As we're getting ready to wrap up 2018, I want to share with you some predictions for where we think influencer marketing is going in 2019.
#1. Thinning of the Influencer Marketing Herd
Our first and most important prediction is we expect to see a thinning of the influencer marketing herd in 2019. There were some 420 influencer marketing companies created in 2017 alone, which is ridiculous. What we think is going to happen is that companies that exist solely to match brands with influencers are going to rapidly fade away in 2019. These kinds of companies don't add any value, especially since there's software designed to do that now. The pairing of influencers and brands is a commodity, but it's what you do next that matters.
Similarly, there's going to be a thinning of the herd in managers. People are trying to glom on to influencers and make their living by managing influencers. The problem with this is scaling. You're not taking the percentages of multi-million dollar movie budgets that agents for actors are taking, you're taking a small percentage of relatively small budgets. And there are tens of thousands of influencers out there, so if you jack the rates, which is what we've seen happening, you're going to see people switching away from managed influencers to unmanaged influencers.
In addition, we're going to see a thinning of the herd with some influencers who are only producing sponsored content. We've seen this sadly with a few of our influencers and refer to this as their saturation rate. But what's happening is influencers start making money from sponsored content and pretty soon 100 percent of their content is sponsored. Would you follow somebody that was trying to sell you something on every single post? No - so engagement rates drop off, the effectiveness of that influencer drops off, regardless of how good their content is, and they fade out.
#2 & #3. Increase in Budgets and ROI Expectations
Prediction number two and number three sort of go together. First, budgets will increase rapidly in 2019 for influencer marketing. They've been trending up, and if my experience with social media over the years is any indication, we can expect that to sort of hockey stick up in 2019. But when budgets increase so do ROI expectations. So we're going to see a bigger demand for better analytics in 2019 regarding what influencer marketing actually drives in terms of business objectives. We've seen that there are a lot of these companies pairing influencers with brands that don't have any analytical capabilities at all. Going back to item one, the thinning of the herd, those companies are also going to be in trouble as well. So watch in 2019 for budgets to increase and right along side it, ROI expectations will increase as well.
#4. Nano-Influencer Usage Will Fade Quickly
The New York Times wrote recently about the current rise in nano-influencer usage, and while we agree that they'll get their day in the sun, we predict that sun is going to set fairly quickly. I think this boom is partly a response to people using celebrity influencers and seeing both the extreme cost and how inefficient it is to use celebrity influencers, so they've moved away from macro-influencers and micro-influencers all the way down to nano-influencers.
There are some challenges with this though, and it's sort of a "get what you pay for" concept. First, understand that some of these influencers have smaller followings because they're not all good content producers. Let's remember that influencer marketing is not about reach, it's about inspiring people to take an action they would not otherwise take. There are nano-influencers who are great at that and are sort of undiscovered but if all you're doing on the influencer part is having the influencers post, well then you need scale. And so you're going to need to hire 50 nano-influencers to get your reach numbers up, and there probably aren't 50 great undiscovered nano-influencers out there to really hitch your wagon to. Also, if you want to boost their content with paid media, you may find that you can't do this with smaller influencers because they're still using personal social accounts instead of business pages - so you can't even use the handshake tool on Facebook. Ultimately, this trend is going to go by the wayside.
#5. Social-Commerce Will Become a Primary Focus
We've seen a lot of brands that are sold in stores doing influencer marketing well, but for 2019 there's going to be a lot more drive to e-commerce. The expectation in 2019 will be for influencers to drive directly to landing pages and begin to convert audiences. So we're talking about not only tracked links, but we're talking about ROI, and we're talking about moving people directly into an e-commerce funnel.
Now there are some challenges with that. Quite often an influencers social share will drive back to a blog post to explain the story in more detail. Well, if your goal is to drive e-commerce sales you don't want to do that because every click kills conversions. You're not going to get somebody from a social share to a blog post, then to the purchase site. You're going to want to drive the user right from the social share to the purchase site. That puts a burden on the landing page to do some of the selling that the influencer would otherwise do. Nevertheless, I expect more and more brands to come to us asking for the influencer to drive audiences directly to a landing page to drive sales.
#6. Media Boosting Tactics Will Increase
Finally, our sixth prediction for influencer marketing in 2019 is that media boosting is going to increase. When you have all this influencer content, and if you have a way to figure out what the highest performing content is, you're going to want to get it in front of more of your audience. One of the most common ways to do that today is to use Facebook's handshake tool - the influencer tags the brand, the brand can go in and put money behind that post and boost it. Ehhhhhh, it's okay and it's better than nothing, but there's not a lot of advance targeting there (which is one of the reasons we don't boost this way). The other way that's fairly common is a brands takes the influencer content and boosts it on their own channels so they can have more control of it. Again, this is an okay method but you're losing a big part of that third party credibility. Our solution that we implement at Carusele is to boost from the influencer's own channels with all the advance targeting capabilities and daily optimizations. Regardless of how this is done, expect media budgets for influencer content to increase in 2019 as well.
There you have is! Those are six of our predictions for influencer marketing in 2019. If you need any help pivoting your influencer marketing strategy to get ready for the new year, contact us today and we'll talk through it together.