Bristol-based Journalist, Neve Fear-Smith, has been reporting on influencer marketing trends for a while. She sees the bright future of influencer marketing and calls it even more professional as it has come on leaps and bounds over the years. Smith, a journalism graduate from the University of the Arts in London, thinks influencer marketing will continue to adapt as real people are at the heart of it.
Talking to Archana Mishra, Smith shares how the soaring popularity of short-form content and social media channels giving more personalized service compared to traditional search engines leads to trust building upon influencers with whom the target audience is familiar. And how companies that once stepped away from influencer marketing are now beginning to see the ROI it can generate.
On we go.
Q. We have read your articles on influencer marketing. You obviously feel strongly about the subject. What piques your interest in this niche marketing sector?
A. What excites me the most about influencer marketing is that it’s a marketing sector that not only works in regards to driving ROI but can entertain and engage an audience on a personal level at the same time.
I personally love scrolling through TikTok, watching vlogs on YouTube as a get ready, and keeping up to date with Instagram (and I think I speak for the majority of Gen Z here!) so as to be marketed seamlessly while also consuming content that entertains me is a win-win!
Q. Clearly, with the social media development and behavioral shifts among the target audience influencer marketing has grown from an ancillary marketing tactic to now a $5-10 billion dollar industry. What are your thoughts on the influencer marketing sector and any emerging trends you see picking up?
A. There are new trends arising in the influencer marketing space all the time! But one of the broadest trends that can encompass a number of sub-trends, too, is definitely the popularity of short-form video content.
Ten years ago, when it came to video content, YouTube was the go-to. Influencers would integrate ads into a 10-15 minute long video, and often make a whole video dedicated to promoting a specific product, and this is what audiences enjoyed consuming. Audience needs are always changing though, and now, with attention spans getting shorter, short-form content comes out on top.
Influencers can now condense a brand deal into a 15-second TikTok video, and the amount of these videos that a consumer can watch in a day means that more and more brands can get their names out there. I don’t see the popularity of short-form content dispersing any time soon!
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Q. That is well said about how we get hooked on these short-form videos. New developments have made influencer-led commerce possible. What do you think is the future of this influencer lead commerce?
A. Authenticity is a massive buzzword in this industry, but for good reason. Consumers are savvy, and as I previously mentioned, they often enjoy the content that fits into their daily lives and regular social media habits. With this in mind, I have noticed more instances of brands letting the influencers they're partnered with take the lead regarding commerce-led content.
When a consumer trusts a recommendation wholly and can consume information about a product in a way that is attractive to them, it’s far more likely that they will convert. I think that putting trust in the creator will be the future of influencer-led commerce.
Q. While trust is crucial, a gap exists between content and commerce. Social media channels like TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram have gauged this and launched their creator marketplaces. How effective do you think they will be compared to third-party influencer marketing platforms?
A. For creators who are unmanaged, and still learning about and adapting to the industry, I think that social media platforms creator marketplaces are great! I don’t think there is a black and white answer as to whether in-app marketplaces or third-party platforms are ‘better’, but I do believe that as an influencer's career grows, and they begin working with a team with great marketing knowledge, third-party platforms can be explored and the influencer and their team can make a decision on where they should invest their time and resources.
Q. Of late, there have been a lot of discussions around how TikTok is evolving into a new search engine for Generation Z. How would you assess this shift from Google to social media for product discovery to finding a new restaurant?
A. Again, this question automatically makes me think back to authenticity and consuming information that is enjoyable and fits into your daily life. Personally, I’m still 50/50 when it comes to using TikTok vs. Google as a search engine. If I want a straight answer to a question, Google is still my first port of call, but if I want to get restaurant recommendations or explore the latest fashion trends, it’s straight to TikTok for me.
The reason I believe that audiences are leaning more towards TikTok to discover new things is that you can gain information from creators that you 'know' and also trust. This creates a more personalized service compared to traditional search engines.
Q. Any brand(s) that come to mind when you think, “what a great way to market to consumers on social media”?
A. This may be a bit of a cheat answer, but I think that high-end fashion brands are coming up in terms of social media content. Of course, fast fashion and influencer marketing have always been a match made in heaven, but I am seeing more and more examples of high-end brands such as Miu Miu, Prada, and Dior working with hugely popular content creators, making consumers feel as though luxury fashion is more accessible to them.
Your best brand ambassadors will always be those who consumers deem to be a trustworthy extension of their friendship pool.
Q. Regarding the current economic climate, what should be the best strategy for firms to use while running marketing campaigns? Do you see a shift in budget allocation toward any specific channels?
A. This is a topic that I have put a lot of thought into over the past month or so. There’s no denying that a recession is looming and consumer habits will be changing, so marketers need to adapt - they need to pay their bills too!
I think that adaptability and sensitivity are the keywords here, and I recently put an article together with some examples of how brands can approach partnerships during more turbulent economic times with sensitivity at the core. None of us can predict exactly what the economy might look like in six months, a year, or five years, but I believe that influencer marketing is a channel that can and will adapt well, as ultimately, real people are at the heart of it.
Q. What, according to you, is the future of influencer marketing?
A. To me, the future of influencer marketing looks bright and even more professional. In the grand scheme of things, influencer marketing is still in its infancy, however, especially in the past few years, it has come on leaps and bounds. Marketers and brands alike who have been watching from the sidelines are increasingly seeing the ROI that influencer marketing can drive, and how much the industry is growing.
Of course, there will always be trials and testing when it comes to any form of marketing, but over the next few years, I can see influencer marketing gaining more investment from even more brands that are recognizing its success.
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