At the beginning of each year, we turn our gaze towards the far horizon and try to imagine what is in store for the next 12 months. But let’s face it, 2020 was a year like no other – and the impact of covid on business, consumer expectations and on us all as individuals will be long lasting and hard to fathom.

However, there are some salient lessons and changes that can be learned from 2020, and they could prove useful as we work our way through 2021.

The quest for authenticity drives interest in small scale influence networks

Rohit Bhargava called out Attention Wealth as one of the non-obvious trends in 2020. In a time of mass digitalization and connectedness, we are becoming more aware of the power and importance of our own attention. As we realize this, we become more aware – and skeptical of – those who rely on spectacle to manipulate us.

How this impacts influencer marketing: We expect a new breed of influencer to emerge – where the power of their influencer comes not from their gracefulness but from their gravitas. This brings new opportunity to smaller scale influencers – those with domain expertise, knowledge and professional passion.

Creative storytelling re-asserts itself in a world of data dominance

We are awash with data, yet struggle for insight. The last decade has seem marketers rely on data as a “surrogate truth” – helping to remove risk from campaign strategy and execution and driving ever increasing forms of ROI. But repeated scandals across the major platforms, from LinkedIn to Facebook has given us pause for thought. What if … as has been revealed, the statistics don’t reveal what we think they reveal? What if the numbers are overstated. Or demonstrate a bias? What if we didn’t notice? Perhaps more importantly, brands are starting to wake up to the realization that influencers can do more of the brand “heavy lifting”, motivating and engaging audiences, creating new behaviours and laying the groundwork for strategic campaigns.

How this impacts influencer marketing: Influencers have adopted the data driven approach, providing statistics, data, reach and frequency information and more. But with limited control over the product and brand experience, the landing pages, ecommerce funnels and more, we are seeing influencers re-assert their storytelling abilities and work more closely with brands to create compelling creative narratives.

Influencers and content creators shift to conversation

For years, influencers have worked to produce professional-level content – carefully crafted photography, sumptuous locations and delicately placed products. Under covid-safe conditions these kind of location shoots have become not only difficult to achieve – but decidedly unattractive to many audiences. In their place, we are seeing more conversational engagement emerging – with influencers and content creators taking on more of a “brand ambassadorship” style role within a campaign.

How this impacts influencer marketing: Brands and influencers will need to re-assess their channel strategy and salience. Platforms that deftly manage and amplify conversation and dialogue – combined with witty repartee and deep product knowledge – will see growth. We expect to see more work in the comments sections of all social platforms throughout 2021.

Over to you!

These observations come from deep work and analysis across the thousands of posts, pictures, articles and videos we see each year. But what have we missed? What are you seeing? Leave a comment below.