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Top Influencer Marketing Trends for 2018

December 20, 2017
Brand, Agency
  
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Influencer Marketing has evolved significantly over the last year, with brands transitioning from “dipping a toe in the water” to fully owning their strategies by hiring in-house managers and seeking long-term agency partnerships. Instagram Stories became an unexpected secret weapon for brands, as did micro-influencers, and brands began to embrace a relationship-focused approach, focusing on long-term results over one-off campaigns. Although many brands are still just scratching the surface of influencer marketing, we predict another big year for the strategy, with searches for “influencer marketing” doubling from 2016 to 2017. Here’s some insight into what we have learned in 2017 and what we see are the top trends for the new year:


Micro-Influencers Are Here to Stay

Micro-influencers, a leading breakout term of 2017 according to Google Trends, dominated the influencer marketing conversation this year, grabbing headlines in Forbes, AdWeek, Inc. and even the New York Times. More impressive than the hype, however, are the results. Niche bloggers are living up to the fanfare. Multiple brands have shown smaller influencers to have higher engagement rates and stronger influence over their followers, which can make reaching the right ones invaluable. 

We expect to see a trend in the next year toward brands utilising multiple influencers for a single campaign to cost-effectively test new markets and demographics. Gifting collaborations, which allow brands to quickly and efficiently access the right influencers without the risk of a paid campaign, will also rise. However, given the number of micro-influencers that brands must engage to achieve their goal of reach, we also anticipate increased interest in influencer marketing platforms and agencies that can manage these types of collaborations at scale -- a trend we’re already seeing reflected by Google Trends. Searches for “influencer marketing platforms” have increased 650% in the last year. 

We introduced our Product Seeding Collaboration so brands could leverage the impact of micro-influencers without the added time management, both in terms of creating the collaboration and following up for results. With this collaboration type, brands may select 10, 25 or 50 influencers with 10k or more Instagram followers for a single, streamlined collaboration, results guaranteed. Influencers must post and tag the brand within 30 days. We anticipate that offerings like this, which combine the benefits of micro-influencers with the ease of a streamlined campaign, to increase in 2018. 

Register to read more: Introducing New Product Seeding Collaboration


Brands Move Beyond “Influencer Marketing 101”  

Google Trends also show a comfort level with Influencer Marketing that suggest brands are long past trying to determine the value, and are ready to jump into more advanced collaborations. Phrases like “influencer marketing tips” and “influencer marketing seo,” which dominated 2016, have fallen over the last year, replaced by phrases like “influencer marketing manager,” “influencer marketing agency” and “influencer marketing platform,” according this year-over-year look at influencer marketing terms. This transition shows that brands have used influencer marketing consistently enough that they are looking to make the strategy part of their regular marketing calendar. Interestingly, searches for “advertising” have decreased over the last year, suggesting an opportunity for savvy marketers to make influencers part of their offering. 


A Spotlight on Instagram Stories 

Introduced in 2016 as a controversial, copycat response to Snapchat (remember them?), Instagram Stories came into their own in 2017 as influencers were able to create that same authentic connection that first made Snapchat so appealing with far more options for selling products. 

The “swipe up” functionality and ability to link directly to eCommerce pages made Stories a real gamechanger for brands this year, who now get the authenticity and personalized warmth of a Snapchat-style video, with the conversion that has made Instagram once again the leading influencer platform this past year. Stories have even helped to sell out products overnight, as Something Navy did for her first collaboration, Something Navy x Treasure & Bond, with Nordstrom.  We anticipate that Instagram Stories will shine even more brightly in 2018 as tracking capabilities improve and more brands learn what timing and types of content produce the greatest results. 

Read More: Everything You Need to Know About Instagram Stories


A Focus on Relationships 

Another important trend we saw emerging this year was a shift away from one-off campaigns, and toward building authentic relationships. MARKS & SPENCER has been a leader of this approach, fostering relationships with bloggers like Kyree Harvey of Miss Kyree Loves, Lucy Cornes of She Shopped, and Olivia Jeanette of Corporate Catwalk, along with Arielle Charnas of Something Navy and Paola Alberdi of Blank Itinerary with great results. By placing an emphasis on relationships, both through in-person collaborations such as their Girls Night In event held last January to recognise and appreciate Australian influencers, and last year’s London Fashion Week event to show appreciation for international influencers, M&S has established more than just a working relationship with their bloggers. 

In our most recent collaboration with M&S, we sent personalised gifts to dozens of bloggers throughout Australia and the US, resulting in genuine and equally personalised content from bloggers, which brought an ROI of tens of thousands of dollars in value to the brand. As more and more brands recognise the value of authentic content, we anticipate fewer short-term campaigns in 2018, and more long-term, relationship-focused efforts. 

Read More: Why One-Off Influencer Campaigns Are Hurting Your ROI  


Value Beyond Influence: An Emphasis on Content 

Brands will also start to recognise the stand-alone value of influencer content this year as the ROI on influencer imagery becomes increasingly clear. Our collaborations have shown that influencer imagery consistently generates higher click-through rates, click-to-order rates and overall revenues in EDM campaigns compared to in-house or stock imagery, with similar level of engagement shown in social media campaigns. Statistics show that while 70% of brands are using influencer content, only 10% are leveraging it. We see this is a huge area of improvement for brands and have already begun to help brands find ways to increase their ROI on campaigns by making influencer imagery from those collaborations easier to access and use internally.  As you approach new collaborations, we encourage you to brush up on photo rights so you can negotiate the licenses you’ll need for future internal campaigns. 

Although any number of events could shape influencer marketing trends over the next year, from the introduction of a new social channel to the effects of the US appealing net neutrality, we feel these five trends will be a significant part of the landscape for marketers who engage influencers in 2018. Whether you’re just starting to utilise influencers, or you’re looking to see a greater ROI on collaborations in the coming year, we are always happy to help. Get in touch at hello@shoppinglinks.com, and let’s talk about how we can make 2018 your most successful yet.  

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