2021 was a banner year for all things influencer marketing. From increased creator monetization opportunities to more attention on fair pay and industry equity, it’s safe to say that content creators and influencers aren’t going anywhere. Speaking of which, did you hear the good news? Mavrck announced a $120 million investment from Summit Partners. There’s never been a better time to join our growing team of curious hustlers. Check out our open positions here.
It truly is an era for the books, and it’s hard to believe that such growth and change was jam-packed into one calendar year. So, let’s take a look at 2021’s top trends and reflect on how far we’ve come.
1. More Monetization Opportunities For Creators
Now more than ever there are more ways for creators to make bank. From social platforms opening new monetization methods to creator channels functioning as digital storefronts—more collabs = more wealth (and possibly an emerging creator middle class).
- (Anything You Need) You Can Find At The Digital Market: Influencers are functioning as digital storefronts with help from brand collaborations that push consumer traffic to buy from them via in-app purchasing. Add-ons like Linktree and Linkin.bio help creators develop targeted landing pages to sell various products.
- Meta, Do You Copy?: Facebook changed its name to Meta to capitalize on the emerging metaverse amid the growing Web 3.0 era. Plans to launch brick and mortar stores will make way for opportunities to partner with creators to promote or be featured in-store for product promotions. And if that’s not enough, Meta launched a massive $1 billion creator fund. Yes, with a B.
- Platforms Are All- in: Twitter announced paid subscriptions with Twitter Blue and Super Follows; YouTube Shorts raised $100M to support short-form creator content distributed over 2021-22; TikTok’s creator fund and Creator Next programs prioritized creator monetization and are poised to attract even more creators than before—which means more content for us. Plus, external link features for Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, and more made it easier than ever for creators to earn passive income from affiliate marketing gigs.
- TikTok’s Big Year: TikTok’s Shopify partnership allowed merchants to drive customers to their online storefront via organic content. TikTok’s focus on paid media was reinforced by TikTok Spark Ads, which took center stage in 2021, along with live streaming opportunities that may have inspired some serious revamps on other platforms (*cough* Pinterest). Then there’s the iconic Creator Marketplace that quite simply…well, does the most.
2. Cryptocurrency And Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) Are On The Brain
The metaverse is at the forefront of the crypto/NFT frontier because of the unique opportunity for creator and brand collabs. Cryptocurrency is poised to muscle its way into a major revenue stream and currency norm backed by the likes of digital art trading with NFTs.
- Talk Foodie To Me: Brands like Taco Bell and Coca-Cola got involved in NFT creating, selling, and trading.
- Don’t Call It A ‘Nifty’: Creators have jumped on the bandwagon and we predict that NFTs are going to be as common as showing up in the form of influencer-created merch. As cryptocurrency gains traction, it seems that its growth points to a surge in both buying/selling in a push towards a crypto-driven world.
- I Spy A Changemaker: Meta saw crypto as a way to give businesses equal opportunities to grow their audiences, so they allowed crypto companies to advertise on their platforms without written permission.
- Oh Yeah, That Was This Year!: We’d be remiss not to mention the GameStop thing, a.k.a social proof at work. Remember when the WallStreetBets Reddit page turned Wall Street upside-down? Good times.
3. Competing Short-Form Content Is Coming For TikTok
That’s right—short-form storytelling isn’t just for TikTok anymore. The viral hitmaker is getting some new competition as more platforms debut their own features that some would say are better, faster, and stronger.
- It’s The Remix: Instagram’s upgraded Reels lends itself to more a TikTok-like format and timing, including a Remix feature reminiscent of TikTok’s duets. It’s the latest move that positions Instagram as a more viable entertainment and video platform as opposed to a platform dedicated strictly to static images.
- Show Me The Money: YouTube launched YouTube Shorts, their newest short-form content platform, and made a splash by offering creators paid incentives through their creator fund. To date, it’s paid out over $30 billion to Short-makers.
- Alphabet’s Good Soup: Google expands on carousel content that promotes short-form videos on their search discovery page, giving more attention to relevant video content that searchers may find helpful.
4. Social Platforms Take Action Against Security Threats
With digital threats and online bullying on the rise, social platforms like Instagram and TikTok are taking action to protect users. Plus, Meta deals with the aftermath of their October server crash.
- Safe Searching: Instagram instituted new security settings that allow users to control the sensitive content they see. They also issued content warnings and pop-ups that target those whose mental health is perceived to be in danger, and prompt action to help the user. Twitter cut down on misinformation spreading by instituting a fact-checking bot that reduces the spread of falsehoods.
- Protecting Our Future: TikTok is tightening its belt on content that violates its community guidelines to protect its young demographic. They also removed 7 million underage accounts in an effort to curb exposing young users to mature content and potential cyber abuse.
- Twitter’s Aviary: Twitter introduced Birdwatch, “a community-based approach to misinformation.” This feature allows users to report content that they believe is misleading or harmful to the public, along with notes on their concerns.
- Ground Control To Major Tom: Meta encountered a major outage that prevented users from accessing Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp for nearly a day. It prompted discussion on fail-safes to prevent code deletion and also opened up a bigger conversation on cyber security risks. The outage came after The Wall Street Journal’s groundbreaking investigative series came to full light, which held Meta accountable for failing to limit problematic content from the platform.
5. School’s In Session For Creators
TikTok announced a new creator portal that shares educational resources for getting started in the world of TikTok.
- Take A Look; It’s In A Book (Er, Portal): TikTok is promoting creator education with classes on content creation essentials, content strategy, connecting with audiences, community guidelines, and how to monetize.
- Top Of The Class: Other social platforms are following suit with start-up guides that give anyone—not just content creators—access to resources that help them learn and start their content creation hustle (and beyond). Take Meta Blueprint, for example, which offers free online training on a variety of topics, from paid advertising to e-commerce and more.
- Google It: Google For Creators is a new platform that helps creators maximize their strategies with high-level educational content. It’s Google’s way to help creators take their careers to the next level
- LinkedIn Is A Creator Hub: In a move to make LinkedIn more creator-friendly, the professionally-minded platform acquired video tutorial app Jumprope to help prioritize knowledge sharing and education.
6. TikTok Crosses Into The Real World
No, this isn’t the matrix. TikTok is bleeding into real life with more partnerships that activate TikTokers across new industries—including film.
- All The World’s A Stage: TikTok became a regular Broadway show when a completely crowdsourced production of ‘Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical’ went viral, complete with the likes of powerhouses Wayne Brady, Titus Burgess, and Adam Lambert.
- Oh, What A Night: Influencers were invited to the Met Gala in a move that takes internet stardom to the next level and ushers in a new type of celebrity. Is it a coincidence that Instagram and Facebook ‘sponsored’ the event? Nahhh.
- She’s A Star: Addison Rae, the third-most-followed TikToker and current Hype House member, landed a starring role in a new Netflix teen movie ‘He’s All That’ (yes, a retelling of THAT iconic 90s movie). Now, Netflix is investing in a multi-picture deal with Rae.
- A Picture’s Worth: Many longtime fans know David Dobrik as the creator to watch on now-defunct Vine (RIP), and now a wildly successful YouTuber and TikTok pro. He launched his own social platform and photo-sharing app, Dispo. The app boasts a raw aesthetic that mimics the viewfinder and photo quality of disposable cameras. That’s right—that means the images are edit-free. It’s a caption-free app, which means no creator monetization…for now.
7. College Athletes Win With New NIL Laws
In July 2021, college athletes won the right to promote their name, image, and likeness (NIL) and be paid for brand partnership opportunities. Spoiler alert: they didn’t throw away their shot.
- Let’s Make A Deal: Since then, hordes of college athletes have scored major brand collaboration deals with supportive companies that championed their right to earn. Champs, Nike, Adidas, and more are crushing it with their college athlete collabs. This comes after years of heated debate on whether college athletes should be compensated, with supporters criticizing high salaries for the coaching staff while students see no profit.
- Stepping Up To The Plate: New companies are emerging as experts in the NIL space and are ready to sign athletes to help them grow their brand. This presents the possibility for a new industry to grow for companies that are offering NIL counseling and compliance support, with projections for these brands tracking toward $100 million this year.
- Reaching Gen Z: Sports organizations are leveraging influencers to reach younger audiences. With studies showing that Gen Z identifies as sports fans less than other generations, sports organizations and teams are leaning into influencer marketing to connect with a younger audience.
- I Haven’t Been To The Movies In Forever: The new film “National Champions” dramatizes college athletes’ fight for fair pay. This is yet another narrative supporting young athletes, new opportunities for them, and how they got there.
8. Creators Demand Fair Pay
After years of anecdotal evidence by creators showcasing brands’ attempts to undercut compensation, especially for BIPOC creators, the fight has gone uber public.
- This Is Not A Drill: Adesuwa Ajayi’s @influencerpaygap Instagram account and web-based platform “F*** You Pay Me” features creator submissions sharing their compensation for various partnerships. This public discussion holds brands accountable for how they work with and pay creators.
- Join The Fight Or Get Left Behind: Creator empowerment is forcing brands to be competitive. Creator unions are rising as corporate advocates for equitable pay and proper protections—and we predict that they’ll become an industry standard before long.
- All In This Together: Micro-influencers and nano-influencers are the most affected by the gap, even though brands are more likely to get the best return by partnering with influencers that have a smaller, yet more targeted demographic.
- Pay Should Be Fair: Follower count aside, it’s clear that black creators are paid less than their white peers. And while male influencers create just 31% of branded and partnered content (based on a survey of 1,600 creators), they still earn more than more viable female creators.
9. In-App Shop Till You Drop
E-commerce just keeps growing. COVID-19 shifted commerce to the interwebs as stores faced staff and product shortages. As brands pivoted to creator-driven content, so did social platforms, with upgrades to support in-app shopping. Worldwide retail e-commerce sales, already a top industry, is now forecasted to hit over $4 trillion this year according to Statista.
- No Swipes For You: Instagram link stickers, now available to all accounts, allow anyone to share external URLs, making affiliate marketing a viable path for anyone. In other Instagram news, a stronger e-commerce push encouraged Instagram to launch a 10 Days of Live Shopping event that paired influencers and top brands like a fine wine to entice consumers to shop on the platform.
- Let Me Upgrade Ya: Pinterest’s new Idea Pins, Pinterest TV debut, and Shopify partnership is a win for creators looking to sell their own products to enthusiastic live viewers.
- She Wants Fabulous: Shopify’s numerous partnerships with TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and more, enable fast, secure purchases without even leaving the apps. Plus, Instagram and Facebook let shoppers make purchases from direct message exchanges—no checkout page required.
10. The Social Audio Resurgence
Music and podcast lovers rejoice! Audio is coming back and is integrating more closely with social media and creator content.
- TikTok On The Clock: They’re going audio. Exclusive audio experiences like SiriusXM’s TikTok Radio channel, functioning as a musical “For You” page, takes TikTok into new mediums. Pandora, similarly, is curating a series of creator-driven playlists with influencers like Bella Poarch.
- Part Of The Club: Clubhouse partner Audio Collective emerged to help businesses and audio creators make a splash in the social world, pushing connection and authenticity in an alternative channel to podcasts.
- Shopify and Spotify are Best Buds: Shopify already powers so many performers’ online stores. So a question was asked: why not team up with Spotify and empower artists to grow their brand through their streamable music? Thus: performers will now be able to link their Shopify stores directly to their Spotify pages.
- Apple Of My Eye: Apple and Spotify are both offering paid podcast subscription services with one key difference: Spotify does not plan to take a cut from their podcasts, whereas Apple wants a piece of the pie for themselves.
That’s a wrap.
That’s what rocked our world in 2021. Can you believe that all this and more happened in the span of just one calendar year? We could use a power nap…or ten.
Wonder what’s coming in 2022? We have some ideas about just how wild things will get. Get ahead of the curve with our 2022 influencer marketing predictions guide. Cheers to the new year!