Prediction time is sadly predictable. But listening to the 2018 predictions by my favorite Trekkie nerds at The Skeptics Guide to the Universe gave me an idea on how best to lay out my predictions for the influencer industry in 2018.
Most predictions are one way or the other: gimmes – high probability trending events – or whackjob, conspiracy theory stuff like, “The advancements of medicine will raise humans’ life expectancy up to at least 200 years of age.” The former is boring but could be informative while the latter is amusing and sometimes thought-provoking. Both can lead you to either worry and play out some “what if” situations.
Let’s do both.
At Mattr we interact with all sides of an influencer transaction. The brand, the agency, the platform, and the influencer. The fact that we are data-driven means we peek through the blinds like the kindly retiree who keeps an eye on those kids playing in the street where you live. But we’re not the grumpy busybodies, honest.
Prediction 1: Influencer will Remain #1 Growth in Marketing Budget
Worldwide, brands should spend just under $5 billion on Influencer marketing in 2018. Spend has doubled each year since 2014. It’s so common now that even my parents know what I do for work. Digital spend continues to increase alongside the economy but, at a hefty $70 billion, has long since seen a hockey stick growth curve. Instagram will continue to be the platform of choice. Nothing wacky about that (yet).
Prediction 2: Brand Attorneys are Rubbing the Sleep from Their Eyes
Some 80% of influencer posts are still unmarked with the FTC’s requisite #ad or #sponsored tag. In-house attorneys are paid for one thing: to reduce their company’s exposure to liability of any kind. Counter-Strike Global Offensive popped positive to the FTC and had their hands slapped. The FTC’s most recent guidance is here, btw. Celebrity influencers and their brand partners are hit with penalties but it’s a cost of business to the influencer, who can afford it. It hardly matters to the brand’s enterprise as the penalties aren’t worth a tug on the sleeve and whisper in the ear of the CEO.
But delicately put, whenever there’s an ass shining brightly in the cold breeze it herewith shall be covered. Global Offensive’s in-house attorneys failed. This means trouble for companies like Mattr and our partners on the brand teams and agencies. It will delay deals as contracts are examined for who assumes the liability if the influencer forgets to add the #ad in their next post.
For the influencer, it means dweebs like us will use clever Google-like tools to ensure all their recent sponsored posts have the disclosure and that it isn’t deleted an hour after posting. Which means influencers may lose a project without even knowing why. Because our clients expect it.
Prediction 3: Non-Competes Become a Thing
Big established brands are rightly defensive and rely on the loyalty of their consumers. When Coke hires a group of influencers to feature a frosty Coke in their Instagram, they are influencing literally millions of consumers. If a lifelong Coke drinker sees their favorite Instagram accounts start posting with a Pepsi, they’re eventually going to snatch one from the cooler at the grocery store as they check out. Just to feel like that influencer. To close their eyes and place themselves in that beautiful scene they double-tapped. Love.
Non-competes mean legal departments will hold agencies and service companies like Mattr accountable for breaches. Will influencers get a bill for their fee six months after it’s been paid? Unlikely. What is certain is that that influencer will have an unattractive icon on their avatar on influencer platforms worldwide. They’ll still be able to do deals that don’t require a non-compete, but if there’s an alternative, they just won’t be picked.
Prediction 4: Influencers With Fake Followers Are Exposed
Because brands are looking more for engagement than impressions (another trend we’re seeing), the composition of an influencer’s audience is being scrutinized. And the algorithms which determine whether they’ve bought followers are now insanely accurate. Brands and agencies who work with more data-driven companies know this and do not expect to see any significant percentage of an audience living in Colombia, Ukraine, or Brazil. Again, these corner-cutting influencers just get ignored. We don’t take the time to reach out and say, “hey, if you just removed all those bought followers, we’d hire you.” (We almost surely wouldn’t anyway). And by the way, have you ever tried to remove a bunch of followers? Impossible
In-sourcing is the most visited section of our website. It’s inevitable, really, if you look at other formerly-outsourced services. Radio, TV, Email, and Digital were fully outsourced at one time. Now brands have scores of data scientists to analyze every Facebook ad campaign. As the spend goes up, CFOs start noticing the amount being spent and wonder if they could do it cheaper if they brought it in-house. It will be a slow burn, of course, because Influencer requires a complex architecture to succeed. But it will come.
Since we can claim status as “old hats” in Influencer, we’ve seen it all. None of these predictions would really surprise me but the probability of any of them happening is why they’re at the bottom of the list. Go out and run a hard mile, or have a glass of red, or pop a baby aspirin – whatever you need to calm yourself.
Prediction 6: Facebook and Instagram Banish #Ad Posts and Influencers
Facebook has a history of shutting down lines of business who make money from their platforms without paying. More realistic will be offering boosted Instagram posts to non-brands, which would monkey things up a good bit. It’s hard to understand why they’re not doing this now.
Prediction 7: France Will Overtake the US as #1 Influencer Market
No one really knows what the spend is in France for influencer, but its presence is bigger than Napoleon’s ego or Macron’s monthly stylist budget. Just go to trending videos in YouTube and see over half in french.
Prediction 8: Facebook and Instagram Will Adopt a YouTube Approach to Paying Influencers
YouTube influencers rely on the micro-transaction fees they earn from the platform. It’s a mutual reliance, really, as YouTube needs the views for the ad revenue. Facebook is stubbornly holding out, though, and with their latest announcement reducing brand views, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other changes to their algorithms. Now if V2 (Vine 2) walks back into the social room, as reported by Dom, this might just happen.
There you have it: eight predictions, five of which have a decent chance of happening. The last three? Who knows? But they’re fun to worry about!