Influencer marketing is not a new concept, but it’s enjoying newfound reach. According to Collabstr, even after climbing more than 40% in 2021, the influencer market will continue its rapid rise to hit $15 billion by year’s end. Naturally, brands are leaning into these types of partnerships, hoping to cultivate meaningful and profitable relationships with creators and customers alike.
This activity is reshaping the industry landscape in many ways. From the explosion of TikTok and blended influencer-affiliate campaigns to a developing dichotomy of influencers to the value of authenticity, there’s plenty to take in. Let’s take a look at some of these major trends now underway in influencer marketing.
The Rise of TikTok
Insider Intelligence projects that TikTok will hit 755 million monthly users in 2022. This after experiencing nearly 60% growth in 2020, followed by approximately 40% growth in 2021. The rise of TikTok demonstrates the potential of the creator economy. No longer viewed as a Gen Z platform for dance challenges, its rapid growth was made possible by a creator-centric approach. And the variety of creators and content on TikTok is now providing brands with a great opportunity to find the right fit and convert users into new customers.
The relatability of many TikTokers is what makes users trust their recommendations and take action. This is not lost on TikTok, which realizes the value in enticing content creators. Users are most likely to buy a product seen on a video from profiles they follow regularly, or from their feed, because the content is relevant to them. Additionally, sponsored content on TikTok doesn’t immediately feel like an “ad,” hence the popularity of #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, a hashtag that not only attracts billions of views but also drives sales for brands.
Blended Influencer and Affiliate Marketing
Proving ROI from influencer marketing remains a primary challenge for marketers. As companies look to successfully track influencer engagement and maximize ROI, we’ve seen a recent shift in brands bringing affiliate and influencer marketing closer together.
Affiliate tracking links and cookie-less coupon tracking are particularly effective for engaging with creators, measuring performance and controlling influencer spend. The robust tracking and attribution used in some marketing technology platforms can further support this by effectively assessing the value of a creator in complex multi-touch and multichannel consumer journeys.
With social media platforms pushing for in-app shopping, creators now have the potential to own the majority of the customer experience. And brands will be able to leverage them to support awareness and discovery, as well as to drive sales.
Influencers and Authenticity
Brands have started to recognize the benefits of partnering with nano- (under 10,000 followers) and micro- (between 10,000-200,000 followers) influencers, rather than simply targeting creators with millions of followers.
Nano- and micro-influencers have more of a reputation for being genuine and authentic. Their followers feel the products they feature are ones they’ve actually tested and liked. And the notion of these influencers also being more approachable supports higher engagement rates.
Brand authenticity and transparency are key to building connections and influencing the next generation of customers. The most engaging and successful videos are usually ones that are non-promotional and reflect the personality of the creator. Also, authentic content is more likely to be repurposed by brands to reach users outside of the creator’s audience — creating a win-win situation that gives more exposure to both the brand and influencer.
Social media platforms are recognizing this shift. New tools and opportunities continue to be made available to more users than before. Instagram Stories’ link feature, originally available only to users with 10,000+ followers or verified accounts, is now accessible by anyone on the platform and can be used to share products with their audience at the click of a button. Creators of all sizes will also be able to take advantage of the rise of livestreaming shopping, giving them additional means with which to engage with their audience and create more interactive and immersive experiences.
As brands prioritize organic development and authenticity over audience reach, a growing share of influencer marketing budgets will continue to go to nano- and micro-influencers.
It’s a Partnership
Partnering with creators through a brand’s affiliate program builds long-term relationships, making creators feel valued and fairly compensated. This also encourages the creator to produce more organic content as opposed to waiting until the next campaign, providing the brand with more exposure and adding to the authenticity that audiences value most.
Today, brands can best engage with creators by adopting technology designed to manage affiliate partnerships, deliver resources and drive results. Some platforms allow monitoring of influencer traffic and conversions and can help identify what product or products resonate most with audiences. Influencers can then better ensure the success of their partnerships via tools that leverage related data, while businesses can assess the value of influencer campaigns to accurately determine ROI.
Joris Cretien is Head of Publisher Management U.S. for Awin. The company’s marketing technology platform provides an open marketplace for businesses to manage affiliate marketing partnerships. Awin is among the fastest-growing platforms of its kind in the U.S. with over 400 merchants and 12,000 publishers joining monthly.