As outlined in parts one (“Despite challenges, influencer marketing is here to stay”) and two (“Creating an effective influencer marketing program”) of my three-part influencer marketing series, the industry is booming, despite challenges and building a solid program is essential. The final installment of this series will focus on influencer marketing trends. Brands, influencers and platforms need to stay on top of evolving techniques, content preferences and functionality to ensure success.
Below are six influencer marketing trends worth considering as you start your planning for 2020:
- Alignment and transparency: Moving forward, look for brands and influencers to create better alignment and transparency. According to research, 84% of consumers believe authenticity is important when choosing influencers to follow. Millennials are increasingly skeptical of businesses' motives and impact on society, according to Deloitte (via eMarketer). The writing is on the wall, especially for brands targeting younger consumers.
- Always-on campaigns: Moving forward, B2B and B2C brands will become more strategic in how they approach relationships with influencers. Long-term thinking will benefit all parties involved, including consumers. With longer-term thinking, look for both more realistic goals and meaningful objectives from brands and greater alignment with influencers.
- Getting small: The latest trend for larger brands is moving from macro- to microinfluencers. The next logical evolution for brands, due in-part to rising costs and declining engagement rates of macroinfluencers, is to go even smaller to nano- and niche-influencers. Essentially, brands will develop a higher volume of relationships with influencers with 250-10,000 followers to maximize engagement and authenticity.
- Raw realism: One of the most interesting trends I’ve seen recently is the movement by influencers to share more authentic images and videos that are less aspirational and more empathetic to followers. Brands that understand and leverage this trend may see remarkable results, but it will require trust and flexibility between parties.
- Improved integration: Since I come from the world of search engine marketing, I would be remiss if I didn’t include what I feel is an important trend for our industry. Influencers by default have high credibility with Google, especially if they maintain a blog or website. Brand mentions with links back to a brand website from an influencer blog post or article can have tremendous search engine optimization value. Similarly, social posts with influencer-powered content can generate exponential reach and engagement when boosted in brand social feeds and can even be supported by display ads across the Google network. Improved integration among influencer and search marketing teams is a logical next step and we’ve seen success on this front recently.
- B2B growth: Perhaps the least sexy but profoundly important trend is significant growth of influencer marketing programs among B2B brands. Due to the relative lack of content and discussion around B2B influencer marketing strategies, tactics and trends, I felt obligated to take a deeper dive into the topic. Around 30% of influencer marketing campaigns currently originate from the B2B sector and nearly 65% of those programs are campaign-based (vs. ongoing).
Diving deeper into B2B influencer marketing
Unlike consumer influencers, B2B influencers are typically professionals within your industry. That means they may work for a competitor or have other employment restrictions, making a partnership more challenging. There is hope, as the B2B marketplace is diverse and fragmented. To reach your target audience, consider looking outside popular industry thought leaders to niche experts. Also, evaluate internal resources including seasoned employees, engaged customers and vendors or strategic partners.
Most B2B brands are looking to grow or maintain thought leadership and leverage expert content and networks. Consider leveraging your own company’s assets when structuring an influencer partnership, including access to data, tools or even other experts in your network your influencers can tap for content. It is also essential to provide your influencers access to shareable content like research reports, e-books, webinars, white papers and infographics.
Unlike most B2C influencer engagements, B2B influencer marketing programs tend to be longer-term by necessity, due to longer sales cycles. This creates a longer runway and greater potential for return. Speaking of return, common KPIs for B2B influencer programs include growth in subscribers, downloads or demo requests. The key to success with any influencer marketing program, B2B or otherwise, is mapping metrics to your overall objectives and target audience.
Whether you are a B2C or B2B brand, staying on top of evolving trends and tools is essential for long-term success with influencer marketing programs. Leveraging one or more of the size trends outlined above will give you an edge of competitors in the months and years to come.
Kent Lewis is president and founder of Anvil Media, a measurable marketing agency based in Portland, Ore. He’s also co-founder of SEMpdx and was named AMA Marketer of the Year. He frequently writes and speaks about marketing and entrepreneurship, has been an adjunct professor at Portland State University since 2000.