Influencer marketing is expected to be one of the fastest growing areas of social media in the coming years and a new area of focus for brands engaging in social media marketing.

Some say it is the new Eldorado. Should we be surprised?

I remember one New Year’s prediction vividly. Someone said, “2013 will be the year of influence”. Three months into the year, I can feel that statement manifesting itself.

Our contact page is “ringing off the hook”. Influencer marketing has suddenly taken on a new dimension. 

Digital PR pioneers paved the way for this new discipline and they continue to make extraordinary waves. Recently though, I’ve had insightful discussions with heads of strategy at global ad agencies. Social influence is on their minds and finding its way to the hearts of their brand strategies. 

I am not surprised. Things had to change, for these reasons:

Investment in social media marketing doesn’t match potential impact

Investment in influencer marketing is dramatically low proportionate to its potential impact on consumers. While consumers consider social content to be one of the most worthy sources of information (just after friends and family advice), social media marketing budgets remain surprisingly limited. 

A recent study(2) estimated investment in social amounts to only 10% of total digital communication budgets. 

Marketing spend does not match potential impact

Social media spend is over-concentrated on top networks, esp. Facebook 

It’s absurd to me that 75% of social media budgets are invested on Facebook and Twitter. Yes, the two leading platforms are huge traffic generators, but they are certainly not the only place where content is shared and where influence takes place.

Asking your friends is not always the best way to obtain information about a service or a product. 140 characters do not allow for a very articulated argument.

Influencers use a much richer combination of channels to publish their content: blogs mostly, and – increasingly – public content-driven platforms such as Quora, Pinterest or Instagram. It is time for brands recognise that. 

Breakdown of Social Media Marketing Spend

This would leave only 0.6% of digital money left for influencer marketing today…. Clearly some brands out there are starting to question whether they are putting their marketing money in the right bucket and a few brave souls have recognized that the “early mover’s advantage” window won’t be open long.

So, I am not surprised that: 

  • Investment in social media in general will continue to grow this year.  
  • The share of influencer marketing spend will increase dramatically because it’s one place where a brand can experience disproportionately large impact given their investment. 

From where I sit, influencer marketing is clearly the next social media Eldorado. It’s where the bold and creative are finding gold and claiming their stake. 

In Part 2, I’ll talk about the four toughest challenges marketers face in the Gold Rush to influencer marketing and how to overcome them to win. 

You can find our more in our guide to influencer marketing.