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As I proceed forward in writing my book on influencer marketing, The Business of Influence, I continue to be amazed at how widespread influencer marketing has become today. I embarked on writing this book because it was the number one question I have been asked as a social media speaker. When friends of mine outside of social media began to ask me about the role of influencers, I knew that the topic had become mainstream.
The Old Topic of Influencer Marketing
Of course, the topic of influence is not new at all. We have been talking about the topic of social media influence here on Maximize Social Business for several years, including the dozens of posts published here by my colleague Raymond Morin as well as those published in the early humble beginnings of influencer marketing today, which was called blogger outreach, from Kristen Matthews. Before we had social media, we had celebrity endorsements on television, before that radio, and before that literally word-of-mouth.
The Influencers of Today are Not the Celebrities of Yesterday
The influencers that are at the heart of influencer marketing might not hold the same amount of influence or have as large of a community as those celebrities of the past. That is the point: With the democratization of first content distribution and then content creation, it was only inevitable until influence as we know it became democratized as well. We are all influenced by different people, content, and mediums, and while celebrities are still influential entities, it is without doubt that more and more entities creating content and developing communities on social media have emerged and often hold influence over niche communities. These influencers might not be able to sway the opinion of millions, but even being able to influence the purchasing decision of hundreds or thousands of people can provide companies with lucrative avenues to incite word of mouth marketing in a generation where advertisements are distrusted more and more.
From its humble beginnings of what we called blogger outreach to engaging with micro-influencers on Instagram today, influencer marketing in 2018 has become agnostic to type of business, platform and even content medium. Influencer marketing ROI is real, and by all indications, influencer marketing budgets continue to increase.
The State of Influencer Marketing in 2018: Continued Growth and Breadth
From all accounts, influencer marketing continues to increase and expand in the following areas:
- From Macro to Macro AND Micro – Clearly companies are seeing that influence is everywhere, and while an overwhelming majority of budget is being spent working with Macro Influencers, more companies are also finding value by working with a group of smaller influencers who yield higher engagement and a tight community over a niche area rather than influencers with larger, more widespread community where average engagement might be lower while pricing for their services might be above the market. There is no one perfect match for every brand, but more and more brands are working with a larger variety of influencer types than ever before.
- From B2C to All Industries – What started off exclusively in the domain of consumer-facing industries has clearly crossed the chasm and is now being utilized regardless of industry. While an overwhelming majority of influencer marketing budgets are being spent in B2C industries, B2B influencer marketing has started to emerge. Engagements with influencers in the B2B space will be different than what many are accustomed to seeing on Instagram. One way in which B2B companies are utilizing influencers are during events. If you were curious as to the incredible ROI that some B2B brands have seen from utilizing influencers at events, read this case study from Adobe Summit. Note that I was also one of the ambassadors invited to participate by Adobe and had on idea of the joint impact we had until I read this article after the fact!
- From Organic to Paid to Influencer – I was surprised at a recent conference how many social media professionals indicated that they were only in charge of organic social media at their company while paid social was being run by another department or group. To me this indicates a shift in budget from organic social – where returns for those seeking them are ever-declining – to paid social, where traditional digital marketing ROI measurement methods can be employed. The problem is that paid social gets more expensive with time as more and more businesses invest in it, yet the amount of ads that can be displayed to users is limited. Some businesses classify influencer marketing as paid media, so for them it makes sense to shift some of that paid social budget into influencer marketing and see if the spend might be more efficient here.
- From Media Relations to Influencer Relations – I am finding more and more professionals working at companies who have this term Influencer Relations as part of their corporate title. If influencers are the new media in digital media, and companies need to invest in long-term relationships to see meaningful results, this shift in titles makes perfect sense. After all, social media is about community not campaign, right?
- From Influencer Marketing to Influencer Everything – Influencers, like social media itself, can be leveraged for any objective that your company might have. The role of Influencer Relations hints that companies are beginning to leverage influencers as part of their Public Relations efforts. In fact, as I interview various companies about their influencer marketing efforts, I find some are leveraging influential employees for employer branding.
- Employee as Influencer – This is a concept that resonates with many B2B organizations that I have spoken with. Employee Advocacy programs have revealed the influence that many of its employees have, and many organizations are putting employees at the center of their influence programs.
Despite all of this increased investment and expansion of influencer marketing, influencer marketing still has its challenges that need to be resolved.
The State of Influencer Marketing in 2018 – Continued Challenges
From influencer identification to fraudulent activities to brand alignment, the fact that influencer marketing is putting money or product into the pockets of a new army of content creators and amplifiers opens up the door for others to game the system. At the end of the day, social networks are built upon a combination of user-generated content, communities, and algorithms which govern what content is shown in who’s news feed. This constant state of anarchy allows for both the democratization of influence as well as the ability for some to appear to be influential to the eye, whether or not their community or influence is real.
If influencer marketing is based on human relationships and subjective content, how can influence, engagement, and contextual relevance be rationally analyzed? Is it possible that technology can solve these challenges?
The answer is yes.
I have spent the last few months writing an ebook to help Open Influence tell their perspective on the past history as well as the future of influencer marketing. In fact the history of Open Influence mimics how far the industry has evolved over the last decade. From only working with a handful of influencers utilizing a talent agency model to opening up their agency to more influencers who register to creating a rolodex of influencers from which customers can choose from replicating an influencer marketplace, Open Influence’s progression mimic’s that of the industry as a whole.
That’s when Open Influence realized the potential to leverage technology to take their influencer marketing to the next level. In doing so, they realized that by leveraging technology in a smart way, they could actually close the gap and solve many if not all of the challenges facing the influencer marketing industry today.
How AI is Revolutionizing Influencer Marketing – The Ebook
Influencer Marketing is undergoing a data-driven revolution, and if you are not aware of this, you might be wasting marketing spend with results that far underperform their potential. I am excited to announce this ebook, together with my friends at the influencer marketing technology company Open Influence, which discusses the most modern approach to generating exponentially greater ROI from your influencer marketing efforts.
I hope you’ll join me for a truly insightful look into the influencer marketing industry of today and how artificial intelligence is truly revolutionizing the industry and generating exponentially higher ROI for those brands leveraging this technology.
Topics discussed in the ebook include:
- Understand the current state of influencer marketing and the issues that need to be resolved
- Learn why AI is a natural match for influencer marketing
- The importance of first-party data in influencer marketing
- Gain an inside and in-depth look at how AI specifically revolutionizes influencer marketing
- …and much more
If you have any questions regarding the ebook after you download and read it, please feel free to add them to the comments section.
Have you seen the continued growth and expansion of influencer marketing in your company or industry this year? Feel free to agree or disagree with my points in the comments below!
FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I only work with products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from. All opinions are mine. This is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.