Influencer Marketing in 2021: Micros, Video and the ‘Genuinfluencer’

Influencers proved instrumental to content strategies, and drove a record number of sales, in 2020.

On RewardStyle’s app, influencer-driven sales surpassed $1 billion last year, according to Amber Venz Box, RewardStyle’s cofounder and president. From Oct. 13 to Dec. 8, the app drove $230 million in retail sales — a nearly 75 percent year-over-year increase. saw such demand that RewardStyle hired it a general manager, Catherine Ulrich, and continues to build out a dedicated team.

Rakuten’s ShopStyle saw a similar uptick in influencer-driven, e-commerce traffic, which was up 50 percent from Black Friday to Cyber Monday 2020 compared to the year prior, according to the company. Influencers drove 82 percent more people to shop online in November 2020 versus 2019, ShopStyle said.

Overall, influencer business is expected to grow in 2021. Last year’s pandemic accelerated a tide change that favored microinfluencers, who appeared more relatable to social media users than their superinfluencer counterparts.

This year, micros are expected to be a driving force in not just campaigns but sales. Video as a content form is anticipated to grow, with TikTok and Instagram Reels users fixated on short-form entertainment. Finally, experts say this year will give rise to “genuinfluencers,” a term referring to those who use their platforms as tools to combat the misinformation contagion.

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RewardStyle has been running micro-only global campaigns that have led to greater engagement levels than those involving a single macroinfluencer, Venz Box said.

“We have the tools to resonate with micro-audiences at scale,” she said. “That level of engagement overcomes what [a microinfluencer] might lack in reach. Collectively, they get the reach that brands need, but the engagement is incredible in comparison to a single macroinfluencer.”

Microinfluencers were previously thought to drive engagement, not sales, but that thinking proved false last year. In 2020, ShopStyle saw a 40 percent increase in nanoinfluencer conversion rate and a 250 percent growth in sales, according to Lindsay Jerutis, general manager of ShopStyle Collective.

“Nanoinfluencers have come into their own over the course of 2020 and are going to continue to grow,” Jerutis said.


Influencers who had “previously avoided video content were forced into that space,” Venz Box said. The explosion of TikTok, launch of Instagram Reels and ubiquity of livestreaming cemented video as an engaging content form.

“It has become clear that now more than ever, many are gravitating toward content that is snack-able, emotive and, most importantly, relatable,” said Ryan Detert, Influential’s chief executive officer, in a statement.


Health and political misinformation perpetuated throughout the pandemic, and especially during election season, led to a growing number of influencer partnerships meant to clarify false information. In a recent report, WGSN identified this trend as the rise of the “genuinfluencer.”

Influencers, wrote WGSN, will be called upon “to spread truth to their followers within an ecosystem crippled with misinformation.” The World Health Organization asking Dude With Sign to post accurate information about COVID-19 is one example.

“Harnessing their impact for good” has led to bumps in follower count for some influencers, Detert of Influential said. Influential found that the 50-plus influencers involved in WHO’s social media campaigns increased their followings by an average of 11 percent throughout the year. That number is 25 percent higher than those of comparable peers, Detert said.

“We’re just at the start of this upward projection and expect to see this call to action peak in 2021 as more influencers opt to share news and health-related content to help during the vaccine rollouts, and simultaneously, as a method to grow their social channels and trustworthiness,” he said.

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