The move to online and social media channels for marketing is nothing new, but to many marketers, influencer marketing as a core practice is. Influencers have the ability to connect personally and develop more committed followings than all but the savviest of brands. Since influencer marketing gives brands an opportunity to tap into those shared audiences, it’s no surprise it’s fast becoming a marketing mainstay, and agencies, brands, platforms, and influencers are all busy shaping the industry for a bright future.
Influencer marketing has been here all along
It’s fair to say that influencer marketing in its modern form has only been around for a decade or so – Instagram, the platform of notoriety for 64 percent of influencers, was only founded in 2010.
But the foundational elements of the practice have been part of marketing for far longer. To start with, influencer marketing is about accessing new audiences, remaining visible in the marketplace, and attracting people to your brand – marketing table stakes.
Influencer marketing also combines five key existing marketing practices (and arguably more): content marketing, digital advertising, social media marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, and the use of brand ambassadors.
Whereas each discipline has its strengths, influencer marketing draws on the best attributes of all five – unique content, digital scale, social engagement, trusted advice, and a familiar face – and is a natural next step for brand marketers.
The rise of influencer marketing in its current form is largely due to the staggering growth of the platforms it plays on, namely Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, as well as innovative newcomers such as Twitch and TikTok. These platforms have democratized influence and celebrity, and in doing so, have democratized marketing, too.
What influencer marketing looks like today
Influencers now come in all shapes and sizes, from the quasi-celebrity mega influencers that first drew the public’s attention to influencer marketing, to nano influencers with only a few thousand followers who are nearly indistinguishable from your typical social media connections.
As a result of influencers’ efforts to build their personal brand and increase their reach, influencer marketing has become a multi-channel discipline. Although Instagram is the most popular platform, influencers tend to have a broader presence across multiple platforms, whether that’s YouTube, Twitter, blogs, or increasingly, podcasts. They’re also sought after as conference speakers, and even as guests in traditional media, including prime time TV.
Add the wide variety of topics, passions, and interests discussed by the greater pool of influencers to the equation – including niche topics from Disney to cigars to wedding photography – and brand marketers have never had such a wide, yet targeted, variety of options.
As influencer marketing has consolidated into a distinct practice, multidisciplinary marketing agencies have created new departments, pure influencer marketing agencies have emerged, and even traditional public relations agencies are adapting to offer clients dedicated influencer marketing support.
That said, many brands choose to bring influencer marketing in-house because they have the strategic expertise to manage the program and want to manage relationships and costs. With a number of influencer marketing solutions that take care of the heavy lifting and massively reduce the time needed to launch a campaign, they now have the bandwidth, too. For example, the Julius influencer marketing platform offers influencer search and discovery, campaign management, and analytics all in one place.
There’s plenty in the pipeline for influencer marketing
Influencer marketing relies on the credibility of influencers to leverage the trust they have earned and the relationships they have developed with their followers. But its true value lies in the network effect, whether that comes about from influencer followers’ engagement spreading word to friends and family, or even influencers working together to boost the reach and visibility of each other’s sponsored content.
The network effect will only grow stronger, as brands and influencers move from one-off campaigns to building long-term creative partnerships, and as influencer marketing emerges as a legitimate career path for the most talented and conscientious creators. And the more consistent the output of influencers on behalf of a particular brand, the greater the trust that can be established with followers, which in turn encourages them to become fans or even brand evangelists themselves.
Further, brands are putting money behind the promotion of influencer content to increase reach. Most brands already promote influencer content on their branded social channels, and the practice of whitelisting – using paid efforts to boost influencer content on their own channels – is becoming more commonplace.
And finally, the social media platforms themselves continue to invest in influencer marketing, from creator tools and making it easy to disclose sponsored partnerships, to shoppable posts that streamline the path from engagement to purchase, a brand marketer’s dream tool if ever there was such a thing.
From agencies, platforms, and solutions, to brands, influencers, and followers, to strategies, tactics, and evolving best practices, it’s easier than ever for marketers across industries to develop influencer marketing programs that deliver results.