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For online marketers, influencer-driven marketing is a popular and effective strategy for increasing sales and spreading brand awareness. Although the concept of influencer endorsements might have some similarities to celebrity brand endorsements, influencer marketing is fairly new by comparison.

Influencer Marketing Origins

Let’s trace the use of this marketing strategy back to 2004. Independent content creators were gaining prominence in the digital public square. Consumers trusted these creative individuals to guide them toward the most useful and reliable goods and services — hence the name, influencers.

Ted Murphy — the eventual founder of IZEA — took note of these influencers and started a practice called eSeeding. The eSeeding group arranged for influencers to endorse certain brands, and, in return, the influencers would often receive compensation in the form of gift cards.

By 2005, Murphy had compiled a database of influential bloggers, and he helped connect them to receptive advertisers. It was an innovative strategy that would change the world of online marketing.

The Industry Grows

The following year, PayPerPost debuted. This marketplace guided even more bloggers to businesses that were looking to increase their online traffic and sales. PayPerPost would later become IZEA, and plenty of competitors cropped up, following similar marketing models. The industry took off, with Murphy often advocating for transparency from brands and their associated bloggers.

By 2010, even social networks were beginning to allow advertisers to use promoted posts to pull in money. But brands weren’t the only ones benefiting from this emerging industry. Micro-influencers — people who draw smaller audiences than standard influencers — also found success, thanks to new platforms like WeReward.

Today, influencer marketing has grown into an effective and indispensable tool for many brands. Over 60 percent of marketers plan on spending more money on their influencer campaigns in 2019, according to BigCommerce. Businesses have noted the power of influencers, and they plan on riding that marketing wave into the future.