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Man holding a sneaker in front of camera making a influencer marketing video blog

While the second half of 2021 is up in the air with the recent “Delta Variant” of COVID-19, the first half of the year saw the transition back to what most would consider, normal. Businesses started to open their doors to ½ – full capacity, gyms and movie theaters welcomed customers back, and businesses started to increase their advertising spend. With 2020 seeing a major decline in money spent on media budgets, influencer marketing was initially hit hard in Q1 & Q2 seeing, but saw an uptick in spend in Q3 & Q4 according to influencermarketinghub.com. A quick definition of influencer marketing from an earlier blog on www.a3media.com, influencer marketing is a type of social media marketing that uses endorsements and product mentions from influencers–individuals who have a dedicated social following and are viewed as experts. This doesn’t immediately raise a red flag that it would be affected, but campaigns that are promoting center events, store openings, vacations, anything related to being there physical in person was affected. What saw great success where industries that focused on home improvement, home fitness, and cooking. With 2021 slowly inching back to pre-COVID days, let’s look to see if influencer marketing followed 2020’s Q3 & Q4 bounce back.

Prior to getting into 2021, lets recap campaigns throughout 2020 influencer marketing across the US. As previously stated, Q1 & Q2 were hit hard. By the end of 2019, Q4 saw influencer marketing rise to 2,110 campaigns across the US, a number that rose each quarter, but 2020 saw that number decrease to 1,945 in Q1 and then to 1,575 in Q2. As the year progressed, the change in momentum happened, and Q3 saw the number of campaigns rise to 2,163, and Q4 ended with 2,901. A massive increase from Q2 to Q4 with the year ending. Why this move, people started to adapt to the new norm, and industries, such as home fitness, saw a massive increase in sales and businesses took full advantage.

With the number of campaigns increasing in the second half of 2020, the projections for 2021 followed suite, with a 30% growth projected at $3+ billion spent in 2021, and early reports of $4+ billion in 2022 according to emarketer.com. One industry that has a lot to do with the increase in money & campaigns is the travel industry, who over the past few years have relied heavily on influencer marketing. Over 2020, the travel industry lost 1.3 trillion dollars in export revenue worldwide, so as destinations open their doors back to tourists, it made sense for them to utilize influencer marketing to promote traveling. What is key for the travel industry is to build trust, while people are getting stir crazy and are loosely planning trips with loved ones, a large concern was/is still getting sick. Destinations & hotels need to highlight the measures they’re taking to keep their visitors safe. By highlighting the measures they’re taking, it gives the customer a sense of relief that if they decide to follow through with their trip, they can do it safely.

2021 has been a strong year for influencer marketing and is poised to finish out the year strong and reach its projection of $3+ billion dollars, but as we have come to be familiar with, 2021 could finish the year differently. The increased risk of the “Delta Variant” has the chance to alter some of these projections, but if industries & business remain open, we should not see a hit to influencer marketing. The industry made it out of 2020 alive and saw 2021 continue to grow, with projections of 2022 to be even bigger. Influencer marketing post COVID proved to still be a viable option even with an early hiccup in 2020, as long as industries continue to adapt, businesses & agencies will continue to spend money.

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When we first signed Flying Fish Brewing as a client, we were tasked to help build brand awareness in the markets that sold their beer. As a media agency, our brains instantly started turning, thinking of ways to incorporate traditional, digital, and other forms of media to reach their current audience about the exciting new products they would be releasing, but most importantly reach a new audience that might not be as familiar with their portfolio of beer. A South Jersey staple, Flying Fish has been in business for over 20 years, but much like any company, they wanted to continue to grow their sales while staying true to themselves.

One of the fastest growing and most exciting forms of media is influencer marketing. A simple definition from Sprout Social:

Influencer marketing is a type of social media marketing that uses endorsements and product mentions from influencers–individuals who have a dedicated social following and are viewed as experts.

My idea was to utilize influencer marketing in the local markets that sold Flying Fish’s beer to help grow the brand. My plan was to identify local influencers throughout the Philadelphia DMA and New Jersey, send them some Flying Fish “swag” and the variety pack of beer that was in new packaging. The influencers would then create their own content to post on Instagram & post reviews of their favorite beer to their Instagram stories.

There are two options when building out an influencer campaign, use a managed service (pay to have the campaign set up for you, you only supply the parameters) or a self-serve campaign (you are in control start to finish). We went with the self-serve approach and used a platform to identify the influencers in the markets we wanted to hit. The hardest part with the campaign was combing through all the influencers to find the right ones to represent the brand. Some things to keep in mind are where in the US are most of the followers, do they have a large % of fake/bot followers, and what type of content do they regularly post. An influencer may have 10k followers, but if 9k of them are not in your target market or 50% of those followers are fake, it may be best to look elsewhere. We were able to find 30+ influencers throughout our markets that had a following that ranged between 2k – 10k followers, with previous content that we felt would best pair with ours and made a deal for 2 IG posts 3-4 weeks apart, with 3-4 corresponding IG stories when they posted on their pages.

Since this was strictly a brand awareness campaign, our main focus was to just grow the name Flying Fish Brewing in these markets. A3 media incorporated other forms of media for Flying Fish’s overall campaign, that included: Out-of-Home (billboards), radio ads, and other various digital elements. By combining these elements, giving Flying Fish a layered approach, they were able to see an increase not only in sales, (28% overall) but as well as on their social media platforms with engagements and follower counts.

As the media landscape continues to change throughout the years, I believe that influencer marketing is going to continue to grow and take a larger stake in brands/agencies media budgets in the future. The key is how you approach the campaign, and what the key objectives and goals are for the campaign. With our first Flying Fish campaign, we were strictly focusing on brand awareness, to grow the name. In the future, they may run a special sale/a contest/or want the campaign to drive a specific objective, which would change the approach of the campaign. Then, we would utilize specific links in the post, creative that ties to that theme, or need to see foot traffic in a specific location. Whatever the goals may be, the key takeaways I took from our campaign was be open and transparent with the influencers and adjust to different personalities and creative styles. Ultimately, you want this to be more of a partnership than them working for you, which I think can only help the creative process and any future products. With different personalities and creative styles, not one influencer is the same as the next, while they may post about similar products their style of content/picture/wording may be different and having a wide variety will only help your campaign. Influencer marketing works – you just need the right approach.