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  • Deena Ismar

What the Future Holds for Social Media Platforms and Influencer Marketing

Brands and marketers everywhere see it as a constant challenge to stay up to date with the latest changes and trends on social media. As we are quickly nearing the end of another COVID-19 disrupted year, many of us will be glad to see the back of 2021 with a return to normal. However, even with the pandemic, we still see constant changes in major platforms and online behaviors that have sparked all new trends like, live streams, video content, the accelerating growth of eCommerce, and the evolving metaverse for digital connection. All of these elements have played and will play a part in future digital and influencer marketing strategies.


Let’s first look at social media platforms. Certainly, a lot has happened over the social media world and changed in varying ways. So here is a platform-by-platform overview of key trends and changes that have taken shape over the past few months (or the past year) and how it will affect brands and creators in fueling their marketing strategies in the future.


1. Instagram

The biggest announcement this month or this year is the launch of the Instagram Stories Sticker Link and its availability to all users. This is a true game-changer and a beneficial option for small businesses and creators (especially micro-influencers) as they will have the ability to directly link to their product pages and help brands to grow from website traffic which will definitely directly impact the number of their web visitors.


Other than that, Instagram has officially removed the IGTV tab and revamped its video format as a whole in an effort to focus more on video content. They have combined IGTV and feed videos into one format called Instagram Video. When users encounter videos on Instagram, they'll be able to tap anywhere on the video to enter into a full-screen viewing mode, and after watching, they can even choose to keep scrolling to discover more video content from their favorite creators and brands. The reason why Instagram has removed the IGTV tab is because they’ve noticed that the longer video format never really took off, especially with TikTok, introducing short-form video content, which was favored more by users. Instagram then focused its efforts on competing with TikTok with its own short-form video feature, Instagram Reels.


The newest and most recent option rolled by the platform, Instagram Collab, enables users to collaborate on feed posts and reels. Now, brands can send collaboration invites to content creators and create feed posts and reels mutually. The posts will appear in both of the brand and creators’ Instagram feeds and will share the exact view count, likes count, and comment threads. This way it allows brands and creators to leverage and engage in each other’s communities. It is such a great feature for tapping into new relevant audiences. However, brands and creators do have to ensure that the content works for both collaborators’ feeds. We anticipate that this feature will inspire a rise in collaborations within the influencer community, especially for educational content that can make a really great impact and a positive change for many brands.


2. Youtube

Youtube Shorts is a new short-form video experience for brands and creators who want to curate short, catchy videos using their smartphones. Shorts is a way for anyone to connect with a new audience in the Youtube app and their creation tools make it easy to create videos that are up to 60 seconds long with their multi-segment camera.


Youtube has found that it’s important to keep a clean separation between the main long-form video feature and Shorts as creators are looking for different kinds of editing tools, metrics, and ways to engage viewers and audience. There is no doubt that short-video features give it a distinct advantage over rival platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels, Youtube is also working on a long-term business model for brands where they are lightly testing ad formats for Youtube Shorts. As far as improving content discoverability, we may expect Youtube to look at several ways to make the feature better when serving individual viewers.

3. TikTok

A lot of users have noticed that TikTok has begun testing TikTok Stories, a new momentary content format for the platform. TikTok Stories appear to work similarly to other stories functions on apps like Instagram or Snapchat where users can create a Story with photos or videos and disappears after 24 hours. The feature also offers a few editing tools such as effects, sounds, stickers, and text, and can be accessed via a new sidebar. Users will be able to react and comment on the story, too. Just like on Instagram and other platforms, you’ll also be able to tap on a user’s profile picture to load a story.


There is no doubt that Stories have been one of the only true constants in social media, with platforms from Instagram to Facebook to Linkedin to YouTube replicating Snapchat’s original feature from 2013. However, Stories aren’t always successful. Looking at Twitter as an example, they have officially removed Twitter Fleets, a similar Story feature, just eight months after its launch due to a general apathy towards the feature. When they do work, Stories are a great way to get users to interact with each other on an app, offer a new place for ads, and generally keep the feedback loop of a social media app in motion.


4. Facebook

At the start of the pandemic, Facebook made a big push into eCommerce. The introduction of Facebook Shops provides another way for brands and retailers to connect with their audiences. In-stream shopping has since become a key element to focus for the platform and in 2022, we can expect to see the platform expand this even further with more shoppable posts, streamlined payment processes, and more improved product discovery.


Live commerce will also be a key element of focus for Facebook. Ever since it has become a trend in China, where their value of live commerce market grew by 280% from 2017 to 2020, and now on track to become a $423 billion market by the end of 2021, Facebook also sees a similar potential and is making a big push to make live-commerce a bigger element. As they are already experimenting with this, we may expect more shopping tools slowly merging into the Facebook experience over time and integrating more utility into the platform.


With the above changes, there is no doubt that social media is a rapidly growing phenomenon, one that brands and creators cannot afford to overlook. Simultaneously, we also see that influencer marketing is evolving especially when there is an increase in digital content consumption and an influx of newer content sharing modes during the pandemic. Just like all other marketing strategies, influencer marketing is also bound to change with new technologies and trends. For more information on how you can use Facebook Live Commerce for your brand, contact us at isaiah.saw@rtvmalaysia.com !


The emergence of influencer networks

The future of influencer marketing is all about the collective. Instead of individuals, marketers may begin to group influencers based on whom they are associated with. After all, influencer marketing is about associating with the right people. If a brand is associated with an influencer, the brand’s reputation may grow based on how much the influencer has grown. Likewise, an influencer's reputation depends on which brands they endorse too. It creates power centers of influence for each type of brand and product.


Each of the influence centers is linked to each other because many brand categories and industries may overlap. For example, a brand that sells sunscreen lotion, and for such brands, the obvious choice would be to reach out to influencers in the fashion, beauty, and lifestyle group. However, they could also reach out to influencers in the travel and sports group. Hence, the future of influencer marketing places an emphasis on the interconnectedness of different brand categories and industries. The influencers who possess the power to transfer ideas between different groups will be the most influential ones. With this, brands and marketers would need to invest more time in influencer evaluation to find the right ones to advocate for the brand.


The rise of micro-influencers

Brands have begun to realize that sometimes less is more. The success of any influencer marketing campaign doesn’t solely ride on the number of followers. Micro-influencers have fewer followers but they work to maintain personal bonds with their audience. They will also know their audiences well and communicate in ways that will generate responses. Hence why their posts usually get higher engagement. Even influencers with less than 1,000 followers, we can see that they yield better engagement rates than celebrities.


Other than that, brands nowadays are on the lookout for the most niched influencers instead of prominent celebrities or popular influencers who have a huge following on social media, because such influencers are more reasonably priced. How much a brand pays an influencer for sponsored content is linked to their following. Micro-influencers, due to their smaller-scale size, are affordable partners for brands. These influencers are typically looking to grow their following, so it is common for them to over-serve their brand partners in an effort to build long-term relationships. All of these factors typically create a strong ROI for a brand’s spending.



Influencers will have more creative control

Marketing activities, in general, have changed as we know them, and both brands and creators are finding new ways to communicate that consider their audiences’ needs, feelings, and situations. With social norms changing, influencer marketing reshapes itself. We are likely to see an increase in campaigns that leverage on influencers’ creativity as more attention is given to influencers with authentic messages who can make genuine connections with their audience. Rather than carefully crafted partnerships, it’s likely that brands will want to push authenticity by staying honest and open with their audience and consumers.


As 2022 approaches, staying on track with the latest changes and trends on social media is crucial for brands and influencers. For brands, it will affect how they allocate the right marketing budget to maximize their ROI and how they will activate with the right voices to fuel their brand performance. For influencers, as they rely heavily on these platforms, it will affect their engagement hence, keeping up to date can help ensure they are able to curate better quality content for brands as well as to establish positive relationships with their audience. Nonetheless, there is still so much to unfold as we are still impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and there will still be major changes and improvements along the way. While we seek to understand how these changes may impact future digital and influencer marketing strategies, it is still important for brands and influencers to engage a consumer-centric mindset that will help the growth of a brand.