Influencer Marketing has expanded exponentially over the past several years – it’s now four times its size just two years ago. As such, the industry has evolved from a promising marketing tactic to an essential part of many marketing budgets; today, it’s a leading priority for huge conglomerates and start-ups and small businesses alike.
Significantly, the success of influencer marketing has occurred not just because of the value it’s shown as a marketing tactic. In fact, research has shown influencer marketing’s effectiveness at meeting a myriad of goals.
Our own research, for instance, found that a whopping 67 per cent of marketers surveyed thought influencer marketing campaigns helped them reach a more targeted audience.
In the past year, we have also seen some key points of growth. Cross-channel social campaigns became more common, due to the tactic’s ability to boost engagement, exponentially. Moreover, brands began to expand their influencer contacts to ones outside of their own industries. Meaning that just because a brand operated in the food or CPG industry didn’t mean it had to stick to “foodie” influencers.
Rather, marketers are finding success in branching out to a range of influencers who can interact with that brand. A food brand, for example, might engage fitness bloggers, mommy bloggers or even travel bloggers. Witness how Chobani activated fitness micro-influencers to support its launch of Drink Chobani.
We have seen substantial if incremental growth in the industry this year (2017) and the previous year, and future growth projections estimate that the industry will experience five times more growth by 2021.
Here is a look at what 2018 will likely hold for influencer marketing and how individual entrepreneurs can latch on to this growing industry for the betterment of their brand.
Influencer marketing budgets will increase
We know that social media content has had a huge impact on the customer’s overall path to purchase. According to Forrester, the average consumer engages with 11.4 pieces of content prior to making a purchase. As such, a clear opportunity for influencer marketing exists, to make an impact throughout the customer journey.
Influencer marketing can be instrumental for the inspiration phase of that journey, when influencers expose audiences to new products or services. Influencers can also sway audiences during the consideration phase, through educational content like tutorials.
They can be useful again, during the purchase/decision phase, by leveraging influencer content for retargeting ads, and incorporating affiliate/promo codes. Given the possibilities that influencer content poses, marketers are starting to set aside a larger proportion of their budget to carry out these impactful engagements.
Still, there’s a way to go. Our research tells us that 41 per cent of marketers surveyed today are spending only five per cent or less of their budget on influencer marketing.
Many brands also have been confining “influencer” budgets to test budgets to try out and assess the effectiveness of this channel. But an important consideration here is how traditional advertising and marketing spends – like TV, print and desktop ads – are becoming a less effective use of ad and marketing dollars, due especially to the growing popularity of ad blockers.
As a result, marketers are increasingly turning their efforts to social media, whether through direct spend with the major social platforms or through key tastemakers on those platforms – the influencers.
Tracking and measuring campaigns will be key
As influencer marketing becomes table stakes for most brands, and companies’ budget allotments become more consistent, marketers will need to further evolve the strategies with which they’re approaching influencer partnerships.
Some brands will still put stock in celebrity influencers – think about Coach’s ongoing partnership with Selena Gomez — while other brands will look to work with micro-influencers. La Croix is a great example of a brand seeing results with micro-influencers: Last summer La Croix initiated a campaign challenging these people to create their own cocktail recipes using the various flavours of its sparkling water product.
With increased spend in an area like that, marketers will need to find more scalable ways to track and measure their influencer marketing campaigns. This will mean investing in proper software to track content (impressions, clicks, shares, re-pins, page views, etc.) and to measure and predict influencer success.
For both major brands and smaller businesses, 2018 will be the time to get ahead in the industry. Take another look at your own marketing budget, understand your goals — do you want brand awareness, engagement, influencers at scale or something else? – and consider whether you need a big celebrity endorsement, or whether working with a series of micro-influencers will provide you the awareness and engagement you need.
Increasing your budget for influencer marketing will be at its most successful only when you’ve aligned your influencer strategy with your objectives.