Influencer marketing is so much more than sending your new trainers to Jennifer Anniston and hoping she wears them the next time she’s papped on her way to get her morning mocha. Cemented in the world of social media, influencer marketing sees brands partner with accounts that have a significant number of followers and are either celebrities – think reality TV stars from the Kardashians all the way down to Love Island D-listers – or have a dedicated area of expertise – like Mrs Hinch and her passion for cleaning and grey-tone homewares. After identifying your influencer you agree to pay them a fee in exchange for them to use their “influence” and profile to push your product or service to their followers.
Recent surveys indicate that 39% of marketers plan to increase their influencer marketing budget in 2022 and that influencer marketing is positioned to become a $10 billion industry. Influencer marketing, however, is changing almost as fast as it is growing, and these trends are reconfiguring the very basis of what influencer marketing is. In this article, we'll look at how the world of influencer marketing is changing, and how this can benefit your brand.
For a few years now, online influencer marketplaces have used follower counts as the primary metric of success. This was always a fairly primitive and euphemistic way of measuring the true reach of an influencer because it didn’t capture the nuances and complexities of how influencers actually connect with their audiences.
This is why, in the past couple of years, there has been a renewed focus on micro-influencers: those influencers whose area of expertise and reach might be incredibly narrow, but who can have a huge impact on audiences already engaged in these micro-communities. This focus has, in part, been a consequence of broader shifts in the way that younger generations, and particularly Gen Z (which we’ll come to below), interact with each other online. These audiences are now divided into thousands of tightly-defined interest communities, and marketers need to recognize this fact.
In addition to reflecting the audiences they work with, micro-influencers also have another major advantage over their more mass-market peers. With smaller audiences, they are able to achieve much higher engagement rates.
Up until now, many brands have added influencer marketing to their spectrum of digital advertising without thinking about how these channels can interact and mutually inform each other.
Today, with multi- and omni-channel approaches also becoming standard, looking at influencer marketing in isolation from other channels is increasingly untenable. Brands should strive to develop holistic marketing strategies that incorporate influencers by default and seek to integrate the services they offer into a total brand offer to customers.
In practice, this will mean working more closely with influencers than many brands have until now. Effectively deploying influencer marketing is not, in other words, a fire-and-forget approach where you employ an influencer to do their own thing and hope that it benefits your brand. Instead, you should investigate ways in which you can work with your influencers to co-create content, and thus integrate your content marketing strategy with your influencer marketing.
Another way in which influencer marketing should be extended and integrated is when it comes to your social marketing strategy. As far as is possible, you should grant your influencers (limited) access to your social media feeds, so that the strength of your partnership is visible to your customers. Just make sure, if you take this approach, that you don't fall victim to influencer marketing fraud, which has been—sadly—another growth area in recent years.
Finally, influencer marketing is driving larger shifts in the digital advertising landscape. One of these is that, given the dominance of Gen Z in the influencer world, brands are starting to take this generation seriously: not just as content producers, but also as customers.
This shift mirrors that which occurred ten years ago, as millennials become an important growth audience. Financial statistics indicate that the millennial market is still growing rapidly, but also that millennials are also notoriously hard to reach through traditional advertising channels because they simply don't trust ads. That insight goes double for Gen Z, who have an even lower tolerance for the content they regard as irrelevant.
This is, in fact, one of the reasons why influencer marketing has been so successful among Gen Z. According to recent studies, 77% of Gen Z said they like ads that show “real people in real situations”, and they also spend a lot of time watching their favourite stars on YouTube. In other words, traditional advertising channels are much less effective when it comes to connecting with this audience.
This is where influencer marketing comes in. Because influencers are—or at least claim to be—“normal people”, they have much better traction with Gen Z audiences than standard digital marketing approaches. In turn, the brands that have had the most success with attracting this generation are lately recognising the huge value they can offer as customers.
It’s not surprising, of course, that influencer marketing is still changing so rapidly. As one of the newest forms of digital advertising available to brands, it has yet to settle into a familiar, easily-defined form. However, developing an influencer marketing strategy is actually quite simple. Find someone your audience trusts and with a large reach to endorse your product. This will generate sales, and also have beneficial knock-on effects on your other marketing activities.