TL;DR: Influencer marketing’s explosive rise resulted in the destruction of one of its hallmark values: authenticity. However, it’s social media stars themselves who might be our only hope to bring the “real” back to influencer marketing in 2019. We break down five influencer trends for the new year that hint at a positive upswing.
Read any article or attend any conference on influencer marketing and you’ll hear the word “authenticity” mentioned several times. It’s what marketers love and value about influencers—the genuine conversation and engagement they generate from their captivated and impressionable followers.
However, on the path towards becoming a billion-dollar business, fierce competition and declining organic reach contributed to shady tactics that threw authenticity right out the window.
Influencer “fraud” was the buzzword of 2018. But it’s more than a buzzword when followers are bought and sold on the black market, “likes” can be easily purchased, and agents employ “like pods” among their talent roster to hit contracted engagement totals. It’s these kinds of shady tactics that have given influencers a black eye this year. Read our tips for detecting influencer fraud.
It’s not surprising that these fraudulent tactics are on the rise, as influence is readily bought and sold. The dream of “becoming an influencer” just like your favorite blogger or Instagrammer is sold to average users every day. Photo filter presets will help you edit your photos to look like your favorite travel influencer. Blogging retreats promise to reveal the secrets to help turn your passion into a lucrative career.
Although it’s easy to buy followers, filter your photos and game the algorithm to increase engagement, the ability to devise and express a deeper point of view is something that’s still hard to fake. Influencer marketing fails not because it doesn’t work, but because brands invest in the wrong people and wrong partnerships.
If there’s any hope to reclaim authenticity in influencer marketing, it’s with influencers who are true creators with something to say and skills with which to say it. Finding partners with a likeminded mission statement is the key to success for 2019.
Here are our predictions for influencer marketing in the new year:
1. Long-format content creators will be in demand
From podcasting to filmmaking, marketers will seek out and derive greater value from influencers who can create long-format content with a distinct voice and critical point of view. Narrative storytelling takes skill, time and effort. Journalistic-level quality will be demanded before dollars are exchanged.
2. Long-term partnerships will be more common
With the rise of influencer fraud, vetting influencers’ followers and engagement metrics will begin to intensify. Finding the right influencer who can make an impact on your business objectives will take more time and care. This will lead to fewer, but longer-term influencer partnerships like brand ambassador titles or “influencers in residence” programs.
3. Niche communities will be on the rise
To counterbalance the decay of organic reach due to algorithm pressures — particularly that of Instagram — influencers and their followers will migrate to niche platforms to build more “meaningful” conversation. Facebook Groups and private Slack communities will thrive due to the personal, non-sponsored connections made between influencer and followers.
4. Employee advocates will become the new micro-influencer
Forget nano-influencers. As the ceiling on micro- and nano-influence implodes, brands will invest more in their own employees to advocate on behalf of the brand. You can read more about how to build your employee advocacy program here.
5. Advisory boards and FTC oversight will become more commonplace
To preserve ethics in influencer marketing, brands will build internal influencer ethics advisory boards to set and preserve disclosure standards across programs and partnerships. At the same time, morality clauses will become commonplace in influencer contracts to avoid campaigns becoming the next PR nightmare.