17 Key Influencer Marketing Trends for 2022

Influencer marketing has become an integral part of the digital landscape for many brands. As the influencer marketing industry continues to grow in popularity, utility, and measurability, marketers are allocating more and more of their overall marketing spend to influencer campaigns. But our industry changes fast. Influencer marketing trends emerge, and before you know it, they are established, they mature, and they give way to new marketing trends.

At The Shelf, our creative strategists and content teams document the industry changes that happen in the influencer marketing space on a daily basis. First thing in the morning, we share news, developments, new platform features, and tech news in one of our Slack channels before cataloging those changes in a spreadsheet that we can all access. We know from experience that it’s not easy keeping up with the constant changes.

The end of the year is always action-packed for brands, marketers, and many influencers. As you focus on rolling out and optimizing your holiday influencer campaigns, you are simultaneously analyzing the results to inform your influencer marketing budget for next year.

Even as you zero in on what’s working for you now, it’s super important to keep up to date on changes happening across all the potential marketing channels on which you may post influencer content.

So, we’ve compiled a list of 17 key influencer marketing trends that will definitely impact your 2022 campaigns (and your creative assets and your influencer marketing budgets and the contracts and your ROI).

Let’s talk a bit about some of the features, content, technology, and user tendencies we anticipate will roll out and catch on in the next 18 months. Take a gander, comment below, hit us up on social, whatever. Let us know which influencer marketing trend is kinda your jam right now. These are the ones your influencer marketing team definitely needs to watch closely so you can be ready to pivot as needed.

#1: Brands will seek out podcast influencers.

Our first influencer marketing trend worth noting is that brands will make partnering with podcast influencers a priority.

Non-music audio has exploded as a format for consuming content. Notable growth happened during the global pandemic when work commutes vanished for months in 2020. As people flocked to podcasts to find content to keep them entertained and occupied during lockdowns, more influencers and content creators began adding audio as a medium for reaching their audiences.

Between 2017 and 2021,  the percentage of monthly podcast listeners among 12-to-34 years old grew from 27 percent to 49 percent. There are now more weekly podcast listeners than Netflix account holders. And podcast ad spend hit $800 million in 2020, but it’s expected to more than double to $1.7 billion by 2024.

Partnering with podcast influencers affords brands the chance to get their name and products in front of well-informed, high-income consumers, 94 percent of whom are active on at least one social media channel, and 54 percent of whom have thought about buying a product they hear promoted on a podcast.

Veritonic, an audio analytics platform, has added brand lift data to audio campaigns to help brands analyze the effectiveness of specific pieces of audio content. Veritonic’s move to build more robust measurement tools will drive tons more brands to create content and roll out partnerships on audio-only platforms.

As it relates to influencer marketing, running campaigns on Clubhouse became a common question for us this year. But other social media platforms are adding audio functionality, too. Twitter recently opened up hosting permission access to every Twitter use. Anyone with a Twitter account can now moderate their own Twitter Spaces audio chat.

With more brands marketing to audio listeners and better analytics tools available, brands will be able to know for sure if sponsoring podcasts with nano influencers delivers better brand awareness results than partnering with micro influencers or other influencers who have larger followings.

#2: Influencer contracts will get more nuanced.

One of the big events that happened in influencer marketing last year was that creators began holding public discourses about the hiring practices and pay equality issues in the influencer space. And it was brutal.

As brands scurried to instill good faith with influencers of color and save their products from being canceled (which REALLY became a thing last year), the dynamic between influencers and brands shifted permanently.

Fast forward one year and establishing those mutually-beneficial influencer partnerships takes more time, more vigorous influencer outreach, more money. It also requires more flexibility from brands, marketing teams, and influencer marketers. We’ve noticed influencers are more committed to ensuring they are paid what they are worth, which means influencer contracts have become far more nuanced than they were a year ago. This is true whether you’re partnering with micro and nano influencers or macro and celebrity influencers.

#3: Equality and inclusion are now requisite for campaigns.

This was referred to it as a Reckoning, which is appropo, we suppose. But diversity, equality, and inclusion are the new standard. Influencers and consumers are analyzing brands to make sure marketing messages, campaign creative, influencer partners, and even a brand’s employees and agencies of record are actively working to create inclusive cultures.

Last year, brands were taken to task by influencers who published the fees brands paid them as a way to shine a light on the pay inequalities that happen behind the scenes in the influencer industry. White influencers were consistently paid more for comparable work than Black influencers who had audiences of similar sizes.

Another Instagram-based campaign that served to spark tons of conversation around racial inequality was #ShareTheMicNow in which influencers of color took over the Instagram accounts of well-known White celebrities to reach larger audiences. Pretty epic.

#SharetheMic graphic influencer marketing trend


#4: More monetization opportunities for creators

We wish this post would have been published when we wrote it, a week ago because we’d look like geniuses right now. But we initially classified our fourth prediction as speculation. We thought it would be cool for platforms to start some sort of licensing program for creators, even if it’s just a buck or two, that allows choreographers to be paid for their creations every time someone tags a video with a challenge or dance they created.

This one is all about making sure ALL creators have a chance to reap tangible, financial benefits from their creative endeavors. You’ve probably already heard about the controversy that was sparked when Jimmy Fallon invited White TikToker Addison Rae onto his NBC late-night show to demonstrate all the most popular TikTok dances.

When none of the original creators of the challenges Rae demonstrated on network TV were mentioned or credited during the broadcast, Rae’s appearance sparked a conversation-debate-argument-rage monster around cultural appropriation. The Renegade Challenge, in particular, was the creation of Jalaiah Harmon, an African American teenager from Atlanta. Since being credited with the creation of the Renegade Challenge, Harmon has partnered with several large brands including Prada, and has been featured in Teen Vogue, The New York Times, Oprah Daily, CNN, ABC, and a host of media outlets who were finally paying attention.

Both Twitter and TikTok have announced low-cost subscription capabilities for creators who want to offer their followers access to exclusive content. The monthly subscriptions would range from $2 to $10 a month and provide creators with the chance to put up paywalls for some of their content.

We like our idea better, but this is a start.

#5: Live shopping will become a regular part of social commerce and the influencer marketing campaign.

This is an influencer marketing trend we’ve seen really taking hold in recent years. In fact, we’ve created posts around social commerce and content 100% shoppable. Social media platforms are pushing for QVC-styled live shopping experiences. Both Facebook and Instagram rolled out live shopping features this year designed to streamline and boost social commerce.

Amazon and Pinterest offer similar features that allow brands to partner with influencers who are great at creating engaging live streams. This has to be one of our favorite influencer marketing trends, and definitely one with the most immediate impact on influencer marketing campaign ROI.

Amazon Live Streams


#6: Using real-time posts and live content as community builders.

Beyond just shopping, consumers are searching for more content in real-time, not just pre-recorded content. We talked about this a bit in our post on YouTube user trends. Pandemic-fueled lockdowns gave rise to live video content in which viewers were urged to participate in synchronized activities. We’re talking about everything from studying with the Lo-Fi girl to watching concerts to family game nights, and even things like weekly worship services.

Influencers have been going live on YouTube and Facebook for a while. TikTok recently added a new “LIVE” feature that allows users to live stream and interact with their followers’ comments/questions in real-time.

Pinterest TV is still relatively unused, but it’s popular among the foodies, gardening lovers, religious circles, and beauty influencers.

#7: Content creators will add longer versions of micro video content to their arsenal.

TikTok now offers its users to create videos up to 3 minutes in length. This is a huge shift from the 60-second max, quick-tempo speed that brought about the app’s popularity. But longer content allows users to share more in-depth entertainment and add a little depth to their storytelling.

Instagram has already made the switch to longer video content versus photo sharing and short clips. Instagram Stories are a clear example of this. Last week (October 19, 2021ish) it was revealed on Twitter that Instagram is working on longer stories. The current 60-second Stories format will no longer be broken up into 15-second segments.

#8: The focus on user experience will extend to social platforms.

We want it all, and we want it all in one place. Just this year, Instagram introduced out-of-the-box features that push the platform toward being a more all-encompassing app.

In August 2021 Insta added an “audio” feature that allows users to search, sample, and save songs to use in future content. Instagram also introduced a map search in September 2021. The map search serves as a business directory that allows users to find different businesses like restaurants, bars, event centers, coffee shops, etc.

When a business is selected, Instagram provides more information about that business such as pricing, hours, products/services, contact information, reviews, and more. The goal is to get users to spend more time on the app, and we totally expect other platforms to follow suit with similar capabilities.

#9: Brands will be zeroing in on optimizing their ecommerce functionalities.

Well, the data’s in, and despite being more comfortable with in-store shopping, consumers are still relying on e-commerce to meet their shopping needs. Take the 2021 winter holiday season, for example. This year, Deloitte projects that in-store spending will account for 33 percent of overall holiday shopping.

Over the past few years, more social platforms have added features that create seamless, new shopping experiences for consumers. Each user has a tailored algorithm to show them products that apply to their lifestyles. Products can also be tagged in posts, just like tagging people. These little tweaks make it easier than ever for consumers to find product information and purchase directly from the post. 

#10: Consumers will continue to prefer brands with a soul.

Just a little early 2000s vampire humor for you (specifically thinking about Angelus from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff, Angel). But for years, consumers have been increasingly picky about how they spend money and who they spend their money with. Nearly 7 in 10 consumers (68 percent) expect brands to be clear and vocal about their values, and 54 percent expect brands to take an active role in conversations around social issues.

As we saw last year, social media influencers possess remarkable sway when it comes to starting those important conversations, and brands that don’t demonstrate consistency between what they say, what they do, and how they behave internally (corporate culture) can quickly find themselves the subject of very public scrutiny.

From campaigns like #BLM and #MeToo, to personal activist accounts to advocate for the environment, key influencers have used their social media content to recruit people to their cause and affect significant change.

influencer marketing trends - gen z and brand loyalty

#11: More brands will leverage augmented reality in their influencer content and their influencer marketing campaigns.

Augmented reality has been a HUGE hit on social media. First, we saw filters on Snapchat. We’ve seen lenses that let you see how furniture looks in your apartment or change the color of your carpet. We’ve seen apps that show you how you’ll look in your 70s (very cool, very sobering, by the way).

screenshot of Target AR features

Most social media platforms have some version of augmented reality available to its users. Heck, you can even use iMessaging to communicate as different animals. Bonus: AR features have continually been improving in quality and have become more accessible.

As influencer marketing trends have evolved, so have the behavior and the expectations of consumers.

#12: Nonprofits relying on social media platforms to drive donations.

Another really cool influencer marketing trend is likely to be something most of us never really think about – social giving. But despite the global pandemic leading to an economic downturn, other events that happened in 2020 impacted donation trends in a positive way. If you spent any time on Instagram last year, you may have noticed all kinds of asks – micro-influencers encouraging their followers to patronize local businesses, socially aware real-life influencers sharing donation links to allow their followers to donate to legal funds to help arrested protestors, grocery stores asking customers to “round up” their purchases to support social programs.

social giving chart


What many nonprofits got incontrovertible truth of last year is that creating a platform-based social movement can:

  • boost brand awareness (and positively impact brand mentions)
  • facilitate deeper connections with their audiences
  • drive website traffic, and
  • increase donations

Statistics show that there has been an increase in funds allocated to non-profit organizations, including those to aid in the COVID-19. Not only have more people donated, but those donors are also donating more money.

There is speculation that donation trends will drop again as things get better, but nonprofits can implement social media strategies and a click-focused influencer marketing strategy to mitigate this trend! Reaching out to new donors by partnering with internet celebrities, as well as nano and micro-influencers who are talented storytellers.

Organizations can recruit influencers who will help them remind donors just how helpful and impactful their donation was, and encourage them to donate again in the future.

#13: More and more and more and more collabs.

The writing has gone from being on the wall to this one to basically being in the app already. Apps are moving toward enabling multiple accounts to work together to reach audiences, share audiences, share engagement numbers. Instagram has rolled out a nice set of features to help brands amplify branded content through influencer collaborations that can be successfully promoted to targeted audiences as influencer collaborations.

So, we tapped our Strategy team to find out the latest from Instagram:

Collabs. Lets users co-author posts and Reels so that content can reach bigger, untapped audiences.

Add Yours. Allows users to add their own pictures to someone else’s Instagram Stories.

Instagram Reels Play Bonuses. Opportunities for creators to earn money directly from Facebook and Instagram for creating content that their communities love. Creators will make money based on the number of plays their Reel gets. (currently being tested, so invite-only for US creators. Global rollout to come in 2022.) IG will pay out on Reels that get at least 1,000 views over a 30-day period.

Branded Content Partnerships (being tested). This includes new partnership message folder in the primary inbox, brands can filter through the creator’s details (using Instagram data), like their follower count, location, gender, and age range.  Brands will be able to use data and unique filters to discover and select the best creators for their campaigns. Creators can add brands they’re interested in working with to a “preferred brands list.” 

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A post shared by Adam Mosseri (@mosseri)

#14: Familiar audio, music, and TV shows being used to connect with audiences.

We have never been so engrossed in the music. No matter where we turn audio features are being added to social platforms like crazy. Advertisers are starting to look to streaming and trending audio clips to talk to their audiences. Between TikTok, Spotify, IG Reels, Twitter Spaces, Clubhouse, etc. there are tons of options for brands looking to loop audio platforms into their social media marketing strategies. And yeah… this is the way to go if you want to reach younger buyers. Quality content is all about connecting, right?

Spotify stepped into the viral audio world in a unique way. Seeing an opportunity to help connect advertisers with Spotify users and capitalize on their dedicated audience base, Spotify launched their “All Ears On You” campaign, a B2B campaign that – get this – uses neuroscience to help advertisers understand how to reach their target audiences BASED ON the type of audio content they’re consuming.


Burger King hopped on this audio trend recently with its “Questions” ad.

For those who don’t see the big deal (since it basically looks like a regular Burger King commercial), TikTok users will instantly recognize the song as “The Magic Bomb (Questions I Get Asked)” by Hoàng Read. The song’s super popular on TikTok.

Earlier this week, Snapchat announced a second partnership with NBC Universal to allow users to grab audio clips (famous quotes and theme music) from different NBC properties – we’re talking SNL, 40-Year-Old Virgin, Saved by the Bell, 30 Rock, The Office, Shrek, Despicable Me, Seinfeld, The Cosby Show, Friends… #RedRoss #WeWereOnABreak #Pivot

Earlier this year, Snapchat inked a similar deal with Universal to allow users access to the company’s massive library of music.

#15: A rise in ongoing partnerships between brands and influencers.

Influencer selection is such a pain in the neck for brands, and the nuances of influencer contracts will make it tougher to grab up influencers easily for campaigns. So, we expect to see a noticeable rise in ambassadorships and influencer partnerships that go beyond one-off sponsored posts.

Creating content is time-intensive for many brands. And while it’s easy-ish to get access to a content creator, finding one that can create value-driven content that resonates with the specific segment of your target audience you’re aiming to reach can make the effectiveness of brand sponsorships tough to quantify, and even hard to justify.

In order for sponsored posts to be considered quality content, brands have to partner with influencers who understand how to communicate value. We’re way past follower count here, right? Ongoing partnerships will allow brands to consistently work with influencers who have had huge success reaching a brand’s targeted audience segments.

#16: Quality video content will remain important as more social platforms expand to bigger screens.

Here’s a really cool influencer marketing trend still in its growth stage: We are seeing mobile apps pushing their way onto larger screens. This will inevitably impact your influencer marketing campaigns because it affects how content is created and shared. Plus, we think it’s going to increase the size of the audience that sees that content.

On the heels of Instagram making it easier for users to post content from their laptops and desktops, TikTok announced a partnership with Amazon Fire TV. Know what that means? the influencer content your creative partners make for TikTok will be watched on the biggest screen in the house. Combine this with the longer versions of micro video content and it’s a bonafide win for food and makeup demonstrations!

#17: More social media protections for kids.

We penned a post on this a few years ago, back before Ryan Kaji and his brand of toys took over the homes of many parents of young kids. But kids influence billions upon billions of dollars in spending. Just a few years ago, many parents retired YouTube because the platform was slow to react when inappropriate content began showing up in videos meant for children. Lately, the government’s been cracking down on Facebook and other social media platforms targeting underage users.

Instagram ended up halting work on a platform geared toward the under-18 crowd. YouTube (and YouTube now officially qualifies as a social media platform) has begun suppressing low-quality videos that are overly commercial or loaded with branded content designed to push kids into wanting stuff (think unboxing videos and in-store walk-throughs of the toy department).

Influencer marketing trends are ever-changing. Dude, these are just a few of the changes happening. Many of them have been announced just in the last few weeks. But as more and more social media platforms follow suit, they’ll end up being crucial to your influencer marketing efforts and all of your marketing campaigns in the coming year.

There are nuances to reaching your target audience and even more nuances to coming up with effective influencer marketing ideas. Partnering with the right influencers to share the right message at the right time has never been more popular. But to keep your social media marketing campaigns fresh and effective, it’s smart to keep up with the marketing trends that will shape branded content. Each weird, little influencer marketing trend cataloged has the potential to impact your influencer marketing pushes for 2022.

That said, one of the best things about influencer marketing is that content creators earn their keep by staying up to date on the latest influencer marketing trends. So, build out those long-term partnerships with influencers who can help you stay relevant.

Influencer marketing is super-effective...

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