2021 Trends: Reliable Idols

Thought Leadership
Lore Oxford

In November, we launched our annual trends report – Think Forward 2021: The Social Reset. It features the six key trends that we expect to shape social media over the next 12 months. This post looks at the fourth trend covered in the report: Reliable Idols. For more, check out the full Think Forward report here.

Recent years have seen a rising backlash against traditional influencers, and in 2020, they’re under even greater scrutiny. Between creators breaking stay-at-home orders and tone-deaf aspirational content, people are holding influential figures accountable.

As a result, a growing emphasis is being placed on the tangible value public figures can bring to our feeds and our lives. Audiences aren’t unfollowing beautiful people, but they are wanting them to be more than a pretty face, expecting them to give up their platforms for important issues.

For macro-influencers who’ve already grown sizeable followings via the allure of beauty, success and luxury, this is about demonstrating integrity, accountability and a desire to wield the disproportionate influence they hold over global communities responsibly.

The Behavioural Change
People are looking to influencers they trust to demystify complex issues. This creates new opportunities for brands in ‘unsexy’ industries looking to demystify their services.

People are following respected experts for free access to knowledge. These experts are using social platforms to democratise knowledge people traditionally paid for. Healthcare professionals are thriving on social platforms, from OB/GYNs to plastic surgeons to therapists.

People expect influential figures to give up their platforms for important issues. There has become an expectation that people with a platform should use it, when necessary, to benefit society. It’s why Kim Kardashian and Leonardo DiCaprio staged a 24-hour Instagram boycott alongside Stop Hate For Profit.

How can brands use it?
Influencer strategies should ensure there’s an alignment on the values and beliefs of those who advocate for them. To gain traction with audiences, brands need to be learning from, and emulating the behaviours of, this new wave of influencers.

Brands should be harnessing expert voice to address important issues. Chipotle collaborated with Queer Eye star Karamo for a Pride ‘Lunch & Listen’ on TikTok. Brands should also be tapping into their own internal experts to evoke authority and inspire trust.

Brands should be vetting creators to assess their integrity. In this landscape, the influencers brands work with will increasingly serve as shorthand for the kinds of values the brand itself upholds.

Chipotle collaborated with Queer Eye star Karamo for a Pride ‘Lunch & Listen’ on TikTok.

Read about Reliable Idols and five more trends for 2021 in Think Forward 2021. The full report is available to download now.