The power of 'stranger persuasion' could not be ignored as the opinions shared by everyday folk on brands, experiences and social-economic issues through social media positively – or negatively – impacted the views of their peers.
Furthermore, a study by Deloitte revealed that marketing-inspired word-of mouth generated more than twice the sales of paid advertising and so agencies proceeded to recruit these new voices as fresh-faced brand advocates; all part of a unified mission to harness their power on purchasing behaviour.
We witnessed Average Joe and Plain Jane’s elevation to celebrity status, able to command high fees and control over content and messaging they shared with their legion of followers on behalf of numerous brands.
Now, the market is becoming a tad crowded with these new citizen ambassadors singing the praises of different products and services. The challenge we currently face in the industry is how to evolve influencer engagement's current form so its impact doesn’t wane in the years to come.
Savvy marketers know that the key ingredient to any successful influencer strategy is authenticity in content creation. But how can you successfully align the brand and influencer needs in this relatively new breeding ground before audiences become sceptical of the voices they trust; influencers who previously had nothing to gain from sharing honest opinions on digital channels?
In 2015, ad blocking in the US grew by 48 per cent in and by 82 per cent in the UK.
We certainly do not want consumers 'switching off' in a similar vein to influencer programmes. Influencers are using their newfound celebrity status as a platform to create legitimate business ventures beyond a YouTube video; therefore PR needs to bypass conventional tactics and look toward building content that pushes the boundaries of imagery and video.
Influencer marketing has to change and adapt to the way these everyday mavens will engage their audience as they compete to strengthen their credibility, relevancy and most importantly, relationships with the people who trust them.
2016 should see bespoke projects being developed that will position influencers as pioneers in their field to create stand-out for the brand and the individual. If Chelsea Handler can have her own documentary series on an online streaming service, why would it not be feasible for an influencer to have their own lifestyle talk show on a video messaging app?
Given the prevalence that Generation Z will soon have, we should not overlook incorporating technology platforms that will amplify influencer voices even more, and this is when the fun begins – working collaboratively on exciting strategies that benefit both parties and shake up the game, content-wise.
Ultimately, we need to enable influencers to grow their personal brand, and followers, in an organic and meaningful way rather than allowing clients to become just another ‘pay-for-play’ partner.
Influencer marketing is definitely here to stay so let’s make a concerted effort to make the most of it.
Sabrina Lynch is vice-president of Zeno Group