Bloglovin INFLUENCE · Jan 9, 2018

3 Predictions for Influencer Marketing in 2018

A Reflection on 2017 and a Look Ahead at What’s to Come in 2018

Source: Warren Wong

As the year comes to a close and we reflect on the year’s rapid evolution and growth of the influencer marketing industry, it’s interesting (and fun) to take a look ahead at what trends might drive change in 2018. I’ll try to do so here, based on our experiences of running thousands of campaigns for brands and agencies, connecting them with the over 150,000 influencers that have chosen to work with us on the Activate platform in 2017 alone. Naturally, we do have a vested interest in the future of influencer marketing, some of these trends are reflected in the way our business, technology and platform will evolve in the coming months. That said, the decisions we make with respect to our company’s direction reflect the underlying trends that we believe will become significant and shape the market.

Here’s what we envision for 2018:

Influencer Marketing Becomes a Core, Always On, Ingredient of the Marketing Mix for B2C Companies

This is maybe the easiest prediction to make, as it’s supported by the growth of a market that’s estimated to be worth $2B in the U.S. in 2017, up from $500M in 2015, and set to grow to up to $10B by 2020. It’s also something we see empirically in our business, as test budgets make way for sustained investment, and as the number and size of campaigns explode across all social platforms. But, ultimately, influencer marketing is going to take a central role in the marketing mix because it allows brands to reach customers with a unique, genuine message that cuts through the clutter of digital advertising, and drives measurable results. Forward-looking, digital-first consumer brands have shown the way in that sense, we’re now seeing established names catch up and follow their example. We’re at the start of a major inflection point, it will be interesting to see how the industry manages growth, while maintaining what makes influencer marketing special: the genuine connection between audiences, influencers, and brands.

Platforms (with a Human Touch) Will Answer the Need for Scale

As brands have come to understand the power and relative affordability of micro-influencers, scaling up their influencer marketing operations and engaging dozens or hundreds of influencers across numerous campaigns, we have seen a natural decline of the agency model, defined as a boutique operation that works with influencers mostly through manual processes and spreadsheets and isn’t supported by a scalable platform that enables and manages the campaign workflow. As influencer marketing becomes a core, always-on activity for brands and agencies, players that don’t own or have access to scale will not be able to compete and will eventually disappear. That said, influencer marketing, even executed at scale, is still about working with people, as such there will always be a need for human intervention, supported by technology to manage and execute campaigns… at least until AI is smart enough to deal with the innumerable and diverse issues that inevitably crop up during the process!

Social Platforms Will Ramp Up Their Involvement in Influencer Marketing while the Ecosystem Develops

Instagram’s Paid Partnership Tool; courtesy of @songofstyle

While blogs are still a key component in reaching audiences through authentic content, influencer marketing wouldn’t have gained such prominence without social platforms, through which influencers have been able to reach a much larger audience. Until recently, most platforms have kept a light touch with respect to the market, with some offering influencer marketing services as part of their offering (i.e. YouTube, Twitter) but mostly observing the market growth without intervening too much in it. This year saw a change, with Facebook providing brands and influencers with tools to identify and measure their sponsored posts, and providing amplification opportunities. Where FB goes, the market usually follows. It’s not surprising that large players would be attracted to a rapidly growing industry that thrives on their own platforms. My belief is that, in the short term, this will result in better tools for brands, more opportunities for influencers, and a boost for the growing ecosystem of cross-platform companies. Still, as always when building a business on top of one or more social platforms, there’s always the spectre of shifting rules and increasing appetites that might end up penalizing 3rd parties. That might well come to pass, although the fact that influencer marketing platforms are very rarely executed on a single platform partially insulates the sectors from this risk. My expectation is that an open or semi-open ecosystem will develop, with social platforms providing more tools (and guidelines) while monetizing content distribution and amplification, influencer marketing platforms providing full workflow management and know-how, and other players, be it agencies, attribution systems or programmatic platforms, plugging into those platforms and providing an array of services, and integrating influencer marketing into the broader ad spend workflows.

Whether all of those trends will come to fruition in 2018 is unclear, but I’m confident that the coming year will see them on the center stage of the industry and that over time they will shape it. See you at the end of 2018 for a check-in on how close I was with my predictions, until then!

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3 Predictions for Influencer Marketing in 2018 was originally published in INFLUENCE on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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