influencer marketing in 2018

What even is ‘influencer marketing’?

If you are thinking, “Just what is this word I kept hearing last year? And how can it be applied to my business?” then this blog post is for you.

Influencer marketing isn’t actually a new concept. In theory, influencer marketing has been around since the very beginning of social media marketing. It is a simple idea: engage with people who are already popular and have a loyal following, then your brand and products, in turn, might become popular. Influencer marketing is all about growing your audience and leveraging the voices of visible, connected individuals. There are lots of opportunity for companies (big and small) to seize the power of building relationships with influential people.

Micro vs. Macro

Influencer marketing can be a powerful tool for brands for reaching consumers via social channels. If you align your brand with the right influencer, whose lifestyle is consistent with your brand values, there is great potential for that relationship to foster incredible ROI. When you think of influencer marketing you’re likely picturing some famous movie star who has a huge fan base. But there is a new iteration of influencer marketing – the microinfluencer. Many are even dubbing 2018 ‘the year of the microinfluencer.’

Celebrities or other very visible social influencers shine a spotlight on your company and bring lots of attention to it. But they also cost a lot. Plus, if a celeb influencer is in hot water, your brand may feel some of the heat. Another downside to consider when deciding what approach you want to take to influencer marketing is that many of the tens of thousands of followers that social influencers have are fake! Your company should not be paying for that.

A subset of influencer marketing is this microinfluencer trend. Celebrity influencers carry a lot of clout but microinfluencers are ideal for situations when you want to have a targeted focus – when the best answer isn’t huge audiences, but a specific audience. If your brand wants to get granular, try tapping into partnerships with folks who have influence locally. Look for superfans, real people who want to engage with your brand. A superfan with a very engaged following is the perfect spokesperson because their followers trust their opinions and feel emotionally attached to them. Build a community out of these fans and encourage them to, if they so desire, to share your content with their followers.

Like I said above, large scale influencers are pricy. Microinfluencers are paid very little, if at all, so it’s a great solution for smaller brands who want to test the whole influencer marketing strategy.

Influencer content should feel authentic and approachable to the consumer and that’s why I think working with people who haven’t made a career out of influencer marketing is ideal. Microinfluencers feel more genuine (maybe because they aren’t being paid…) and typically brands want them to write their own Instagram caption or tweet.

Is influencer marketing here to stay or a passing fad?

Despite the boom last year, the marketing technique has actually been evolving closer to a decade. Safe to say, it is no longer a rising trend but a full-fledged, proven marketing strategy. B2C and B2B companies alike have started influencer programs or allocated a spot for influencer marketing in their overall marketing budgets. As more marketers dedicated more time and resources, influencer marketing gained more steam and earned its spot in the digital marketing landscape. In fact, Bloglovin found that 63% of the marketers it surveyed had increased their budgets for influencer marketing in 2017. That trend is likely to continue.

That being said, some people are hypothesizing that “2018 will both be the year of influencer marketing as well as the year of the influencer implosion.” In a Marketing Land article, columnist Kevin Lee discusses how influencer marketing’s popularity cannot last. But the continued investment in influencer marketing shows no signs of slowing down in 2018 so, to me, it’s here to stay – at least for a little while.

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Like any endorsement-based marketing strategy, there are risks. But the rewards are high. If you are on the fence about influencer marketing, I say take the plunge, just be smart about it. Pay attention to the FTC’s full disclosure statements and be fully transparent. Learn from past influencer flops and get familiar with the regulations and guidelines. Lastly, always be ready to do damage control. My advice is to hedge your bets and go micro. Over and over again, high-profile influencers (most recently Logan Paul) have found their careers called into question as they face backlash over some incident. If you do enter into a partnership with an influencer who has a lot of baggage, tread carefully!
Is anyone out there investing in influencer marketing? Who thinks it might be reaching its inflection point? Let me know in the comments! Oh, and if you’re curious how to leverage influencers to reach specific audiences or how AI and livestreaming might play an important role, get in touch.

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