Lately, there has been a lot of discussion around social media influencers, their perception by consumers, and their overall value in terms of promotional marketing. But where did this idea for influencer marketing come from? Where will we see it go in the future? For clarity on the topic of influencers, Hootsuite’s influencer marketing guide provided a nice and concise definition of what an influencer is: “Quite simply, an influencer is someone who can influence others. In influencer marketing, that influential person collaborates with a brand to promote something.”1 While this definition is concise, it is also a bit broad. So where did the idea come from? Well, it’s been around a lot longer than social media has.
There is some debate as to how and when influencer marketing actually started. To some, the start of influencer marketing as we know it began in 2004 thanks to Ted Murphy, Founder and CEO of IZEA and the creator of the first influencer marketing platform, PayPerPost.com.2 To others, the concept of influencer marketing originated in the early 1800s, when marketers started leveraging the power of influential members of society to sell products.3 The idea of having powerful, influential people promote products on behalf of brands is not a new concept. We’ve all grown up watching television ads with familiar and popular celebrities endorsing various products. However, the term “influencer” only became relevant and a common marketing term in the last couple of years.4
Where does influencer marketing stand today? Influencer marketing is expected to grow to be work 13.8 billion just this year. Ted Murphy may have started the first influencer marketing platform, but another 240 were created (along with influencer marketing focused agencies) last year. Plus, 90% of survey respondents believe influencer marketing is an effective form of marketing, and 75% of them intend to set aside a specific budget to put towards influencer marketing.5 With statistics like these, it’s clear that influencer marketing is making a big splash in the digital marketing world, and only appears to be growing. In the year 2021, it’s clear that influencer marketing is at its prime and has nowhere to go but up. But what does the future of influencer marketing look like?
According to an article by AspireIQ, a leading influencer marketing program, the future of influencer marketing lies in a broader area: communities. One of the biggest issues with influencer marketing is the air of skepticism and potential inauthenticity that surrounds these influencers. Consumers are left wondering whether their endorsement of a product is real, or if they’re just being paid off. This is why some leading marketers are expanding their influencer marketing efforts to include and engage with wider community members. AspireIQ lists seven types of community members that will play a role in the future of influencer marketing: the influencers themselves, plus customers, creatives, ambassadors, experts, affiliates, and employees.3 To me, the idea of branching out and engaging community members, yet still holding onto those ties and relationships built with influencers, makes sense for the future of influencers. Businesses have always valued the opinions and word-of-mouth sharing that naturally occurred with loyal customers. It only makes sense to incorporate those same valuable insights in this new influencer marketing era.
- Newberry, C. (2021, August 10). Influencer marketing in 2021: How to work with social media influencers. Social Media Marketing & Management Dashboard. Retrieved September 19, 2021, from https://blog.hootsuite.com/influencer-marketing/
- Ted Murphy. IZEA. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2021, from https://izea.com/company/leadership/ted-murphy/.
- Kim, J. (2021, January 27). The Evolution of Influencer Marketing – Past, Present, & future. AspireIQ. Retrieved September 19, 2021, from https://www.aspireiq.com/blog/the-evolution-of-influencer-marketing/.
- Suciu, P. (2020, December 8). History of Influencer Marketing predates social media by centuries – but is there enough transparency in the 21st century? Forbes. Retrieved September 19, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/petersuciu/2020/12/07/history-of-influencer-marketing-predates-social-media-by-centuries–but-is-there-enough-transparency-in-the-21st-century/?sh=113b0d0e40d7.
- Geyser, W. (2021, August 18). The state of influencer marketing 2021: Benchmark report. Influencer Marketing Hub. Retrieved September 19, 2021, from https://influencermarketinghub.com/influencer-marketing-benchmark-report-2021/.