Influencer marketing has become one of the hottest trends in the marketing landscape. With millions of pieces of content flooding the internet every minute, the cost of content clutter is rising for every brand trying to make an impact. As a result, brands have been on the hunt for new ways to get in front of their customers - the Google Trends graph below shows the shift in interest from 'content marketing' to 'influencer marketing' over the last two years.
While the marketing landscape remains fast-paced and unpredictable, one thing is certain - influencer marketing is here to stay. And with more brands setting aside influencer marketing budget than ever before, it's important for marketers to look into the future and plan accordingly. Why? Because in this industry, tapping into growing trends presents a key opportunity to get ahead.
In the hopes of helping fellow marketers do just that, I've documented a few of my predictions for Influencer Marketing in 2017.
1. The rise of rich media influencers will continue
Gone are the days of press releases being mass mailed to bloggers - if your marketing plan involves this tactic I suggest you leave it in 2016.
The content your target market is consuming has evolved, and as such, you also need to adapt your strategy if you want to make a lasting impact.
With platforms like YouTube and Instagram on the rise with consumers, more brands will turn to these rich media channels when looking to collaborate with influencers - a recent study by Google, for example, found that Millennials see YouTube stars to be more influential than celebrities.
As a result of consumers demanding better quality content, and a richer experience, we'll see influencers (and marketers) really raise the bar in 2017 content wise. I predict Instagrammers and YouTubers will be in high demand in the years to come, and we can expect to see more campaigns like this collaboration between Mercedes Benz and Loki The Dog - Instagram's most popular wolf.
2. The hype around rules and regulations will die down
As the Influencer Marketing industry evolves, so too does the need for regulation. In 2016 we saw a great deal of hype around the introduction of the FTC guidelines. People got really worried, and I'm not sure why.
Rules and regulations are the signs of a healthy growing industry, every advertising vertical worth it's salt is regulated to protect the consumer - and personally, I feel that Influencer Marketing should be too. In essence, rules and regulations are put into place to protect the interests of influencers, brands and consumers. As these rules just become part of our day-to-day lives, the hype around them will ultimately die down.
We should think of the rules as guidelines to help us achieve our ultimate goal, a campaign that represents the perfect triangle.
The influencer benefits because they're proud of the content they've produced.
The audience benefits because they enjoy consuming this content.
The brand benefits because the content helps them meet business objectives.
If all of the above is met, will it really matter that there is an #ad tag attached?
3. The bartering mentality will die down (hopefully)
When influencer marketing first started gaining traction in the market, brands would often offer influencers free products in exchange for a blog post or mention on social media. Many people saw this as harmless, but by accepting product as payment, a bartering culture was ultimately created.
I spend much of my job educating brands about the true value of influencers. In order for the industry to grow and mature, marketers need to evolve past bartering and get comfortable paying a standardized rate for the value influencers provide. One of the most important things our influencer platform provides is pricing guidance for both influencers and marketers. I do believe though that in the end, influencers are the ones who need to accelerate the standardization of pricing by quoting their rates - and sticking to them.
The influencer industry actually has many similarities to the evolution of retail. In the past, people would negotiate for discounts and exchanges on goods at markets, this was before prices were set and people were able to place a value on products. Standardizing the pricing in the Influencer marketing landscape is step one to evolving, and we're on the right track to get there in 2017.
4. The platforms that survive, will be the ones that solve real business challenges
This prediction is based around the evolution of influencer marketing in general. 2015 and 2016 saw a spike in new influencer marketing platforms, many saw an opportunity and built a front facing site boasting thousands of influencers as their main value point. The honest truth is, most of these influencer marketing platforms only solve a portion of the challenges marketers have - finding thousands of influencers is easy, finding the right one is hard.
The platforms that will survive are the ones that solve challenges marketers face working with influencers, not just finding them. Things like management, budget guidance, payment processing, integrated reporting, campaign insight, and most importantly - sustaining long-term relationships with the right influencers.
I predict that marketers will define the value of a platform by the challenges it helps brands and influencers overcome, rather than the size of the influencer pool available.
5. Brands will own their own networks
My strongest prediction for 2017 is that there will be a shift from platforms that "own" influencer networks, to platforms that allow brands to own their own their own influencer networks. Platforms that give brands the tools to build their own networks will be the ones that add the most value, mostly because you're giving the power to the marketers who understand their brands more than anyone else. I strongly believe that tech shouldn't restrict the relationship between brands and influencers, it should enable it.
If we get this right, we'll effectively give brands the power to really turn influencers into advocates, and that's the most powerful marketing tactic we have.