By Tim Sovay

As we near 2018, all signs point to the continuation of accelerated growth for the influencer marketing industry. In fact according to a 2017 Bloglovin’ Marketers Survey, 63 percent of marketers reported that they’ve increased their influencer marketing budgets this year. But as influencer marketing has expanded in popularity, the ecosystem of influencers, platforms and campaigns has also become more complex.

Just like every approach that has come before it, influencer marketing is evolving rapidly and practitioners need to also evolve their strategies to realize a return on their investments.

Recently, CreatorIQ analyzed data from a sample size of more than 1,000 influencer campaigns that ran on our platform since 2014, and our findings have revealed an increasingly complex influencer marketing landscape. Following are four tips for standing out:

  1. Accelerate Your Activity Level  – Simply put, now that there are more brands and agencies deploying influencer marketing campaigns, more influencers and more posts on average are required to get attention. Today, a campaign that involves two-three influencers and a handful of posts has much less of a chance of breaking through the clutter than it did only a few years ago. While strategies will of course still vary depending on the brand or specific influencers involved, overall the numbers are trending up. CreatorIQ’s research has shown an increase of more than 300 percent increase in the average number of posts per campaign.
  2. Identify Authentic Ambassadors – Capturing the attention of consumers isn’t the only challenge – brands also need to reel in influencers who can serve as authentic ambassadors for their products. If the perfect ambassador happens to be a celebrity with millions of followers, great. But in other cases, engaging multiple  influencers who have smaller, but more targeted followings might be a better approach. For example, ipsy, a beauty sample subscriber service, has built its brand by empowering thousands of beauty creators through its ipsy Open Studios program. These influencers are not Kylie Jenner-level celebrities, but they have highly engaged followings who are specifically (and passionately) interested in learning about the latest beauty products. CreatorIQ’s research showed a 350 percent increase in the number of creators used per campaign since 2014 — a trend that suggests brands are experimenting with different levels and types of influencers to reach out to their audiences. But whether you work with a few influencers or many, the key is to aim for authenticity and engage people who are genuinely excited about your brand.
  3. Plan for Two Types of Campaigns – Our research also uncovered that, on average, current influencer campaigns are 40 percent shorter than they were just a few years ago. This means brands deploying influencer campaigns must therefore use creative approaches designed for campaigns that make a bigger impact over a smaller timeframe. For example, we are seeing an increase in campaigns around “tentpole” events like holiday shopping, product launches and music festivals, where brands find success with leading the social conversation of an engaged consumer audience . Another approach to consider is always-on, ambassador-driven campaigns. These activations run for a number of months or even throughout the entire year. E-commerce “box” companies and beauty brands have found tremendous success with this approach (see ipsy below). In a constantly evolving  industry, be sure to test both types of campaigns to better understand how you can build stronger relationships with both creators and consumers.
  4. Invest in an Influencer Marketing Platform  – As the number of posts, influencers and campaigns inevitably rise, keeping track of everything on an Excel spreadsheet is no longer realistic or efficient. That’s why a number of brands and agencies are turning to technologies, which can help them find influencers, manage relationships, automate payments and more. Even more important, an influencer marketing platform gives users a way to track the performance of their campaigns, which is essential in an era where marketing departments increasingly need to to provide validation that their investments are generating the maximum earned media value (EMV). Just as brands need to vet influencers for fit, brand safety and trustworthiness, they also need to a way to validate results. 

It’s inevitable that influencer marketing programs will increase in complexity, especially as the number of campaigns and number of influencers that a brand works with continues to grow. The right tools are required for that competitive edge to scale and empower you with the insights that are key to your success for optimum return on ad spend.