By Kim Westwood
With 86 percent of marketers reporting they’ve used influencer marketing in the past year, the strategy once associated with Millennial social media campaigns is now an important part of the mainstream marketing mix. As nearly half of marketers prepare to ramp up their influencer marketing budgets over the next year, surveys predict that influencer marketing could become a $2 billion industry by 2019. This growth and injection of industry diversity has led to new trends that may affect the opportunities and best practices for brands currently using the strategy.
Whether you’re just getting started with influencer marketing or are looking to stay ahead of the curve, here are five trends you need to know:
Micro-influencers will still be important, but brands will become mindful of the resources required to manage them.
If you follow influencer marketing news, you have likely seen the term “micro-influencer.” These niche bloggers, who typically have between one thousand and 15 thousand followers on Instagram, boast up to eight times the typical engagement of bloggers with more than a million followers, making them particularly valuable when you want to inspire action, like app registrations or product sales. In addition to being less expensive, smaller influencers and are also more likely to take the time to form a long-term relationship with your brand that can lead to organic content outside a formal collaboration. This earned media is one of the greatest benefits of working with micro-influencers. However, micro-influencers can also be more draining on your resources if your goal is to reach a wide audience since you must identify, engage and manage more influencers to hit the same number of followers as a “mega-influencer.”
Brands will recognize the value of long-term influencer relationships.
One of the most encouraging trends we’re seeing among brands is an interest in long-term influencer relationships. Brands are looking beyond the value they can get from a single campaign and more toward a year-long or even multi-year ambassadorship, where influencers represent the brand in a more seamless and organic way. In these collaborations, influencers weave the brand into their regular content rather than actively trying to promote the brand in each post. In a sense, these collaborations become more like traditional product placement, with influencers simply showing how they use particular products or services in their everyday lives.
Multi-brand collaborations will become more prevalent.
Another interesting trend we’re seeing is multi-brand collaborations. Non-competitive, complementary brands are cooperating to secure high-profile bloggers for a single campaign featuring both brands. This allows them to share the costs of influencer payments, while expanding their total reach as each brand shares the content across their own channels. These collaborations typically work best with consumer brands. A fashion brand, for example, might commission a photoshoot with a jewelry brand or a shoe brand. A beauty brand might collaborate with a hotel to feature a travel-friendly product. The key is to think about how your customers are actually using your products so the resulting content appears seamless and editorial.
B2B influencer marketing will take off.
If you thought influencer marketing applied only to consumer brands, you need only think your favorite Forbes contributors or industry bloggers to recognize that influencer marketing is alive and well in the B2B space. Remember, an influencer is anyone who inspires your customers to act. This can mean industry experts, public figures, and even your most vocal customers. To start using influencer marketing for your professional services business, start by making a list of popular industry bloggers and offer to guest write a post or contribute expert quotes. You can also offer these influencers a guest post on your own blog, which can drive traffic to your website as they share the content.
Brands will embrace influencer events.
A final key trend we’re seeing is influencer events, or brand-hosted events held especially for a selection of influencers. Not only do events give brands a chance to personally meet influencers and develop a more personal connection, but they also allow them to secure dozens of content opportunities with a single campaign. The best influencer events create an opportunity to actually use brand products or services. For example, a retail brand might allow influencers to try on products or borrow pieces for meetings at larger events, such as during fashion week. A smartphone company might give influencers a sneak peek at a new device. Influencer events also allow brands to gain valuable feedback that can influence product development.
These five trends are a glimpse of the future of influencer marketing, but as more and more marketers begin using the strategy, we expect new challenges and opportunities to emerge as well. Understanding the FTC’s disclosure requirements will also become increasingly important for brands, as will ensuring that you select influencers who truly embrace your product or service. If anything is constant in the continually evolving landscape of influencer marketing, it will be authenticity and the value of genuine brand-influencer relationships.
Kim Westwood is the Founder and Managing Director of Shopping Links, a cost-effective Influencer Marketing platform that connects Bloggers and Social Influencers with Brands for the purposes of reaching new audiences. A true innovator in social commerce, Kim was recently named a finalist for the Entrepreneur Award in the Telstra Business Women's Awards. She launched her first entrepreneurial tech project in 2012, a social shopping site designed to bring people and products together to make online shopping more rewarding. Prior to her entrepreneurial endeavours, Kim spent more than 10 years with BHP Billiton working primarily in Information Technology, HR and Shared Business Services across multiple regions and commodity groups. She holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Psychology and Sociology from Monash University in Australia. As a mother to two young children, Kim’s passion, persistence and determination enable her to balance both family and the frenetic pace of a tech startup.