Almost two-thirds of marketers believe influencer content adequately represents diversity in society, yet fewer than a third of consumers agree, according to a new study from Takumi.
The research into the current landscape and future outlook for influencer marketing highlights a maturing relationship between creators and brands, but also raises issues around trust, ethics and transparency.
Delving into the views of more than 3,000 brands, influencers and consumers across the UK and US, Takumi’s white paper Influencer Marketing in the Post-pandemic Era, found seven out of 10 marketers were more likely to use influencers in their campaigns post-pandemic.
Diversity perception mismatch
However, less than a third of consumers (28%) believed branded influencer content accurately represented diversity, compared with the 62% of marketers who were confident in their campaign’s diversity and inclusion credentials.
UK creator Juliet Uzor said: “To improve diversity and inclusion, the changes can only come from brand decision-makers.
“Members of the public need to be exposed to seeing people from all types of backgrounds, abilities, sizes and dispositions on their devices so it becomes a norm.”
There was a similar disconnect between consumers and marketers around the representation of marginalised or underrepresented communities in influencer content, the study found.
Just 30% of UK and US consumers believed influencer marketing content better represented marginalised or underrepresented communities than traditional brand-owned channels, rising to 40% among 16- to 24-year-olds and 44% among 25- to 34-year-olds.
This contrasted with the two-thirds of marketers (67%) who believed that influencer marketing content better represented marginalised or underrepresented communities than more traditional brand channels, rising to 68% among US marketers.
Sara Joy Madsen, managing director of Takumi, said: “The influencer marketing industry has come a long way on diversity and inclusion over the past few years, but there is always room for improvement.
“In the future, agencies should establish diverse teams, introduce equal and fair pay for Bipoc (black, indigenous and people of colour) influencers and look to improve the profile of creators with disabilities.
“Diversity and inclusion must be at the heart of any conversation between brands, agencies and influencers in an authentic way.”
Pandemic boosts influencer marketing
The study found the pandemic has pushed more brands to explore influencer marketing, as opportunities through channels such as print and OOH decreased.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, 70% of marketers were now more likely to use creators in brand campaigns, while 69% said influencer marketing budgets have grown as a share of their overall marketing budget.
The research also showed 59% of marketers were using more ecommerce tools in their influencer marketing activity compared with 2020, improving the links between activity and revenue.
Notably, the effectiveness of influencer marketing when it comes to conversion also increased among older generations of consumers, rising from 57% among 16- to 24-year-olds and 25- to 34-year-olds to 61% among 35- to 44-year-olds.
When compared with 2019, there was also an increase in conversions among the oldest generations – with rates almost doubling among those over 55 from 13% in 2019 to 24% in 2021.
YouTube most effective channel
YouTube was the most effective channel when it came to engagement, Takumi found, with 56% of UK and US consumers engaging more with the platform since the start of the pandemic.
YouTube was followed by Instagram (48%), TikTok (37%), Snapchat (32%), Pinterest (29%), Twitch (26%) and Triller (21%).
Jim Meadows, chief strategy officer at Takumi, added: “Like pretty much everything else, the influencer marketing industry has been completely changed by the pandemic.
“Fuelled by a rise in consumer engagement, our research reveals that branded content, engagement and consumer spending is growing across a range of channels and sectors.
“As consumers engage more with creators’ content and marketers become more familiar with it, their confidence in the channel grows. Older generations of social media users are showing a substantial growth in engagement and spending to match younger consumers.
“At the same time, marketers are showing faith in influencer marketing as they shift budgets away from more traditional channels and invest in influencer marketing after seeing the channel convert into sales.
“However, as it matures, the influencer marketing industry faces challenges to its current growth trajectory. If it can address issues around diversity and inclusion, and trust and transparency, the future looks bright for influencer marketing as it continues to cement its position as the most effective marketing channel.”