Influencer marketing emerged seemingly overnight. Brands first started paying YouTubers for sponsorships a few years ago and now there are over half a dozen primary influencer marketing channels (YouTube, Instagram, blogs, Snapchat, Periscope, Twitter, Facebook). In 2015 alone, interest in influencer marketing has more than doubled within the year. This is a significant increase from the previous year which saw almost a 40% increase (YouTubers for sponsorships a few years ago and now there are over half a dozen primary influencer marketing channels (YouTube, Instagram, blogs, Snapchat, Periscope, Twitter, Facebook). In 2015 alone, interest in influencer marketing has more than doubled within the year. This is a significant increase from the previous year which saw almost a 40% increase (Google Trends). With many brands and advertisers struggling to capture substantial ad viewability due to the rise of ad blocking, many are looking to top social media influencers as the new publishers of tomorrow. Many brands are now dedicating a significant portion of their marketing budget directly for influencer marketing (Convince & Convert).
Influencer marketing will continue to grow and attract brands' attention. Increasingly, influencer channels are stealing screen time from tradition media like TV. Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and others continue to grow at a phenomenal rate. As the time spend and viewership metrics continue to grow, so will the ad dollars.
Here are the 5 biggest trends in influencer marketing to watch for in 2016:
1. 3 Channels Are Quickly Emerging For Big Time Influencer Marketing
In July 2015, Facebook made the official announcement to split ad revenue with its video creators. Since then, Facebook's video growth has climbed to over 8 billion average views per day (Techcrunch), however it's also been accompanied with almost equal amounts of copyright controversy and vlogger disgruntlement spearheaded by top YouTubers and YouTube channels (including VidCon co-founder Hank Green and top learning channel, Kurzgesagt). Nevertheless, vloggers, creators, and social media influencers both new and established including popular Viners DeStorm Power, Curtis Lepore, Logan Paul, and The Eh Bee Family are all eager to achieve traction on Facebook's "new" video platform vying to become its first breakout "Facebook-er." YouTubers and YouTube channels (including VidCon co-founder Hank Green and top learning channel, Kurzgesagt). Nevertheless, vloggers, creators, and social media influencers both new and established including popular Viners DeStorm Power, Curtis Lepore, Logan Paul, and The Eh Bee Family are all eager to achieve traction on Facebook's "new" video platform vying to become its first breakout "Facebook-er."
Although Snapchat does not currently offer marketers third party access to its API nor a direct metric dashboard commonly available in other top social platforms, the lack of marketing metric data has not prevented marketers from partnering with top Snapchat influencers "Snapchatters" to launch their own Snapchat marketing campaigns. As is, Snapchat still feels like an experimental space especially when viewed without the type of established metrics readily available from YouTube, blogs, and others. Nonetheless, many big brands from all industries have jumped into the Snapchat space including GE, Burberry, Taco Bell, Amazon, and more.
In order to best evaluate the ROI for each campaign, marketers need to coordinate alongside their enlisted Snapchat influencers in order to capture (screenshot) final campaign metrics and download their video campaign story. Snapchat has a long way to go to becoming a complete and mature marketing platform, but brands eager to stand out and capture the attention of millennials are jumping in despite existing challenges.
With the rise of live streaming platforms, many brands are partnering with top social media influencers to drive awareness and engagement for specific event activations oftentimes featuring channel takeovers to drive awareness and engagement for specific event activations and/or product/service launches.
At the onset of influencer marketing, top fashion bloggers (with monthly blog readership in the millions) were strategically invited and given preferential treatment at marquee events to chronicle and give firsthand accounts of their event attendance. Now, with the rise of live streaming, marketers of all industries are partnering with the appropriate influencers to broadcast events in real time (for example, top tech YouTuber Austin Evans' "Back To The Future" live stream panel sponsored by Toyota).
Periscope will be an upcoming influencer marketing channel to follow more closely in 2016.
2. Quality Engagement Trumps Sheer Followers Any Day
Similar to the development of display ads, evaluating influencer marketing has evolved from mere vanity metrics (impressions, views, followers) to deeper engagement involving engagement rates, comments, audience sentiment, sales, and conversions.
While reach and visibility are clearly important, discerning marketers are beginning to realize the importance of performance or action-based responses beyond impressions and follower count. In 2016, brands and advertisers will truly leverage influencer participation to not only drive awareness but to elicit specific audience participation with emphasis on engagement over sheer reach.
3. To Truly Maximize Social Amplification, Brands Need To Master Cross-Platform Strategy
2015 saw the rise of several brands leveraging the reach and engagement of platform-specific influencers (e.g. Viners, Instagrammers, YouTubers) on their original platform and subsequently promoting influencer-generated content across other social channels. For brands sponsoring content with top social media influencers, a cross-platform approach reinforces brand messaging and can be strategically utilized to reach audiences on various touch points and social channels.YouTubers) on their original platform and subsequently promoting influencer-generated content across other social channels. For brands sponsoring content with top social media influencers, a cross-platform approach reinforces brand messaging and can be strategically utilized to reach audiences on various touch points and social channels.
Both BMW and Mastercard both recently executed cross-platform influencer marketing campaigns involving popular blogger Brian Sacawa of He Spoke Style and top Viner Arielle Vandenberg, respectively. BMW's campaign featured a series of sponsored blog and Instagram posts, and a dedicated YouTube video. Additionally, BMW featured He Spoke Style's influencer-generated content across their branded social channels including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Mastercard's cross-platform influencer campaign featured a series of sponsored Vine videos alongside Arielle's Instagram post and a feature-length video ad hosted on Mastercard's YouTube channel.
4. Instagram Influencer Marketing Growth Has Just Begun
With the declining TV viewing time across several significant demographics and the explosion of screen time on top influencer channels including YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat all brands are quickly realizing the reach and return value of marketing with top social media influencers. The maturation of the first influencer marketing agencies, companies, and platforms has provided brands with better access.
Similar to what we're beginning to see in the branded video content world (e.g. Turkish Airlines film with top YouTube influencers), Instagram influencer marketing is moving towards longer-term branded content collaborations and away from the one-off post.
As one of the top mobile app of choice for millennials worldwide, Instagram's user base is not only averse to the app's increase in sponsored ads (VentureBeat), but is outspoken in their preference for storied content (Inc.) oftentimes espousing the same aspirational lifestyle values as their favorite Instagrammers. As such, savvy brands looking to effectively target Instagram's user base will need to strategize on crafting deeper and more relevant content with the appropriate influencers.
5. YouTube Still Reigns As King
2015 has seen YouTube come under attack from a variety of direct and indirect competitors (think Vessel, the aforementioned Facebook Video, and Twitch) as well as the newest breakout social channels. To counter, YouTube has rolled out with several notable changes namely its Live Streaming, Shoppable Ads, and ad-free subscription service, YouTube Red.
Although Facebook has published initial impressive stats regarding its daily video views, YouTube remains firmly in the lead. Heading into 2016, YouTube continues to retain its top spot for sustained, long-term, proven engagement and reach for best social publishing platform and network. As reported in VentureBeat Insights, YouTube trumps Facebook for daily video watching eleven times over (U.S. viewing only) placing it firmly in the lead.Facebook aside, YouTube reaches more 18-49 year olds than any U.S. cable network. As such, YouTube's reach provides many brands like Audible a viable and succinct marketing channel to reach millions. Just in the first half of 2015, Audible's marketing campaign with top YouTubers (including PewDiePie, Roman Atwood, Grace Helbig, and several others) garnered over 83 million video views with a total audience base of 132 million.YouTubers (including PewDiePie, Roman Atwood, Grace Helbig, and several others) garnered over 83 million video views with a total audience base of 132 million.
For creators like The Young Turks, many are developing content for newer platforms, however "YouTube remains homebase" due to its well-established global audience. As these newer social platforms gain added traction in 2016, creators will continue to saturate these newer platforms, however YouTube with its long established traction for many demographics over both Facebook and TV, will continue to lead the brand-influencer marketplace.