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Trends Report: The State of Small Business Influencer Marketing

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The influencer marketing industry is on track to be worth up to $15 billion by 2022, up from as much as $8 billion in 2019, according to Business Insider Intelligence. With 2020 rapidly coming to a close, it’s time to think about the year ahead and how we can best prepare for a richer influencer ecosystem. 

Together with Social Media Week, we collected survey responses from over 100 global marketers to better understand what to expect as we head into 2021 and how brands are preparing their teams and strategies. 

Here are some of the main takeaways from our trends report:


As far as their major pain points were concerned, two were common reported: “Finding the Right Influencers” and “Measuring ROI”. Not closely behind, just under half (38%) claimed that managing influencers across the process is difficult and a pain point they struggle with.

Brands may start leveraging every global influencer agency to solve for some of these challenges. As more platforms, features, and potential strategies continue to emerge the challenges around finding the right influencers, measuring ROI, and managing influencer engagements will increase. This will make it increasingly difficult for in-house teams to compete with outsourced agencies that are able to access data, expertise, and insights across the various influencers and platforms due to their scale.


Many marketers appear to be taking off the training wheels in 2021, as we see 20% of our respondents expecting to increase campaign frequency to six or more campaigns in 2021 that were previously doing only 1-5. We believe more marketers will make a commitment to having influencers activated throughout the year as part of a more holistic approach to digital transformation.


COVID-19 negatively impacted a variety of industries in 2020. As we look ahead, 15% of respondents see their influencer marketing budgets increasing by 20% or more in 2021. While we are still facing uncertainty, most CMOs are optimistic about spending in 2021. As we set our sights on next year, there is an opportunity to optimize around agility in a way which will maximize our impact in 2021 including speeding up the planning cycles, investing in the tools to track outcomes, create contingency budgets, and determine what makes certain activities more critical than others.


The majority of respondents report using paid social in their influencer marketing strategies. By bringing a paid approach into the mix, brands can leverage an influencers’ likeness and trust to target the exact audience they want to reach with the right message, through the right channel, and at the right time. Put simply, don’t overlook the hyper-targeting capability.


Respondents rate influencer marketing as most effective for ‘Building Brand Awareness’ and ‘Communicating Brand Purpose,’ with the former leading the way as 60% of respondents cited it as ‘Effective’ or ‘Very Effective. It’s true that in the past, influencer marketing was mostly focused on driving top-of-funnel results including awareness, impressions, and engagement. With recent advancements, however, we believe brands will be focusing more on bottom funnel.


Instagram remains the top dog as the go-to platform for running a productive Instagram influencer agency. Facebook is the second most popular platform to use followed by YouTube. Roughly 15% of respondents picked TikTok as the third most used platform for influencer marketing compared to 22% for YouTube.

The pandemic served as major fuel for TikTok’s new user growth. For context, it became the most downloaded non-game app worldwide during March 2020 with more than 115.2 million installs. There’s still a lot to learn with respect to TikTok influencer marketing, but it is a great opportunity for brands to explore uncharted territory. 


While Image/Text posts still dominate the majority of influencer campaign formats, video now represents 39% of the format share from our respondents. 2021 may represent the seminal shift in format where video finally becomes the normal and expected format for influencers to use. Short-form video / stories format changed the game. Compared to other forms of content, bite-sized videos require relatively less production cost and effort, making this format a great option for brands looking to connect with audiences in an authentic way.


Engagement (48%) and conversions (44%) still take the cake as ‘Very Important,’ to our responding marketers. However, with recent advancements like Facebook shops and TikTok’s recent partnership with Shopify, we will likely experience some noticeable shifts in how success is measured by marketers. The natural convergence of an influencer company into a social commerce agency presents new challenges and opportunities for brands and is turning influencers into gatekeepers, connecting brands with online shoppers who rely on recommendations from trusted sources.


When planning for 2021, more than half (69%) of respondents thought it was “Important” or “Very Important” to have more diversity with their influencer base, which is similar to respondents’ sentiment for 2020 (68%).

Want to learn more about the upcoming 2021 trends in influencer marketing? Download the full report here