As the social media space has exploded, so has influencer marketing through platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter. While working with influencers to promote your brand is not a new practice, the way marketing professionals go about it has expanded beyond celebrity endorsements and advertising to social media influencer marketing.
Today, you don’t have to be a celebrity to be a social media influencer. With recent expansion in the influencer marketing space, chatter on the future of influencer marketing has risen. What has been happening in the space and where is it going? Here are my predictions:
Recent Developments In Influencer Marketing
The Federal Trade Commission Crackdown
Influencers are now being held accountable for disclosing on social media if their endorsements were sponsored either financially or with free product after the FTC sent over 90 warning letters to influencers and brands in April 2017 who were not properly disclosing that their posts were advertisements and they were compensated.
The FTC has specific requirements for noting this on social media, including that the disclosure must be clearly visible and indicate that the post is sponsored or that it is an ad with appropriate hashtags that are in the caption and easy for everyone to see. In compliance with the FTC Endorsement Guides, brands and marketing agencies facilitating influencer outreach should clearly define their posting requirements including the disclosure agreement.
This new development has not proven to have a negative effect on social media influencers, instead, agencies, brands are influencers alike are clearly identifying their posts as ads so the followers of these influencers are better informed.
The Emergence of the Micro-Influencer
Micro-influencers are people who have substantial and growing social media followings, but are not at the same level as celebrity influencers or those with hundreds of thousands of followers. Influencers in this tier are typically identified as having social following on one platform of between 5,000 to 50,000 followers. Brands of all sizes have recently moved to work with micro-influencers because of their highly-engaged audiences, credibility, and ability to drive sales.
What’s Next For Influencer Marketing?
Sponsored Fees Will Become the Norm
Influencers on social media are already charging sponsored fees in exchange for posting about products or services. Initially, sponsored fees began with influencers who were identified as celebrities. As more brands enter the social media space and are interested in working with influencers as part of their marketing campaigns, sponsored fees have disseminated to influencers other than celebrities, a simple supply and demand situation. At this point, marketing to influencers is not completely saturated but has the potential to become so.
Working with influencers for product trade will no longer be a viable option within the next five years. Regardless of how valuable a product or service may be, influencers are more in tune with the quality of their videos, photos, and overall content. So much so, that the extent of this new professionalism on social media has required many influencers to hire and pay photographers and videographers to help them create professional-grade content. Influencers are charging sponsored fees for their time and energy as well as for their demand.
On the business side, brands will allocate large budgets towards influencer marketing and marketing agencies will incorporate influencer management teams to facilitate the social media partnerships.
Influencers Will Be Targeted for Their Engagement, Not Number of Followers
This is a trend that is already happening but there are many marketing agencies and brands who are not realizing engagement as a key metric. There is currently no static pricing that influencers are charging for sponsored posts based on follow and the reason for this is that
With bot traffic and paid followers inflating reach that would typically lend to influencer credibility on social media, it’s critical to identify if these influencers’ followers are actually engaged with the content by looking at recent posts. After the Instagram algorithm update where users don’t see posts from people that they do not regularly engage with, a large percentage of followers probably is not even seeing, let alone engaging with, an influencer’s content.
One way to determine engagement levels is to take an average of the number of likes and comments from the past six posts from an influencer, and divide by their total number of followers. This will show the ratio of their engagement as a rough way to determine the influence they carry and determine if their sponsored fees are even worth it.
Micro-Influencers Will Be a Marketing Agency Staple
As micro-influencers have risen to the social media influencer scene, brands have noticed the opportunity that lies within working with these people to increase awareness and drive sales. Now that brands can work with hundreds of micro-influencers for the cost of product rather than pay one influencer a sponsored fee, these higher-tiered influencers with over 100,000 followers who are charging hefty sponsored fees are going to have to prove their ROI to agencies and CMOs who are more concerned than ever with their bottom line.
Since influencer marketing is more of a top of the funnel, brand awareness play, ROI is difficult to measure and the inflated price that large influencers are charging will hit a ceiling. The fall-back will be micro-influencers for their engaged audiences, brand affinity and eagerness to collaborate, and their compensation style (far less than other influencers).
Social Platforms Like Instagram Will Offer More Linking Opportunities
Measurement is one area that influencer marketing lacks and marketing agencies need in order to justify budgets to clients. Though you can dive into Google Analytics to track direct traffic from social media and monitor lifts in organic traffic, there is only one linking opportunity on platforms like Instagram (in the bio), YouTube (in the caption), and Twitter (within the tweet).
Instagram has already incorporated an additional linking opportunity for verified Instagram accounts (the accounts with the blue checkmark like on Twitter), within the new Instagram Stories by swiping up, and more recently for business accounts with over 10,000 followers, but it is not available to everyone. Within the next year, I think the opportunity to link within Instagram Stories will open up to everyone.
Similarly to linking with no-follow links online, though these future additional link opportunities will not lend to a website’s backlink profile in the same way you can build authority from SEO backlinks, it will provide a more accurate depiction of social traffic and conversions coming from a specific post.
Social Media Influencers Will Surpass Working With Bloggers
Just like reading print newspapers and magazines has dwindled, people will turn to social media influencers over bloggers. Why? The content is more digestible and accessible. Users are already browsing social media every day and are less likely to visit a blog than to scroll through their Twitter or Instagram feeds. I’m seeing more and more that influencers use their blog to leverage bigger campaigns with brands, but they are more active on social media. One bonus of having a blog is that it is content that will never disappear, while social media platforms do come and go.
The Future Focus Of Influencer Into 2018
Influencer marketing is coming down to a few things: sponsored compensation over product trade, engagement over followers and working with micro-influencers over celebrities. As advertising opportunities blossom within influencer marketing, it will be harder to find an influencer who has an authentic brand and an audience that will convert off of a sponsored post. The future is bright for influencers who are able to cultivate a captive audience and for marketers who know what to look for!