Every so often, it helps to take a step back and look at how the influencer marketing landscape has changed over the years. Getting the big picture when it comes to the influencer marketing landscape can help your brand see what’s working and what needs to be adjusted to meet current demand or requirements.
Major Strategy Trends Affecting The Influencer Marketing Landscape
The Influencer marketing landscape is not immune to the trends and changes in the world around it. In fact, eMarketer’s US Social Trends for 2017 report predicted that the influencer marketing landscape could face a number of difficulties in the upcoming year. A few of the trends are having a direct impact on the influencer marketing landscape and how it works:
The Decline of Organic Reach
At the end of 2016, Instagram changed its algorithm, which led to a bit of panic among influencers who depend on likes and comments from followers to earn their bread and butter. The worry that organic reach is slipping isn’t unfounded. During the first half 2016, organic reach dropped by 52 percent on Facebook, as the platform sought to find ways to boost revenue through ads. Now that Snapchat and Instagram both have ads (which will make those platforms money, as compared to influencer marketing, which doesn’t), it’s expected that organic reach will continue to plummet.
The Battle of Instagram vs Snapchat
In one corner, there’s Instagram, Facebook’s little brother (by way of a buyout). In the other corner, there’s Snapchat. Both are duking it out not to become the also-ran in the social media game. First, Instagram released the Stories feature, which imitated Snapchat and quickly surpassed it. Then, Snapchat began letting users add links to stories, which is more than Instagram ever gave them.
Also in 2017, Instagram added a paid partner feature, making it easier for influencers to disclose their partnerships (and getting rid of the need for the awkward #ad hashtag). Meanwhile, reports swirled about Snapchat not being particularly friendly or welcoming to influencers on its platform.
It’s too soon to say who will win the Instagram vs Snapchat battle, especially since each time one platform does something, the other seems ready to fight back.
The Rise of the Micro-Influencer
One of the biggest trends in the influencer marketing landscape of 2017 is the rise of the micro-influencer. Micro-influencers are any influencer with fewer than 100,000 followers and a high engagement rate. As AdWeek showed, Instagrammers with lower follower counts tend to have the highest engagement rates. And when it comes to influencer marketing, actually engaging with and connecting to an audience is much more important than simply having that audience exist.
Another reason micro-influencers have become so popular is because they tend to appeal to niche audiences. If you’re trying to reach a group of embroidery enthusiasts, it’s better to work with an influencer who does embroidery and has people who are also interested in embroidery follow her, even if that follower count is just 1,100. It’s more likely that a greater number of those 1,100 followers will also be embroidery enthusiasts than the 250,000 people who follow a big-name influencer with no previous connection to the craft.
Meet the Top Influencers
The year 2017 was a hallmark year for the influencer marketing landscape for one big reason. It was the first year Forbes.com, known for its “Top…” lists, put together a top influencers list. The magazine ranked the top influencers in categories such as travel, design, and beauty. Here’s a look at a few of the number ones from each category:
Lilly Singh – Entertainment
Canadian Lilly Singh has more than 11 million subscribers on YouTube, where she’s known for her goofy, funny videos.
Brian Kelly – Travel
The blogger behind the Points Guy, Brian Kelly has made a career of maximizing credit card points and showing others how to do it too.
Grace Bonney – Home and design
Grace Bonney started her blog, Design Sponge, way back in 2004. Since then, she’s built up an empire based on the strength of the DIY movement.
Zoella – Beauty
YouTuber Zoella (real name: Zoe Sugg) has been making videos showing off shopping hauls since she was a teen. She’s managed to turn that into a YouTube channel with more than 11 million subscribers.
Kayla Itsines – Fitness
Personal trainer Kayla Itsines developed the Bikini Body Guides. She also has her own app, and has more than seven million followers on Instagram.
Mark Fischbach – Gaming
A YouTuber who specializes in horror gaming commentary, Mark Fischbach, aka Markiplier, has more than 17 million subscribers. He also recently signed with the William Morris agency, and launched a tour of several cities.
How Much Are Marketers Spending on Influencer Marketing?
As the influencer marketing landscape matures and the tactic becomes more popular, people begin to see the value of it. And, in turn, influencer marketing budgets are only going to increase. The 2017 State of the Creator Economy study (SOCE) found two thirds of marketers had their own dedicated budgets for influencer marketing. One third of those marketers had $500,000 or more earmarked just for influencer marketing.
The increase in spending and budget size within the influencer marketing landscape goes along with an increase in digital spending overall. Last year, digital advertising spending was more than $72.5 billion, an increase of 22 percent from the year before. It was also the first year that digital spending was more than spending on TV advertising.
What’s Going on With the FTC?
The increase in popularity of influencer marketing has also led to an increase in interest from the Federal Trade Commission. You know, the organization whose job it is to make sure people are following proper endorsement guidelines.
The endorsement and disclosure rules are easy enough to understand. If there’s a material connection between a brand and influencer, the influencer needs to disclose it. The SOCE found that nearly 70 percent of creators disclosed relationships in their posts. But, it also found that only slightly more than half of marketers were familiar with the rules.
That could be why the FTC sent letters to more than 90 brands and influencers in April 2017. Although it was just a gentle reminder of the disclosure rules, the letters mark the organization’s first effort to communicate with and educate influencers.
Four Best Examples of Influencer Marketing in 2017…So Far
The year might be a little more than halfway over, but there have already been several terrific examples of influencer marketing campaigns and strategies. Take a look at the top four:
Fashion Nova takes a “more is more” approach to influencer marketing, working with thousands of influencers. And, it works. The online “viral” clothing store has worked with pretty much every fashion-related influencer in existence. Partnerships include Kylie Jenner (who got more than two million likes on a photo featuring her in the brand’s jeans) and YouTube micro-influencer BlissfulBrii.
Glossier is a cosmetics company that grew out of a beauty blog. You can bet it has a firm handle on the best way to use influencer marketing. The brand’s tactic has been to work with influencers who have high engagement rates but not necessarily huge followings.
UK-based online fashion retailer ASOS has come up with a way to solve the disclosure issue. The brand gave influencers their own ASOS Instagram accounts and dubbed them ASOS Insiders. Now fans of the brand and its influencers can visit those profiles to find out what styles their favorites are wearing from ASOS.
Adidas Original Is
For its #OriginalIs campaign, Adidas Originals partnered with influencers and celebrities to create a series of videos highlighting the contributions of each. The campaign is a good example of the value of using a lot of different influencers to reach the widest audience possible.