In a world where 92% of Gen Z trust a social media influencer more than the famous celebrity, influencer marketing is no longer a nice “tack-on” to your advertising budget. Influencer marketing in 2018 is similar to what SEO was in 2008; seasoned and proven enough to take get C-Suite attention, but new enough that the biggest of changes were still to come.
As we look back over the past 5 years, influencer marketing has seen rapid changes in how both brands, platforms, and influencers approach it. While much of the industry in the past has been selling the value and gathering adoption, that is no longer. Influencer marketing is changing and there’s a variety of key areas to consider as these changes come to life.
First off the medium is growing, and this will ultimately be the biggest driver of change. Studies show that the the influencer marketing ad spend, which was only $500M in 2015, could easily grow to $10B by 2020.
This trickle down effect will mean more agencies arising and getting involved, bigger budget for creative & production, additional budgets for paid media boosts, more regulations, and more platform involvement. What’s causing this growth in budget? Simple; the method is working.
While early days were experiential and unknown, today you’ll find thousands of successful case studies on the medium. These building case studies and increase media attention will get the eyes of the C-Suite and ultimately will push forward budgets as projected.
Higher demand for unique creative
In 2016, Scott Dissick showed the world just how bad influencer marketing creative could be when he copied and pasted a email for the caption of a photo promoting a protein powder. While this anecdote was an extreme case of a poor execution, it showed a glimpse of the broad issue with how brands go about executing their campaigns.
As budgets and eye-balls increase, there’s a bigger demand for a seamless experience from the influencer’s original content to their paid sponsors posts. Users are starting to be able to more easily distinguish between a paid post and something that an influencer truly enjoys. To combat this, brands & their agencies will need to get more thoughtful in how they write their caption copy, what the photo & video is, and how they deploy it.
There will also be increased use of original video content that integrates personality and original writing. Instagram Stories will also be a medium of choice with more unique, influencer-based video content coupling dedicated posts.
Demand for authenticity
In an Influencer Marketing survey that asked 170 marketers from CPGs, food-and-beverage companies to retailers, 87% of respondents said that “influencer marketing’s top benefits entail creating authentic content about their brand.” A key to not losing this benefit is to take extra steps to show and push authenticity.
“A great way we’ve seen to tell the raw, authentic story in an influencer marketing campaign is filming behind the scenes” says Mike Clum, CEO of Clum Creative, a video production business riding the growth of influencer videos. “Release a long-form video of behind the scenes in unison with the ad will build deeper trust and connection with fans of both the brand and the influencer.”
A perfect example is seen in GoldShark’s behind the scenes on their collaboration with KOLD. The 8 minute video documents the hard work that went into the content created, but also showed KOLD’s passion for GoldShark’s products. It gave the final video, posted to KOLD’s channel, a more meaningful dynamic and yielded ultimately a better campaign.
Influencer marketing turns to advertising
Organic posts won’t be enough in 2019 and beyond. There will be and already is a rise in paid media to promote influencer campaigns. These boosted posts will come both from the brand as well as the influencer.
Why the rise in paid spend? Because of the volatility in news feed algorithms. Banking on organic engagement is simply too risky given the ebbs and flows of how facebook & instagram prioritize their content. Paid boosts allow brands to take ownership and control of results, engagement, and sales which will be necessary as influencer budgets start to reach a level where ROI becomes increasingly imperative.
In June 18’ when Unilever put a crackdown on working with influencers with fake followers, it set ripples in the advertising community. While many digital-first marketers knew of fake followers since the days of Twitter in 2012, this brought a heightened awareness to the conversation.
Brands are using simple tools such as FakeCheck.co, HypeAuditor, or TwitterCheck – which allow you to quickly check what percentage of an influencer’s following is real.
But this accountability push isn’t just coming from the brands, but also from the FTC and other government regulators who are pushing further regulations and demands for clear communication of sponsorships. Canada went to the extent to publish official influencer marketing ad standards, see other countries to follow-suit soon.
LinkedIn & B2B influencers emerging
With the emergence of LinkedIn video, a new breed of B2B Linkedin Influencers are a group to take seriously when it comes to influencer marketing. Speakers, marketers, and consultants with micro followings of 5000 to 100,000 can get extremely high engagement rates on videos and long-form text posts. This underpriced attention is a ripe spot for B2B brands.
Platforms outperforming agencies.
While agencies are naturally gravitating to capture a volume of the rise in influencer marketing spend, easy to use platforms are making it easier for brands to bring the channel in-house. And that’s exactly what you’re seeing, especially with the uncertainty around follower legitimacy.
These platforms allow you to search between influencers, analyze metrics associated with their followings, find the right influencers for your campaign and quickly book them. Essentially doing the job of the agency & talent firm with a few clicks.