What’s Ahead for Marketers and Influencers in 2018?

Opinion: Brands must keep a keen eye out for trends and be ready to shift their strategies

Influencer marketing has maintained its value through the existing influencer-follower relationship Ildo Frazao/iStock

A new year always brings about much speculation in the world of marketing. Recent years have seen a seemingly endless stream of new technologies, platforms and tactics that marketers and brands can leverage to stay ahead of the curve.

Throughout 2017, influencer marketing has maintained its value through the existing influencer-follower relationship, and it has continued to evolve.

While the end of 2017 brought with it new technologies and opportunities for brands that incorporate this marketing tactic, we expect to see some of these developments really gain their momentum and mature in 2018.

Below are a few trend predictions and tips for marketers and brands that want to start the year with strong influencer marketing strategies.

Influencer network as a service

By now, most marketers now know what an influencer is and have already incorporated these content creators into their marketing strategies and budgets. A recent survey revealed that 61 percent of brand respondents had worked with digital influencers within the past year.

As brands become more comfortable with the influencer marketing process and better understand the additional value that brand-tailored campaigns can provide, some are looking to take a more active role in establishing their own influencer relationships and managing the entire campaign process.

One way that brands are taking more control is through a new model known as influencer network as a service. This model gives brands the tools they need on an easy-to-use platform so that they’re fully equipped to manage their own campaigns and influencer relationships directly, making for a more streamlined experience.

Additionally, brands have the option to build their own custom-created networks from scratch, catered to a specific niche audience or designed for a select campaign.

These influencer networks as a service give brands a new way to create meaningful content by working with influencers whose values are aligned with those of the brand. This type of custom fit cannot always be achieved with a premade influencer network.

Social platforms catered to influencers

Brands aren’t the only ones taking note of the power of influencers. As more marketers plan to launch influencer campaigns or increase their influencer budgets, social media platforms are stepping up their games to provide a better overall experience when working with sponsored content.

In 2017, we saw social platforms create features and updates that simplify and enhance the influencer marketing process in an attempt to draw in more brand and influencer activity.

Big changes came to Facebook marketing, including a feature that allows brands to share influencer posts directly with chosen audiences and an option to select which influencer can tag the company in branded content.

Instagram rolled out a new way for influencers to identify sponsored posts, which make it easier for brands and influencers to comply with Federal Trade Commission disclosure policies, and it added a new polls feature giving brand and influencer followers a new and exciting way to engage with these accounts.

And Snapchat released a long-awaited, influencer-friendly feature that allows users to add external links to their videos.

Social media is the go-to place for many shoppers these days. A recent survey found that almost one-half (47 percent) of social purchases are made via Facebook.

Going into 2018, we’ll likely see more influencers and brands adopting these platform changes in an effort to engage their followers in new ways, while also streamlining their own efforts so that campaigns can become even more targeted to audiences.

Increased product involvement from influencers

More customers than ever are trusting influencer opinions on products. A recent survey found that 49 percent of consumers rely on recommendations from influencers they see on Twitter.

While many consumers are loyal to their favorite brands, loyalty to influencers is a bit different. You expect brands to promote their own products in sponsored posts, but influencers are real people who often choose to work with brands that they believe in and are connected to, so there is less perceived bias. Loyal followers notice this and are more likely to pay attention to an influencer’s recommendation of a certain brand, product or style.

As marketers catch onto this trend, many are offering their popular influencers a seat at the product-planning table. Influencers who are particularly engaged with their followers have their finger on the pulse of what the brand’s target audience is currently interested in. This information can be very valuable when the time comes to design new products and campaigns that will catch customers’ eyes.

So far, we have seen this trend emerge mainly for beauty and fashion brands, which are more likely to release special collections and lines tied to seasons or themes. However, as it gains traction, don’t be surprised to see a more diverse group of brands work closely with influencers for development in 2018.

Although influencer marketing is no longer a new tactic, it is one that will remain relevant as time goes on with the introduction of new tactics and best practices. In the new year, as consumers and social platforms evolve to capitalize on these changes, brands must also keep a keen eye out for trends and be ready to shift their strategies and make the most of influencer campaigns.

Justin Kline is chief operating officer of influencer marketing technology partner Markerly.

Justin Kline is co-founder of Markerly.