The Quo Vadis of Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a dynamic industry that has already seen huge shifts from its rudimentary origins - celebrity endorsements. There is little doubt that new social media platforms will rise to popularity, opening new doors and methods of engagement. But many important questions remain as to how it will function as a marketing channel as the industry scales up. We suspect that the best influencer marketing practices will never be fully scalable, but that that might not be a bad thing.
Marketing with influencers has already been proven to be a hugely successful channel both for brand promotion and targeted user-acquisition. Some organisations estimate an average return of $6:50 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing. At adspree, we promote a 360-degree marketing approach across various channels including influencer marketing, so on a day-to-day basis we see the remarkable results firsthand. We have been amazed by the impact and quality that it can achieve. From trustworthiness to user-retention, there are many advantages to influencer marketing (see our blog for more). It is more than just a well targeted message, it allows advertisers to tap into the inventiveness of already successful content-creators to tailor unique messages to their followers.
“Advertisers and influencers have been on steep learning curves, becoming more professional to ensure they don’t miss out.”
As nice as it would be, we are far from the only marketers that have realized the potential of influencers. In recent years, influencer marketing has garnered a lot of attention, and indeed finance. It is in the early stages of what we suspect will be a long period of professionalization. This transition will work as an upward spiral of enhanced exposure until it becomes a standard marketing tool. Many brands/advertisers who have no experience in the industry are already trying it out, and organisations of all sizes are shifting their marketing budgets to allocate funding for it. One piece of research claimed that 86% of marketers tried it in 2016, with most looking to double their investment over the course of 2017. This process is already having profound effects on influencer relations. Advertisers and influencers have been on steep learning curves, becoming more professional to ensure they don’t miss out. An unsurprising outcome of this, is the rise on MCNs, managers, agencies, and other intermediaries aimed at ensuring smoother transitions take place.
“As influencer marketing becomes standard practice, will industry practices become standardized?”
Marketers looking to be one step ahead of the trends need to start asking how this influx of money and intermediaries will change the market further. Most industry insiders are desperate to know whether influencer marketing will remain a premium channel and an arbitrage, or whether saturation will eventually reduce ROI to the standard levels of other online channels. To answer that question, it’s vital first to answer another question: “As influencer marketing becomes standard practice, will industry practices become standardized?”
New tools, new platforms of influence, and the enhancement of current platforms, are all likely to play an important role in the enablement of more efficient business practices. Some assume that scalable, organized formats, and business models will overtake the more informal methods of interaction currently used, thus streamlining the transactions between brands and influencers.
The unique, personal aspect of influencer relations throws a curveball to this theory. adspree has previously written about how impersonal, corporate approaches to influencer marketing can be counter-productive to meaningful working relationships. We suspect that the industry’s evolution will not follow the same predictable growth pattern as other marketing channels.
“Influencer marketing is by its very nature, human. Leveraging the full potential of influencer campaigns therefore cannot be left to automization and algorithm”
Great influencer marketing relies upon individual, tailored strategies. Identifying and developing relationships with optimal influencer channels will continue to play a key role in campaign success. Finding unique and creative ways to deliver content can never be anything less than vital, especially if brands are looking to capitalize on the ‘viral’ effect. This is reliant on two-way creative communication between advertiser and content-creator. In spite of a general movement towards standardization, authentic relations will always hold primary value.
With that in mind, the most likely situation is a bifurcation of the market. The market will split into a long-tail standardized solution and a premium, bespoke solution.
The Standard Solution
Currently, the ratio of influencers to marketers-using-influencers is weighted heavily on the side of influencers. As this inevitably changes, the free-market will likely come up with automated, standardized solutions for purely reach/performance-oriented campaigns. These solutions will likely have high volumes of small and midsize channels. However, there will be no strong integration between content creator and ad content, leading to only average price points, ROI, and impact (compared to say an affiliate network business). This standard solution will scale much like other channels. We suspect it will be fully automated and therefore may become victim to fraud, much in the same way as with affiliation.
The Premium Solution
The premium market will operate differently. It will be a creative, personal, and flexible approach; sharing many similarities with the way that companies like adspree, currently operate. A much higher value rating will be placed on meaningful, working influencer relationships and the process of strategy, match-making and innovative delivery. Not to forget rigorous tracking of impact based on the advertiser’s goals. This is something, that we believe cannot be truly scaled without losing quality.
If the industry does follow these predictions, we estimate that the premium solution will continue to achieve fantastic results, in line with those that influencer marketing is achieving today. Influencer marketing is by its very nature, human. Leveraging the full potential of influencer campaigns therefore cannot be left to automization and algorithm. It requires a creative, two-way discourse between advertiser and influencer, which should be unique every time. As the industry grows, all solutions will scale up thanks to increasing channel reach, an increasing number of premium channels, and longer-term engagements (think content-creators as brand ambassadors). The future is looking bright for influencer marketing. It’s vital that advertisers build knowledge of the industry or find a partner who can.