Things move fast in business. Really fast, and marketing is no exception. Factor in the digital aspect- multiple social media channels, shifting regulations, trends that go viral and fizzle out before you even knew about it- and you’re in the infield of the Indy 500 watching those racecars whiz around in a blur. Fortunately, there’s people watching from the press box…data-crunchers and analysts who constantly examine and dissect the numbers to keep you informed and ahead of the action. A recent study by Linqia that’s packed full of relevant data and trends was just released, and we’re going to dive in and see what it means for influencer marketing this year.

How Many?

As we mentioned in the title, 86% of marketers asked in this study used influencer marketing in 2017 and 92% found it effective. Let that sink in for a moment; this isn’t a fad or a trend that will disappear overnight. It’s a proven method for expanding brand awareness, driving web traffic, and generating leads and conversions. How do we know that? Well, this survey shows that marketing officers trust it in the most nuts-and-bolts way possible in business: they pay for it. In total, 21% plan to spend the same amount on their influencer budget in 2018, and 39% plan to increase it. So, that’s 60% that are either matching last year’s budget or invest heavier. Compare that to the 5% who plan to decrease their budget, and that’s quite telling. And the 35% that aren’t sure? Maybe reading this article and checking out this survey might help them make up their mind. It’s also worth noting that these brands are not just dipping their toe in the pool here. 76% of these businesses spent between $10,000 and $100,000 last year, and almost exactly the same percentage are planning to spend those amounts again. This shows a lot of confidence, and that they’re likely riding a wave of success from last year.

How’s It Working?

Now, after all that love for all things influencer marketing, it’s time to address the industry’s biggest issue with it: how to measure ROI in a dynamic and multi-leveled digital realm. This is especially challenging for newcomers to the digital marketing realm…those who are used to hard numbers from traditional marketing tactics may find it tough to understand the new metrics, and those who are trying to justify allocation of marketing budgets to these folks might be frustrated as well. The study shows that these ROI struggles are by far their largest issue; 76% cite it as the biggest problem. However, as the understanding of influencer marketing becomes more comprehensive, the way that success is measured has advanced, as well. Social reach, once a crucial marker in measuring the efficacy of a campaign, has dropped a full 11% since last year, down from 61% from last year. The most important factor in determining success in influencer marketing, by a wide margin, is engagement at 90%, while clicks (59%) and impressions (55%) are the second and third respectively. What does all this data signify? Well, it’s helpful to look closely at those determinants, and where they fit into the sales cycle. When used properly (and usually this takes place in a long-term relationship with the influencer), influencer marketing can make an impact on several different spots on the sales cycle, from lead generation to customer experience. Also, it’s crucial to realize the importance of brand awareness, as it seems these marketers surveyed already have. Engagement leads to trust and loyalty, when properly followed up, and clicks and impressions add up to beneficial traffic and eyeballs on your brand. Not just any eyeballs, mind you…the right set of targeted eyeballs that are looking for exactly what you’re offering. Underestimate this impact at your own peril; 100 targeted consumers are far more valuable than 10,000 random ones. And don’t think that the content these bloggers and social media stars create just disappears when it falls lower on the feed. 81% of marketers repurpose this evergreen content on other channels, and 51% say it outperforms brand-produced content, while 27% report that it performs the same. Consider this: 78% have found this earned content profitable when they are smart enough to use it. Has your team thought about this yet?

Who’s Going to Do It?

After all this data-crunching and discussion, maybe some of this 14% is ready to pull the trigger and bring the power of influencer marketing to their team. First, who’s going to own this within the company? Traditionally, it has fallen to PR and communications...but this has changed (31% in 2017 has decreased to 15% this year). Now, advertising/media teams are taking the reins (38%), and are taking advantage of advanced metrics and software to be more specific in who they are trying to reach. Knowing that, who is going to manage all this? Changes in FTC regulations, rapidly shifting algorithms in social media, viral trends, emerging (and fading) stars on these multiple platforms…it’s a lot of time and resources to stay on top of all this. In fact, 35% of marketers cite time spent figuring all this out as the biggest challenge to implementing these programs. So, where do most of these CMO’s turn? Overwhelmingly, they hire a managed service to handle all of the intricacies (42%) from start to finish, and this is a smart move. These “turn-key” providers hit the ground running, have experience and well-nurtured relationships, and are on top of all the rules and regulations throughout. If you’re just getting started, go with what the experts are doing. Any ideas on what this data means for your company? We’d love to talk to you about it in the comments below!