With estimates predicting that influencer marketing spending might double in 2020—en route to becoming a projected $15 billion market by 2022—it’s a good bet that influencers will be moving further up the priority lists of many brand marketers.
Importantly, this growth will come from brands investing in influencer marketing for the first time, in addition to existing brands that have experienced strong returns and are expanding their investments accordingly.
Yet, despite the increased budgets and the rising number of brands looking to participate, influencer marketing is still sometimes described as the “Wild West.” It certainly wasn’t without its fair share of controversy in 2019, and the responsibility for professionalizing and standardizing practices continues to be shared between the platforms, regulators and agencies.
With this in mind, here are my five predictions for 2020:
Paid amplification will become the norm
One natural evolution of influencer marketing has been the integration of paid media budgets to deliver targeted amplification of influencers’ posts. It delivers the media metrics that brands are used to seeing, and it’s an obvious goldmine for the platforms, who previously saw none of the revenue from the deals made between influencers and brands.
Expect to see paid amplification made even easier and, as a result, it will become the norm on influencer campaigns, thanks to the key benefits it brings: increased levels of control for audience targeting; much needed reach and scale; and robust reporting and transparency that will be available around campaign delivery.
Standard measurement will move beyond the superficial
The influencer marketing industry has, for far too long, relied on social metrics like follower counts, likes and engagement rates as a benchmark of success. These vanity metrics are a proxy at best, and do not provide any real indication as to which talent is right for a brand, or if a collaboration was truly successful at delivering real business objectives.
Today, it is table stakes for marketers to require verifiable campaign metrics, including audience demographics, unique reach, actual impressions and video views delivered. In 2020, look for more brands and their partners to measure effectiveness via influencer campaign brand uplift studies, conversion and sales lift reports and creative analysis in order to compare influencer work more directly alongside other parts of the marketing mix.
Strong campaign briefs will become cornerstones of success
Most influencer marketing tends to fail when it comes to what messages are published. Often, brands are reluctant to hand over too much creative freedom to influencers, resulting in content that makes little sense for either the influencer or their audience. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a brand can relinquish all control to the influencer, who then produces something which may be a popular piece of content with their audience but doesn’t actually deliver the appropriate messages and impact for the brand.
Balance is necessary, and brands are seeing exciting creative production capabilities coming from the influencer community, such as the ability to localize a concept across the globe or tap into the mindset of a diverse range of communities and cultures—all while staying on-brief.
When brands start their influencer campaigns with a solid brief, expect to see more suitably matched brands and influencers, more authentic and exciting work and more examples of influencer-produced creative that powers other marketing campaigns, from digital media to print and OOH.
The best-matched brands and influencers will seek longer-term relationships
The notion that influencers are becoming increasingly meaningful channels for brands, combined with advances in data and measurement, will undoubtedly lead to longer-term collaborations between the most-effectively matched influencers and brands. And the outcome will be mutually beneficial.
For the brand, there are significant efficiency benefits to the relationship. In addition to the fact that the influencer is able to become a more authentic advocate with a much deeper relationship, it can drive real product and market insights, too.
For the influencer (the publisher), who needs to generate income, the benefit lies in having both the financial security and opportunity to work continually on a brand collaboration that makes sense for them and for their audience.
Going one step further, you can expect to see more and more partnerships between influencers and brands working together to co-create products or even new brands.
The transparency conversation will no longer be front and center
With numerous reports of undisclosed brand collaborations, bot accounts, fraudulent audiences, manipulated results and the blurring of lines between organic and paid, it’s no surprise that a lack of transparency has been the major complaint about the influencer industry.
And while total eradication of these issues isn’t a reality for 2020, the level of sophistication of the data, technology and education now available should enable a more informed and accountable process for influencer marketing. The issue of transparency will hopefully be banished to the fringes and will no longer be the central talking point in the majority of influencer marketing campaigns.
If these predictions become reality then, as a result, we can expect to see the influencer marketing industry taking some giant strides towards raising its professional standards, which should pave the way for even greater growth in 2021.