Influencer marketing isn’t just about celebrities anymore. As it matures, the phenomenon is growing smaller in scale, as well as more formalized. Read on for some trends to keep an eye on next year.
In an age when banner ads seem to be losing their relevance by the day, the concept of the influencer has surfaced as an important alternative for reaching new audiences.
Where the tool might have found its use a few years ago as an option for major celebrities to make money off their social presence, the appeal of the concept is reaching ever-smaller influencers, and it’s creating new opportunities for associations to get in on the game.
Looking forward to 2019, here are a few things worth considering about influencer marketing—along with your use of it:
1. It’s still as relevant as ever. Influencer marketing has admittedly had its ups and downs—just ask the attendees of the Fyre Festival, which is getting its own Netflix documentary next month. But the method is still effective as a way to introduce enthusiasts to new products, services, and opportunities. And it can be a way to stretch beyond your standard content marketing channels. “Influencer marketing is incredibly effective because we inherently trust the people we follow on social networks,” Deep Patel recently explained on Entrepreneur. “After all, we wouldn’t be following them if we didn’t like them! So when an influencer sincerely advocates for a service or product, their audience listens.”
2. Don’t expect influencers to replace your other content marketing strategies. A recent study from the content marketing agency Kaizen found that influencer marketing doesn’t necessarily mix with search engine optimization. The firm, which focused on travel companies in its research [PDF], found that influencer marketing ranked last among the SEO content categories it tested. Kaizen recommended that if you do rely on an influencer for search-driven content, it be someone with a narrow audience and a lot to say about your content.
3. There’s a maximum relevance-to-reach ratio. If a user has a lot of followers, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the kind of awesome engagement you need. The creative boutique firm MullenLowe reported last year that the engagement rate among Instagram users with just 1,000 followers was 4.5 percent—a level far above that of the 0.7 percent engagement rate of with 100,000 followers. While the reach of someone with a larger follower base is obviously higher, working with someone who has a smaller but more dedicated audience is naturally more efficient.
4. Authenticity and transparency matter more than ever. With influencer marketing becoming more formalized—and, as a result, consumers becoming more familiar with the trend—inauthentic pitches are becoming more obvious to the end users, as well as efforts to hide the source of the marketing. For example, a report from the marketing firm OnePoll found that 43 percent of British consumers believed that influencers were often working with brands they didn’t believe in, while 52 percent assumed that influencers were paid in most cases. The result is that authenticity can be a challenge for many influencers to maintain.
5. Influencers are getting associations of their own, too. Influencer marketing is such a big deal these days that there are organizations out there that represent its interests. The Business of Influencers, a UK-based group, aims to help connect influencers while creating standard guidelines and best practices for the industry to follow. “As this exciting industry develops at pace, it will be crucial for us to maintain a collective voice,” board member Ian Shepherd recently told PR Week.