Five Influencer Marketing Trends To Watch
Worth $1.7bn in 2016, the global influencer market reached a record $16.4bn last year. Even before the pandemic accelerated its development, influencer marketing was growing rapidly, and it shows no sign of slowing.
As one of the first UK PR and social agencies to use micro-influencers at scale, we’ve seen this market mature first hand. Today 64% of consumer brands, plus a not insignificant 35% of B2B companies, are using or intending to use influencers within their marketing activity. So, what’s next in the evolving world of influencer marketing?
In this WPR Reading Room blog, managing director Jane Ainsworth talks about five influencer marketing trends to watch in 2023.
1. GROWING PROFESSIONALISM AND REGULATION
As the industry matures, regulatory bodies across the world are being ever stricter with rules surrounding paid partnerships.
It isn’t enough to assume your chosen influencer will know the rules, despite the increasing professionalism of many talented creators. If you’re unsure what should be specified in an influencer contract, or what your chosen influencer needs to include with their posts to comply with the latest rules, seek professional advice from a PR agency or third party who does.
2. increaseD consumer cynicism
With new influencers springing up almost daily, more companies choosing to go down the influencer marketing route, and the need for influencers to highlight an #ad or #paidpartntership, forging an influencer relationship that audiences believe in is increasingly important. This is one reason many brands are opting to build longer term collaborations or turn to agencies with tried-and-tested networks.
With so many aspiring influencers and content creators out there, finding the ones that work for your brand can be challenging. From our experience, getting this stage right really, really matters. If you don’t choose wisely, it’s easy to spend precious budget on influencer activity that doesn’t chime either with your target audience or your chosen influencer’s followers.
Consumers are increasingly calling out influencers for promoting brands or products they view as negative or harmful. And, with the cost-of-living crisis impacting consumer behaviour, the need to get both the content and delivery of messaging right is more crucial than ever.
If you’re unsure about the right fit, seek advice about spotting potential pitfalls and identifying opportunities to make sure results meet expectations.
3. specialisation and niche audiences
When it comes to picking influencers to work with, you need to look beyond follower numbers. We work with everyone from micro-influencers to macro: the important thing is to understand which is the right way to go for your brand.
Micro-influencers offer the relatively obvious benefit of typically being more affordable to work with. But, most importantly, they tend to deliver better results in terms of engagement. Research suggests Instagram micro-influencers have an average engagement rate of 3.86%, against 1.21% for mega-influencers.
With a proliferation of influencers in almost every area, we’re seeing a trend towards greater specialism, as creators differentiate themselves by carving out highly engaged niche audiences.
4. employees turned influencers
It’s not unusual to see trends emerge in the US then make their way across the Atlantic. While there’s nothing revolutionary about considering a company’s team as brand ambassadors, tapping into their potential as content creators and influencers in a more strategic way is a newer trend.
Macy’s launched its ‘Style Crew’ a few years ago, initially solely using its team. In the UK, the pandemic encouraged brands to test the water with localised and ‘home grown’ content, with retailers including John Lewis and M&S harnessing their own people to engage with customers.
It’s an approach that has potential for sectors spanning leisure, hospitality, retail, fashion and beauty. But doing it well requires more than just setting the team free to post at will. Integrated into wider strategy, with an awareness of how to balance content creator autonomy with brand messaging, and effective management, it’s likely to increase.
5. social and live shopping
In the early years of influencer marketing, brands often came to us with brand awareness as the primary goal for their influencer activity. With consumers increasingly choosy about who they trust for recommendations, inspiration and advice, a reputation-building goal is still valid.
But the growth of social shopping suggests the link between influencer action and product sales could become much more direct. Harnessing the popularity of haul and unboxing videos, there’s the potential for brands to convert an influencer’s followers into customers in a streamlined way, particularly among Gen Z and Millennial consumers who are spearheading social commerce growth.
While there’s uncertainty about how much traction live shopping is gaining in European and US markets, it’s a massive income stream in Asian markets and TikTok launched ‘shopping ads’ to help “brands meet shoppers wherever they are in the purchase journey”. Even for consumers who aren’t shopping via platforms, the 35 billion views of #tiktokmademebuyit and the presence of TikTok trending displays in high street retailers from Waterstones to Superdrug show how influential social media content is on consumer behaviour.
Speed of change is a defining feature of the social media landscape. Even the most established platforms shift focus swiftly when user-demand heads in a new direction. While we can predict likely trends, we also have to be ready for the unpredictable: it’s why being immersed in what’s happening on a day-to-day basis is so crucial.
In a comparatively short space of time, TikTok’s influence has been huge and it won’t be the last disruptor. As platforms emerge and evolve – and as AI becomes more mainstream – the types of content influencers create will inevitably change.
The trick is not to jump on every bandwagon. Not all platforms or content types are right for all brands. So, seek out the advice and expertise that ensures your marketing budget and effort goes into activity which delivers on your brand’s goals.
The need for creativity and authenticity in content creation is greater (and harder to achieve) than ever before. Consumers are much more commercially savvy and, in the current economic climate, anything that smacks of an overly commercial approach is unlikely to land favourably. But there’s huge potential out there if you get it right.
The author: Jane Ainsworth is managing director of WPR. She has more than 20 years’ experience in developing and delivering communications strategies for consumer brands including Dunelm, Tesco, Mothercare, Greene King, John Lewis, Bullring, Beaverbrooks and Westfield.