we’ve compiled some greatest hits of 2020, as well as how those probably will develop in 2021. 


A Year of Change – as in Social Media Channels 

Instagram: From Grid to Reels, a Decade of Innovation

When it comes to influencer marketing, there’s still no platform more important than Instagram. In 2020, they celebrated their 10-year anniversary and debuted a flurry of new features and services, some to fanfare, and some to scrutiny. 

When Instagram first started in 2010, it was one of a kind, since the idea of a photo-sharing app with quasi-unlimited uploads was an extremely novel idea. Now, they are at the forefront of video as well, with tentpole features like Stories, Reels, IGTV and Instagram Live becoming even more important during the quarantine. In a strange way, influencers are now closer than ever to their followers, and producing video content for Instagram is now a must on the platform. 

Moreover, this was the year that Instagram began to position itself as a shoppable site as well, with the debut of their Shop section (you know, that little tote bag that appeared on your home screen a few months ago). While Shop has been met with mixed reactions from users, it shows that Instagram definitely has its eye on the future—especially in 2020, when online shopping became not just a convenience, but a necessity. 

Photo credit: techcrunch

Instagram has always been good at taking stock of the industry and making bold decisions. One such move this year was Reels, their feature to rival TikTok. Reels has remained front and center on the Explore page, meaning that Instagram is still betting that they have the branding power to eventually challenge the only short-video content platform currently giving them a run for their money.

2020 was also a year, users looked towards social media for information on current events—with everything going on news-wise, there was a lot to digest. Instagram launched several information hubs, notably on the pandemic and the U.S. General Election, to keep users informed and staunch the spread of misinformation. 

TikTok: The New Kid on the Block Continues to Grow

Without a shadow of a doubt, 2020 was the year TikTok blew up even more on the world stage. Known for its extremely youthful audience and fast-paced meme culture, this year a solid TikTok presence was non-negotiable for both up-and-coming and established influencers. In September, TikTok hit 100M active users in Europe, with no sign of slowing down. 

Of course, TikTok also has a Live feature, which draws significant attention to the platform. And they are actively partnering with talents to boost interest—earlier this month, for World AIDS Day, Elton John hosted a concert exclusively on TikTok Live to promote awareness around the disease.

Over the summer, TikTok introduced the TikTok Creators Fund, a $200M fund to encourage and support content creators on the platform. This way, TikTok hopes to continue to be known as a place for creative influencers, who use their skills to produce content that isn’t just aesthetically pleasing but contributes culturally as well. They have already pledged to grow the fund to $1B in the US alone in the next three years, so it’s safe to say that they are in it for the long haul.


The Year in Review: The Trends and Events that Made 2020

Credibility

It’s no secret that 2020 changed a lot of how we live. How we interact and how we think. Who we feel comfortable around and what we share; basically, who we trust. This trend was already on the rise for years now, but this year really drove home how important an influencer’s credibility is. In fact, it’s just as important as their reach or number of followers (maybe even more so). In the absence of physical relationships, the online world can feel even more real, and the influencers we interact with must align with our values. 

As such, we saw more and more brands partner with influencers to navigate sensitive topics this year, and to great effect. It made for even more authentic partnerships, as the influencers were able to express their point of view on issues that were changing the entire world we live in. 

Photo credit: masha

There are a few great examples of how this new dynamic played out. First up, Nike’s #PlayInside campaign, which Collabary helped launch in March of this year. With the entire world on lockdown, Nike encouraged people to practice fitness at home, in order to stay active while keeping themselves and others safe. Collabary provided interaction with Zalando consumers through our brand ambassadors, as well as influencer-generated content that was used onsite and on socials. In turn, the influencers provided fitness tips, live workouts, Q&As, and other personal content, showing not only how they respond to stressful situations, but how well they can adapt their strategies to whatever is happening at the moment and still deliver quality content. 

Photo credit: lisbia_

Diesel’s #ForSucessfulLiving, their Pride campaign, had a similar effect. The brand modeled their LGBTQIA-focused capsule collection with an array of influencers, with some of the proceeds going to gay-friendly charities. It proved to be a successful way for influencers to show off exclusive products while also contributing to a greater cause. 

Photo credit: Louisa Dellert

And of course, the climate crisis remained an extremely important topic all year long. Along with Patagonia, Collabary recruited sustainability influencer Louisa Dellert to sit down with two climate change experts and discuss the topic of Regenerative Organic fabrics, bridging the gap between Zalando and the fashion world when it comes to ethical consumption. Another prime example of how both brands and influencers chose to tackle the big issues directly affecting all of our lives this year. 

Customer Centricity

A few years ago, a big trend in digital marketing was steering users towards real-life experiences and destinations. For obvious reasons, strategies like that just weren’t feasible in 2020, and things went back to strictly online in a big way. This year, customers showed that they wanted to feel connected with a brand through the screen, to be seen and heard by their favorite influencers. The boom in live-streaming was absolutely huge because, on top of sticking to no physical interaction, it gave consumers what they craved: access, immediacy, and a true exclusive connection with the person they’re watching.

When the lockdown first started back in March, all platforms showed a marked increase in live-streamed content, with Instagram seeing an incredible 70% jump in activity. From at-home workouts to cooking classes to fashion hauls, more people connected through streams than ever before. And as live streaming takes on a new life, the medium has become even more relevant for brands. 

Photo credit: jamina1404

Here’s some quick inspiration on that front: this year, Zalando broadcast a Summer Skin Care Live Show, where beauty influencers answered questions while presenting the audience with the new Zalando Beauty Box. Not only was there a giveaway, but all the products were also available to shop during the stream—consumers could directly add them to their shopping cart by clicking on the live video feed. This year has shown us the value of social media as a digital marketplace, and you can be sure that these trends will continue into 2021 and beyond. 


Looking Ahead: Top Trends for 2021

At this point, social media is no longer a fun distraction—it’s how we communicate, it’s the glue that has the ability (if needed) to keep our relationships together. Therefore, staying on top of trends for 2021 is a must if you wish to continue to grow your brand alongside the expectations of your customers. Here’s what we expect the recently mentioned advantages to develop in the next 12 months. 

Video content continues to grow: Instagram has now integrated Reels into their home feed, and with the success of IGTV, it seems like video content is going to continue to be a focus for them in 2021. . On top of that, with live formats racking up more and more engagement across the board, there’s no point in slowing down. Expert video to continue to drive the conversation in the near future. 

Meanwhile, TikTok is set to top over 1.2B users in 2021, with no signs of slowing down. This year, TikTok launched their TikTok For Business platform, with the intention of even more business partnerships in 2021. With their Shopify partnership already underway, it looks like the platform is positioning itself to be much more integrated with brands in the near future. 

With Twitter getting into the video conversation with Fleets, and even LinkedIn debuting Stories this year, it’s clear that in order to stay competitive, you simply have to have a video content aspect to your platform. It will be interesting to see how this evolves, and how tech companies continue to adapt to this new landscape.

Credibility will stay relevant: Influencers’ credibility has and will probably always be one of the important things to look at when deciding on a collaboration partner. This year’s situation has taught us how necessary it actually is. In order to complete this bizarre era, for now, brands need to present themselves, and their influencer collaborations in an authentic light as possible. Believe in your campaign and the people will follow. 

Customer centricity is the name of the game: IGTV, TikTok Live and other streaming options will continue to dominate. As more and more brands realize this, they will continue to invest in streaming social media and develop more features to support this. 


That’s it for this year!

You know what, let’s focus on the positive this time around. 2020 gave us some real food for thought, but we have the power to change things. We hope you have enjoyed this wrap-up post and found it informative—we look forward to discovering even more fun trends and digital happenings in 2021. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, enjoy your holidays, and we will see you in the new year!