TRUE TALENT, TRUE INFLUENCE – A YEAR IN REVIEWInterviews & Opinions
In less than a decade, influencer marketing has rapidly evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry, with more brands, agencies and talent alike entering the scene than ever before. Its rapid growth shows no signs of slowing down, but where is it headed?
Our predictions for 2020 include bigger budgets spent on multi-channel strategies, an enriched focus on quality content and co-created content activated by true talent who have real credibility.
However, before moving forward into the New Year, we’ve decided to review the highs and lows from this year, the big changes, the new technologies that came to the fore and how industry perceptions have evolved. Continue reading to discover our key takeaways from 2019…
INSTAGRAM TRANSFORMED ONLINE PURCHASE HABBITS
In March 2019, Instagram launched its new in-app checkout feature for retailers. This feature allowed customers to tap, view and purchase products from a brand’s shopping post. This move by Instagram was an interesting one as it created a new way for consumers to engage with content and drive sales, achieved direct from the platform.
However, our worry remains that if Instagram simply becomes a shopping catalogue, people may well switch off from their feeds as the demand for high-quality content increases. This year, we will see the Instagram checkout feature spark exploration and act as a key call to action for driving sales, but how can brands better stand out in the crowd, especially as over 80% of accounts follow at least one brand on Instagram? We believe it has never been more important for those working with creative talent to continue to hold themselves to the same high standard set out by the platform and ensure that the influence landscape continues to remain authentic to all those that use it. We all know that the less genuine a channel becomes, the more likely it is to lose followers. This means that brands must put even more emphasis on sharing compelling content crafted with a meaningful storyline and activated by true talent in order to successfully engage their customers.
02 INSTAGRAM STORIES X ADS
500 million Instagram accounts are using Instagram Stories every day. This means that as the social media giant continues to enhance its tools, it’s no surprise that they also introduced interactivity adds, which added a whole new dimension to the way consumers interact with brand content. Starting with the poll sticker, ads can now better stand out and generate more impact for campaigns. In fact, during nine out of ten beta campaigns, the polling sticker alone increased three-second video views.
Once again, this feature made us very mindful that as more users spend time on Instagram, they will become even more ‘savvy’ towards branded content. This means that, as marketers, we need to ensure we maintain best practice. To do this we must focus on high-quality media, which has been crafted with a meaningful storyline, to enhance authenticity and spark positive conversations.
03 HIDING LIKES
In 2019 Instagram made a bold statement when it announced that they would be hiding likes. The aim of this action, the company stated, was to remove the element of “pressure” from the social media platform and to stop it feeling “like a competition”. When likes on Instagram are made private, this means that only users are able to see the number of likes their posts receive. When other users look at their posts, they are only able to see the name of one account that has liked a picture, in addition to “others”.
Certainly, this move has made waves in the industry, since many marketers value this data within its ecosystem in order to report their campaign success. The problem is that it’s very difficult to measure something like quality. Therefore it seems inevitable that brands will shift their focus to the next quantifiable metric such as engagement. Ultimately, with the removal of likes, we believe that brands will need to realign their affiliation with the right kind of talent; those who match their values and have the credibility to talk authentically in this space.
MEANWHILE FACEBOOK ALSO MADE MOVES
Facebook also decided to follow Instagram’s efforts and started the same trial too, testing hiding the number of likes, reactions and views that posts get in order to improve people’s experiences on the social media platform.
For us the key issue here remains that, Facebook and Instagram are incredibly different platforms and so, what may work for one, may not work for the other. We definitely had a big question mark over why Facebook decided to do this. For us, Facebook is about friends and family over and above brand content. Thus, we would argue that hiding likes is pretty irrelevant to those using the platform. Also given the iconic “like” was pretty much invented by Facebook this seemed like a very strange move to us. It will be interesting to see if this is something they adopt as a long-tail strategy in 2020.
TACKLING DIVERSITY AND REPRESENTATION STILL REMAINS A KEY ISSUE
2019 also bought a problem to the fore in the form of diversity. Despite the immense investment in influencer marketing, brands and platforms alike, are still not thinking about inclusivity when developing their campaign strategy. As a result, the influencer marketing industry hasn’t managed to escape the pitfalls of traditional media, when it comes to being predominantly white, straight, able and privileged. Whilst some positive growth occurred, such as the LVMH and Rihanna partnership which established the Barbadian entrepreneur as the first black woman to head a luxury brand for the multinational goods company. Many agencies and brands merely aimed to just tick diversity boxes, which introduced new issues such as Tokenism.
That’s why we actually addressed this topic head on during a panel at the Influencer Marketing Show. During the event the chair, Amie Shearer highlighted that the problem lies with the professionals, who are ultimately responsible for educating their clients as leaders of the space. This advice illustrates the important role we all have to play as we ensure this issue is confronted in 2020. All players must accept their responsibility to transform their approach and ensure this is nipped in the bud well before we travel down the same slippery sloap as traditional advertising.
Certainly, one of the biggest challenges the industry faced in 2019 were the vociferous headlines and editorial pieces forecasting the demise of influencer marketing. It’s been a pretty tough year in terms of general noise, not made much better by some poor campaign strategies and low-quality content, executed by both brands and platforms alike.
Without a doubt our key takeaway was that the term ‘influencer’ is widely misunderstood and perhaps is the cause for key concerns when matching talent, which over 61% of marketers currently consider as their biggest challenge. We actually talked about this issue during a panel debate which we hosted called The Big Lie and agreed that the term (as it stands), doesn’t distinguish the ‘talent’; professional creators who have real expertise and are managed by an agency, from those who have no real credibility and who use the term ‘influencer’ purely as label as a means to define their status.
That’s why moving forward, it’s clear that overcoming these key issues (that are otherwise diminishing the reputation of the industry) remain at the ownership of both the platforms and agencies, as Amie correctly highlighted. By offering new perspectives and making bold moves forward, we will be able to redefine best practice, instead of just following the status quo.
OUR PREDICTIONS FOR 2020
We believe that moving forward, rebuilding trust in the industry will remain the key issue for platforms and agencies. It’s our belief that this can only be achieved however, by working with true talent over and above influence. That’s why our mission will continue to focus on matching our clients with agency-signed professionals who have real credibility to talk about brand content in order to spark positive conversations and drive sales.
In this vein, authenticity and advocacy will become key in 2020, especially as the space becomes even more crowded and the demand for high-quality co-created content will continue to increase. Additionally, messaging that accompanies brand content must remain organic to ejsure it is not overlooked by the ‘savvy’ consumers who are quickly becoming oblivious to the term #AD. Consequently, by adapting a talent-led approach we believe that as an industry, we are able to solve growing concerns regarding fake followers, promote diversity and increase advocacy as we continue to focus on building long- term partnerships and deliver authentic and credible results.