SAN FRANCISCO: Influencer marketing is no passing fad, at least not through the next year.
Thirty-nine percent of marketers are planning to up their influencer marketing budgets in 2018, says a U.S. study by influencer marketing platform Linqia.
Only 5% of respondents said they are planning to decrease their influencer marketing budgets. Out of the 86% of marketers surveyed who used influencer marketing in 2017, 92% found it to be effective.
For the study, called The State of Influencer Marketing 2018, 181 marketers were surveyed in November on how brands and agencies are using influencer marketing and how they plan to leverage the channel in 2018. This is the second year of the study.
Out of those surveyed, 30% said they will spend $25,000 to $50,000 per program; and 25% said they will spend $50,000 to $100,000 per program in 2018. The study noted that 46% of marketers run between two to five programs per year per brand and 31% run more than five programs per year per brand, with enterprises typically holding portfolios of dozens of brands.
Last year, the concept of influencer marketing was new, and the industry was just beginning to find its footing and throw money at the notion. The industry has since matured and is starting to stabilize, said Kristin Hersant, VP of marketing at Linqia.
"Marketers are starting to measure the effectiveness of [influencer] programs using mid- to lower-funnel metrics, as opposed to high-level metrics like reach and engagement," she explained.
As a result of the increasing budget size, ownership of these programs has shifted. Last year, said Hersant, it was owned by a mix of advertising agencies, comms, brand marketing, and shopper marketing, while this year the study showed that advertising and media teams are taking more responsibility for influencer marketing.
Instagram is seen by 92% of marketers as the most important social network for influencer marketing in 2018, followed by Facebook (77%). At 71%, blogs are third, up from 48% last year. Meanwhile, 50% of marketers report that Snapchat will be the least important social network for influencer marketing in 2018, in line with recent news about influencers leaving the platform in favor of Instagram Stories.
"There has been a lot of talk about blogs being dead, but the survey [shows] there is a real need for long form educational content, whether that be a video or blog post to educate and inspire consumers in a way that will ultimately drive action," said Hersant.
When asked which influencer marketing trends they plan to adopt in 2018, 52% of marketers cited running influencer marketing programs that leverage multiple types of influencers, such as celebrities, top-tier, and micro-influencers, as part of an integrated strategy.
"A lot of marketers across all functions are starting to take the content and leverage it beyond the scope of the original program in order to drive more effectiveness from those additional digital programs," added Hersant.
The study found that 44% plan to use influencer content to improve the performance of other digital channels, and 36% of marketers plan to integrate influencer content with e-commerce to drive product sales.
In addition, 81% of those surveyed are using influencer content in other channels, with 51% reporting that it outperforms brand-created content. Of those that haven’t tested influencer content against brand created content yet, 59% plan to do so.
Although influencer marketing remains popular, determining the ROI of a campaign that uses influencers is seen as a top challenge by 76% of marketers.
"We are seeing a trend for influencer marketing and the content to be benchmarked against other media metrics and media investments that go hand-in-hand with the content repurposing," said Maria Sipka, cofounder and president of Linqia. "It is extending the metric beyond just the original or organic results that a program is driving and how can that content perform in other channels."
Following Facebook’s recent move into branded content, 42% of marketers ranked changing social network algorithms as their second biggest challenge in 2018.
"Facebook and Instagram are starting to significantly reduce the organic reach of the content, which means budgets need to be placed into promoting and boosting that content," advised Sipka.
Another issue with influencer marketing programs, noted Sipka, is they require extensive hours. Of those surveyed, 35% are looking to cut down that time.
At this time, 41% of marketers partner with a managed service or turn-key provider to run their influencer marketing programs; 19% manage their influencer marketing programs in-house; and 18% rely on their agencies. Meanwhile, 14% use a mix of providers while only 7% choose to manage their influencer marketing programs with self-service platform, according to the report.