As we enter 2019, it’s a natural time to evaluate current business strategies while looking to the months ahead. In my role as CEO of an influencer marketing agency, I’ve observed some shifts in the industry that could affect the way you plan your next influencer campaign. And I also have some thoughts about the trends we’ll be seeing in the coming year.
What We Learned In 2018
It’s harder than ever to get seen.
As I predicted last year, algorithms continue to evolve on all social media platforms, especially Facebook and Instagram. Between ad restrictions, automated content flagging and news feed display changes, reaching targeted audiences has become increasingly difficult. Authentic, relatable content has the best chance of reaching the right people from organic shares while building real brand-consumer connections.
Instagram Stories are a hot commodity.
Last year brought the meteoric rise of Instagram Stories, which lets brands and influencers provide intimate behind-the-scenes access. The feature also prompts more audience interactivity with the Polls, Ask Me and Swipe-Up features. With over 400 million active Instagram users viewing Stories every day, it’s rapidly becoming an ideal platform for informal, positive brand conversations.
Engagement rates are the real metric.
In many ways, the percentage of an influencer’s audience that responds to their content has become far more important than their total number of followers. Micro-influencers and nano-influencers (loosely defined as those with less than 50,000 followers and less than 1,000 followers) are frequently overlooked by brands. But we’ve found that what they lack in numbers they make up for in loyalty and engagement. The direct, personal connections they have built with their audiences may be the key to campaign success when it comes to reach and ROI.
Agencies can pinch-hit when scale is needed.
As brands experiment with outsourcing influencer programs, some larger businesses are handling influencer programs in-house while relying on agencies for high-volume campaigns. Brands and agencies can also work in tandem. As an example, we have a great working relationship with a client where they own the personal relationship with the influencer, but we help with recruitment, contracts, payments and reporting.
Predictions For 2019
Brands need more transparency from influencers.
The exposure of fake followers means that brands are on high alert for influencer fraud and should be seeking more insight into who they’re working with. Brands can take steps, like evaluating an influencer’s engagement-to-follower ratio or growth over time, to weed out artificially boosted accounts, or partner with a full-service agency.
Facebook Live is the new QVC.
As of early 2018, nearly 2 billion people had watched Facebook Live broadcasts. Some companies are running live influencer broadcasts with six-figure shares and millions of views. For compelling videos, tap into engaging hosts and live audience Q&A, and include purchase links with custom discount codes. And as Facebook continually adds features to make livestreaming more compelling, brands should take note.
This platform trend is OK to ignore (for now).
While we think Instagram Stories will continue to be popular in 2019, we’re not placing our bets on IGTV. Instagram’s long-form video hub hasn’t been an instant hit, and its vertical video format can make it hard for brands to repurpose content. We’ll keep watching it, but for now, we’re not recommending that our clients prioritize IGTV above other options.
Agencies will provide influencer education as a service.
For brands that want to manage their own influencer marketing programs, there is a growing need for expert education. Agency workshops and training sessions for both marketing and legal stakeholders are a great option as teams learn how to avoid copyright or disclosure issues while recruiting, managing and activating influencers at scale.
The Final Word
If you’ve never tried influencer marketing before, this is a great time to jump in. A recent study revealed that businesses are making $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing. And according to McKinsey, “research shows that marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising in categories as diverse as skincare and mobile phones.”
Whether you work with an agency or manage your influencer efforts in-house, it’s the perfect time to reflect on 2018 and ask yourself how content creators and their highly engaged audiences can help drive your business goals in the new year.
This article first appeared in www.forbes.com
Guest Author: Danielle Wiley, Founder and CEO of Sway Group, an influencer marketing agency in the SF Bay Area.