What’s Next in Influencer Marketing?

The influencer space has been a hot topic for us this week, having just hosted our NYC panel on 'Influencer Marketing: Past, Present & Future.' During our discussion, we got an inside look at what the landscape is like for influencers and their management teams. Now, we’re shifting perspectives: we spoke to some of the other major players in this space to understand how brands and platforms are working with talent, plus their predictions for the next frontier of influencer marketing. 

innisfree Spring campaign featuring Amanda Gunawan and Lauren Vandiver Green (HYPR)

While it might be a relatively new industry, influencer marketing has already evolved quite a bit over the last few years. Ryan Berger, founding partner of influencer marketing platform HYPR, notes the change in the way people evaluate influencers. “In the past, people were satisfied with vanity metrics, but are becoming more and more sophisticated. There’s now a focus on meaningful metrics – audience demographic breakdown, engagement data within the audience, video views and conversion metrics,” he says. These more-meaningful metrics have opened up a space for micro influencers, whom Berger defines as “smaller subject matter experts who have a stronger relationship with an audience that really views them as influential.” 

Deciding whether a macro or micro influencer is right for a brand is a young yet crucial consideration; strategy is at the forefront now more than ever before. Jess Hunichen, co-founder of global talent management and influencer relations agency Shine Influencers, recalls that, “A couple of years ago, the conversations we were having with brands were more around education and ROI, whereas today, brands know that this needs to be a part of their marketing and communication strategy, so it’s not a question of if they should work with influencers, but how many and how often.” 

Sarah Nicole Landry, @thebirdspapaya for @valuevillage_thrift #NationalThriftShopDay (Shine)

The way brands are activating in this space has also evolved, which brings us to the next frontier. “Brands are creating experiences, launching capsule collections and integrating influencers into their brand DNA in new ways,” says Ali Grant, founder of Be Social Group, a creative group specializing in influencers, talent and brand building. 

Brandon Perlman, CEO and Founder of social media marketing agency Social Studies, asserts the company’s belief that influencer is the next evolution of digital media. “Influencer has proven itself to be its own media channel and needs to be planned for and treated as such,” he says. “To that end, the secret sauce is the combination of working with strategically-identified, brand-aligned micro- and nano-influencers, producing the highest quality content, and targeting and amplifying that content with paid media. Your A/B tests will show that this formula overperforms.” 

So, what’s next for influencer marketing? Grant sees brand integration as a major trend. “Product building and involving influencers in creating capsule collections, their own lines, or curated shops to further tap into their social footprint,” she explains. “For example, we recently spearheaded a collaboration between our talent Becca Tilley and Macy’s to create her own line in partnership with Bar III.” 

@BeccaTilley x @Macy’s Bar III (Be Social Group)

Clearly, it’s not all about Instagram anymore. “One major trend we are seeing is that audiences are beginning to focus on vertical social networks that fit their specific needs,” says Berger. “Gamers are on twitch. Youngsters are on Tik Tok, DIY are on Hometalk and additional networks are coming for audience segments. It means that influencer marketing needs to diversify to platforms that have a much more uniform and relevant audience.” 

Hunichen elaborates on the audiences’ shift from online to IRL. “We’re working with a lot of our talent on tactics that will live outside of social and help to further cultivate their connection to their community,” she explains. “Podcasts, book deals, live tours/events, and product lines are some of the projects we’re currently working on that will allow audiences to connect with the people they follow online in a whole new way.”

This combination of digital and physical can be extremely valuable for brands, but there’s no one-size-fits-all mix. As such, considering the right metrics is necessary for evaluating a successful collaboration. “Beyond striking the right alignment between content creator and brand, it is all about leveraging assets at scale that support specific goals up and down the marketing funnel,” says Perlman. “For our campaigns, appropriate KPIs are identified in close alignment to stated client goals. Our social programs are directly informed by each clients' respective definition of success.”

Social Studies Turns Four Feat. BABE, The Bosco, Tito's and Wyoming Whiskey at Make Believe, SIXTY Hotel LES.

Finally, life beyond likes. “Thankfully as an industry we seem to have moved past looking purely at the number of followers to evaluate success.” says Hunichen. [Success] is also highly dependent on what the goals of any given collaboration were. Are we hoping to drive sales? If so, we’d be looking at website page visits month over month. Is it a brand awareness campaign? I’d like to see a high volume of post shares and saves.” 

Whether you’re helping a brand build out an influencer campaign or simply considering a move into this space? Start with a foundation of best practices. Below, our contributors’ advice for marketers working with influencers.

Ryan Berger: “Influencer marketing is becoming a data driven industry and it requires marketers to adapt. Working at scale requires adapting processes and an attitude that focuses on measurement and reporting. What gets measured, gets better!”

Ali Grant: “If you are choosing a particular influencer for a collaboration, trust their opinions. There is a reason they might push on certain creative elements and you should lean into that.”

Jess Hunichen: “Listen to the talent! Know that they know their audience and what will resonate with them. This isn’t a traditional advertisement, there needs to be true collaboration between the brand and the talent for the best results.”

Brandon Perlman: “Start by looking at your own brand as a benchmark. Look at your social marketing performance over the last year, assess how many influencers you worked with, evaluate your old creative briefs. What did you ask for, what were your goals? How many influencers (if any) helped you hit those goals? This exercise helps you identify your baseline. Align your baseline performance with your marketing plan for the next year. Elevate what worked, carve out a 10% budget to test. Press play.”

Contact The PR Net