It's no secret that the term "influencer" is tossed around by both brands and consumers ad nauseam these days, and while hearing someone described as such might make your skin crawl, it's impossible to deny the selling power that many of these social media stars possess. In fact, their position as credible content creators is so valuable that brands are allotting more money and manpower than ever in an attempt to get in on the action.
According to a new study published by the Fashion and Beauty Monitor that polled over 300 marketing professionals in both industries, U.S.- and U.K.-based companies see influencer marketing as such a crucial advertising tool that budgets dedicated to it are projected to increase a whopping 59 percent in 2016. The majority of the study's respondents (57 percent) claim that their respective companies already work closely with influencers on paid projects and placements, and that a significant chunk of their marketing budgets — between 30 and 75 percent — is solely dedicated to partnerships with key tastemakers. Of the insiders polled that didn't have an influencer strategy in place, 21 percent plan on building one out over the next 12 months.
On the flip side, brands are also beginning to see that simply throwing wads of cash at any personality with a following in the millions does not equate to a "strategy": 73 percent of the companies polled admit that finding the right influencers with whom to enter into an authentic-seeming partnership is an ongoing challenge and time commitment — and one that is predominately researched in-house. At the same time, since many top bloggers, Instagrammers and otherwise relevant Internet personalities can cause items they feature to sell out within days or hours, their rates are steadily rising; loads of free product will no longer cut it as compensation. As a result, smaller niche brands are in danger of being priced out of this type of marketing, and larger companies are faced with greater competition in securing tastemakers for projects.
For these companies, the value in partnering with influencers lies in their seemingly credible (though not necessarily unbiased) voice and built-in audience, but according to the study, other criteria that signify a "successful" partnership to marketers are increased traffic to their brand's website, content that's widely shared, press coverage surrounding products and, of course, revenue generation. This is especially true when it comes to getting word out about a new release, as 69 percent of the respondents saw tastemaker placements as a top priority leading up to a launch. So, if you're growing weary of your favorite Instagram stars looking less like real humans and more like living, breathing advertisements, we hate to break it to you, but all signs point to this phenomenon growing in the year ahead.
Head over to the Fashion and Beauty Monitor to browse the study and its findings in full.