Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The state of play: influencer marketing in 2020

By Mary Keane-Dawson, Group CEO, TAKUMI

The landscape of the influencer marketing industry has rapidly evolved since its emergence as a competitor for brand advertising spend in the last few years. However, the last twelve months have seen an immeasurable industry shift, even before COVID-19 flipped the world on its head. 

In 2019, TAKUMI surveyed nearly 4,000 influencers, marketers and consumers across the UK, US, and Germany to better understand their perceptions of influencer marketing on Instagram. Our whitepaper, ‘Trust, transaction and trendsetters, the realities of influencer marketing’, uncovered significant findings across four key themes: legislation, influence & trust, authenticity, and creativity & control.

Fast forward only a year – TikTok has exploded onto the scene and rapidly claimed the crown of world’s most downloaded app, Instagram has experienced unprecedented amounts of regulatory change and YouTube has celebrated its fifteenth birthday. We wanted our latest whitepaper to garner insights from the UK, US and Germany on these three influencer marketing platforms, providing a holistic overview of the global influencer marketing industry.

Some consumers trust influencers more than friends

Trusted reviews of products and services are essential for brand ROI. Our research shows consumers frequently turn to influencers in order to make a call on important purchases. Influencers working on legacy platform YouTube were trusted by 28% of respondents, while 22% trust Instagram influencers falling to 15% on TikTok.

Influencers using both YouTube and TikTok fared well compared with more traditional brand endorsements, with 37% of 16-44-year-olds agreeing they were more likely to trust a YouTube influencer versus high-profile figures or celebrities. On TikTok, nearly a quarter (23%) of the same age group agreed they were more likely to trust an influencer’s recommendation over a friend.

Our research demonstrates how important building consumer trust is to convert sales, with YouTube the most trusted and most likely platform to generate purchases. Over a quarter (27%) of consumers agreed that they had been influenced to purchase a service or product as a result of influencers on the platform in the last six months. We saw a similar trend on Instagram, with 24% of consumers driven to purchase following influencer endorsement. While 15% of TikTok users overall said they had been influenced to purchase as a result of an influencer, this increased to 23% in the 16-44 age group – demonstrating various demographic interaction with each platform. 

Aspiration, escapism, influence: the what’s what of multi-platform influencer marketing

When comparing consumer perceptions of the different channels, a similar theme emerged across all markets, with TikTok considered more creative, escapist and entertaining than Instagram. Meanwhile, Instagram was perceived as more aspirational, informative and user-friendly.

As one of the more mature social media platforms, having had time to establish itself firmly within the consumer mindset, YouTube was ranked highest across each of these characteristics. However, marketers showed less enthusiasm in their thoughts of the video-sharing platform, as 83% favoured Instagram as the most informative channel and over 60% of marketers perceive TikTok as the most creative and the most entertaining channel.

Concern around disingenuous endorsements remains high

Two factors remain key drivers when delivering ROI through influencer marketing campaigns when generating trust among consumers: regulation and an authentic brand and influencer voice. However, our latest research revealed that consumers’ concerns have largely been alleviated since our 2019 whitepaper was released.

Almost half of UK and US consumers at 44% had “no main concerns” about influencers using TikTok, rising to 48% with regards to influencers on YouTube. This is a drastic improvement from last year’s consumer survey, which saw only 20% of US and UK consumer respondents claiming they had no general concerns towards influencers.

This improvement is likely a result of increased and improved regulation from governments, industry bodies and the platforms themselves. Clarity in this legislation has been paramount for both influencers and marketers in order to ensure compliance across the board.

Influencer marketing – the road ahead

Influencer marketing has firmly cemented its position as a key player in the marketing sphere. The industry is embracing diverse activity across a number of platforms. The last year has seen a significant move towards delivering increased authenticity, more refined legislation and notably the positioning of influencers as executive creative directors who are part of the narrative-building process, not just another advertising channel. In 2020 and beyond, influencers will continue to assert themselves as sector experts, providing brands with tailored consultation on the different formats and audiences across TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

The trends uncovered in our latest whitepaper offer promising evidence for the future of influencer marketing. Creator content is beginning to build more trust with consumers than traditional celebrity endorsements. This should give brands confidence and empower influencers to produce even more creative and authentic content.