Three 2021 Trends That Will Impact Influencer Marketing in 2022
Updated: Jan 7
With 2021 drawing to a close and 2022 on the horizon, influencer marketers may be wondering how to prepare for the year to come.
As society recovers from the pandemic, and the “new normal” begins to look more like the old normal, brands may be tempted to resume the same activities that spelled success prior to COVID-19. However, while in-person engagements have returned, the social media landscape has changed significantly over the past two years, and marketers must account for a range of new developments in their 2022 plans.
In this article, we’ll explore three key trends that shaped the creator economy in 2021, and are poised to continue affecting brand-influencer relationships in 2022: the growing volume of sponsored posts, the popularity of short-form video content, and mounting enthusiasm for wellness brands and products. Additionally, we’ll outline actionable steps brands can take to capitalize on these shifts, galvanizing fans and expanding their earned media footprints in the new year.
Paid Relationships Are Protocol, but Influencers Won’t Sell Out
As the influencer economy matures, content creators are gaining a greater understanding of the value they generate for brands, and expecting compensation for their work. Correspondingly, sponsorship is becoming a mainstream practice in influencer marketing.
"82% of influencer respondents had worked with brands in a paid capacity"
According to Tribe Dynamics’ 2021 survey of nearly 150 brands and over 200 content creators, a significant 82% of influencer respondents had worked with brands in a paid capacity over the past year. Additionally, 50% of brands reported that the proportion of content creators they compensated in 2021 had increased relative to the previous year.
"32% of the content creators we surveyed only worked with brands they genuinely loved"
Though influencers are eager for sponsorship opportunities, authentic affinity is still the foundation of impactful brand-influencer relationships: 32% of the content creators we surveyed only worked with brands they genuinely loved, while another 61% were willing to work with brands outside of their favorites, but still had to like their products.
These findings suggest that compensation is playing a greater role in influencer marketing, but paychecks are not a replacement for organic relationship-building.
Short-Form Videos Reign on Social Media
Following its rapid rise in 2020, TikTok has established itself as a key platform for brands and influencers alike.
"38% of influencer respondents using TikTok more frequently in 2021 than in 2020"
Our 2021 survey showed TikTok ranking among the three most important platforms to brands’ influencer strategies, as well as influencers’ three most widely used platforms for content creation. What’s more, enthusiasm for the Gen Z-friendly app continues to mount, with 38% of influencer respondents using TikTok more frequently in 2021 than in 2020.
Given both creators’ and marketers’ overwhelming embrace of the platform—not to mention Gen Z’s growing clout—it’s safe to predict that TikTok will remain a pillar of the influencer economy in 2022.
"70% reported sharing a greater proportion of video content"
"brands must adapt their outreach and activation strategies to the changing content landscape"
In tandem with TikTok’s impressive growth trajectory, short-form video content has gained popularity on Instagram. While most influencer survey respondents still used the platform primarily for static content, over 70% reported sharing a greater proportion of video content to Instagram in 2021 than in the previous year. As more influencers turn away from polished, aspirational static posts and towards unfiltered, often humorous short-form videos, brands must adapt their outreach and activation strategies to the changing content landscape.
Wellness Remain Top of Mind for Influencers
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a surge of influencer interest in wellness brands and products, from supplements to home fitness equipment.
While 2021 proved less turbulent than the stresses of 2020, influencers’ commitment to their physical and mental well-being remained strong: our survey revealed that over two-thirds of content creators who began posting about wellness and fitness brands in 2020 continued to champion brands in these categories throughout 2021.
Influencers’ ongoing prioritization of their health has fueled significant momentum for many socially savvy wellness brands. Indoor cycling brand Peloton, for example, powered $94.9M Earned Media Value (EMV) from January to October 2021 - a 51% year-over-year spike, while its influencer network expanded 33% YoY to 7.5k content creators.
Wearable fitness technology brand WHOOP saw an even more impressive surge in enthusiasm, with its $34.9M EMV via 850 influencers marking respective 114% and 63% YoY growths. As more and more content creators champion physical activity, and other forms of self-care, brands that tap into the fast-growing online wellness and fitness communities are poised for even greater success.
While it’s impossible to know for certain what 2022 will bring for the influencer marketing industry, 2021 meaningfully transformed the creator economy, and many of the trends that dominated conversations over the past year will likely continue to make an impact.
In order to leverage key developments, and remain relevant in a rapidly changing space, brands should keep the following best practices in mind. Additionally, teams seeking more comprehensive training on core influencer marketing concepts and strategies can consider enrolling in Tribe Dynamics’ Influencer Marketing Training and Certification Program.
Influencer Marketing Best Practices for 2022
Ensure paid relationships are rooted in organic brand affinity.
With compensation playing an increasingly widespread role in influencer relationships, brands must take care to select paid partners who have already demonstrated a genuine preference for their offerings.
Relying too heavily on sponsorships, especially at the expense of more meaningful relationship-building, tends to prompt short-term EMV spikes rather than sustainable momentum. Instead, when brands use partnership opportunities to empower loyal supporters, these mutually beneficial relationships result in compelling, consistent, and impactful activity.
Grant influencers creative control—on TikTok and everywhere.
One key factor in TikTok’s appeal, and the growing volume of short-form videos more broadly, is this content’s raw, unscripted ethos. Today’s influencers, and their audiences, care deeply about authenticity, so it’s imperative that brands steer clear of strict content guidelines when activating partners.
Build a community around clearly articulated brand values.
Many wellness brands won 2021 partly by offering their fans a distinct set of principles to rally around, such as Peloton’s emphasis on self-improvement and personal bests. Even for brands outside of the wellness space, standing by a unique mission helps foster loyalty that runs deeper than a preference for a specific product, bonding supportive fans to the brand, and to each other.
Influencer Marketing in 2022: Summary
It is clear that influencer marketing has shifted considerably in the past two years - fuelled primarily by the pandemic and other advancements in community interests. It is impossible to know exactly what 2022 will bring for the space, but we have outlined some of the most probable influencer marketing trends we will see in the coming months.
Catherine Kulke is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Tribe Dynamics, a San Francisco-based influencer marketing software company.