Influencer marketing — or, leveraging people of influence to promote a brand or product — is an age-old tactic, but it’s evolved considerably with the rise in prominence of smartphones and social media apps over the past decade. With its focus on authenticity and connecting brands with massive, engaged young audiences, social influencer marketing has quickly grabbed a lot of attention and investment, which has this year started to raise speculations that it’s overvalued or a bubble set to burst.
Now that the tactic has truly jumped from niche spaces to the mainstream, commanding billions in advertising spend, marketers are entering the phase where scrutiny’s the word: Scrutiny of influencers who sometimes produce content that is not brand safe but also increased watchfulness from regulatory groups like the FTC that are cracking down on both brands and influencers for improper disclosure of paid content.
Below, Marketing Dive outlines a brief history of social influencer marketing by platform, the people powering those platforms and the successes and failures that have defined the tactic’s trajectory in the ad world.
Old Spice's jump in sales from an influencer campaign that went viral in 2010.
From the front lines
For American Rag, we found that our influencer content far and away outperforms our professional shoots.Sarah Anne Spaulding, social media manager for private brands at Macy's
of choice: Instagram
Amount marketers are forecast to spend globally in 2017 on Instagram influencer marketing. Marketers spent $570 million in 2016 on Instagram influencer marketing.
Average rate of a sponsored Instagram post by influencers with more than 1 million followers.
Rise and fall
of a YouTube star
YouTube content creator PewDiePie, aka Felix Kjellberg, hit 50M subscribers in Dec. 2016, the first creator to reach this milestone. Disney's Maker Studios later dropped PewDiePie after he made anti-semitic comments, highlighting the potential danger for brands in partnering with influencers.
Small is big
Engagement levels drop as the size of influencers' followings grow, with an audience of between 10K and 100K offering the best combination of engagement and reach.
The number of letters sent to Instagram influencers and marketers in April 2017 by the FTC reminding them of proper disclosure.
A watchful eye
Brands the FTC has scrutinized or sanctioned
Illustrations: Elizabeth Regan/Marketing Dive