Influencing Without AI: How Creator Marketing Will Be (Re)Shaped in 2024

From election messaging to gathering insights for R&D, the creator economy will only continue to boom

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Influencer marketing shows no signs of slowing down in 2024 as it continues to prove its worth to brands around the globe. It’s engaging, it works and is cost-effective compared to other channels. It’s no surprise, then, that 82% of marketers report having a dedicated budget for influencer marketing, which has blossomed into a $21 billion industry.

With more budget at stake, marketers must keep pace with the trends taking shape. This year will unlock doors of opportunity, but there will also be uncertainties about the impact of political, economic and global matters. Those who plan can be prepared to maximize the value and minimize their risk.

With that backdrop, here are five trends that I expect to take shape or be more pronounced in the coming year.

#ElectionOnslaught

This election year, influencer marketing is going to look starkly different. Sure, there will still be YouTube unboxing videos, “get ready with me” TikToks and recipe reels, but also expect a large host of influencers imploring followers to make their voices heard in November.

News site Semafor recently stated that 2024 is shaping up as the first serious influencer election. Influencer marketing provides organizations and campaigns with a treasure trove of benefits, such as trusted spokespeople, tremendous reach with a variety of audiences (including younger generations who don’t watch traditional TV), the ability to amplify over social, a healthy amount of message control, little regulation and a price tag that’s easy on the coffers.

While there will be a litany of #2024Election posts from influencers, they won’t take the form of easy “vote for” messages. Since the last presidential election, the space has evolved and matured significantly with strategists and specialty agencies working together armed with real-time polling and measurement.

Messages are bound to be more nuanced. To that end, expect to see a cornucopia of issue-based messages, values-driven creative, along with the strategic plea to simply get out and vote. Success on that call to action alone can sway an election.

One interesting byproduct of this phenomenon is that when all is said and done, we will likely know a whole lot more about some of the people we follow and are influenced by online—their ideals, their values and what’s important to them. This will provide marketers with insight beyond follower count, demographics and past engagement rate to inform their influencer selection. This newfound knowledge will make it easier for marketers to choose influencers who best align with their company values and beliefs.

Creator houses grow but shrink

When most people think of content or creator houses, they think of wealthy, young internet celebrities who are working, playing and living together in lavish mansions or fantasy villas. Recent history has certainly supported this image—just check out the Hype House or Collab Crib.

While it won’t be a case of twentysomething creators cornering the high-end real estate market, there will be a boom in creator houses, with one notable change. In 2024, creator houses will be more starter homes than estates, and the inhabitants will be more up-and-coming creatives than multimillion-follower moguls.

Being a creator is rapidly becoming both more popular and more attainable. Brands are looking less to celebrity influencers and more toward creators and influencers who produce unique content and are more relatable. While some creators still aspire to live the Jake Paul lifestyle, many more are happy making great content, living and working with friends, having fun and making a modest income.

This year, the inhabitants and the houses will not be as famous, but the concept will continue to grow and take hold. Marketers are already seeing the trend of using smaller influencers to get their messages across in a more relatable way. Creator houses will take their cue from that shift and become an environment where micro and fledgling influencers can prosper.

Influencers drive research and development

We are already firmly entrenched in the age of co-creation and influencer-owned products and brands. Celebrity influencers such as Huda Kattan and Emma Chamberlain have used their expertise and significant promotional power to create successful brands with products that consumers crave—Kattan with her Huda Beauty line and Chamberlain with her Chamberlain Coffee brand.

We will continue to see the mega influencer morph into brand CEO, but the more common trend in 2024 will involve influencers of all shapes and follower counts steering the product development process. Having a direct, trusted line to various consumer groups is R&D gold, and influencers have it in spades.

Instead of messengers, brands will use influencers more and more as insight gatherers. They will rely on them to engage their audiences in a variety of ways, from eliciting feedback on a feature to simple A/B tests, to more pie-in-the-sky “if you could have this” interactions.

While this type of insight gathering won’t have the precision that comes with traditional market research, it also won’t have the challenges. Of course, influencers will still largely be tasked with trying to influence, but there will be value in employing them to unearth consumer insights that lead to more relevant products.

Influencing without AI

Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing businesses in a multitude of ways, and the world of influencer marketing is not immune to its charms. While brands and agencies will tap into AI to help guide their choice of influencers, analyze campaigns and brainstorm on their creative briefs, we will see far less reliance on AI from the influencers themselves.

Leaning on AI takes away from their pride of creative ownership and has some fearing plagiaristic repercussions. However, what will ultimately drive influencers to eschew AI in formulating creative is the one thing they hang their hats on: authenticity.

Without authenticity, the relationship between an influencer and their followers is tarnished, if not completely broken. The lure of saving precious time and creative energy is not great enough for influencers to risk augmenting their voice or coming off as even remotely synthetic. AI will make influencer marketing more approachable, streamlined and measurable, but it won’t be embraced as an easy button for influencers and creators.