Early in 2016, we promised that this would be the year that influencer marketing would become mainstream.
We wrote about the progress that influencer marketing made in 2016, but as a marketer, you always need to be looking forward to be prepared for what the future holds. So what direction can we expect influencer marketing to take in 2017?
We’ve seen the tactic grow, but we’ll see it explored in 2017. Here are a few things that we expect to see in the New Year:
Less is more
Influencer marketing’s growth across each individual network can largely be credited to the growth of the big player “celeb” influencers. The Logan Paul’s and Andrew Bachelor’s of the social world. These are the big names who are getting the headlines from mainstream outlets like “60 Minutes,” taking the marketing tactic away from a niche specialty among forward-thinking marketers, to an everyday occurrence.
Though they’ve made influencer marketing popular, what’s made it successful is the use of “micro-influencers”. These are creators who may not have the audience size of some of these big names, but they’re creating the type of content that grabs a consumer’s attention–and they’re able to much more authentically connect much more authentically with their followers.
Often with the celeb -influencers like Kim Kardashian, they have their following because of who they are rather than what they create. In our time in influencer marketing working with some of the top brands, we’ve found that the best results come from the people who’ve built engagement with their audience based on what they’re creating. The “micro-influencers”, as they’ve often been called, have come into prominence in 2016 and will see their heyday in 2017.
Influencer relationships approached more as partnerships
The brands that will find success with influencer marketing in 2017 are the ones who will approach their relationships with their influencers as business partnerships, and not as line cooks who can churn out content for them.
Too often, brands use influencers as an opportunity to just promote their brand to a large audience. And they would tell the influencer to share about their brand in exchange for some free product. But as influencer marketing has grown, influencers are now able to command the respect they deserve for the amazing work that they’re creating.
Building a relationship with the influencer means actually collaborating with them on the program, and getting their input on what will work with their audience in order to ensure that ever-important authenticity. This is why communities such as Snapfluence, which defend the creator’s position, are so important. These communities help to level the equate both sides of the table to bring everyone on a fair and even playing field to build amazing programs.
Creating meaningful experiences
The brands that find success with influencer marketing in 2017 will do so by creating meaningful experiences for their audiences. The type of experiences that are both interactive and tangible for your community.
In 2016, TAKE5 set out to have influencers capture the remixed TAKE5 bar’s new branding by creating a series of experiences throughout 2016 that “remixed” everyday occurrences. At SXSW, they invited influencers to the TAKE5 Swag Exchange to swap their unwanted swag for some awesome remixed swag– like a free Uber ride, or a line-sitter, or a year’s worth of candy bars. The experience embodied the fun, surprising and uncommon spirit that the brand was trying to inspire in its content creators.
We expect to see more brands provide their communities with direct and unique ways to interact with the brand and its influencers.
Decline in influencer “networks” and “marketplaces”
With 2016 came the rise of influencer “networks”, or rosters of influencers that are purported to have some degree of exclusivity to the network over others. These networks were billed as the simplest way to find influencers for your brand, and–due to the “exclusivity”– the easiest way to negotiate rates with the best influencers.
But like dating sites, we all know people rarely belong to just one network. Influencers and daters alike join multiple networks in order to increase their odds of being found. Discovery on these networks was also found to be pretty limiting as the searching was restricted to just the individuals in their databases. And moreover, these networks also tended to treat the influencers simply as commodities that could be bought and sold for your brand’s need, ignoring their unique ability to create amazing content for your brand.
In 2017, we’ll see a decline of these supposedly exclusive networks and a rise in agnostic searches that find the true best match for your brand’s program.
A network agnostic strategy
Many 2016 marketing predictions called for a huge surge in Vine campaigns, and in the same year, we saw the network shut down.
With social networks constantly evolving – new ones growing, old ones shutting down, features constantly being added or removed – we forecast a more network agnostic strategy for brand influencer marketing programs in 2017. This will allow for an increase in focus placed on the right audiences to target and the best ways to do that with various networks for each campaign.
FTC will clamp down
In 2016, we saw a lot of enforcement on the part of the FTC on various influencer marketing programs. Brands such as from Warner Brothers and Lord & Taylor saw the FTC crack down on their activations due to a lack of clear disclosures.
And all signs point to the FTC continuing this enforcement in 2017. Brands will need to prioritize ensuring that their programs abide by all of the FTC rules and regulations on influencer marketing in 2017.
Self-regulation from brands and agencies
With so much growth and change in 2016, it’s no wonder there were so many mistakes from influencers like Scott Disick and from brands like Lord & Taylor. Influencer marketing is still operating like the Wild West, with brands and influencers alike attempting to determine the best way to connect with audiences and stay within the rules.
In 2017, we’ll see more brands and influencers learning from their own mistakes and the mistakes of others (after all, there are plenty of resources sharing best practices). Will there still be slip-ups, mistakes, and fit tea posts? Absolutely. But we’ll see incremental improvements and even more badass campaigns.
If 2016 was the year of growth for influencer marketing, 2017 will be the year where it all comes together. The growth that has occurred over the past year has led to a few bad practices among brands and influencers, but we’ve already seen glimmers of hope in both parties correcting these practices. In 2017, we’ll see influencer marketing grow up to become a more meaningful and practical marketing tactic.
By Brian Zuercher is CEO & Founder of SEEN, and a contributor to Search Engine Watch