By Aaron Brooks
Aaron Brooks is the co-founder of Vamp, a digital startup which helps brands better connect with quality social influencers.
After a remarkable rise, influencer marketing has become a polarising topic. Accusations of fake followers, dishonest practise and ambiguous pricing conflicting with praise for its authenticity, engagement power and delivery on ROI.
As it continues on its path to become the $10 billion industry it’s set to become in 2020, it is evolving. Instagram updates, such as shoppable tags and IGTV have given influencers more opportunities to connect with their audiences and shorten the path between inspiration and purchase.
Yet, both brands and influencers have faced new challenges from audiences - more demanding and savvy than ever - and tighter regulations.
Integrity, engagement and quality of content must be prioritised over huge followings.
The key to maximising its true potential is staying a step ahead of these changes to protect your brand and optimise results. The industry has an exciting future ahead and the following points are set to have the most transformative effect on the influencer marketing landscape.
Transparency will be essential
Transparency has become the buzzword for the influencer marketing industry. With Unilever’s announcement that they will not consider working with content creators who buy followers, and the recent crack down on ‘fake followers’ on Twitter; it's clear that dishonesty within the industry will not be tolerated.
This is good news for everyone. Unscrupulous creators who choose to purchase followers or use bots, in a bid to access better opportunities, are damaging to both the community’s reputation and the brands they represent.
It’s a pointless practice, tainting the perception of the entire influencer marketing industry. Not only does this destroy reputations once discovered, it hinders the effectiveness of the entire campaign.
Rushed collaborations without background checks, or self-serving platforms that allow anyone to submit content, are leaving brands open to fraudsters. It’s important for brands and agencies to properly vet the influencers they choose as ambassadors. Integrity, engagement and quality of content must be prioritised over huge followings.
Influencers turned content creators
There has also been a significant shift in the perception of influencers from vehicles for product placement, to content creators. Savvy brands have been re-amplifying influencer assets in their owned social channels for some time now, but others are going a step further.
Those who have prioritised quality, have realised influencer’s potential to create engaging and authentic assets at a fraction of the cost of traditional creative agencies.
As influencers continue to prove their worth, respect for the craft will continue to increase.
Because of this, influencers are receiving briefs for content creation only. Briefs that would have once gone to agencies. Both parties benefit here. Content can be used in digital adverts, ecommerce, and even out-of home advertising. The visuals created are the best of both worlds, influencer authentic and top-quality, often outperforming a brand’s own.
Bigger won’t be better
As the industry becomes increasingly wary of fake followings and focus shifts towards quality and engagement, micro and power-middle influencers are set to gain more prominence. With their smaller but more active, loyal and localised audiences, they hold so much potential for brands.
According to a 2017 survey by Edelman, micro influencers are also more trusted. 49 per cent of internet users worldwide said they trusted information from online personalities with a small following. Only 36 per centsaid the same of well-known online personalities. Celebrities, meanwhile, were the least trusted source of information, with 27 per cent.
Realising its potential to engage and deliver ROI, marketers will continue to invest in influencers and steps towards a model that benefits both brands and influencers are a sign of the industry moving in the right direction.
As influencers continue to prove their worth, respect for the craft will continue to increase. Given a fair chance - and fair pay - influencers will be able to deliver high quality content with great engagement results.