The term “influencer marketing” is pretty self-explanatory – you find someone with a decent amount of influence on social media and pay them or reach some sort of partnership or agreement to promote your products or services.
It’s a buzzword that’s been with us for a while, yet not so many marketers truly understand how it works, let alone what it’s all about.
Influencer marketing isn’t just paying social media users with a large following to post or hype up your products. Nor is it limited to working with celebrities or influential figures within a particular industry.
There are a lot of intricacies involved. Plus, social media platforms have undergone a lot of changes over the years, and what might have worked a few years ago isn’t necessarily going to work in today’s world of influencer marketing.
What’s Influencer Marketing?
At its most fundamental level, influencer marketing is one form of social media marketing where brands or businesses reach out to individuals or organisations with a large following for exposure and endorsements.
The idea is to identify influential people generally or in your niche and then partner with them to market your products or services for payments, free products, commission, or any other form of compensation.
The History of Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing has a richer and far deeper history than most people realise. Its use as a strategy can be traced back to 105 BCE when the Roman gladiators endorsed products.
While they weren’t referred to as influencers, the fact that they were paid to promote products doesn’t make them any different from modern-day influencers.
Here’s a rundown of events that have happened over the years that fit the bill of what can be considered influencer marketing:
In the history of advertising, it’s reported that the Pope and Queen would advocate the use of medicine. We want to consider it the first-known case of influencer marketing.
Still in the 1760s, King George the third supported Josiah Wedgwood’s pottery, even going as far as giving it its rotal stamp. Following the King’s approval, Wedgwood sold many products.
If that isn’t influencer marketing, nothing is.
Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle (1905)
A Turkish cigarette brand hired Mr Arbuckle, a famous silent movie star, to endorse their cigarette product, Murad Cigarettes.
Coca-Cola and Santa (1931)
Coca-Cola is among the few brands that have always been at the edge of new marketing trends. In 1931, they introduced the image of Santa in the ads.
Dressed in a white beard, donning a red outfit, and lifting a glass of Coca-Cola, it’s widely believed to have introduced the idea of Santa.
While Coca-Cola claims it didn’t, it’s pretty evident that it played a massive role in shaping the image of the Santa we know today.
The Marlboro Man (The 1950s)
The Marlboro man is an iconic figure played by various actors. They made smoking look cool, trendy, and masculine.
They perpetrated the idea of macho. Marlboro is credited for driving cigarette sales from $5 million to $20 million.
Mikey Likes It (The 1970s)
Quaker Oats ran an ad in the 1970s that featured an insufferable, hard-to-please character of a boy name Mikey. The character was famous for the TV commercial Life cereal, which aired for 13 years, winning a Clio in 1974.
In 1999, TV Guide named it the #10 best TV commercial.
The 2010s: The Rise of Social Media
While it’s not clear who started social media influencing, the rise of social media undoubtedly changed how we view influencer marketing.
When writing this, Instagram accounts for about 60% of online product discovery. And it’s not just about celebrities endorsing products, but people learning about new products from friends and other people.
In 2010, Amazon allowed its users to connect and share their purchases on Facebook so their friends could see what they were buying. That’s influencer marketing at work.
10 Influencer Marketing Statistics in 2013
- Influencer marketing grew to US$16.4 billion in 2022
- For every $1 businesses invested in influencer marketing, they made $5.2 in returns
- The number of people querying the search term “Influencer Marketing” on Google has increased by 465% since 2016
- 90% of marketers think influencer marketing is an effective form of marketing
- 67% of brands market their businesses on Instagram
- The last five years have seen more than 1360 influencer-focused platforms enter the market
- In 2022, 75% of brand marketers dedicated a budget to influencer marketing
- 54% of businesses working with influencers operate ecommerce stores
- The most followed brand on TikTok in 2021 was none other than the giant video streaming service Netflix
- 80% of brands that engage in influencer marketing use Instagram
What’s been Proven to Work in Influencer Marketing?
Carefully consider how you approach influencer marketing
- Never approach influencer marketing blindly. Before doing anything, you want to plan, put together a strategy and budget, and do a little bit of research
- Decide on how you’re going to approach the influencers – whether you’re going to find them organically, get them through an agency, or subscribe to a platform
- Don’t be too excited to reach out to influencers. You want to be patient and human. Talk to people first and grow relationships with those who follow you or influential people in your niche. Let them know they’re interacting with an actual person, not a robotic company.
So, loosen up and throw in some personality in your social media interactions.
Work with a Schedule
- Talk to your influencers and consider how they work. Do they prefer monthly/quarterly/biannual calls or newsletters?
- Integrate your influencer marketing schedules with your PR schedules and product releases.
- Don’t treat your influencers like some third-grade junior employees. You want to use your executive email to communicate with them and, if possible, organise to meet them face-to-face.
Communicate to them about your company visions and explain why you singled them out as your brand ambassadors.
Tell them that your brand’s success depends on how they conduct themselves.
What Influencer Marketing Isn’t
Finding Someone with Influence and Offering them Money to Promote Your Products or Services
As we’ve already mentioned, influencer marketing isn’t about finding someone with a large following and paying them to endorse or put out a positive word for your products or services.
That’s what viral celebrities are for — not influencer marketing.
Remember, influencers are a brand themselves. They didn’t get there by chance, and their audiences look up to them in every possible sense.
They have a reputation to protect. Otherwise, their word won’t be influential as it’s supposed to be.
It goes beyond what you pay them.
They’re not solely in this line of business for money.
Driving Quick Results
Influencer marketing is a long game. Results come in slow and steady.
It’s the same as social media and content marketing.
It’s not about selling your product or services but demonstrating your authority, credibility, and thought leadership.
The last thing you want is to pick someone random to endorse your product or brand.
You want to be synonymous with your products or services and everything your influencers say about your brand.
You can easily amass thousands of followers in a month or so if you set yourself to do so. You can ask people to follow you and invite their friends to do the same for a reward.
That could get you thousands of new followers. The problem is that they won’t be the right kind of followers.
You want your followers to be loyal to you and engage with your brand. At the very least, they should be interested in your business or product.
So, with influencer marketing, you’re not just allying yourself with influencers, but influencers that command the following you’re targeting.
The chances are they won’t agree to work with you right off the gate, not until you win their trust and respect.
What Doesn’t Work in Influencer Marketing?
Using a Generalised Approach to Identifying and Working with Influencers
No two influencers are the same.
They each are a different brand with different drives and ambitions. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work if that’s the plan you have in mind.
Before you approach or work with any influencer, you want to research and understand what drives them. Only then can you tailor your approach.
Choosing an Influencer Based on their Popularity
Choosing an influencer based purely on their number is akin to using black hat SEO tactics to rank your website. There’s a high chance it will backfire on you badly someday.
Remember, choosing an influencer is like choosing who you want your brand to be associated with. Anything they do will rub off on your brand.
If they’re racists, you’re a racist brand, too – and so on.
Influencer Marketing Is About Marketing Your Brand to Influencers
Influencer marketing has nothing to do with numbers. Anyone with a friend or family member they can influence is an influencer.
So, anyone who follows your brand puts a positive word for your product or service out there is doing some influential work for you.
These are the people you’re marketing to.
We suggest you start paying attention to these people. Segment them into groups and figure out the best way to get them to spread the word for you.
The problem with this approach is that you may not have enough followers to run an impactful campaign.
Another thing marketers struggle with is curating content that their followers may find meaningful while maintaining day-to-day engaged interactions with them.
Instead of using a scattershot approach of blindly trying to grab likes and followers, influencer marketers must directly target influential people in their niche. After all, their goals align with yours.
Here’s what you should do:
- Identify all the influential people in your niche and start engaging with them directly.
- You can start by following them and then liking and commenting on their stuff.
- You want to get on their radar, get them to notice you and what you do.
- Also, while commenting on their content, you want to demonstrate some expertise and personality.
- Even more important, you want to curate handpicked content that gets the attention of the influencers.
While the influencer’s audience is the ultimate price, it’s the influencer you want to win over first.
By taking this approach, there are two things you can achieve as a brand:
- By interacting with influencers in positive and constructive ways, you gain access to their followers.
You’re not promoting anything at this point, but just showing face as one of the members of their community, which adds to your credibility.
- The second achievement is that should you eventually reach out to the influencer and ask them if you can collaborate, they would have already known you.
While influencers aren’t celebrities, their online life makes them famous. That means they deal with a lot of interruptions from people they have never seen, each demanding a piece of their time.
These people reach out with praises or to pitch something to them.
The only way to stand out from all that noise is to get on their radar first. Give them a chance to know you before you propose anything to them.
The Remarkable Rise of Influencer Marketing in 2023
We want to review the state of influencer marketing in 2023. What has changed? Is it still a viable marketing strategy in 2023?
The results we’ve seen are optimistic. Meaning influencer marketing is genuinely mainstream, demonstrating an upward trajectory as the preferred marketing method.
Shift to Nano and Micro-Influencers
As consumers seek authentic and more relevant content from influencers, marketers may be forced to work with nano and micro-influencers.
These often-unpaid content creators don’t usually command a considerable following. They’ll instead have anywhere between 1,000 and 100,000 followers.
Small influencers don’t usually have a larger community of followers. But they’re highly engaged.
Plus, their consumers are likely to trust them and take their advice and recommendation at face value, without probing them much with questions.
Consumers trust their expertise, reviews, and product recommendations.
The idea is to activate these influencers at scale. They’re an excellent strategy to target niche audiences, boost sales, and drive awareness.
The Future is Video
With social media platforms launching and prioritising video features, it’s safe to say live streaming and video will become the most dominant content type in 2023.
And it’s not just creating videos. Your videos should be fun, interactive, and highly engaging, delivering the information your consumers seek in an entertaining way.
With TikTok projected to grow, marketers would have no option but to jump on this marketing bandwagon to target young audiences.
In addition to producing professionally done videos, we expect to see user-generated content thrive as the year rolls by.
The Shift to Quality Metrics
This might be the end of vanity metrics. Marketers no longer care about followers, likes, or impressions. Instead, they care about click-through rates, engagements, and conversions.
In previous years, the key criteria for selecting influencers were their number of followers and fans. While these factors exposed your brand to a large audience, they didn’t necessarily translate to business results.
But that’s about to change. From 2023 and beyond, brands will prioritise influencers whose values align with theirs.
Most brands will play blind to the number of followers an influencer has in favour of those with a strong and engaged community.
They’ll start looking a brand influence and ROI as the KPIs to decide who they want to work with long-term.
The Rise of User-generated Content (UGC)
UGC will gain momentum in 2023.
Brands will prioritize UGC to create social proof.
They’ll use it to boost conversion and prevent customers from second-guessing their buying decision.
Brands will see positive results provided they make sure the results are positive, trustworthy, and relatable.
YouTube tutorials, TikTok videos, reviews, and ratings will be the most popular content in 2023.
Also, brands will be repurposing some of the UGC as part of their social media strategy.
They’ll feature them on their websites, in offline advertising, and even in their email newsletters.
Shift to Long-term Influencer Collaborations
Working with influencers will move from a one-time thing to a long-term collaboration. Brands will make ambassadors of the few influencers whose values align with theirs.
There’ll be more collaborations between brands and influencers. Most brands will partner up with key opinion leaders.
So, why long-term collaborations with influencers?
Long-term collaborations translate to a long-term supply of credible content. The content will have a higher brand impact.
Also, the more creators use a brand’s product and script it out, the more they understand the brand and its product. The more they also gain insights from their communities.
Even better, partnering with an influencer also means you can turn their followers into your brand ambassadors.
The company will also gain valuable insights into its products or services from the influencer’s community of followers.
Influencer Compensation Challenges
When a marketer wants to compensate an influencer for their work, it’s always been that they’ll first look at their number of followers and make an educated guess on how much to pay them.
But as marketers move from vanity metrics, all this is bound to change. We’ll start to see more marketers basing their payments on engagement, impressions, and conversions.
Marketers will adopt pay-per-performance models, where influencers are either paid for the work done or the results that they turn in.
In other words, millions of followers won’t do marketers any good until they can bring tangible results. If followers can’t take your word for it and make up their minds, don’t expect brands to come running to you.
Influencers will be in Full Control
Another trend we expect to see in 2023 is brands leveraging influencers as storytellers.
That means influencers will have complete control of the narrative they give. There won’t be many cases of brands controlling the script.
Given their industry expertise and understanding of social media, professional influencers can be perceived as executive producers and creative directors.
We’ve already seen brands employing influencers as part of their marketing team, like when Kate Moss was taken in as the creative director for diet coke.
It’s hard to talk about influencer marketing without mentioning the #1 influencer platform, Instagram.
Let’s highlight a few Instagram statistics that make all the difference:
The Number of Followers, Likes, and Videos on Instagram
Instagram has exploded in the last few years.
Its users post about 95 million photos and videos and like 4.2 billion posts every day – mindboggling if you ask me.
Photo posts account for about 64.4% of Instagram feed posts.
Carousel posts come in second (18.8%) and videos third (16.8%).
Instagram Grew Tremendously over the Last Four Years
Instagram didn’t suffer after Facebook acquired it. It got bigger and more influential instead.
Currently, there are over 2 billion monthly active users on Instagram.
Here’s a quick rundown of how Instagram has grown over the years:
|Year||Number of Users|
Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012. Since then, it’s been an upward growth trajectory for this social media network.
Here’s a simple breakdown of the utilization of popular influencer channels
- Instagram leads at 68%
- TikTok 45%
- Facebook 43%
- YouTube 36%
- LinkedIn 16%
- Twitter 15%
The Number of Followers an Influencer Can Have on Instagram Varies Greatly by Niche
The number of followers an influencer can have on Instagram tends to vary depending on their niche.
A few niches like modeling and beauty are extremely popular, with famous influencers garnering up to 20 million followers.
Niches like lifestyle and music aren’t as popular. Most of their superstar struggle to cloak millions of followers, hence lower average influencer followings.
Influencer Marketing Spending on Instagram is Growing Rapidly
The last few years have seen more brands adopting influencer marketing. That, coupled with the rising importance of Instagram as a social media platform, has led to brands spending more on influencers than they initially did.
- 55% of marketers said they intended to use Instagram for influencer marketing. That places Instagram only second to YouTube in the list of preferred platforms for influencer marketing.
- In comparison, only 43% indicated they’d be using online ads.
- 34% indicated they’d be using TikTok ads
- 29% were quick to point in favour of TV ads
- 20% preferred OOH ads
- 20% were for Twitch
We expect this trend to continue in 2023, with marketers spending a little more on Instagram influencers than they have been doing.
Instagram Has a Better Engagement Than Twitter but Lower than TikTok
TikTok boasts the highest engagement rates. Instagram comes in at a close second.
Instagram has also been found to drive better engagement than Twitter.
That’s because their posts don’t vanish into oblivion. They hang around for quite some time, giving the user more time to interact with them.
Also, influencers with fewer followers find it easy to build high engagement than those with millions of followers.
Influencers with less than 1,000 followers have an average of about 7.25 engagement rate. On Twitter, it’s 1.4%, while on TikTok, it is 9.38%.
For mega influencers with upwards of 100K followers, their average engagement rate is 1.1% on Instagram, 5.4% on TikTok, and 0.35 on Twitter.