‘Influencers? BORING, next.’ Quite the popular opinion on influencers right now. But whilst the word ‘influencer’ might make some stifle a huge yawn, I think there’s untapped potential when it comes to influencer marketing.

An ‘influencer’ is quite simply someone with the power to influence another person to purchase a product or service, or think and act in a certain way. Hands up if you’ve bought something you’ve seen on Instagram? Guilty.

But a lack of transparency within the industry has led many consumers to switch off, as it seems that the lines are becoming more blurred and content is getting unimaginative.

With that in mind, what does the future hold for influencer marketing? Let’s take it from the top.

We’ve come a long, long way.

Gone are the cheesy celebrity endorsements from the 90s. Influencer marketing today is about championing ordinary people who have found their niche and embraced it.

Influencers are comfortably making a living from partnering with brands, and for the younger generation, it’s actually a career choice when thinking about the future. They’re spending less time trying to sell stuff and are attempting to make a change in the world, championing issues that matter to them such as mental health & body positivity.

So who are these influencers? Callie Thorpe immediately springs to mind. Callie is a gorgeous and confident plus-sized young woman that is championing equality and fairness for plus-size women in the fashion industry. She embraced the diverse culture so much that she set up her own online community, ‘The Confidence Corner’ to allow others to share their own experiences with confidence issues.

Talking about these subjects only adds to their influence because they show that they’re human and that they’ve got their own opinion to share, rather than just mindlessly writing what brands tell them to. Blogging at its best in my opinion.

On the whole, influencers are considered to be authentic, but trust issues are hanging around with undisclosed ads still being posted and the continued use of fake followers/bots. In 2018, 1 in 8 influencers admitted to buying fake followers in the UK. That’s 1 in 8 too many for my liking. Fake followers are damaging. Buying them is dishonest. Influencers buy fake followers to boost their numbers and encourage brands to trust them and work with them. Oh, THE IRONY.

So what does the future hold?

The future’s bright.

Some people are still sceptical about influencers and whether or not they actually add value. The thing brands need to remember though, is that for the most part, influencers are also the consumer – they are usually the target demographic and so know how to market products in the way that would influence them to buy something. Too often brands can be blinded by their vision and force their views on an influencer rather than tapping into their knowledge to create an impactful piece of content. Brands should make the most of an influencer’s knowledge and use this insight to inform the content they produce.

Brands used to only want to work with influencers that had a heap of followers as they assumed they’d reach more people, therefore meaning a larger sales potential. As we’ve established, anyone can buy fake followers, so brands were often wasting money marketing to robots (not the intelligent kind, unfortunately).

Lesser known ‘micro-influencers’ (influencers with 2,000 – 50,000 followers) are becoming increasingly popular for brands to collaborate with as they have a targeted audience, meaning they are more likely to successfully drive sales. Nano-influencers (influencers with less than 2,000 followers) are also on the rise given they charge much less for collaborations and tend to drive higher engagement rates.

Product gifting is often used in these cases as there’s no obligation on the influencer’s part to discuss the product. This tactic reinforces the authenticity and makes it more genuine.

Looking to the future, I think brands will focus less on who and more on how. Brands should be thinking about how they can use influencers as part of a wider strategic marketing approach. The partnership still needs to be the right fit of course, but in order for influencers to stay relevant within the industry, the content they produce should be less superficial and should focus on creating genuine connections and meaningful experiences with consumers.

Indie brands have successfully used influencers to grow their business with a ‘marketing first, product second’ attitude. Look at Gymshark for example. Refusing to sell from third-party retailers, they have retained cult status within the fitness wear sector thanks to a clever influencer strategy.

Final thoughts

Influencers that create memorable and meaningful experiences have the potential to reap big rewards for brands for a relatively low cost, and have had a big impact on the marketing industry so far. We’ll be keeping a close eye on what’s next…