What does 2019 have in store for influencer marketing?

7 January 2019

What can we expect from influencer marketing in 2019? Source: Shutterstock

This year has been a big year for influencer marketing. The number of brands allocating bigger budgets to the channel is continuing to grow rapidly with many now viewing it as a crucial and valuable addition to their marketing toolbox.

The idea of influencer marketing is by no means new- celebrity endorsement has long been used by brands as a way to advertise new products to their fans. But today, influencer marketing can be described as a hybrid of old and new marketing strategies.

In today’s digital age, social media has truly reconfigured the influencer marketing game. Along with celebrities, there is now a whole ocean of social media stars who come from a variety of backgrounds and industries. These individuals have the ability to influence others, allowing them to give a human voice for brands wanting to partner with them in order to advertise to their large online followings.

Influencer marketing is much less direct than traditional forms of marketing, creating a more authentic relationship between brands, influencers, and customers. The success of the industry so far sees it poised to reach between US$5 billion and $10 billion by 2022.

As this booming form of social media marketing comes to the fore, the parameters around how best to plan, implement and track a successful influencer marketing plan is something that is much talked about among brands and professionals.

With more businesses getting ready to leverage the power of influencer marketing, let’s take a look at some key trends to keep an eye on in the coming year.

Micro-influencers make mega impact

While celebrities and A-listers have in the past predominantly been used to promote brands and products, those with smaller followings can also really pack a punch when it comes to influencing their audiences.

These ‘micro-influencers’ (those with 10,000 followers or less on social media) are perceived as ‘normal’ everyday people who are much more relatable to their audiences. They tend to engage and interact with their followers more frequently and have much more of an authentic approach.

Moreover, unlike celebs and mega-influencers, they tend to specialize in a particular niche such as food, fitness and heath, fashion, and beauty. Because of their passion, followers are much more likely to trust their recommendations on products in this industry. For brands, micro-influencers also tend to be much more affordable.

Video content and live-streaming will continue to rise in popularity

In recent years, video marketing has really blossomed on social media due to our incrasingly short attention spans and the need to be entertained quickly. In fact, video currently represents over three quarters of all internet traffic.

And this isn’t a trend that is being missed in the influencer world. Many have begun leveraging video as an effective platform in which to engage their followers. Whether it’s a Q&A session, a product demonstration, an influencer taking over a brands’ live-feed, or behind-the-scenes footage at events- video is all of the rage and audiences everywhere are craving it!

Greater transparency in advertising

As more brands get involved with creating partnerships with influencers, it is forcing platforms and policy makers to address how advertising is managed on social media. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK recently released a set of guidelines regarding transparency in influencer marketing.

The primary goal of this is to ensure that influencers are disclosing to their audiences any commercial relationships they have with brands. Ads should be clearly labelled as such through the use of hashtags, such as #sponsored or #paid in order to avoid sanctions.

Influencer fraud and fake followings become a cause for concern

While authenticity seems to be the winning ticket for success in influencer marketing, the dark side of this marketing technique has begun to emerge.

The industry is being inundated with fake followers and likes, with many influencers using automation and bot-backed systems to increase their engagement on posts. In fact, according to one study, up to 20 percent of mid-level influencers’ followers are likely to be fraudulent.

This is risky business for brands who are spending a large chunk of their budget on empty likes and engagements. Therefore, they must ensure they are being extra careful when setting out to work with influencers. They must delve into the followings of individuals to distinguish the fakesters from the real deal.

Virtual influencers: The next big thing for brands?

While micro-influencers and celebs are proving to be a massive marketing advantage for brands, there is a new kind of influencer emerging… the virtual kind.

A growing online trend emerging in the wonderful world of social media is the introduction of computer-generated influencers. While this may have you rolling your eyes and shaking your head, these influencers are proving to have some serious money-making potential.

Fashion photographer, Cameron-James Wilson, created a CGI ‘supermodel’ named Shudu who now has over 150K followers. Shudu’s account went viral after beauty brand Fenty reposted a photo of the virtual influencer ‘wearing’ a shade of the brand’s lipstick.

When asked why he thinks brands may want to work with digital models such as Shudu, Wilson told TechHQ:

“I see a future where brands employ digital models as another tool for brand development alongside real models, having a digital spokesperson means you can invest a lot into them without the concerns of a competitor brand booking them next season.”

With 2019 just around the corner, it is certain that a rising number of brands will be thinking about if and how they should be incorporating influencer marketing into their new year plan. As the industry evolves, so must we. So be sure to take note of the aforementioned trends in order to really open new doors for brand-influencer collaborations.