What is the most powerful trend in marketing right now?
That would be influencer marketing according to one recent survey which says influencer marketing is providing a 960% return on investment.
How has this type of marketing proved to be so wildly successful, so quickly?
How many companies are able to mimic these returns or is the ROI too good to be true?
And is there a chance this approach could go the way of so many other marketing tactics du jour?
2016 saw the bubbly explosion of influencer marketing.
Will 2017 see this medium start fizzle out, or is there still a lot of fizz left?
Influencers Are 2017’s Most Trendy Trend
eMarketer published a survey at the end of 2016 on influencer marketing. They found that marketers have their targets set on partnering with influencers. 84% of respondents said they intend to launch at least one influencer campaign over the next year.
You’ve probably been paying attention to a heavyweight or two in your brands’ industries already in order to get a clearer idea of what your target audience is interested in, but haven’t necessarily coined these top bloggers, vloggers, and social media wave-makers as ‘the influencers.’
The trend is truly fascinating and could have been predicted if you look at the nature of the movement.
- Have vast online audiences. Take Zoella, the 26-year-old fashion and lifestyle vlogger with millions of followers, a record-breaking debut novel, and her own beauty line. Want to get your makeup brand noticed?
- Are independent. These digital celebrities all started as indie content creators with something to say. They aren’t signed by record labels, associated with businesses, and they are not obligated to voice content that is aligned with advertisers like other celebrities. At least not yet.
- Their audiences are enthusiastic. Influencers, in many cases, spent years building up their legions of avid fans. The people who follow them are passionate about their particular niche.
- People love them because of their authenticity. They don’t feel like sold out celebrities selling everything from breakfast cereal to lipstick. People trust them. With the oversaturation of ads, online influencers have become a breath of fresh air for consumers.
And for marketers. They provide a unique opportunity for inbound marketing. Influencers allow marketers to get their brand out there in the best possible way. With subtlety, yet reaching millions.
The ROI of Influencer Campaigns – Is It Really That Fantastic?
One of the most thorough studies on the ROI of using influencers was done as a collaborate effort by TapInfluence and Nielsen Catalina Solutions. They followed the marketing efforts of a fortune 500 food company. Here are the results:
- Influencer marketing yields an annual ROI of $23, compared to the $4.30 of the brand’s best performing banner ads
- For every 1000 views, influencing brought in $285 in incremental sales
- Influencer campaigns brought in 11 times the ROI of traditional advertising over the course of a year
Other studies have found similar results. A poll of marketers by marketing software as a service agency, Tomoson, found that on average, businesses see a $6.50 return on investment. The top 13% of respondents exceeded $20 for every dollar invested.
The influencer effect exists beyond the sphere of internet celebrities. In general, consumers have increasingly been listening to the input of those on their social networks and other word-of-mouth sources when it comes to making purchases, and increasingly ignoring ads. 92% of consumers trust their peers and trusted authorities. On the other hand, consumer trust in paid advertising has diminished by one-fifth over the past decade.
Yes, the ROI of influencer marketing is that fantastic, at least right now it is.
Is the Gold Rush Sustainable?
While influencer marketing is an ROI force to be reckoned with right now, it holds within it a paradox that may lead to its undoing.
- Right now the ROI is so high because influencers aren’t that expensive. Many marketers have found that the real value is with the micro-influencers – those with less than 100,000 followers. These individuals tend to be very true to their niche and are more interested in promoting quality products then selling out for a brand they don’t believe in. They also are often approachable, ‘real’ people, which is much of why their audiences appreciate them so much. How long will the compensation amongst micro influencers be reasonable enough to garner such unbeatable returns?
- The core reason that consumers listen to vloggers, bloggers, and social media-ites is because they trust them. These content producers stuck to their craft and their message, which is exactly why they yield so much influence. Will fans continue to trust them when they start to pitch more and more products?
- Or what about when influencers literally get ‘bought out.’ This was what happened with Casey Neistat, a YouTube celebrity with 6 million followers. Neistat sold his company to CNN and begins his era as a purchased influencer with a wonderfully honest, humorous and informative video on the transition – and an explanation for stopping his vlog. Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute predicts that in 2017, there will be more paying and less partnering with influencers. As long as influencers can manage to stay true to their authentic roots, fans are likely to follow.
How realistic is it, however, for independent creative individuals and teams to retain their independence once they have to answer to a larger organization – that does have to align with a certain agenda? Isn’t this like trying to force a round peg into a square hold?
If these three conditions begin to fizzle as described above, the great power of influencer marketing may begin to lose its pop. It may not happen in 2017. There is still a lot to be done in this area, with countless micro and macro influencers to tap into and infinite campaigns to be developed by creative marketing teams. But like any other wave, the crest must eventually be matched by an equally imposing dip.
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