The explosion of power harnessed by online influencers and what to expect for 2015…

Over the past few years, influencer marketing has made a big name for itself and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. As consumers become more and more skeptical of brands, overwhelmed with marketing messages, peer-to-peer recommendations are now a fundamental part of the marketing mix.

It’s fair to say that nobody could have predicted the explosion of power harnessed by influencers. In the year where Zoella sold more book copies in her first week than any debut novelist ever in the UK and Tanya Burr launched her own makeup line, it was finally time for brands to sit up and pay attention.

According to a McKinsey survey, marketing inspired word-of-mouth generates more than twice as many sales than paid advertising and enjoys a retention rate 37% higher with these customers. You can understand then, why brands now want a piece of the action. With demand growing at such a rate, what can we expect to see throughout 2015?

Sophisticated and Creative Content Collaborations

As YouTube stars achieve stardom of dizzying heights, you’ll see more brands partnering for content collaborations that tap into the ever-elusive “millennial” market. Whilst brands may have been nervous to spend money on content and channels they don’t own, 2015 will see a shift, focusing on the fast exposure and credibility that a smart collaboration can bring.

A shift in ‘Influence’ metrics

Up until now, there has been a heavy emphasis placed on reach numbers, with many even trying to establish AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent) for online coverage generated. However, without being able to pinpoint how many of the blogger’s followers actually laid eyes on the content can prove difficult if not, impossible.

2015 will start to see more brands recognizing the value of engagement levels and alignment to the brand and it’s values. This should result in much higher conversion rates and advocacy towards the brand.

Greater Reliance on Visual Influencers

Blog posts have been what many brands have considered “success” previously.

However, as attention spans continue to shorten, there will be a growing reliance on influencers appealing to niches on visual platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr and Vine.

2014 already saw some good brand collaborations with select Instagram users, tapping into their existing audiences and relying upon their visual appeal to lend credibility to the brand’s products. This will become more and more important over the next year as brands shift their focus to engaging influencers on different channels, defined by where their target audience is.

The Rise of The Maven

As the balance of influencers shift with many mid-top tier influencers commanding commercial partnership fees, you’ll see the mix of influencers change. The smaller up and coming influencers will start to come into their own. As Malcolm Gladwell discussed in the “Tipping Point”, engaging with the right influencers who have trust in their communities (all be them smaller) can start a very powerful movement, which can take a brand from zero to hero.

Therefore, brands will pay top level influencers for immediate exposure (more of a push medium) whilst starting to engage with the lesser recognized influencers based on the engagement and trust levels that they can lend to the brand – offering the brand’s exposure and support to help grow the blogs in turn. This will all be underpinned by establishing the influencers that already have an affinity to the brand and can therefore offer true advocacy when amplified.

A Shift in Advertising Budget

According to the 2014 State of Sponsored Social Report, 52% of online marketers now use paid endorsements by online influencers. This number will continue to hike up over the coming year, with more of the online ad budget shifting towards influencers, many of whom, now command larger audiences than traditional publications.

With the convergence of earned media, paid media and content marketing, the challenge for influencers will be to remain transparent, authentic and fair. Without this, the content becomes another advertorial and offers no value to brands as it too, will be dismissed by audiences the same as more traditional banner ads.

2015 offers a whole world of opportunity to both brands and influencers. If approached correctly, it should see the right brands positioned in front of their target audiences in a meaningful and relevant way in content that appeals to them. Whether the old school Ad and PR agencies are ready for the shift in power, only time will tell.

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