People are increasingly downloading ad blockers and ignoring traditional radio and TV commercials. At the same time, they’ve come to trust recommendations from influencers as much as ones they get from their friends.
Businesses are responding by adopting or expanding their influencer marketing programs at an equally fast pace. Interest in influencer marketing has exploded in the past few years, nearly doubling year over year. It’s no surprise that Instagram, the original influencer marketing platform, is set to reach 1 billion users in 2018.
Influencer marketing is hot, hot, hot right now, but is that about to change? What exactly does the future hold for influencer marketing?
Here are 10 predictions for how the influencer marketing landscape will change in 2018.
1. Influencers will permeate other channels
Influencer marketing will officially no longer operate in its own silo. Influencers have already made their way into content marketing via blog post roundups and in-depth product reviews for some time. In 2017, they started showing up in YouTube pre-roll ads, like web hosting company Wix’s campaign featuring Karlie Kloss.
In 2018, brands will further integrate their influencers into all forms of advertising, from local SEO to billboards. Influencers may prove especially helpful in forms of advertising that consumers are getting better at tuning out, such as Facebook ads.
2. The big bucks are about to come out
Even though it feels like it’s all we hear about on marketing publications, influencer marketing really hasn’t been around all that long. That means for many, from old-school CMOs to the members of your marketing team who don’t run your social media, it hadn’t fully earned its buy in until recently.
Those days are gone. Other brands have been proving it time and again for the naysayers, and now everyone is willing to invest and agree that influencer marketing is extremely good for business.This is good news for everyone. Brands will be able to afford the asking prices of bigger influencers, and they’ll have larger influencer marketing budgets to spread among micro-influencers.
When they were first building out their influencer marketing programs, many brands chose to focus on a specific set—celebrities, macro-influencers, or micro-influencers (micros were themselves a trending topic in 2017). Now brands will have big enough budgets that they can focus on partnering with all kinds of influencers.
3. Influencer marketplaces will rise to meet the demand
Bigger budgets often come with channel expansion. That means marketers will be expected to deliver more campaigns, more engagement, and more reach. The best way to do that is with your own army of influencers.But, it’s challenging to find influencers, especially micro-influencers you’ve personally never heard of before but are treated as gods by their avid fan base of 8,000. That’s why influencer marketplaces will gain more market share. One example is Dealspotr's Marketplace, where brands can run influencer campaigns and use a built-in CRM to track each campaign and its key KPIs, like conversions and clicks.
- With legitimacy comes the need for reportingAlso accompanying those bigger budgets will be increased scrutiny and need to justify said budgets. Since influencer marketing is no longer an experiment, marketers can’t get away with just spending money and claiming vague success metrics like “brand awareness.” They’ll need to document and show their efforts are working.
Of course, there’s always the manual route - painstakingly reviewing and combining engagement, follower count, click-through visits, and more from individual social networks. Hopefully, many marketers will find the metrics they need in influencer marketing software like Dealspotr mentioned above, as well as other influencer relationship management (IRM) platforms.
On the flip side, influencers will also have to prove their own worth—that their fanbase is indeed engaged, and has demonstrated an affinity for similar brands or industries—in order for brands to choose to partner with them.
5. Social platforms will facilitate these efforts to drive ad dollars
Fortunately, social platforms have a vested interest in making influencer marketing work, so they’ll create more features to aid all sides of influencer marketing.
Various platforms, like Facebook and Youtube, have already caught on to the value of influencers as a potential revenue stream - offering influencers proprietary creator tools that make it easier to create content. Others, which were previously more closed to the idea, have opened up their minds as well as their platforms, allowing for influencer marketing to be more successful: Snapchat launched PaperClip this year, allowing influencers to include hyperlinks in their Snapchats.
Meanwhile, newer entrants to the social media landscape are now built with influencer marketing in mind. Musical.ly created a live stream app that offers virtual gifts and tokens, which fans can buy to reward the influencers they love.
However, what’s currently still missing from many of these platforms is in-depth analytics and business-focused features. The next year will see launch after launch of these. For example, this past August, Facebook introduced features that let brands boost influencer’s posts, and view them alongside their other ads.
6. Influencers will have more freedom
For a long time, stodgy marketers thought influencer marketing would be a passing craze. As such, they didn't give many influencers their due, dismissing them as “just” social media stars.
Now that influencer marketing has changed the game, influencers will have more freedom with brands. They won’t have to justify their position that a certain approach won’t jibe with their audience. Brands will view them as collaborators—not vendors—with a nearly equal voice in the creation process.
Influencers will have the upper hand. As such, they’ll have more freedom to choose who they work with and how much they charge. To attract the best influencers, brands will have to find additional ways to make working with them worth it—from exclusive sneak peeks to VIP parties.
7. Influencers will become brand names themselves
Similarly, influencers will have more freedom to profit off themselves beyond their brand relationships. Many will launch their own product lines, just like traditional celebrities. Kylie Jenner’s cosmetics line is a prime example of this in action.
Similarly, influencers with more of a performance bent will follow in the footsteps of Miranda Sings with their own television shows, album deals, and movies.
8. More money, more problems
As Biggie said, “It's like the more money we come across, the more problems we see.” In the case of influencer marketing, those problems come in the form of more regulation.
The FTC has been taking influencers to task the past few years, but it mostly came in warning letters sent and dismissed by celebrities. This past fall, they filed and settled their first lawsuit over influencer marketing. If influencers and brands don’t get in line and properly disclose influencer marketing relationships, they’ll have to pay the consequences. No more slaps on the wrists; the FTC means business.
Even though it introduces complications, the FTC plays an important role in ensuring the long-term viability of influencer marketing. Although everyone's caught on to fake followers (no brand worth their salt would choose to partner with an influencer based on follower count alone), the influx of money into influencer marketing will bring with it more scammy operations trying to game the system. The FTC’s efforts help prevent or contain these issues.
As influencer marketing continues its dominance over the online marketing landscape, consumers will catch on, especially with the FTC continually tightening its noose of regulations. That means brands and influencers alike will have to get creative to present their product in a way that consumers don’t become predisposed to tuning out.
9. Enter social live video
Fortunately, even with the necessary disclosures and #ad hashtags, influencers can still find ways to bring a sense of authenticity to their promotional content.
One increasingly popular option is social live video. Various platforms (we’re looking at you, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube Live, etc.) have heavily invested in live stream and video content, and users are loving it. Social video is dominating the internet.
Helping matters is that many content marketers spent 2017 reading articles that told them, “If you’re not already creating video content, you’re behind.” So influencers, especially ones that came from YouTube, Periscope or Vine, can expect to see increased demand for their services as brands try to keep up in 2018.
Other influencers will have to start creating video content—whether live or crafted—in order to stay competitive.
10. Influencers and brands are poised to become friends forever
Another way to make things feel more authentic is through long-term influencer partnerships. The next year will see a transition from one-off to always-on influencer relationships.
Long-term, ambassador-esque type partnerships give influencers the time necessary to truly learn about a product, so their promotions can be more off-the-cuff as well as informed. While an individual Instagram post is transparent as an ad, an integrated campaign that includes random tweets reshares of the brand’s content, unrelated photos where they’re wearing a branded shirt, or video streams from a branded live event will make more sense.
Dedicated fans will recognize that the influencer has agreed to work with the brand for the long-term, and since they respect and trust the influencer’s judgment, they’ll be more likely to view it as a reliable endorsement. Plus, these longer partnership increase the chances of a fan seeing a brand-sponsored post, increasing the likelihood of acquisition.
Along the same lines, brands now recognize influencer marketing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. To be truly successful, they need to reach potential customers across all of an influencer’s platforms, from Twitter to Facebook to Snapchat. That kind of integration comes with a long-term partnership.
The bottom line
Influencer marketing is not going away anytime soon. It’s proven to be an extremely effective online marketing strategy for more and more businesses, and there are still plenty about to jump in the game for the first time.Despite the various trends we’ve predicted above, one thing is for sure: influencer marketing, on the whole, will continue to mature in 2018, with more sophisticated strategies making their debut this year.
Michael Quoc is the founder & CEO of Dealspotr, a social deal-sharing site and micro-influencer marketing platform connecting up-and-coming brands with influencers in their niche. Previously, Michael was the Director of Product Management for Yahoo's media lab, spearheading the launch of several innovative services in the live video and mobile social networking areas. Michael has been awarded nine patents relating to mobile and social network applications and technology. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelquoc.