Over the last four years, influencer marketing has grown to be a critical element of marketing strategy. According to Google search trends, influencer marketing has joined the ranks of email marketing, Facebook advertising, and social media marketing in search volume, growing 28x. MediaKix reports that the influencer marketing spend on Instagram in 2019 is forecast to reach 2.38 billion dollars, up from an estimated 1.6 billion in 2018.
However, influencer marketing is a relatively new and unpredictable vertical. Marketers must not only maintain the status quo but build innovative programs around emerging trends, to actualize their full potential. In an ever-changing landscape, these are the influencer trends that are evolving the industry.
1. Nano influencers, with 1,000 to 5,000 followers, are on the rise. Being popular in their community, school, or as a part of a niche community could make someone a nano influencer, and now brands have the technology (see Trend #9) to introduce their product to these influential consumers in a scalable and cost-effective way. Nano influencers are typically compensated with a free trial of the product. Unless you are seeding a large number of nano influencers, they make little impact on brand awareness, but they do support trusted peer-to-peer marketing.
2. Brands will focus on creating content, not ads, with influencers. The best advertising is when people don’t recognize it as an ad (until they see #Ad). So much of influencer sponsored posts look like blatant ads. In 2019, more influencers will work with brands to create organic, authentic, informative and entertaining content.
3. Influencers will continue to enter long-term partnerships. The celebrity spokesperson relationships of the past now extend to social influencers. Marketing messages are more effective when repeated. The effective frequency has ranged from 7 to 20, but the theory remains, consumers have to see a marketing message several times before they will act. Instead of one post contracts, influencer marketers would do better to draft a longer terms contract with several organic opportunities for storytelling.
4.) Influencers will continue to become entrepreneurs. Michelle Phan, Rachel Parcel, and Ree Drummond are on the long list of influencers who had built successful consumer brands on the foundation of their organic social following. Macro influencers will launch their own products and capture market share in their industry of expertise. Also, businesses will emerge that specialize in white labeling products for influencers.
5. Standards for engagement rate will increase. Many marketers seek to partner with influencers with a minimum engagement rate (which is (# of interactions) / (number of followers)). Currently, average engagement rate can range from 1.5% to 10% depending on the size of the audience according to SmartInsights. That engagement minimum will continue to increase as quality followers, and valuable audiences will take priority over impressions.
6. A new metric, Saturation Rate, will be tracked. Marketers will begin monitoring the percentage of each influencer’s content that is sponsored vs. organic. A saturation rate of 30% or less is considered favorable. The theory being, the more #ads an influencer posts, the less likely a follower would be to trust the referral.
7. Curated Instagram worthy spaces will continue to be in demand. This past year saw content creators flocking to millennial pink walls, vintage lighting, floral vines, and themed activations (desserts, nostalgia, mermaids). In the name of Instagram aesthetics, content creators will continue to look for bright, fresh backdrops to bring life to their story.
8. SEO Managers and Ads Manager will work closely with Influencer Managers to further company goals. An army of influencers (macro, micro, and nano) generates backlinks, UGC, testimonials, video content, all of which are essential for customer acquisition. More brands will use Facebook’s handshake tool to boost influencers pages when the content in resonating for acquisition.
9. Marketers will invest in tools to track the performance of their influencer marketing programs. Most influencer programs start with a glorified excel sheet and 1:1 communication. However, there is a human cap on recruitment, engagement, and reporting. Investing in an influencer management tool gives marketers the ability to scale recruitment of new influencers, engage and re-engage their growing database, and increase transparency with the C-suite regarding the ROI of the program.
10. The line between influencers and affiliates will be blurred. Influencers will be accountable for traffic to landing pages and sometimes conversion. Seeing this demand, social channels will continue to react. In 2018, Instagram launched shoppable content. Snapchat also revealed a partnership with Amazon.
11. Influencers and marketers will start to diversify the social channels they build. Instagram will reign Queen. However, to protect themselves from the whims of corporate Facebook, influencers and marketers alike will invest more time/resources to other social media channels, included but not limited to: Youtube, Twitter, Pinterest, SnapChat, Musical.ly, and Reddit.
12. We are reaching influencer saturation. Generation Z (born after 1995) is getting older and reaching purchasing maturity. The web is full of content creators, followers, and voyeurs, and the creator group is rapidly growing. Our standards for good content will shift. Editing and content formatting apps such as Airbrush and Unfold will continue to gain downloads. However, more importantly, offline dollars will shift online as peer to peer marketing will become easier to track.
– Natasha Khan Kazi