Despite the news about fake followers or lack of transparency, it is undeniable that influencer marketing is now an integral part of many brands' marketing strategies. While some might argue that historically influencer marketing has not really had a home being tossed between PR, social media, content marketing and media buying, where the budget sits is going to become less of an issue as marketers realise that influencer marketing deserve to be forefront of the marketing mix.
Meanwhile, according to a new report by the Influencer Marketing Hub for 2020, influencer marketing and social media marketing will become even closer in the future. Here are some of the major trends highlighted by the report are:
- Firms will merge content marketing, influencer marketing, and social media marketing
Brands and marketers frequently place content marketing, influencer marketing, and social media marketing as separate, discrete types of online marketing. But in reality, these are all just separate components of a single online marketing process. Hence, this will become more evident over the next year.
- Brands will be more determined to find influencers with similar values to themselves
An area that has tarnished influencer marketing over recent times has been when brands have become ashamed of their relationship with influencers because of poor or controversial behaviour. However, businesses now realise that there needs to be a better match between their intrinsic values and those of the influencers with whom they work. Brands and marketers are also more aware of not blindly choosing to work with famous influencers or those with similar audience to their customer base, but to check for values compatibility first.
- Influencer platforms will increase in importance and become a tool of choice for most firms wanting to run their influencer campaigns in-house
According to the report, fewer firms are attempting the organic method of working with an agency to do most of the influencer marketing, using a platform tool to find influencers, and doing all the influencer marketing organically. In 2020, it is predicted that brands interested in influencer marketing will either outsource their projects entirely to an influencer agency or carry out their campaigns in-house, using one or more platforms as tools to simplify the process for them.
- Brands will increase their use of employees and customers as advocates
A brands' two largest groups of advocates are likely to be satisfied customers and its employees. While both customer and employee advocacy exist, relatively few firms have realised the underutilised potential they have. This is predicted to change as businesses recognise that although these people may not have the largest followings, their enthusiasm and knowledge about the company's products is likely to make up for their smaller reach.
- Influencers will make more audio and video content
Over time internet speed and bandwidth have improved, and it is now easier than ever to make and share video and audio content with followers. YouTube has been regularly sought for video content and with the likes of Twitch and TikTok in the space, the report said influencers will create more audio and video content in 2020 as audiences are also now on those platforms and viewing such content.
- Celebrities will become less relevant for influencer campaigns
Brands and marketers, and netizens in general, now understand that the first requirement for being an influencer is being capable of influencing the decisions of others. Individuals are expected to be a specialist in some niche to be an influencer, and being famous or having lots of followers is not enough to make the cut. For brands, the best value for money in influencer marketing comes when it finds a genuine enthusiast in its niche who has an audience that aligns with its target market.
- Increasing regulation and enforcement will help streamline the entire influencer marketing industry
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took an active interest in the influencer marketing practice, and enforced influencers to disclose when they have a relationship with a brand. In 2020, The Influencer Marketing Hub predicts that the FTC will increase its surveillance to ensure that influencers are open about all their commercial arrangements.
- Long-term influencer relationships will become the norm
Most brands selected influencers on a campaign by campaign basis. The nature of this meant that relationships tended to be short-term and fleeting; although brands would sometimes return to those people whom they had built a successful relationship with in the past. However, as the influencer marketing industry grows, brands are discovering the benefits of building longer-term relationships with their influencers.
Agreeing on the point of long-term relations becoming the norm, James Gaubert, business director APAC, The Goat Agency told Marketing that increasingly, brands are moving to an "always on" approach in marketing, understanding that pushing a product or service two or three times a year might not be ideal when most consumers are active on a daily basis. The Goat Agency, is currently based out of Singapore works with clients such as Nike, Adidas, Huawei, Absolut, HSBC, Nivea, Kelloggs, KFC and Coca-Cola.
"I think the goal for any brand must be to increase talkability on their product or service and to do this every single day of the year, not just inline with campaigns or when their marketing calendar state they should," he added.
However while long term relationship is important, it is also crucial to ensure that brands do not face fatigue by using the same influencer over and over again. To Gaubert, who oversees an influencer marketing firm which has worked with over 75,000 influencers, one of the key things brands have to ensure in their influencer marketing, is to rotate influencers. "If you stick with the same influencers every single day and on an ongoing basis, you are going to get fatigue and still only reach the same people. Managing the entire process properly and including influencer churn is really important," he said.
Meanwhile, going back on the earlier point on long-term influencer relationships, Yang Huiwen, director of Rutosocial, said in a conversation with Marketing that brands are indeed going beyond the "ala carte" approach and searching for influencers that match their brand values.
"Ideally you'd want to work with them on a longer term basis, to convert these influencers into brand advocates. Depending on the category of the brand, in doing so, there’s also an unspoken exclusivity as influencers are also less likely to promote a competitive product at risk of losing the brand relationship," she added.
"Brands will continuously try out different influencers to test out the working relationship. It may take a few campaigns before brands are comfortable embarking on a long-term relationship, which requires long-term planning and resources. Because of this commitment, it may be more economical time wise for some other brands to work with influencers on an adhoc basis," she explained. Social media agency Rutosocial was jointly formed in October 2019 by former Nuffnang CEO Cheo Ming Shen and influencer blogger Wendy Cheng, better known as Xiaxue. The agency aims to create “thumb-stopping” content on social media for brands.
What's in store for 2020
With growth, comes obstacles in various forms. In the influencer marketing space, The Goat Agency's Gaubert explained that brands, particularly in Asia, feel like they have been burnt in the past, and many have shared that working with influencers do not necessarily give them the desired ROI. To tackle this, it comes down to client objectives and KPIs.
"Some influencers are great for awareness but drive rubbish clicks versus others who may not get you volume and reach but drive excellent engagement and click throughs," he said. At the end of the day, understanding the data that sits underneath each influencer is paramount to the success of any campaign or piece of activity. Content creation is of course, as we all know, key. Gaubert advices clients not to script or write the content in order to remain authentic.
"Influencer marketing is becoming far more mainstream this year and budgets are shifting to this channel at an increasingly large rate," Gaubert said, explaining that 2020 will be the year of the influencer.
Rutosocial's Yang explained that in 2020, as consumers become hyper aware and self-filtering between non-sponsored and sponsored posts, brands and influencers must collaborate better to create content that people will watch and engage with. "This means the brand briefs will have to evolve to become less superficial. When the brand is able to match their brand story with the influencer’s life/opinions/philosophy seamlessly, the consumer is more likely to identify with the brand," she said, adding that this ultimately takes effort and time to craft a campaign together.