By Kosuke Sogo
Influencer marketing has definitely evolved in the past five years, driven in part by the rise of influencer marketing platforms and increased usage of social media platforms. To put this in perspective, the number of global social media users increased by 13.8% in 2020 from the previous year, which was the highest year-on-year increase since 2018. The same report also showed that 60.2% of social media users globally come from Asia.
During this time, marketers have also evolved how they select influencers – from looking purely at the volume of followers and engagement to analyzing past campaign performance, follower sentiment, and even predictive analytics. The types of influencer campaigns can also be scaled and executed much quicker now. Make no mistake, influencers have also evolved. From the definition, volume and types of influencers, to content, delivery and channels used.
Influencer marketing as we know it is reaching a saturation point, but there’s an undercurrent that will initiate the next evolution of influencer marketing.
The rise of influencer merchandising and brands
You may have already seen or heard about it: influencers who are selling their own merchandise. You might even have dismissed it as “something outside of the marketing realm.”
Ignore at your own peril.
When an influencer launches a product or brand, they are establishing their affinity and expertise with their followers. Additionally, followers who purchase influencer products will have a more intimate understanding of the level of quality that influencer endorses. As a result, an influencer will think twice about endorsing a brand or product with inferior quality to their own as this would ultimately affect the perception of the products an influencer creates by themselves.
Additionally, influencers will start shifting content strategy and styles to include content for their own products and also content that converts – especially with the rise of shoppable media. This also means that marketers will need an even deeper understanding of an influencer’s preferences, sense of quality, and ultimately how a marketer’s own campaign requirements are fulfilled by that particular influencer. Make no mistake, sooner or later, this will have to be done at scale.
It’s all in the data
This same trend presents a highly unique opportunity for marketers to tap on even more types of data to get a more comprehensive picture.
Through various data points available today that include website, social media, influencer and past influencer marketing campaign data, marketers can stitch together a picture of how an influencer or campaign has an impact on various stages of the marketing funnel. By layering purchase data from an influencer’s own products, marketers can have an even clearer understanding of follower demographics, follower preferences and what it takes to convert an influencer’s followers.
Apart from running influencer marketing campaigns with conversions as an objective, having such rich and deep data can also effectively reduce, and enable marketers to navigate around, fake followers and post engagement. Additionally, marketers can start developing more contextual influencer marketing campaigns and content briefs with a focus on driving business results.
With influencers creating their own products and brands, there are even deeper data sets in this new ecosystem for marketers to tap on. Adding on to that, there is a steady rise in brands going direct-to-consumer and the early emergence of shoppable media across various channels – presenting greater opportunities for marketers to tap on this influx of data.
Ultimately, the future of influencer marketing is already here. One driven by new opportunities for marketers to identify and reach the right users. One where content is more closely connected to business results.
Blink twice and you might just be left behind.
Kosuke Sogo is the CEO and co-founder of AnyMind Group