For The Drum’s 2023 Predictions Deep Dive, Sammy Albon of agency PrettyGreen’s influencer division What They Said argues that brands need to start paying attention to more specialist influencers.
Before we look forward to how influencer marketing will evolve in 2023, let’s start with a quick look back.
Since 2019, the influence economy has exploded. Supercharged by the pandemic (an age ago in internet time), more and more consumers have become creators themselves. The number of influencers in YouTube’s Partner Program (those qualifying to earn a split of ad revenue) more than doubled in 2020 alone, and we saw TikTok lower the barrier to content creation even further. Suddenly, anyone could become a creator!
TikTok’s growth shifted the focus from creators to their content. The app’s For You Page delivers viral content based on users’ interests and an algorithm that surfaces videos from accounts with almost no followers; good content really does rise to the top. Instagram and YouTube have employed a similar strategy for Reels and Shorts, respectively.
How are things going to evolve in 2023? How has this impacted influencers’ relationships with audiences? And what do consumers really want from content? Let’s focus on the tangible and the now, and which general creator trends we can expect in the immediate future (while the rest of the world still decides whether the metaverse actually happens).
Read the room
With the deepening cost-of-living crisis impacting us all, influencers haven’t and won’t be getting off scot-free. Audiences continue to seek influencers who are profoundly relatable and show themselves living lives not unlike their own.
This will particularly affect TikTok and Instagram, where audiences value unpolished, relatable content that invites them to connect around shared experiences and values. There’s still space for aspirational creators and celebrity-level influencers, but brands will invest in micro-to-mid-tier influencers as they strive to prioritize engagement from ambassadors who look, act, and, importantly, live like their target consumers.
For example, checking into the Savoy London when your heating is shot at home isn’t the vibe while some are choosing between heating and eating.
Audiences are looking to invest in influencers who work a 9-to-5 like they do. They want influencers who they perceive to be producing content as a side project. It’s a tall order because these creators need to produce quality content while feeling accessible to their audience, and living in the real world.
Enter the hyper-personalized audience.
This used to be a ‘stage’ in the development of an influencer’s audience, where they’re just starting out and producing content on the side. They’re at that sweet spot of making entertaining content garnering them an audience, but they’re not out of touch with the day-to-day woes of the average Joe.
Moreover, they know how to effectively communicate with their audience, and their audience feels like they can communicate with them, too.
Niche it down
Establishing a community is increasingly difficult. We’ll see more influencers with specialisms, laser-focusing their content strategy to appeal to hyper-engaged audiences who are actively seeking out content around themes and topics they’re passionate about.
We’ll see more professionals creating content, whether that’s a junior doctor documenting their training, or an engineer or hairstylist sharing tips. Consumers look to influencers as voices of authority over their fields. We’ll see brands embrace them as key opinion leaders (KOLs).
People trust real people. Influencers continue to nurture audiences invested in both them and their niche topic and will be rewarded with communities who deeply value and trust their perspectives.
One of the most relevant spaces right now is ‘fin-fluencers’. Recent years have seen an emergence of influencers specializing in financial advice, from mortgages to general money-saving tips. Astoundingly, 71% of Gen Z and millennials say that they prioritize “getting advice from someone like me”.
Examples of these new niches abound. The likes of Gemma Bird cover relatable money matters, giving financial advice for families feeling the squeeze; and Las Vegas-based food reviewer Keith Lee’s posts have reportedly been instrumental in reviving ailing local restaurants.
Macro creators are still relevant
Micro and UGC creators are all the rage right now but what of those who shape and define culture?
We know macro influencers set cultural trends, whether that’s YouTube creator Mr Beast launching the sell-out Beast Burger in the US or Logan Paul & KSI causing chaos in the aisles with PRIME energy drink (a team of fans has created a Prime drink tracker account). Influencer tiering, meanwhile, has become far more nuanced. Savvy marketers and brands will continue working with a mix of influencer tiers this year, marrying the engagement of hyper-personalized audiences with the reach of macro creators who set trends.
The influencer space is fast-paced. It’s that time of year where everyone is making far-reaching predictions for 2023, but the only thing I can accurately predict is that this year will be just as unpredictable as the rest of them.
For more takes on the year ahead, by and about marketing agencies, check out our Agencies Predictions hub.