The year is 2000; only half of all adults in the United States used the internet compared to 84 percent today. Having a blog was still exciting, and those with the ability to produce entertaining content could gain a following. Bloggers shared things just because they liked them at first, but companies quickly saw an opportunity.

Influencer marketing was transformed with the emergence of social media, particularly Instagram, in 2010, which created a platform with unparalleled scope and accessibility. As a result, Instagram influencers who were among the first to use the platform gained large, devoted followings.

Instagram’s user base exploded in the following years, from 100 million in 2013 to over a billion today; as the site has grown, so has influencer marketing.

During this period, celebrities on social media became the norm, making them more accessible to their fans than ever before. According to market research, people were more likely to trust an influencer than a celebrity or a brand, but that didn’t mean they weren’t influenced by the products their favorite singers, actors, and models used.

By the end of the decade, 86% of businesses had set aside a portion of their marketing budget for influencer marketing. In addition, users on social media were accustomed to seeing sponsored content and often sought it out to identify products they might enjoy.

What About Now?

Today, many consumers realize that influencers aren’t always genuine product users; they’re hired spokespeople who push things on social media instead of in a traditional television ad. As a result, influencers are frequently viewed as inauthentic. Many consumers are also turned off by what they perceive to be influencers’ exaggerated luxury lifestyles, which do not correspond to their own lives and experiences.

While many influencers are committed to portraying genuine and pleasant online identities, some questionable activities, such as Logan Paul or James Charles, have harmed the credibility of influencer marketing in general. Aside from that, some influencers’ affluent lifestyles have been exposed as façade, like posing by a tropical beach when they are really at home in their backyard. In addition, some influencers have also been known to buy fake followers and engagement to boost their marketability. Despite what sounds like the downfall of social influencer marketing, it is still an effective strategy; it just looks a little different.

What Influencer Marketing Looks Like Today

Influencer culture has evolved, and things no longer look the same as they did in the early days of social media or even a year or two ago. Consumers are smarter, and influencer marketing has moved further away from traditional advertising, where firms were the experts and consumers were deemed easily manipulated.

Transparency has become the standard. Influencers typically include a #ad hashtag in their sponsored posts, and don’t worry that it will turn off followers. The #ad hashtag is now perceived as a status symbol, and wannabe influencers frequently include it in postings even when they aren’t being paid to appear more popular than they are. It also is a way for influencers to be completely transparent with their followers to gain more respect.

The trend of everyday influencers is still going strong. While marketers will always use celebrities with large followings, consumers feel more connected to average individuals whose content is more honest and relatable, even if it is sponsored.

TikTok’s launch in early 2020 welcomed a flood of creative content from normal people and owing to an algorithm that doesn’t place a premium on follower numbers, content goes viral because it resonates with people, not just because it has a bigger platform.

Because of the savvier consumer base and expansion of the tools and scope of social media and creative outlets, companies have shifted toward focusing on micro- and nano-influencers who have a more connected audience base.

Although micro- and nano-influencers have fewer followers, they are more likely to appear genuine and provide content that converts potential buyers. They make better use of emotional marketing and present a story customers can relate to. This makes followers want to learn more since the influencers are more connected with their followers.

Social media influencer marketing is still on the rise in 2021, but it has evolved significantly since its debut a decade ago. Working to get the most followers or looking for influencer partners based on the number of followers they have is not a good strategy.

Instead, organizations and influencers that focus on true, high-quality content that isn’t designed for the masses but resonates well with target audiences are having the most success, a trend that is certain to continue as social media content becomes increasingly personalized to the user.

Now that you understand what social influencer marketing looks like in 2021, we also need to talk about how your business can get these influencers to notice you without simply asking them to be a paid promoter.

Remember that influencer marketing is focused on authenticity and genuine relationships, so you need to put in the time and effort to make sure you are getting noticed by the right people for the right reasons.

How to Get Noticed by Social Influencers

Getting noticed all begins with social networking. Follow your influencer and engage in helpful, friendly, and interesting interactions with them. Begin by reading the influencer’s posts and observing how they interact with others; simply get to know this individual.

You’ll discover more about the area of expertise as well as the best technique to foster a relationship once you know a little more about who this individual is and how they communicate. You can subtly attract the influencer’s attention by retweeting or sharing this person’s work or consistently commenting on their posts with smart, relevant comments.

You also have to remember that influencers are busy people, even if they don’t have millions of followers. If you begin your relationship by asking for a favor, you will almost surely be rejected. So instead of starting with a request, start with a meaningful contribution.

What is important to this influencer? What will pique their interest? This value provision could, for example, be as simple as sharing one of this person’s most recent posts or providing a powerful counterpoint that increases its exposure.

There are billions of social media users and hundreds of thousands of people competing for an influencer’s attention; what distinguishes you from the pack? Influencers won’t pay attention to you if you don’t stand out in any way. So, first, improve your online presence to stand out by showcasing your specialized market and products and then work on developing and promoting original, engaging content.

You also need to show respect to the influencers you are trying to get attention from. They are busy people and simply don’t have time to respond to every request. You’ll be significantly more likely to acquire their respect and admiration if you acknowledge this in your approach. Demanding attention, dismissing the worth of their time, or sending a generic advertisement request will drive influencers away faster than anything else.

Showing an influencer your brand’s value and their value to you opens the door for an authentic and effective influencer relationship.


Audiences are drawn to brands and influencers that produce genuine content. As a result, influencers are particularly adept at creating genuine content on behalf of the brands they care about. Even the finest influencers, though, will struggle to maintain authenticity if the relationship between the company and the influencer is awkward and artificial.

The more real you can be in your outreach to influencers, the better your relationship will flow throughout influencer marketing.

A global team of digerati with offices in Washington, D.C. and Southern California, we provide digital strategy, digital marketing, web design, and creative for brands you know and nonprofits you love.
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