2016 influencer marketing top trends

In 2015 influencer marketing began to emerge as one of the marketing strategies clearly delivering the highest impact and return. A recent McKinsey report quoted that social recommendations induced an incredible 26 per cent of consumer purchases on average across all product categories. And their research showed that a small number of active influencers accounted for a disproportionate share of total recommendations.

According to RhythmOne, on average advertisers received $9.60 in EMV (Earned Media Value) for every $1 spent on Influencer Marketing programmes in the first half of 2015. This represented an increase of 1.4x over the company’s full-year 2014 numbers.

In 2016 we expect brands to formalise their influencer marketing processes so they can be scaled and optimised for maximum impact. Looking at the evolution of the practice amongst our clients and the evident maturation of the market, we have identified nine significant developments that we anticipate in influencer marketing this year.

1. The investment in influencer marketing is expected to rise.

In its webinar on social marketing trends for 2016 eMarketer highlighted influencer marketing going mainstream as one of the key trends for the year, with budgets expected to increase as a result. In July 2015, Altimeter Group said that amongst social media professionals worldwide only 14 per cent don’t plan to use influencer marketing and:

  • 35 per cent were in an optimisation and maturity stage
  • 32 per cent were in a planning and piloting stage
  • 19 per cent were in their first year of use

Statistics company Statista anticipates that influencer marketing budgets will increase in 2016.

Their study of marketing professionals in the US in 2015 showed that 59 per cent of respondents said they were planning to increase their budgets devoted to influencer marketing in the following 12 months.

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2. Influencer marketing is now on the CMO’s radar.

The practice of influencer marketing is evolving from its preliminary exploratory or pilot stages to be recognised now as a solid and strategic marketing investment. We are seeing more and more CMOs getting involved with designing and implementing influencer strategies that are integrated across a broad set of corporate functions and with far reaching impact across a growing number of corporate objectives.

David Beebe, VP of Global Creative and Content Marketing from Marriott Intl. highlighted the importance of strategic influencer marketing and forward-thinker and former Philips ASEAN’s CMO, Damian Cummings, took the lead in creating the most unique version of a command centre combining social monitoring and content creation around live conversations.

3. Influencer marketing is set to go “Glocal.”

What we are witnessing with our clients at Traackr is that the influencer marketing practice is evolving from local programmes into global strategies with ‘glocal’ activation. This means more and more companies are designing strategies at the global level for localisation according to local market priorities.

Our report with Lewis PR on influencer marketing in the B2B sector in EMEA highlighted that of those with an influencer programme, 52 per cent were managed regionally and 42 per cent were managed globally. Even global programmes rely heavily on local organisations for execution, as it is crucial to develop and manage relationships locally and within local communities. Marketers also try to maintain a balance of global influencers vs. local influencers within the program.

4. Impact is more important than reach.

Brands are now starting to recognise the value of working with smaller and more niche ‘micro’ influencers rather than celebrity influencers to generate real engagement and resonance within targeted communities. Where the latter provides for greater reach, brands are waking up to the fact that this doesn’t always deliver the desired impact and targeting they seek.

“An influencer with a smaller audience can be just as powerful as someone with a bigger audience. We’re in the business to create opportunities for people to share and start conversations and we find that micro influencers often have more passionate audiences than celebrity influencers have.” Susannah Costello, VP of Global Brand at Visit Florida.

5. Measure, measure, and measure again.

Most advanced and experienced influencer marketers build strong measurement frameworks and data sets around their practice. This is how Orange France launched their connected home solution, Homelive, and successfully entered a completely new market for the brand.

In 2016, programs will have very clear objectives and a set of KPIs aligned beyond individual campaigns to generate demonstrable strategic impact against brands' key commercial objectives. When it comes to “what to measure”, we really see three levels of impact based on the Barcelona Principles:

  • Output metrics that help measure the success in gaining awareness and developing relationships with the target influencers.
  • Outcome metrics that help measure the impact the engagement of influencers is having in generating awareness and recognition among the broader target audience.
  • Business results that help measure the impact on the organisation in terms of leads and sales.

6. Influencer marketing is to become cross-functional.

One of the most interesting aspects of influencer marketing touches on an increasing number of stakeholders, and consequently, functions throughout the organisation.

In 2015 the evolution of cross-functional influencer programmes was initiated within marketing departments, as influencer strategies started to be identified across corporate communications, social media marketing, performance marketing, and CRM.

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7. IRM (Influencer Relationship Management) is the next CRM.

IRM has sometimes been described as the ‘CRM of the Marketer’ but while CRM programs are built around a brand’s existing customers and prospects, IRM programmes target relevant brand influencers.

IRM programmes aim to increase the positive mentions of a brand among select opinion leaders, driving brand visibility and advocacy levels. It is not their key objective to turn influencers into customers, as the value of an influencer to a brand is not their wallet but their voice and their peer-to-peer influence and word-of-mouth power.

Reinventing Customer Value

While CRM teams have built highly scaled and automated engagement programs, IRM will focus resources on just a few select individuals to maximise the ROI of social engagement. But brands will increasingly start building bridges within CRM and IRM so that they speak consistently across all touch points.

8. Always-On will help marketers to harness the bigger picture.

In the early days of influencer marketing, many brands took a very campaign-centric approach to the practice. It was all about finding and reaching out to the influencers that could help promote a new product launch or an upcoming initiative. The results, however, from this approach were disappointing. Influencers didn’t respond well to “cold outreach” and response/participation rates were extremely low. Even the influencers that did agree to participate would at most provide a spike in activity at the time of the campaign, followed by a dramatic fall. Impact wasn’t sustainable.

As the practice evolved, it became clear that the path to success and sustainable impact is through an ‘always-on’, relationship-centric approach. The key is to build relationships with your influencers over time and to ultimately convert them into long-term advocates for your brand. Short-term campaigns are still relevant but are being seen as strategic touch-points for further developing relationships with key influencers.

Tim Baysinger in his recent article in AdWeek ‘4 Things Brands Can Do to Make Influencer Marketing Work for Them’ highlighted growing long-term relationships as a key success factor that will help generate authenticity and genuine engagement with the audience.

9. Managing relationships IRL will become increasingly important.

Both Stanislas Magniant, Coca-Cola’s Online Communications Director for Western Europe and Andrew Grill, Global Managing Partner, IBM Social Consulting & former CEO of Kred highlighted the importance of IRL at a recent conference we organised in London.

We couldn’t agree more! Even though the relationship can start online, meeting your influencer in real life is key to building genuine and authentic relationships.

Conclusion

Influencer marketing in 2016 is about becoming more measureable, more strategic, more closely aligned to the bottom line, and integrated across all commercial functions, in particular CRM.

These are what we think are the main trends that will come to the fore and affect influencer marketing in 2016. Do you agree? Do you see more?

Delphine Reynaud, EMEA Marketing Director, Traackr

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Bloomua