Influencer marketing is fast moving from experiment to staple status in budgets. Just how large is still hard to verify. Regardless, influencer marketing is clearly here to stay, and brands—including giants like Procter & Gamble, Clorox and L'Oréal—are investing more because of evidence that it may work better than conventional ad creative.
The new quarterly trend report on influencer marketing from Ad Age Studio 30 finds growing efforts to make the field more likely to pay back its investment and less likely to backfire. Here are eight key takeaways from Editor at Large Jack Neff's report:
1. Influencer marketing is big and getting bigger, accounting for at least $2 billion in annual North American marketing spending, with some estimates well into tens of billions of dollars. Annual growth rate estimates range from 41 to 95 percent.
2. The field is booming because of evidence it works, including neuromarketing research showing people respond better to influencer ads than conventional ad creative, and marketing-mix modeling or other return-on-spending analyses showing significant payback.
3. Fake followers and engagements remain an issue, though there’s evidence that Facebook’s efforts to crack down on fakes within Instagram is having some impact.
4. Some influencers still present potential risks: particularly that influencers will do or say something that embarrasses any brands attaching themselves too closely (see "Six Biggest Influencer Scandals"). The bigger the deals and the potential risks, the more some marketers are investing in deeper background checks on influencers.
5. Pay and payment plans vary widely, from a straight per-follower outlay to simply paying for creative production. But despite concerns about fake followers, there remains a strong correlation between what influencers get paid and the size of their followings, regardless of deal structure.
6. Macro influencers (generally those with 500,000 or more followers) can have a big impact, but marketers appear to be shifting toward “micro” or “nano” influencers, looking for safety in numbers and greater appearance of authenticity.
7. The rise of influencers and the influencer marketing budgets has led to an increase in the number of influencer marketing platforms and agencies. But as marketers spend more, they also get more sophisticated: narrowing the number of platforms or providers they work with, spreading best practices around the globe and their companies and trying to negotiate volume discounts. More marketers are hiring in-house influencer specialists, but the field is too big for most marketers to actually do everything in-house.
8. Instagram remains the primary social platform for influencer marketing, with YouTube a strong No. 2. But a host of others are generating interest and demonstrating results, including TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat—even LinkedIn and Reddit.
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