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What Will Influencer Marketing Look Like in 2019?

By Patrick Foster | 11.18.18

What and who are influential to consumers can change as quickly as the latest fashion trends do. 


Today, in fact, the whole influencer landscape is shifting. The way social personalities and brands work together is changing as a result of shifts in areas such as social paradigms, customers’ expectations of transparency and brand purpose, and even attribution and accountability. These changes present marketers with new issues and challenges. 


With the New Year just around the corner, it also begs the question: What will influencer marketing look like in 2019?


Authenticity will become crucial

In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission sent letters to a range of influencers, including athletes, musicians, and celebrities. These letters reminded them of the stipulations in their Endorsement Guidesciting that influencers need to make explicitly clear any paid endorsement they might receive. As the FTC says, it’s a “common-sense premise” that consumers want to know when they’re “evaluating [an] endorser’s glowing recommendation” whether that person was paid by the brand to provide an endorsement, received the product or service for free, etc.


For years, the addition of text as simple as “#ad” or “sponsored” has generally been enough to sate consumer watchdogs. But that subtly may no longer be enough. 


In 2019, as audiences become even more ad-savvy, influencers and brands will need to work together to create influencer ad campaigns that go beyond a simple product placement and #ad hashtag. Influencer content will need to become more creative, unique, and valuable. Influencer campaigns and content that are overtly promotional and lack authenticity will feel clumsy and heavy-handed and will only serve to detract from a brand’s image.


What your brand needs to do

Your influencer partnerships should be, above all, subtle and natural. Play to your influencers’ strengthsand work with them to provide genuine value to your audience. An educational health video or summer style lookbook are just two basic examples of value you can provide in a format that fits your influencer’s style and interaction channels.


Micro-influencers will rise to the top

The archetypal influencer has changed vastly since the concept’s inception (presumably with Fatty Arbuckle’sendorsement of Murad Cigarettes)—and since its explosion online. Early online influencers typically were big names in entertainment, music, and sports—the likes of Selena Gomez or DJ Khaled. The meteoric rise of social media has spawned a new generation of influencers: micro-influencers.


These powerful social personalities are individuals who occupy specific customer niches and segmentsand command significant and engaged followings. Recent research shows that when an influencer’s followers exceed 100,000, engagement levels with their messages begin to plateau, a significant factor for brands to consider.


As social media continues its growth trajectory and consumers look more and more online for information and entertainment, micro-influencers will become invaluable assets who brands can align with to better connect with their target audiences.


What your brand needs to do

Go beyond the usual influencers in your niche. Even existing micro-influencers will be metaphorically dwarfed by the rising stars of social. Use social listening toolsto identify nascent micro-influencers and support them as they grow. This will help you form strong bonds early on so your brand can grow with them.


Live video will become sponsored live video

Live video truly came into its own this year as a preponderance of social platforms integrated the format within their existing product. Done well, live video is dynamic, exciting, and lets audiences feel as though they’re experiencing the moment themselves.


But if 2018 was the year of live video, 2019 will be the year of sponsored live video. 


Brands have the option on a number of social sites to push branded videos featuring key influencers. Some brands have been dabbling with live video in this regard for some time now—a fine example is audio brand Bose’s partnership with influencer Tasmin Lucia-Khan to promote its private exhibition at CES 2016.Lucia-Khan hosted a live Periscope video that got more than 5,000 live viewers (no small feat) and had the brand trending online. 


What will make 2019 different will be a greater focus on providing audiences with an engaging influencer-led online experiences that expose audiences to brands in a natural, organic way.


What your brand needs to do

The most successful sponsored influencer live videos are ones that follow events. It could be a convention such as in Bose’s example above, or it could be as simple as a pop-up shop launch event. The latter is particularly popular with DIY e-commerce businesses. Find an event that suits your brand personality or product and seek an influencerto be your live host.


Brands will become influencers

While micro-influencers are certainly the rising stars in the influencer landscape, there is a surprising plot twist in the influence marketing story: Today, an increasing number of brands are influencing followers directly, rather than through social personalities.


But how has this come about?


More and more, brands are aligning themselves with hot-button issues such as LGBT rights and political issues such as gun control. This is best exemplified by Nike’s recent choice of including controversial former NFL player Colin Kaepernickin its latest ad campaign.


Although this is still a case of a brand using an influencer in its marketing, by aligning the brand with someone recognized for his stand on an issue, Nike implicitly places its brand within that social context. Some people may have burned their Nike products as a result of the ad, but far more consumers flocked to the brand in support of the company and the issues it stands for.


What your brand needs to do

Your brand’s values, social purpose, and political leanings matter to your consumers, and they will look to you for your opinions, your stance, and your beliefs. It’s essential to know and be true to what your brand stands for—and what your consumers will see as authentic coming from you—if you’re going to take a stand on an issue. And when you do, public relations will become even more vital as youbecome the influencer.


Preparing for 2019

The world of marketing is not a static one. Each new day brings tectonic shifts that alter the marketing landscape. Influencer marketing is not exempt from those shifts. It behooves marketers to ensure they think differently about how they work with influencers in 2019 and beyond to get the most from those relationships with jeopardizing the trusted relationships they’ve built with their customers.

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About the Author

Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert from Ecommerce Tips — a well-regarded blog that offers practical marketing advice, so companies' online stores receives the exposure they deserve.


Check out Patricks latest posts on Twitter @myecommercetips.