Five years ago, traditionalists decried influencer marketing as a fad that would not last. How wrong they were. Of course, back then marketers and brands were still getting their heads around the whole concept of content marketing, never mind how influencer marketing could greatly expand content’s reach. While print advertising was already fading, television advertising was king. It is amazing how much has changed in the world of marketing in just half a decade.
We are now in 2017 and influencer marketing is far more than just a buzzword. It has become the de facto way to reach the savvy and cynical youngsters of Generations Y and Z. The influencer model is now maturing, as more refined methods are put into practice, platforms are becoming more iconic, and agencies realize that they need to jump on the influencer marketing bandwagon or else they will be left behind in the marketing Dark Ages.
So, how do we at the Influencer Marketing Hub expect influencer marketing to evolve over the remainder of this year? Here are our predictions for influencer marketing in 2017.
Summary: Quick Jump Menu
- 1. Micro-influencers will have More Influence than Celebrities
- 2. There will be More Paid Influencers
- 3. More Agencies Will Include Influencer Marketing in Their Offerings
- 4. Instagram will Grow at Snapchat’s Expense
- 5. More B2B Companies Will Participate in Influencer Marketing
- 6. With Increased Influencer Payment There Will be a Push for Clearer Metrics
- 7. The Need for Authenticity Becomes Pivotal to Influencer Marketing
- 8. Influencer Marketing Will Extend to the Store
- 9. Influencer Marketing Will Become Mainstream
1. Micro-influencers will have More Influence than Celebrities
Influencer marketing grew out of celebrity endorsement. The original philosophy was, “let’s get somebody famous to tell their fans how great our product is.” The problem was that there was often a disconnect between the celebrity’s fan base and the people who genuinely would use and love the product. It would be like trying to use Madonna to promote your range of heavy duty power tools - or Ronaldo to promote your opera glasses.
In recent years brands have finally discovered that there are far more relevant influential people on the internet - they just aren’t household names! They are micro-influencers - people who have high engagement and huge followings in a relatively niche area of interest. If you can align your brand with a micro-influencer who has a following that matches your product’s target market, you have a winning combination. It is fitting that the other term for these people is “everyday influencers.”
In many ways it is easier for brands to target these micro-influencers - there are far more of them than there are celebrities, and they certainly come cheaper! The relationship just needs to remain authentic, so that their fans do not think that their influencer has “sold out” to big business.
We believe that 2017 will see a huge increase in the number of brands working with micro-influencers. Big brands will continue to work with celebrities, although even they will try to better align their brands with celebrities who are more relevant to their product. However, the bulk of brands will focus on working with laser-targeted micro-influencers.
2. There will be More Paid Influencers
Celebrity influencers have always been paid - in many cases extremely well - to promote brands and their products. Micro-influencers, however, have not always fared so well.
To an extent, this is probably because of the organic way that relationships often develop. This is particularly the case when brands use influencers to amplify their own material. Often this relationship has been built up gradually, perhaps with a few comments on a blog or sharing an influencer's social media posts. Over time, the relationship may have grown to the point where the influencer is responsive to the idea of sharing the brand’s material with his supporters if he sees the material as being of value to his audience.
The problem with this, from a brand’s point of view, is that they have little control over the process - it is completely organic, and the influencer has the true power in the relationship.
Some brands try to speed the process up by providing incentives to influencers to help them out. This has traditionally been through some form of barter. For instance, brands often provide free products to influencers who review their products. The absolute key to success here, though, is that the influencer must remain authentic to their followers - if a product is rubbish any review must reflect that; it cannot heap praise on the product, simply because the influence was given it for free.
Influencers have become savvier of late, however. Many have signed up to influencer platforms and actively work with brands. As brands can see the worth in this process, they are beginning to pay influencers - with real money, not barter.
We believe that this process will accelerate this year. Micro-influencers will always be much cheaper than celebrity influencers, and because they identify so well with their target audience, they will often be more effective for a brand.
3. More Agencies Will Include Influencer Marketing in Their Offerings
Although agencies have started to add influencer marketing to their mix, they have been comparatively slow to endorse it. This is probably because of the relatively organic way that influencer marketing has evolved. It is often small businesses or teams working company social media accounts in-house who experiment with using influencers to promote their products.
Of course, agencies have always had involvement with celebrity endorsements, so many have dipped into influencer marketing involving celebrity influencers.
A few specialist influencer marketing agencies, such as IMA and Mediakix have lead the way, though, and as influencer marketing evolves more mainstream agencies will include influencer marketing in their full-service offerings.
This will continue through 2017, with agencies working more with platforms to have a roster of influencer talent available for brands to work with. This is another reason why we expect there to be a movement towards standard pay rates over the coming year rather than simple barter transactions.
4. Instagram will Grow at Snapchat’s Expense
There seem to be new social media networks built every year. Some thrive, some like Tsu shrink away and eventually die. Others, like Google + stagger along, simply because they are operated by major organizations who don’t want to admit failure (although Twitter did let Vine whither away last year)!
As bandwidths have improved, more and more social media users have had the opportunity to share visual media. Older networks, like Facebook and Twitter, have had to adapt to become more visual.
Other social media networks that specialize in sharing images and videos have thrived. In the case of video, YouTube remains dominant (although Facebook has greatly pushed its video content).
There has been more of a battle when it comes to static images and photographs. Two of the largest success stories have been Instagram and Snapchat. Both networks have been successful locations for influencer marketing, and this will probably continue this year.
However, there is some degree of overlap between the target audiences of both of these platforms. Snapchat targets younger followers than Instagram, but that does not mean that Generation Z is not avid Instagram followers too.
We see more celebrities and influencers on Instagram than Snapchat, though, and this trend is likely to continue. While the disappearing photos of Snapchat offer some intriguing, innovative possibilities for influencer marketing, there is probably more mileage available from Instagram images that continue to remain visible.
5. More B2B Companies Will Participate in Influencer Marketing
B2B is often the ugly ducking of online marketing, but it is a very important sector, and it is rapidly expanding.
You do not very often see celebrities participating in B2B marketing, but B2B is actually quite geared towards traditional organic influencer marketing. Quite a few companies participate in content marketing - providing blogs and other articles educating and informing other firms interested in their products. They are beginning to learn that by working with microinfluencers in their niche they can widen the outreach of their content. As long as they fine tune their target audience and select their influencers well, B2B firms regularly use influencer marketing to attract more visitors to their websites and convert these to increased sales.
In some ways, B2B businesses find influencer meeting to be a new form of networking - just this time they do not get to stand around a bar, telling their stories to anyone who will listen.
One change that may happen in 2017 is there being an increase in influencer-created content. Brands may not have as much control over such content as they do with their own posts, but they are beginning to recognize that influencers know their audience best, and have gained their reputations with these audiences for a good reason. As with much in business, many firms now realize that is often best to stand back from micromanaging and let the experts get on with what you are paying them to do.
6. With Increased Influencer Payment There Will be a Push for Clearer Metrics
One area that has held the rise of influencer marketing back has been the fuzziness of its metrics. There is no black and white clear cut way to measure the success of an influencer marketing campaign.
We have written an ebook discussing possible ways you can measure your campaign’s ROI. However the answer still is the very fluid, “it depends on your goals.” This has held firms used to having clear, concrete financial figures back from actively getting involved in influencer marketing.
2017 will probably be the year that brands and influencers agree on some form of standard metric. There is a push for there to be more reliability and consistency in the reporting of results. It is likely that the parties will move away from using traditional measures and focus their reporting on the engagement of content.
7. The Need for Authenticity Becomes Pivotal to Influencer Marketing
In the past, there has been some issue with influencers been seen to “sell out” to business and in turn losing their authenticity with their audiences. In one sense celebrities had an advantage over other influencers - nobody truly believed that celebrities were promoting a product out of the goodness of their heart, and thus nobody expected celebrities to be totally authentic.
Niche micro-influencers, on the other hand, have gained their following because of their authenticity. If they try to push a message that clashes with the way their audience thinks, they are doing so at their peril. A food blogger, who normally promotes the vegan lifestyle, would not match well with a brand like McDonald's, who are renowned for their meat-based burgers. It would be unlikely that any posts promoting McDonald's products, other than their perhaps for their salads, would go down well with this blogger’s audience.
As the power of the micro-influencer increases so does the need to generate a “best fit” between brands and influencers. Brands realize this, and 2017 will see more care taken as they try to build up suitable relationships.
That does not mean that there won’t be creative and original partnerships. It does mean that influencers are likely to “stick to their knitting,” though and only work with appropriate brands. It also means that influencers who keep their special relationship with their audience untainted are likely to be seen as premium influencers who will be able, in turn, to charge premium rates and handpick the brands that they want to work with.
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8. Influencer Marketing Will Extend to the Store
Social media is truly mobile nowadays. There are now more mobile internet connections than there are desktop ones, and indeed Google has already announced that their mobile search index will take priority over their desktop one at some stage this year.
Marketers have already started the convergence between internet marketing and point of sale marketing, with beacons in stores that can triangulate particular consumers’ locations and push cellphone messages to them, offering personalized deals and offers for products near where they are standing. In some cases, store displays change to match the consumers in their proximity.
It will not take much to expand this idea to push influencer marketing messages to consumers physically in-store, via either on-site display screens or personalized messages to the consumers’ phones. These messages will probably demonstrations to the consumer on how the products directly in front of them can provide value to them.
Brands will most likely only trial this in 2017, but it will become more ubiquitous as time goes on.
9. Influencer Marketing Will Become Mainstream
Until now, influencer marketing has always seemed to be a niche, almost experimental, form of marketing. However, it has continually grown in importance over the last five years. We see no reason why that trend should suddenly reverse now. We are still clearly on the upwards rising stage of the influencer marketing life curve, with no sign of it peaking in the foreseeable future.
Each year Generations Y and Z age, increase their power and building their incomes. These generations will participate in influencer marketing (albeit they may not always be aware of it) throughout 2017. Their rise is balanced by the decline of the baby boomers, with their traditional way of doing things.
Most of the other trends we have referred to here will all lead to increased levels of influencer marketing this year. We have predicted more B2B marketing, further active micro-influencers, who will receive a relatively standard rate of payment, and increased agency involvement. We expect more standardized metrics will come into play. All of these changes will add up to influencer marketing becoming part of the mainstream, and it will scale up to levels previously unheard of.