The Future of Influencer Marketing: Predictions plus the Do’s & Don’t’s
I find myself in a unique position these days. I function as both an influencer and mentor to people building brands both big and small. Having spent over twenty years in retail, I was in the B2C sales game long before social media and the recent wave of influencer marketing came to be. For most of these companies, what used to work will not take you to the next level.
The negative trend continues for retailers and the malls they reside in. In 2017, there will be a record number of store closures. According to retail think tank, Fung Global Retail & Technology, retailers have announced the shuttering of over 6,700 retail locations. This number beats the previous record of 6,163 which was set in 2008 amid the financial crisis. As these numbers suggest doom and gloom for many retailers, consumer spending is not declining. Share is shifting from physical stores to online sales at a more rapid pace. Back in July 2017, eMarketer published a report citing that worldwide retail e-commerce sales will make up 10.1% of total consumer sales by the end of 2017 and this share is expected to grow to 16% by 2021.
With such massive disruption on the horizon, brands both new and old need to explore more effective ways to story tell and connect with potential consumers. Over the last two years, I have seen the use of influencer marketing skyrocket. Larger brands are slowly shifting marketing dollars from print and other traditional media to deploying those resources into influencer marketing campaigns and other digital strategies. As exciting as this is, there is still a long way to go before brands understand exactly how to properly recruit and utilize these resources to tell stories. Influencers have the ability to create authentic, non-scripted, well thought out stories.
Over the next 36 months, Influencer marketing is poised to outgrow any other form of digital spend for one main reason. It is what some have called ‘underpriced attention’. Influencer marketing is still a relatively new tactic. Millions of people each day are working to develop a personal brand with the sole focus of capturing a piece of the pie. Unlike a consumer products company trying to build brand awareness using Facebook marketing and other social channels, building a personal brand online is more about creating engaging content and countless hours of follower interaction. This is done almost exclusively through organic growth vs. capital deployment.
Simply put, if brands are not engaging in influencer marketing currently and not planning to in 2018, they will fall behind. At the rate that this landscape is changing, a six month delay will cost you dearly on the backend. By the end of 2018, the ‘underpriced attention’ will level set. If a brand does not have established relationships with a group of influencers, they will need to overpay to achieve the same reach.
When I reflect on my experience as both an influencer and campaign manager over the last two years, I’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts to help brands plan and execute an effective strategy.
Focus on micro and power influencers
The larger the size of the influencer’s reach does not necessarily determine the best results. Depending on your niche, develop a campaign with micro (5K-50K) influencers as well as power (50K-250K) influencers. Influencers with smaller followings tend to have more engaged audiences and are very inexpensive compared to a traditional spend. Platforms such as Julius, provide in depth information on influencers which cut down the time spent searching.
Diversify your influencer mix
Consider influencers across several niches. For example, if your product is Men’s denim don’t just seek out influencers in the men’s fashion and style space. Doing so will get you audience crossover. Instead branch out into fitness, travel, food and other lifestyle influencers. Remember that the goal is to tell an authentic story.
Consider dynamic partnerships
Challenge yourself to be creative with your influencers. Go beyond providing product and pay for created content. Back in 2016, I worked with subscription based wine company TastingRoom.com. We worked together to create a private label wine. They allowed me to name it, work side by side with their designer to create a label and draft copy for the back of the bottle. Since I was very proud and heavily invested in the success of the wine (and the company) I was much more compelled to promote the product every opportunity I could.
Undervalue AND overvalue the attention
Finding the right amount to offer an influencer can be tricky. The Julius platform helps you research and eliminate the guesswork. One of the biggest mistakes you can make once you decide to commit to an influencer marketing strategy is to mismanage the relationship and the spend. Influencers will come back time and time again as well as provide additional content over and above the agreed upon terms if they feel valued. Many if not most influencers are trying to make this a career. When a brand comes along and is willing to provide a slightly higher value to the influencer, they will want to keep that relationship long term.
Dismiss the influencer’s content
When you hire an influencer to create content, the best way to tell an authentic story is to allow the influencer to create or be a major lead in the creation process. Influencers understand how to engage their audience best. You may want to give influencers free creative reign and then use the content! Far too often we see brands enlist 30–40 influencers who create hundreds of pieces of content only to have them not use any of it. This creative process is what brings authenticity to the campaign. When vetting an influencer, don’t just look at their audience but the type of content they create.
Ignore Platform Context
Not all platforms should be treated the same. Content created for Instagram should differ from the content created on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Avoid the temptation to use each platform as a distribution channel. The mindset of the viewer when they are on LinkedIn is dramatically different when they are on Instagram. Respect the context of each.
Ryan Sprance is the Founder of Kaihatsu Media, a Digital Marketing agency focused on developing brand awareness through social media growth, optimizing digital marketing spend and influencer marketing programs. He is also the Creator & Editor-In-Chief of TheStylishMan.com and contributing editor for Julius.