Way back in 2016, we wrote a post about influencer marketing. At the time, we were talking about where it was time to join the party and incorporate influencer marketing into your own digital marketing strategy. Jump forward six years, and we find ourselves still talking about influencer marketing and whether brands should join the party.

In the last six years, however, much has changed. New social media platforms have launched. COVID-19 changed the landscape of digital marketing and the way businesses operate. New features were introduced to existing social channels, making it easier to shop directly from those channels. All of these have had a major impact on the influencer marketing industry with Forbes reporting that the industry has grown by a whopping 800% since 2016.

Powering the growth of the industry has been the growing acceptance by brands, both big and small, that influencer marketing is an essential digital marketing tool and one that can’t be ignored if they want to compete. With a growing emphasis on trust and authenticity, influencer marketing has become a key tool for brands wanting to create content that showcases both of these traits. As Forbes report, “Whether it be through brand ambassador work, short-campaign content, event marketing or beyond, influencers have the ability to reach an exceptionally niche audience.

Influencer marketing is growing

A simple search on Google Trends shows us how much influencer marketing is growing worldwide. Whilst influencer marketing has technically been around since the launch of social media sites way back in 2004, it is really in the last decade that we have started to see some real growth in the industry. Looking at the last five years, we can see the interest in influencer marketing has been fairly steady, peaking in May and June 2020 at the height of the COVID pandemic before levelling back off as we head towards 2023.

We can see that influencer marketing still has a long way to go before it catches up with content marketing and whilst we predicted back in 2016 that we would likely see the gap between the two close over the next five years, we have actually seen the gap in interest increasing, with content marketing continuing to dominate although it could be argued that the two discipline go very much hand in hand.

Why is influencer marketing growing in popularity?

One of the biggest shifts has been the way that people are engaging with content and this is now predominantly on a mobile device. Apps like Snapchat, Instagram and the good old faithful, Facebook are getting more exposure today than ever before and the type of content that people are engaging with on these platforms is beginning to change also. The launch of TikTok in September 2016 also shook up the industry and is a platform used by many brands that work with influencers as they look to reach a different audience.

With so many channels to choose from, brands are having to adapt and change, matching their consumer’s expectations with the content they are delivering and one thing that is clear is that people respond to content published by individuals and celebrities way more than they do when it comes directly from the brand. This is particularly true on platforms like TikTok and Instagram and it is here where we find the majority of brands using influencers.

In order to combat this mismatch, brands are turning to these powerful individuals and celebrities and ‘partnering’ with them in order to get their content in front of their target audience and hence the birth of influencer marketing.

It’s all about authenticity

As we know, organic reach on social media platforms is fully saturated. The chances of your post being seen organically have dramatically decreased over the past six years and there is only so far a sponsored post can take you when it immediately screams out that it is a sponsored post to the end user. That’s why a shift in approach has been required and in order to reach their audience whilst remaining ‘authentic’, brands are reaching out to key influencers who can help to get their product in front of consumers’ eyes.

What makes someone an influencer?

At a recent conference we attended, we found that there is a cut-off point where a person almost grows ‘too’ influential and at that point, their engagement numbers start to drop off. They gain a following so large that maintaining a high engagement rate becomes impossible so finding the right influencer is not necessarily about finding the person with the most followers. Finding the best influencer is about finding the person who best aligns with your business goals and that is achieving a consistently high level of engagement with the content they are producing. This group of people with just the right number of followers is often referred to as ‘micro-influencers’.

These micro-influencers still have the time and ability to converse with their followers, provide recommendations and engage with them. Once they become too big, with too many followers, we start to see this engagement drop off. The same goes for celebrities. Whilst it may be great to get some celebrity endorsement for your product on Instagram for example when was the last time you saw a celebrity with more than 5m followers get involved in an actual conversation with them in the comments section?

Where is influencer marketing been used?

According to Oberlo, Instagram is still the most popular channel when it comes to influencer marketing. This was the case back when we wrote our original post back in 2016 and it is still the case today, despite the rise of platforms including TikTok. According to the research, “As many as 76.7% of marketers are expected to use it for influencer marketing campaigns in 2023, a 4.1 percentage point annual increase.

Instagram is followed by social media giant Facebook, another Meta-owned entity used by just over half (58%) of marketers.

TikTok is next, with 50%. The high usage of TikTok as an influencer marketing platform is impressive, especially considering the platform was only launched in 2016, much later than the other top influencer marketing platforms on this list.

YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat make up the top six, with Snapchat being used by just 17.1% of marketers for influencer marketing campaigns.

5 Steps to Success

If you are new to the influencer marketing scene or you want to dip your toe, do so with some caution. Influencer marketing is not for every brand and there are definitely ways it can backfire if you don’t have a well-thought-out plan for what you want to achieve. Here are five steps to success:

1.      Build a strategy

Like with every digital marketing activity, treat influencer marketing the same and figure out exactly what it is that you want to achieve. Have you seen diminishing results from your paid and organic social activity? Are you struggling to reach your target audience? Once you know the why you can then start to focus on the how.

Finding the right influencer for your brand is to understand that just because someone has 1m+ followers doesn’t mean that they are all going to be interested in your brand/product. Do your research and find out more about your potential influencers and their existing audiences by reading comments and delving into their profiles to see who else they are following.

2.      Identify your influencers

You probably have a reasonable idea about some of the influential advocates for your brand currently – those fans who always engage with your content, post comments and generally have nothing but positive things to say about you. But do you ever dig into their profile and find out more about them? Amongst your existing fans, you may already have some influential followers so make this your starting point. Another smart place to get started on finding influencers is by using search tools like Grin. Grin is an influencer search engine that has organised thousands of influencers by metrics that matter to advertisers. With tools like this, it’s easy to identify the right influencers for your program with ease.

After that, it’s time to put in the hard yards and find those people who provide the best match to your brand and fit the influencer profile – enough followers and engagement that they respond to comments but not too many that they have outgrown their own followers and have stopped engaging themselves.

3.      Build the relationship

The chances are the person you choose to partner with as an influencer is already into your brand. They love what you do and they are excited to be involved and working with you. Make sure you nurture this. Don’t treat them as a faceless freelancer. Treat them as a friend and this will help to retain the authenticity of their posts. Don’t make the posts they are pushing out forced. Make it so they can’t wait to say positive things about your brand.

4.      Make it a two-way street

Whilst you may want to push out some key messages through your influencer, make sure it’s not just a one-way street. After all, these guys have built up a pretty healthy following of their own so they know what works and what doesn’t. The last thing you want to do is have a negative impact on their own profile so be open to ideas and collaborate with them rather than dictate. This will help to build the relationship and again, it will make things much more authentic.

5.      Measure

Measuring the success of influencer marketing posts can be tricky as they are typically not interested in the metrics themselves. For you, though it is still important to be able to measure the impact of your partnership to ensure things are working out. There are ways to measure the success of your influencer marketing without getting them onto a business platform. Things like unique promo codes or a hashtag campaign allow you to curate the results of a campaign without needing anything further from your influencer. Part of your strategy work should involve putting goals in place and deciding from the offset how you are going to measure them. One tool for measurement is Osi Affiliate Software.

Influencer Marketing Trends for 2023

As we head towards 2023, it is time to look forward and take a closer look at some of the trends we expect to see as we head into the new year. The new year is likely to bring further turmoil for markets, with rising inflation rates around the world adding to economic uncertainty coupled with political turmoil, however, it seems likely that the role of influencer marketing will continue to grow and be at the forefront of brand marketing conversations.

The rise of shoppable content

One area where influencer marketing is having a huge impact is shoppable content. Platforms including Instagram and TikTok have really helped to make shopping easier through social platforms and influencers are being used to drive this. Rather than simply promoting a brands products through social channels, influencers are now able to offer a seamless checkout experience which is also helping brands to more accurately measure the ROI of influencer marketing spend.

Part of the rise of shoppable content is live shopping. Whilst it has yet to make a major breakthrough in key markets like the US, or even here in smaller markets like New Zealand, live shopping is huge in Asian markets including China and 2023 could be the breakout year across other major markets.

Social for search

A topic we have read a lot about in 2022 is the shift in the way that younger users are now searching for information. Rather than using traditional channels such as Google Search or Maps, they are instead turning to channels like TikTok and Instagram to discover information.

A Forbes article reported that 40% of Gen Z user prefer using TikTok and Instagram for search over Google.

One of the key drivers of this is that results generated on these social platforms are likely to be much more personalised and therefore more relevant to the person searching. Results in TikTok, for example, are filtered based on likes and views, helping users to discover what they are looking for in a different way.

Influencers can help to drive this trend for brands, creating highly relevant content that meets a searcher’s needs and helps to bolster a brand’s associated results.

Whilst social will never replace search, it is certainly a platform many brands should consider as a way of reaching alternative audiences, particularly if your target market is Gen Z.

Influencers to become even more niche

Looking back six years, we had already started to talk about the rise of micro-influencers, however, as the market has become even more saturated over the past six years, we are seeing influencers start to become even more niche.

Influencers are having to work harder to stand out, become more creative with their content and in many cases, target even more niche markets as a way of offering something more unique.

This is good news for brands. Aligning with someone who is highly relevant in your niche is much more likely to yield positive results for the brand than a more generic influencer that posts content on a huge range of topics, not all of which are related to your brand.

Long-form content making a comeback

Over the past six years, long-form content has come in and out of fashion. First, people wanted everything to be shorter. Then, they wanted more depth. Now, it seems, people are back to craving long-form content at certain times, in and amongst the snippets you can get from shorter-form content.

In 2022, TikTok raised its video length to 10 minutes. This is an important shift for a platform that has typically focused on short-form content and this has opened up new opportunities for brands. Vlogs and longer-form educational content have definitely made a resurgence in 2022 and it’s a trend we expect to continue through to 2023.

Repurposing influencer content across other platforms

As we head into what promises to be a turbulent 2023, with budgets being stretched more than ever, brands are looking to get the most out of the content they are investing in, including influencer content.

Whilst influencers might use their own channels to primarily promote a brand’s products, that content is still a valuable asset and something that can be used by a brand across its own platforms. This doesn’t mean just social platforms like Instagram and TikTok where the content can be amplified through paid advertising. Influencer content can also be repurposed on a brand’s website, using the content to build authenticity across all touchpoints and helping to create a cohesive message for customers.

It can also be used in email campaigns, reaching out directly to their audience and helping to build brand awareness.

So there you have it. Hopefully, this post has given you some ideas if you are not yet using influencer marketing as well as providing some guidance on how to get the most out of an influencer marketing strategy. If you want to find out more about the power of influencer marketing, give us a call and we will be happy to meet up to discuss things further.

Make sure you leave us a comment below if you have any positive or negative experiences with influencer marketing as it’s always great to hear examples.

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