Influencer marketing continues to grow and evolve. Influencer Marketing Hub estimates the influencer marketing industry will have grown from $1.7 billion in 2016 to a projected $16.4 billion by the end of this year.
As the influencer industry has grown, so have platforms, semantics, and accountability.
The arrival of the pandemic in 2020 resulted in more people spending time on their screens and devices, propelling newer platforms like TikTok to popularity. Now, other companies are coming up with their answers to TikTok through mimicry and wanting to create the newest sensation. Think of the competition between Coke and. Pepsi. Then, add another type of beverage alternative, such as hard seltzers combining alcohol with flavored carbonated water, to the mix.
Brands are looking to influencers more for long-term partnerships, not just one-shot deals. Having one influential post or product promotion is great, but brands are looking for the support of a sustained presence. For instance, fashion brands may look to the same influencers to promote new store openings at shopping centers, fashion shows, and other events. The influencers act as familiar and trusted voices of authenticity in that segment of the marketplace.
Authenticity is increasing as a necessity when courting an influencer, too. A celebrity known as a vegetarian endorsing Omaha Steaks is just collecting a paycheck. People would perceive a celebrity from Nebraska famous for playing rugged Western roles and acknowledged as a foodie to be a real believer in the product. Spokespeople in television ads have been recognizable for decades for their affiliation with brands. The same is becoming more prevalent for influencers in web ads and social media circles.
Beyond celebrity endorsers, the demand for authenticity has impacted the interest in influencers known for being trustworthy in specific niches. There’s a growing demand for nano-influencers (fewer than 10,000 followers) and micro-influencers (10,000 to 49,999 followers) with followings because of their perceived expertise. Consumers are willing to trust someone they feel is an approachable and more knowledgeable version of themselves, not just another pretty Hollywood face.
Influencer deals are also becoming more based on performance. Think of a sales representative with sales quotas to meet. Expectations of influencers are now catching up. Companies may put ideas and products in front of influencers hoping for endorsement posts or visible product utilization, but the more formalized agreements now come with stipulations. This may include the expectation and requirement of coverage of certain events and spontaneous posts by an influencer. At times, an influencer may fail to produce. Or, the influencer may determine they don’t match with the company seeking the affiliation. If so, the situation is no different than any other company or employee deciding the intended collaboration just isn’t going to materialize as hoped.
Some companies are relying more on their own employees to advocate for brands. People need to perceive the content as an insider’s authentic and prideful look at what the company is offering. It needs to demonstrate why a product or service should be your choice and why the employees stand behind their work. When this happens, the positive results can break through all the clutter.
Keeping up with expectations has led to an increase in video content. If a picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, a moving picture is always going to be even more eye-catching and impactful. Video productions can range from highly scripted takes appearing that look like a major director has produced them to casual recordings of real-time happenings that bring the viewers to various scenes, courtesy of the influencer.
And just as terms in other industries change over the years, such as auto businesses now referring to used cars as pre-owned vehicles, some influencers have come to prefer the term “content creator.” Regardless of the title, influencers play a role that’s here to stay.
As with many cyber situations, as the influencer role matures and evolves, challenges come with it. Companies and brands want to ensure they’re getting what they hoped for from influencers. That’s why deep-dive data collection is important. The perspective of the consumer is what makes or breaks brands.
Influencers viewed as extensions of brands will have to resonate with consumers authentically and successfully to be worth the investment to those brands.