Influencer marketing: the strides we’ve made in 2016

Influencer marketing saw a huge bump in popularity in 2016, and it’s expected to grow even more in 2017. The social media marketing industry is evolving faster than ever, which is why it’s important to stay on top of the industry changes coming in the New Year.

This is how your brand or agency will stay ahead of the curve to be better prepared for your influencer marketing strategy:

Marketers are investing more in influencer marketing

Recent “60 Minutes” reports show that influencer marketing is rapidly inserting itself into the mainstream conversation and is becoming more familiar to average consumers. As a result, marketers are investing more in influencer marketing.

This will cause influencer marketing to grow rapidly, relative to other marketing tactics. Brands are finding a lot of success connecting with their audiences through targeted influencers and this will only continue in 2017.

Influencer identification is top priority

Brands and agencies are learning that they will only be able to generate authentic content if they put in the necessary work before a campaign’s launch to find and recruit the right influencers for their programs.

Getting enthusiastic participants to create meaningful content and expose their audiences to your brand hinges on one thing: knowing who is a good brand match. SpaghettiOs knew that their product was a childhood favorite and a choice for busy moms everywhere. They chose moms and dads on Instagram who posted frequently with their families to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this beloved childhood snack.

Additionally, they worked with influencers who loved Sci-Fi, comic books, and video games to help promote the launch of their special edition Star Wars cans. The resulting content perfectly captures the fun spirit of the brand.

This type of effective influencer matchmaking is what drives the authenticity and engagement critical to a successful program.

Authenticity is the cornerstone of influencer marketing

Authenticity on the part of the influencer and the campaign strategy is key to any successful influencer marketing strategy. This authenticity comes from a confluence of the influencer’s posts and the audience’s expectations of that influencer’s content. This need for authenticity on the part of the brands and influencers becomes dire with the proliferation of spammy posts from some influencers. The brands and influencers who are able to build authentic programs for their audiences will succeed and see a measurable positive reaction from their audiences.

So in 2017, the onus will be on brands and agencies to build programs that enable this and find the right influencers who can post in these styles.

Brands giving influencers more room to create

As influencer marketing grew in popularity, more brands began jumping into the fray. Some that did were prescribing too strictly what they wanted their influencers to share. But this tendency takes away from the influencer’s skills and abilities to drive authentic engagement.

The brands with the most experience began giving their creators more flexibility and creative liberty to create content for the programs. These brands saw results with the authenticity of the influencers’ content and the response from their communities.

Hilton Garden Inn wanted to learn about the best spots in 19 different American cities so they could create an interactive map for guests visiting those destinations. They selected talented city-insider photographers to document their favorite spots around town. The result? An unfiltered guide to non-touristy destinations in some of America’s best cities and a major value add for Hilton Garden Inn’s guests.

In 2017, we expect brands to do a better job of setting up their influencers for success by giving them more creative opportunities such as this.

Using influencers for content creation

Some of the best accounts on Instagram are professional photographers who used their feeds to showcase their work. These creators were getting hired both as influencers to promote content on their Instagram accounts, and separately as commercial photographers.

More and more those lines are getting blurred and influencers are getting hired by brands simply to create content with no expectation of sharing publicly. Brands have an insatiable appetite for amazing visual content and influencer marketing is one of the best ways to keep up with these demands.

Consumers demand less spam

Though consumers are more familiar with influencer marketing in general, they’re also familiar with the dark side of the marketing tactic. Too many consumers have come to know the tactic as one associated with fit teas and body scrubs promoted by attractive models on Instagram. This is not only an ineffective way to promote any product; it also gives influencer marketing itself a bad name.

As consumers continue to view these types of promoted posts less favorably, we’ll see a decline in their frequency and an increase in content from the quality creators who are inspiring thoughtful brand activations that are authentic to their audience’s expectations for their feed.

Redefining success metrics

In 2016, every brand and influencer marketing agency set out to determine the ROI of influencer marketing. But the brands that were the most successful understood that the true returns of influencer marketing came from the influencer’s impact on the awareness building for the brand and their ability to add to the true story of the brand.

The savvy marketers went from pushing straight for downloads and sales success, to story building success.

Measurement in 2017 will move beyond simple vanity metrics like engagement and sales. Brands will begin to build a better understanding of where influencer marketing fits in their customer’s lifecycle and the brand’s storytelling.

Early in 2016, it was clear that influencer marketing was going to move beyond the practice of a few savvy, forward-thinking marketers to become an essential part of most marketing strategies. We’ve even seen a handful of traditional advertising/marketing agencies launch their own influencer departments this year in an effort to innovate. We’re excited to see how influencer marketing grows in 2017.

Brian Zuercher is the CEO & Founder of SEEN, and is a contributor to Search Engine Watch.  

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