What Do You Need To Know About the Future of Influencer Marketing?

Looking Beyond the Crystal Ball in 2016 and Beyond

“Look into my crystal ball, and tell me what you see.”

When it comes to the one of the most talked-about topics of 2016, influencer marketing is at the top of the list for many professionals. A week ago, we at Upfluence decided to discuss the future of influencer marketing, and we realized that we weren’t alone in our discussions and concerns about its future.  The crystal ball looked a bit hazy for a while until we came to grips with the fact that we’re in a period of transition and evolution in terms capabilities, tools, resources and budgets.

Influencer Marketing is becoming a need that brands and companies are seeking: grappling with topics, concerns and challenges when it comes to working with influencers and figuring out what it will look like in 2017 and beyond.

Here’s a more in-depth look at our discussion and some key takeaways in regards to this trend:

1. Blogs have evolved from entertainment and informational resources to powerful earned media for brands

Blogs initially began as a means of showcasing personal news and journal-like thoughts. Since their inception in the 1990’s, however, blogs developed into trusted resources, news sites and other important pieces of online culture. It wasn’t until the past ten years that companies have embraced the blog as a means to showcase company products, tips, advice and important launches.

No longer simply a means for personal journaling or entertainment, blogging became a way for information to be relevant and shareable for an online generation. At the forefront of this revolution are bloggers: influencers who own this type of consumable content and use it in order to mobilize and impact their readers.

In a PR sense, this translates into important earned media potential for brands. This earned media is a review of your business or experience with your product, created by a trusted, third-party resource and published somewhere else, other than your website.

No longer limited by press coverage by traditional news sites, the power now lies with the digital-savvy consumer: power to review, publish and share information about your company at the click of a mouse.

Developing relationships with influencers will be an important step in earning the right kind of media coverage in 2016 and beyond.

2. Traditional advertising will embrace content marketing as industry standard

In 2016, traditional advertising practitioners have realized the importance of utilizing content published on the web as a means to sell their products or services. Content is an important channel for advertising. It has become a way to sell, to interact with people and to drive engagement.

The phrase “content is king” continues to be pervasive among advertising and marketing agencies all over the world, but eventually it will evolve to embrace not only content creation, but content amplification as well. Content marketing is not only about writing and sharing content anymore, it is about where, how, and if people see that content, thus bringing advertising’s approach to content marketing full circle.

Content is amplified and advertised in order to drive traffic, boost engagement and impact sales. It is part of the customer sales funnel. According to the Content Marketing Institute, the trend will move to less content creation to more content promotion.

Companies cannot afford to spend resources creating content if no one sees it or responds to it. This will become a major priority for marketers this year.

3. Influencer marketing will get inserted into the sales funnel and will directly impact conversion, customer acquisition and loyalty

There are a handful of tactics trusted by digital marketing professionals and experts: Google Adwords, email marketing, retargeting and a few others. Influencer Marketing will enter into this digital bracket as an important way to impact SEO and boost digital efforts — in a cost-effective way, too.

>Originally published by Burst Media and published in PR Newser, one study found that influencer campaigns earn $6.85 in earned media value for every $1.00 of paid media. Not only that, but they were also found as being just as cost-effective as more dated digital marketing techniques, such as email.

Looking into the future of influencer marketing, more budgets will be allocated to IM for this very reason. In addition to being a wise investment, it has the potential to result in more loyalty among target customers.

4. Influencer marketing tools will become a marketer’s best friend

Because influencer marketing is an ever-growing activity, many tools are being created to facilitate the research of influencers, to allocate resources towards influencer activity and to finally improve the user experience in influencer campaigns. Over the next year, one trend we’re expecting is the evolution of these tools to coincide with consumer expectations and experiences across digital environments.

Here are 3 tools that we predict will become the gold standard:

  • Influencer search engines / influencer identification softwares: such as Facade (edited by Upfluence)
  • Influencer relationship management (IRM) tools : the new social CRM – the best way to build strong and long-term relationships with its influencers. Think of it as a “PR 2.0” tool.
  • Influencer campaign management tools: once brands identify and contact their influencers, therein lies the question of managing campaigns, which most companies do manually right now. Publishr, Upfluence’s own campaign management tool, is a fully automated marketing software that lets you control your influence marketing campaign.

5. Guidelines will be developed to further legislate influencer marketing and sponsored posts

Following the Machinima case in 2013, and the FTC Lord & Taylor settlement, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated new guidelines on native advertising and influencer marketing. The commission reaffirmed that “advertisements and promotional messages that promote the benefits and attributes of goods and services should be identifiable as advertising to consumers.” This decision is a big signal to marketers, indicating that influencer marketing legislation is getting tougher.

In a recent article by Advertising Age, if a consumer knew an endorser was compensated in any way for his or her opinion about a brand or product, it is likely that their view of the endorsement would be altered.

In a world that increasingly seeks transparency and authenticity, the lack of disclosures about bloggers’ relationships with brands could impact its effectiveness.

6. Social networks and other platforms will establish new ways of creating and promoting content across the internet

In 2016, many online platforms have created new ways for content to be created and shared via native capabilities. From video and messaging apps and integration to publishing platforms, the ultimate goal is to keep audiences within the platform and sharing content as much as possible. Emphasizing user experiences, such as speed and the popularity of rich media, everyone from Facebook (Instant Articles) to Google (Accelerated Mobile Pages Project), seems to be getting in on the action.  

In addition to the native capabilities on sites, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, many online forums are also available today such as Quora, Yahoo! Answers, StackExchange, Cha Cha, Askville by Amazon, Mahalo, Blurtit, The AnswersBank (UK), AllExperts and WikiAnswers.

The Future Looks Bright

From our discussions about Influencer Marketing, one thing we all agreed on is that the potential for brands, companies and organizations to make the most out of these opportunities is nearly infinite.

With new bloggers and influencers entering the digital landscape everyday, it’s important for marketers to evaluate these influencers in order to find the right fit for their brand. From the general, consumer-facing blogs to the niche publications on almost every topic, the digital landscape has never been more diverse and open to brand partnerships.

Even without a crystal ball, important conversations are taking place and influencer marketing is at the forefront of many advertising, marketing and PR campaigns. The future for influencer marketing looks bright, indeed, if you know how to navigate these changes and challenges.

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