With the advent of influencer marketing nearly a decade ago, CPG brands began their grand Influencer Experiment. Would a web of micro-celebrity bloggers carry enough clout to drive consumers down the purchase funnel? Ten years and many evolutions in the social space later, the experiment is over. Influencer marketing is here to stay.
Influencer Marketing: Day One
Collective Bias was the first in the influencer marketing space, launching the Social Fabric® community in June of 2009. Community is the keyword there; Collective Bias’s platform wasn’t just another ad network. Social Fabric® was a family of friends who had been following each other’s stories for years. In the beginning, that community was only a few hundred people. Almost a decade later, Social Fabric® has grown to over ten thousand members.
Survey of Influencer Marketing
To better understand where the influencer marketing industry is nearly ten years later, we surveyed over four hundred marketing professionals whose brands ran at least one influencer campaign in the last year. Our respondents ranged from company CMOs to shopper marketers, all providing their perspective on where influencer marketing and social platforms are today.
The Socialization of Influencers
When Collective Bias first entered the space, bloggers were influencers and influencers were bloggers. Facebook was just breaking out of college campuses, MySpace was inspiring teenagers to learn HTML, Instagram was nonexistent, and SnapChat was nothing more than a sci-fi dream for kids passing notes in class. With the advent of YouTubers, Instagrammers, Snapchat Celebs, and the Facebook famous, “blogger” and “influencer” are no longer interchangeable. Social is now the dominant channel for influencers to tell their stories with some even operating exclusively on social platforms.
Brands recognize the value of these social channels. A whopping 63.7% identified Facebook as a critical channel. YouTube and Instagram followed with 48% and 46% of respondents respectively viewing the platforms as important to their influencer strategy. Twitter and Snapchat weren’t as highly valued as other platforms, but still outranked blogs in the eyes of respondents with Blogs garnering only 25% of responses, proving a 360° approach to influencer marketing is the most valuable to marketers. Ten years ago, influencers were barely on the radar of brands and the majority of the platforms listed were either non-existent or still in their infancy. Now, their collective value to marketers and their brands is measured in billions.
Companies Commit Big in Influencer Marketing
Respondents showed a strong continuing commitment to influencer marketing with 64% of respondents saying their brand ran more than four influencer marketing campaigns in 2017. Of all survey respondents, 90% expect to run influencer marketing campaigns again next year. This should come as no surprise to savvy marketers. In fact, influencer content is continuing to earn increased attention from viewers in a crowded and saturated digital space. Collective Bias influencers have grown their compounded viewership per post by +7.4% CAGR (cumulative average growth rate) over the past two years in Collective Bias campaigns. This growth trend is consistent across all major product categories from Pet to Health & Beauty.
The Next Generation
Prediction is a dangerous game — one with a long history of human error, so how does the industry properly predict what the space will look like in another 5 or 10 years? We started by asking marketers what channel they thought represented the future of influencer marketing.
Interestingly enough, respondents showed significantly less conviction than in their previous responses. Predicting human ingenuity doesn’t inspire confidence. In this case, no channel garnered a majority of responses. Facebook came close with 45% of respondents identifying the platform as a social channel of the future, but that’s hardly the same confidence marketers displayed in identifying Facebook as important for influencer marketing programs today (63.7%).
Will Facebook be the future? How will YouTube evolve? Can Snapchat adapt to keep pace with Instagram Stories, or are these the wrong questions? Will these platforms even matter in ten years? Virtual Reality could give influencers a whole new platform to share their experiences with audiences, and fundamentally change the online sharing experience in the process. Augmented reality is already enabling brands virtual entrance into consumers’ homes. We cannot say with any certainty what new platform will reign supreme or how the industry will morph. If the past decade is any indicator, as new mediums for storytelling race to outmode one another, influencers will be there, evolving.