It’s hard to believe that only a few years have passed since influencer marketing was considered a momentary trend. Even harder to believe is how much it has grown in the years since, as it’s evolved into an impossible-to-ignore approach to brand and product marketing.

In today’s social- and celebrity-driven media landscape, more brands are starting to see the value influencers offer in terms of reach, impact, and ROI. And it’s getting companies who have been reluctant in the past to take the leap into influencer marketing.

What makes influencer marketing essential

Over the past decade, social media has become part of the fabric of our daily lives. So it only makes sense why brands have flocked to these platforms in order to reach consumers. Yet, where brands have historically relied on organic social content to cultivate and retain brand enthusiasts, social platforms have increasingly reduced visibility of organic content in recent years – and as a result, shortened brand reach.

But as social platforms have shifted, so have the brands who use them, to the point where paid promotion (including influencer partnerships) is essential to getting seen and staying relevant.

As digital consumers get better at tuning out online advertising, and ad blocking software makes ignoring ads easier, brands need to find new approaches to making ad dollars work – and for many the solution is influencer marketing. In fact, survey data shows 67% of marketers think influencer marketing helps them reach a more targeted audience, and 92% of marketers who use the strategy found it to be effective.

Take as anecdotal evidence the recent Netflix and Hulu documentaries about the catastrophic Fyre Festival, a music festival billed as an exclusive, luxury experience on a private Bahamian island. While the festival itself was an unmitigated disaster, both documentaries demonstrate the incredible power of influencer campaigns, and show how a handful of influential models can orchestrate tremendous buzz around a brand and event.

Incidentally, while the Fyre Festival influencer campaign proved how effective marketing with an influencer strategy can be, it also underscored the need to remain transparent about paid sponsorships. Here’s how: Most of the models who were paid as part of the campaign didn’t disclose their posts as being sponsored, running afoul of FTC regulations requiring them to do so. For brands running influencer campaigns, this came as a strong reminder to ensure partners abide by regulations governing disclosure – or suffer the potential consequences.

Expanding budgets and deeper integration

In the early days of influencer marketing, it was common for brands to execute one-off campaigns with influencers. These campaigns would include a handful of posts that weren’t necessarily tied to a broader campaign or objective.

Now that marketers have seen the possibilities of influencer marketing, they’re devoting more of their budgets to the approach. In fact, influencer marketing is expected to grow to a $10 billion industry by 2020, up from $2 billion in 2017. And with influencer budgets expanding, deeper integration within broader marketing campaigns will certainly follow, further demonstrating that ongoing influencer partnerships, as opposed to one-off posts, are the next frontier in influencer marketing.

Micro-influencers versus celebrity influencers

Partnering with celebrity influencers may be a path to greater visibility, but it will also cost your brand dearly. Another revelation from the Fyre Festival fallout, for example, is that Kendall Jenner was reportedly paid $250,000 for a single post about the event.

That level of cost is prohibitive for most brands. However, the good news is that micro-influencers, or those with 100,000 followers or fewer, have proven to be very effective partners for brands. In many cases these micro-influencers have clout in niche communities that better align with brand partners than A-list celebrities. Even better, there’s evidence to suggest that micro-influencers also have better rates of engagement than celebrity influencers.

The takeaway for brands and online businesses

For most brands, influencer marketing is a channel they can’t afford to ignore. Influencer partnerships offer visibility and reach with engaged audiences that simply isn’t achievable elsewhere.

When strategically conceived and efficiently managed, influencer campaigns not only give brands a boost in customer attention, they are fast becoming a way to improve digital marketing ROI.

 

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