Tis the season for 2018 predictions and it’s no surprise that the Internet is bubbling with ones about influencer marketing. 2017 was the year where influencer marketing went mainstream.
In 2018 we’ll see a surge in companies using influencer marketing and the amounts being spent on campaigns appears to be bubbling as much as the predictions.
In the spirit of influence.co being an inclusive and open platform, we decided to do a roundup of the most common predictions we heard from bloggers, news outlets, and individuals. We’ve added some of our own color of course to hopefully make them worth a (second) review.
Prediction: Data will dominate the conversation
The most common prediction for 2018 is that brands will start to demand more data. The most common demand will be data about influencer audiences and campaign performance. Fair enough – for any marketing channel to mature, marketers need to understand (and justify) how their money is being spent.
We believe that data focused on the true reach of an influencer and thus any spend made with them will become more common.
This will include basic demographics like location (is the influencers audience where the marketer needs it to be?), engagement rates for different content types (e.g. does their sponsored content fly or fail?), and deeper analysis of fraudulent audiences.
However, we believe that measurement of campaign success will still lag in 2018. This is mostly due to challenges with core platforms like Instagram making tracking and measurement hard. You still can’t put a clickable and trackable URL into an Instagram post. That said, we think brands will massively increase budgets anyway.
Our take: Yes and no
Prediction: Enforcement by the FTC will increase
Many 2018 predictions expect increased sword rattling and guideline enforcement by the FTC. While there will likely be a few more public admonishments, we think the average influencer and brand won’t be affected by this.
Instagram and Facebook’s new Paid Partnership feature (see it in the wild here: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bc5Yw-8hihX/?taken-by=newdarlings) will give brands and influencers an easy out and the FTC will likely have limits to how much they want to poke the bear.
Product placement in Hollywood and television runs more rampant than ever and this likely isn’t territory they want to enter. We have seen this regulatory pageant play itself out before in the blogging world.
After the hand slapping was finished, most everyone settled into some commonly understood, promoted and comfortably used guidelines.
Our take: Meh
Prediction: Influencer campaigns move to always-on
We definitely agree with this from what we see on influence.co. While many new companies will still have project-based influencer marketing campaigns as they experiment with the channel for the first time, many companies will constantly recruit and use influencers regularly.
We see this with companies like Bond-Eye Swimwear and the 5TH who include new influencers constantly in their marketing messages.
In addition, more companies will move their best influencers to formal brand ambassador relationships and a whole new discussion around how those relationships should be structured will emerge.
We will likely see a number of power middle influencers declare ambassador relationships with power middle brands.
Our take: Yup
Prediction: Some influencer marketing companies will go away
We track over 200 companies that generally say they provide software and services to the influencer marketing industry. This was 50 at the end of 2015, 100 at the end of last year and it’s now 200.
But being a “complete” influencer marketing services and software company is hard (which is why we don’t try to be).
To be a “complete” influencer marketing company you need to have software to manage campaign workflow (it’s still expensive to build software), recruit brands (have a sales team), recruit influencers (and keep them busy with work), manage and run campaigns (have an account team who can ship and track products to 100s of influencers a week), and build and maintain APIs to the major networks.
Not surprisingly, no one has really accomplished this.
Most influencer marketing companies are what the industry calls “technology enabled services business” which means they are agencies with a bit of custom built technology that helps them handle more clients than normal.
In 2017 we saw the first maturing of the market where companies started to focus on only one or two parts of the “complete” influencer marketing stack. In 2018 we’ll see clearly defined categories of companies (e.g. influencer CRM systems, data providers, etc..)
Without a real advantage in any one of these areas, some of companies will buckle under the commitments they have made to their software customers while still trying to service other clients.
In addition, influencers will start to get “platform fatigue”, choosing to only build and maintain a presence on a limited number of platforms especially as more agencies consolidate their influencer recruitment into a few places.
We predict that half of the current companies that offer influencer marketing software will either fall off or convert themselves into influencer focused agencies that use other companies software.
Our take: Sadly, yes
Prediction: Influencer content becomes as big as influencer audiences (influencers become creators)
We see a large trend recently of influencer marketing companies promoting content creation as the core benefit of an influencer (as opposed to their audience). This highlights the emerging naming battle between “influencers” and “creators”.
While we think that YouTube creators will continue to produce amazing content that threatens traditional media outlets, we suspect the opportunity for influencer created content (without their audience) is inflated.
While many large digital agencies will feel the pressure of not being able to charge $2M for video production when an influencer can do it for $200K, this will be a small phenomenon with limited impact.
Companies like Victors and Spoils exposed this soft underbelly of agencies a long time ago through crowdsourcing. While they found some success, they did not topple the industry (Havas eventually bought V&S).
By and large companies have figured out how to create content well before influencers existed and new options like selfmade.co are emerging to make their own content look professionally produced.
What is still hard is building an audience. That will continue to be the true value of influencers.
Our take: Meh
Those are the most common predictions we hear. Some great posts that include them are here:
Our Turn : influence.co Predictions for 2018
While many of the following have probably been said in one way or another, we wanted to chime in on a predictions of our own that we thought have a high likelihood of coming true. We’ll even give our expectation they happen.
Prediction: Boosting become part of most campaign budgets
Brands will start to look across all influencer content produced for a campaign and selectively boost the best posts. For small additional money, the best working parts of a campaign can be amplified. Having more audience data will only increase this practice.
The best influencers and agencies have been doing this quietly in the background already.
Prediction: Everyone becomes and influencer marketing company
In 2018 we’re going to stop tracking influencer marketing companies. While we think a number of specialist companies will fall off, we think the 200 we track will become 2000 in 2018.
We looked at 65 PR company websites recently and found that over 80% of them state influencer marketing as a core competency (or even their whole business). In 2018 we’ll see every digital agency, public relations firm, content creation company, and talent agency officially be in the influencer marketing game.
Part of why we think half the existing companies will fall off in 2018 is that the number of companies calling a brand and offering influencer marketing services will spike. This will drive up acquisition costs and crater margins for those who make their money only off of influencer campaigns.
Existing agencies have small incremental costs to push their existing customers into trialing influencer marketing with them and they’ll use this advantage to edge out specialized players.
Prediction: Bloggers and YouTube surge
Instagram has always been an easy way to experiment with influencer marketing. The supply is easy to find, the costs are low, and the content is quick to create. Its lack of measurability will drive brands who want to spend bigger budgets back to bloggers.
Larger brands will circle their wagons around YouTube due to the combination of scale, boostability, OOT advertising, and measurability.
Prediction: Big marketing players buy their way into the game
BuzzSumo was the opening salvo in the acquisition game. 2018 will see the first purchase of an influencer marketing software company by one of the traditional mar-tech players (Oracle, Adobe, Salesforce, HootSuite, HubSpot, etc..).
Once someone declares they are in the game, there will be a flurry of activity (likely spilling into 2019) so that everyone can say they have a story. This is what happened in the social media software space once Buddy Media was bought by Salesforce.com.
Prediction: Micro influencer aggregation
Discovering, reaching out to, negotiating with, tracking, and paying 25 micro influencers on a campaign is still way to hard. Solutions will emerge to help brands (and influencers) run scale collaborations with less effort. We have some ideas here so stay tuned.
Prediction: A name brand VC will take a position in an influencer marketing company
To date the industry (with limited exception) has been funded by angels, microfunds and non-valley funds. In 2018 one or two players will break out far enough to warrant the attention of a traditional Silicon Valley venture investor.
Any way you slice it, 2018 is shaping up to be an amazing, tumultuous, progressive and important year for influencer marketing. We’re happy to be playing a part in the ecosystem. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to write to us!
The influence.co Team