In the last year, influencer marketing has emerged as a real line-item in the modern marketer's toolkit. For most, the question is no longer whether or not it works; rather, it's how to best integrate influencer marketing in a scalable way. In TapInfluence's 2017 Predictions, we answer the questions we heard directly from marketers and influencers to give you a roadmap on where the industry is headed and how you can get involved.
to guide your 2017 digital strategy
Micro-Influencers aren't trying to attract or please everyone. Their audience listens because they are the subject matter expert, making them powerful partners for brands whose target market share the same interests. Opt-in influencer marketplaces greatly reduce the time it would take to identify niche influencers manually. Solutions like TapInfluence house everything marketers need to manage influencer campaigns, including rate, audience profiles, CPE and links to social channels where you can see each influencer's style.
Famous bloggers, high-reach social media stars, traditional celebrities—the bucket of “influence” is full of different types of people. Confused? This year, we expect to see those boundaries expand to include niche-focused creators – the new powerhouse marketing channels. Why? Because marketers will realize true influence means an engaged audience, not necessarily a massive one. Consumers are fascinated by celebrities but know they aren’t authentic when promoting products. Take professional basketball player Blake Griffin: drives around town in his Mercedes vs. the Kia he's paid to endorse (is that authentic?). Micro-influencers (followings of 10,000+) drive more engagement because their content is relatable and resonates with their audience, authentically.
Micro-Influencers Will Stake Their Claim
People Will Call BS on Traditional Social Metrics
As top brands and agencies lean in to influencer marketing, they will need confirmation that it’s actually affecting their bottom line. Sales lift will be (and already is) critical to justify bigger budgets for influencer marketing.
By applying the model for traditional advertisements to influencers, many marketers have gotten hung up on outdated metrics. This year, we’ll see the tides start to turn:
EMV and TMV
Marketers have relied on these measures for years, but as traditional media values themselves become irrelevant, people are realizing the fallacy of any metrics based on them. Social media is taking the lead on developing measures that track the types of actions that matter in the digital era. For instance, Instagram is introducing analytics to show which posts are most effective at converting followers. Smart move, and we expect to see more like it in the coming year.
In the era of traditional media, views were an important metric because they were, in most cases, as deep as a marketer could hope to understand. Content, by nature, was not interactive, so there was no need for metrics that measured interaction. The digital era is different, so this year, marketers will abandon views as an acceptable performance metric and turn instead to metrics that speak to real engagement with content: likes, shares, comments, and clickthroughs. In addition, we expect to see even more integration with social listening to identify content consumers want to see, and to measure lift in sentiment post-campaign.
For audience targeting to work, you must start with a clear definition of your ideal customer. Then, you must look at an influencer’s ability to effectively reach—and influence—that customer.
Likewise, a golf influencer who self-identifies as a yoga enthusiast may have an impressive following...of golfers who don’t look to them for yoga tips. This means you need to shift away from only choosing influencers who themselves resemble your target consumer, and build campaigns based on audience, influencer, and performance data. As a result, we will see tools that only provide one piece of the puzzle, such as influencer identification tools, fade into the background, and platforms that provide the whole picture will gain prominence.
Is reach still important? Yes, influencers need to have an audience in order for that audience to be right for your brand. Yet, having followers is just the beginning. Audience targeting in influencer marketing demonstrates the natural application of traditional marketing strategy to this emerging discipline.
Audience Will Become More Important Than Influencer
“Choosing the correct influencer is key. Knowing how engaged and interested the influencer’s community will be in a brand is critical. Having a huge number of followers means a potential less targeted campaign, which is why many brands are choosing to work with a higher number of influencers with a lower but more engaged and appropriate audience. ” - Adweek
The first wave of influencer marketing was all about celebrity—big names and big followings. This attracted a ton of attention for the emerging discipline and created undue hype around a single metric, reach, that would be hard to untangle, even years later, as analytics around influencer marketing shift from speculation to substance.
Authenticity is always a hot topic in this industry, and both marketers and influencers agree that it is the most powerful aspect of influencer marketing. Brands must accept that in order to be successful, they must allow influencers to stay true to their own personality—and that means reigning in the urge to dictate content to influencers or heavily edit what they create. In the coming year, the real-time social platforms will force brands to truly step out of the creative process in order to take advantage of the quick pace. Snapchat has grown to 10 billion video views, and live-streaming options like Facebook Live present exciting opportunities to brands who are willing to relinquish control of their message. Why? Because you can’t edit content that’s being produced in real-time. Instead of pouring resources into exhaustive creative briefs or endless content editing, marketers will see the benefit of directing those efforts into establishing true relationships with influencers. The result? Enduring partners who become extensions of your brand, and don’t need a lot of oversight.
Real-Time Social Channels Will Require Brands to Give up Creative Control
"You can't edit content that's being produced in real-time."
To support this, brands can also take advantage of new creative strategies that are suited to real-time platforms, such as live-streamed events, videos, and content series. Some brands are already doing this, like Royal Caribbean's YouTube series, Royal Crush.
Brands Will Connect the Dots Between Offline and Online
The boundaries between online and offline are becoming increasingly blurred. Influencers have the power to bridge that gap even further, and this year, marketers will leverage online influencers to spark offline action from consumers. and interaction with offline sales, concerts, or events. Product-specific influencer content can serve as point-of-sale persuasion to consumers in physical stores. Additionally, online influencers can be used to encourage attendance
Nielsen ratings show that TV viewership is on a sharp and steady decline. Those who are still watching are all but blind to ads, either because their attention is split between multiple screens or because they’re skipping over ads entirely. Brands are understanding that they must now capture their audience’s attention online instead.
The boundaries between online and offline are becoming increasingly blurred.
It’s a head-start that will pay off, because figuring out how and who to work with on B2B influencer marketing will be a challenge. There are simply fewer trusted voices talking about productivity tools or supply chain management software than there are talking about what to make for a Super Bowl party, travel hacks, or DIY projects. B2B influencers may also be more limited in the variety of brands they can speak to authentically; it takes much more time to become an expert in an inbound marketing platform than, say, a brand of craft glue. Don’t be fooled, though. While the pool of influencers is smaller, the stakes are much higher. When your professional reputation depends on you making the best purchase decision for your company, B2B buyers will lean on those trusted voices even more. Furthermore, at a time when B2B marketers feel burned by a lack of meaningful data around their social media marketing and content marketing efforts, Return On Marketing Investment (ROMI) and Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS) are hot topics within many organizations. In order to defend their budgets and investments, B2B buyers will live and die by analytics, which they can look to B2B influencers to support.
Smart B2B marketers are already testing the waters and asking questions about how this can work for their brands.
The writing is on the wall; the B2B and B2C paths to purchase are converging just as consumer’s personal and professional lives become more intertwined. What does this mean for influencer marketing? B2B marketers are recognizing that their customers are people too—real consumers who resist brand messaging, do their homework, and investigate B2B brands long before they fall into the dreaded funnel.
Influencer Marketing Will Penetrate B2B
Influencer Marketing Will Integrate into the Martech Stack
“The marketing technology stack has gotten more complicated, especially for larger businesses. Enterprise marketing teams are leveraging 60 to 80 different marketing technologies.”
The modern marketer understands that making influencer marketing relevant to their organization as a whole is key to expanding the footprint of—and budget for—the most successful tool in their arsenal. To shift influencer marketing from an experiment to a necessity, enabling platforms and technologies need to move out of the shadows and into the mainstream. This means playing nicely with the long list of players who have earned a spot on the roster.
CMOs now spend more on technology than CTOs. The disjointedness of the current martech stack has reached fever pitch, presenting marketers with more data than ever before, yet arguably fewer insights. The disparate landscape is not just a nightmare for finance and IT teams to track; customers take a hit, too, in the form of an equally inefficient customer journey. Marketers desperately need ways to see the whole landscape, and we predict rapid integrations between influencer marketing technology and other business systems, starting with the rest of the martech stack, as well as business intelligence (BI) platforms. With revenue attribution as the holy grail, influencer marketing platforms that talk to these other platforms—sharing content, performance data, insights and more—dramatically increase their value to organizations. As funding continues to validate the maturity of the space, watch for those who get this now to take the lead.
"We're increasingly focused on MarTech-centric issues: such as driving more customer loyalty and upsells via engagement, utility, targeted promotions and analytics."
Marketing Technology Will Become Accessible to Smaller/Challenger Brands
Why should the big guys have all the fun? For challenger brands, doing more with less is the way to play. Their early investments in marketing technology reflect this: they need to get the most bang for their buck. Influencer marketing automation is a prime example. With limited resources at their disposal, smaller brands need efficient ways of reaching the right consumers in order to steal share away from established competitors. They need solutions that reduce strain on their human resources without straining their budgets, squeezing the highest possible ROI out of any campaign and marketing spend. As proven influencer marketing platforms create affordable and predictable ways of getting a return, expect more small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and even small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) to join the fray. For marketing technology vendors, this means thousands more eligible customers, provided they can continue to deliver influencer marketing success and the best customer experience, as their numbers swell.
Agencies Who Build Practices Around Influencer Marketing Will Win
“...the digital ad industry exaggerates its audience figures, which has created a culture of opaque behavior.”
There are stark signs that disintermediation is happening, signaling a change—not an end—to the brand-agency relationship. As giants such as Pepsi express frustration with the agency model and P&G dramatically consoldiates its agency roster, be on the lookout for agencies who’ve differentiated themselves with usable innovation to win. Many brands still rely on agency resources to help them execute innovative strategies. That means agencies who build practices with influencer marketing as a core competency will come out on top. Expect an increased focus on data and transparency, facilitated by influencer marketing automation platforms, as both sides forge ahead together. Brands are finding they still need to turn to agencies to guide them in execution of innovative strategies. This year’s Digital Outlook Study, from the The Society for Digital Agencies (SoDA) Report, shows a swing in the opposite direction.
Agencies are dead. Long live agencies. Looking back, there has been no shortage of declarations about the demise and resurgence of agencies and the brand-agency dynamic, and most are far too simplistic to be accurate. We’ve been closely following the fluid relationship between brands and agencies for years, as adblocking, bot traffic, waste in digital spend, and even allegations of click fraud have arisen. Transparency, real-time creative, and results are at the heart of the issue. Brands want to know what they’re paying for and that it’s working. Mark Ritson of Marketing Week summed it up well:
Find and understand influencers and their audiences
Amplify high-performing content, through influencer distribution
Automate legal, disclosures and payments
The same study shows that YouTube Stars are perceived as 17 times more engaging, and 11 times more extraordinary than mainstream stars.
For most mainstream consumers, celebrities are aspirational, not relatable.
Authenticity Will Be Questioned
Measure performance of influencer generated content
Manage outreach, scheduling and communication
In the next year, we’ll see brands questioning the use of celebrity endorsements online for a few reasons. First, celebrity status does not equal purchase-driving influence because the products celebrities endorse are rarely believable—for instance, do you buy the story that Beyonce wears $8 drugstore foundation? Second, celebrities aren’t quality content creators by trade. Remember the shining example set by Scott Disick earlier this year. There are more-qualified influencers who can deliver content that is high-quality and better targeted to specific consumer needs. Why? Because unlike most celebrity endorsers, they share lifestyles and interests with those consumers. As an illustration, this article in VentureBeat explains why teenagers develop 7X stronger emotional attachments to YouTube stars than toward traditional celebrities.
Remove heavy lifting and repetitive tasks from your influencer marketing efforts, and get back to the high-value creative and strategic activities that set your brand apart. TapInfluence’s platform helps you:
In the early days of the industry, influencer marketing was referred to as “blogger programs," spurred by food and parenting bloggers who began developing relationships with brands to create sponsored content. As social media platforms arose and new channels opened up to consumers, they also became popular for celebrities. Nowadays, it’s mainstream news to see what Donald Trump is tweeting or Kim Kardashian is Instagramming.