Influencer marketing coming of age

For the past few years, much of the Influencer Marketing Industry has been on a teenage journey of self-discovery and experimentation. As a result, for many brands, it may sometimes have felt like fumbling around in the dark on a thrilling ride into the unknown.

And throughout this time there has been an identity crisis for influencers as the teenage phase of the industry created some doubts about impact and authenticity. The media often chose to sensationalise high-reaching influencers in a negative light with superficial and at times misleading behaviour.

All the while an ecosystem of influencers with a huge variety of passions and verticals was exploding across multiple platforms. All of this tapped into the premise that people want to watch other people who have something interesting to say, far more than they want to hear from a brand. This is the reason why 65% of people go to Instagram is to see what content influencers are creating, which is likely to be an even higher stat across new platforms such as TikTok. While it hasn’t always been pretty there is no doubt that influencers and creators (as they prefer to be called) are commanding large and engaged audiences with their messages of authority and impact.

Trust is the biggest driver of effective messages: if you trust the sender then you are much more likely to act or do something as a result of their message. This trust is crucial for brands to tap into influencers because trust in media and advertising has been declining, reaching new lows every year as measured by Edelman in their annual Trust Barometer. Influencers play an increasingly key role for brands as the main trusted bridge to reach audiences of both current and potential new customers. We know the outdated marketing funnel no longer acts in a linear way from awareness through to consideration and purchase but few brands have fully adapted their thinking to understand the pathways of the new model of behaviour based on a complex system.

To date, the biggest challenge for brands using influencer marketing has been how to plan for the role of influence in their brand’s marketing ecosystem and then how to find the right influencers and run programs at a scale that can fill the gaps left by declining traditional media.

Last year AIMCo (Australian Influencer Marketing Council) was launched as the first recognised industry body globally bringing together the expertise of a diverse collective (or collection) of industry professionals, marketers, and content creators who are committed to elevating influencer marketing best practice, campaign measurement, and industry knowledge.

As a founding board member, I have helped set industry standards on influencer selection and vetting along with measurement frameworks. This took place as the industry recognised the need to grow up alongside the enabling advancement of data analytics and platform transparency.

So, what was once fumbling in the dark has now been illuminated by analytics across influencer audiences, content performance, and conversations. We now have algorithms that can predict the future performance of campaigns across multiple metrics and provide brands with guarantees on impact. With this new discipline, we can integrate and plan influence into the complex brand and consumer system, accessing influencers at all levels to deliver results across the multiple social proof touchpoints.

We have an ecosystem of influencers across different levels of engagement:

  • Nano influencers, who operate at a community and day-to-day advocacy level through their close personal connections
  • Micro influencers, who tap into niche audiences with high quality authentic content.
  • Macro and mega influencers, who have become the experts and provide authority and social capital to their audiences beyond any media channel past or present.

This professionalisation of influence is a driver of the industry’s coming of age and for brands, it will be crucial to identify and secure the best, most aligned influencers to work with before their competitors. This week we launched our Soup Pro team which is specifically designed to meet this evolving need and help brands navigate the professional influence space to identify and build relationships with the right expert creators. These expert and high-impact influencers are the brand builders of the future and will help fill the gaps left by traditional media.

Moving forward the strongest and fastest-growing brands will be built activating all layers of influence and having sophisticated influencer strategies that deliver to key consumer needs across the marketing plan. This is set to become even more important as new generations such as Gen Z emerge with highly creative and content-driven audiences who tune out of advertising even more than the previous generations. Influencer marketing is coming of age at the right time to give brands a pathway for the future.