The Changing Role of Influencer Marketing – Now and Then


Scientists will tell you that every cell in your body dies and regenerates within seven years. The same holds with any industry that’s spent a similar amount of time in the digital space.

Ten years ago, you’d be forgiven for thinking that influencer marketing was just another buzzword – another flash-in-the-pan phenomenon in an already crowded digital advertising market. Today, the word ‘influencer’ is a term widely spoken about and generally tends to be misunderstood. The definitions and trends of how to utilise this force are a necessity if brands want to stay relevant and connected in the future.

Wait! Before jumping in to define what influencer marketing is, do you know how to create a digital road map to navigate these uncertain times? If not, check out our blogs to know more.

Pixlee defines an influencer as a person who has established credibility in a specific industry and has access to a large audience and can persuade others by their authenticity and reach. Single Grain goes further to define influencer marketing as a strategy that businesses use to promote their products and services by partnering with popular social media users. Influencers usually have a large, engaged audience that brands can tap into to build credibility and even drive sales.

The current state of influencer marketing

Source: Rawpixel

In this blog, we will review the evolution of influencer marketing to better understand its essence and discuss what lies ahead as we prepare to navigate the ever-changing social media landscape.

How did we get here?

The answer to the above question has been one that has shifted through the ages. It’s important to understand both what has stood the test of time and what has gotten a lot better as the influencer marketing industry has matured. The emergence of modern-day influencer marketing has existed for decades in different forms e.g., word of mouth and traditional endorsements. According to experts, the history of influencer marketing dates back to the late 1800s when companies began recruiting celebrities to promote products such as cigarettes or household goods to consumers.

Some marketers date influencer marketing back to the early 1920s when Coca-Cola took Santa Claus and entwined him with their brand by placing his image alongside their products in shopping-related ads. Brands become desperate to associate themselves with celebrities.

What influencer marketing looks like in 2021Source: Medium

But things change, right?

As influencers became more prevalent, brands started leveraging their influence by sending them free products (and sometimes even payment), asking them to post about it to their audience. This tactic eventually became the marketing strategy we know today: Influencer Marketing.

While you are here: Get our best tips on Influencer Marketing.

This brings us to…

The Current State of Influencer Marketing

The influencer marketing world seems to endlessly stratify into successive tiers, with a spectrum that spreads from mega to macro, micro, micro-micro, and nano. A survey of influencers across platforms finds that nano-influencers have a seven-times higher engagement rate than mega influencers. But why is that? According to Influencer Marketing Hub, it’s important to select an influencer that operates in the same social space as your audience as well as having the same values and cultures, preferably with an expert position in their niche field.

Influencer marketing Source: SocialBlueBook

Gone are the early, easy days of influencer marketing where reach alone may have been all that was needed. As influencers and their followers continue to embrace new and evolving forms of social engagement, brands will require increasingly dynamic social intelligence platforms for identifying, monitoring, measuring, and engaging those influencers. Working with trusted voices has always been important, but it has never been more critical than it is today. According to a Business Insider Intelligence report, the market is set to nearly double from 8 to $15 billion by 2022.

Source: Postcron

Again, eight years ago, it would have been nearly impossible to actively track, measure, and improve upon a campaign with hundreds of influencers simultaneously. Today, it’s not only commonplace but an expected and necessary component of effective influencer marketing. More sophisticated technology tools now allow marketers to monitor and manage their influencer marketing campaigns.

For all these reasons, influencer marketing has become a great strategy for brands looking to grab customer attention, generate high-quality content, and increase sales. Especially in these times of uncertainty, marketers need to re-examine their motivations, metrics, and objectives, as well as tone, to reflect how today’s climate has affected consumer consumption habits.

Related Content: The Importance of Brand Management in the Digital Age

While some brands face challenges to find a way forward during the pandemic, there is still a need for social content as we see a change in consumer behaviour and an uptick in social media usage. Audiences are seeking content that might be helpful during this time and influencer content is currently adapting to this new climate.

What’s Next?

It’s important to remember that influencer marketing, when executed effectively, is a tried and tested method of communication that delivers measurable ROI. How the world of influencer marketing looks and operates has changed, and in five years, it may be different from today. Influencer marketing may have had its roots in celebrity endorsements in the past, but the evolution towards creating authentic and highly engageable community content will continue to carry it forward.

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