LONDON, United Kingdom — Not all that long ago, many brands viewed using Instagram influencers to promote a new fashion line or attend a product launch event as a promising experiment. A new survey finds the marketing technique has hit the mainstream.
Some 78 percent of brands implemented influencer marketing campaigns in 2017, up from 65 percent the previous year, according to a survey of 600 fashion industry professionals in Europe and the US by the data analytics provider Launchmetrics. Brands raised their budgets for influencer campaigns by between 3 and 6 percent last year — $2 billion was spent on influencer marketing overall, with fashion and beauty accounting for at least 40 percent — with product launches and events the most popular uses for the marketing tactic.
Nearly half said they preferred to work with micro-influencers — those with between 10,000 and 100,000 followers — rather than mega-influencers with hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers. Though micro-influencers reach fewer people, their audiences are more likely to buy the products they endorse, making them ideal for reaching niche markets, respondents said.
Instagram reigns supreme, with 36 percent of respondents saying it was their favorite platform for influencer campaigns, with marketers drawn to features like Instagram Stories and the ability to shop directly from posts. Facebook ran a distant second as the choice of 16 percent of respondents, while Snapchat declined to 6 percent, from 10 percent in 2016.
Many influencers are still promoting brands for the free product. Just 41 percent of respondents said they frequently or always pay influencers monetarily, while about the same share said they rarely or never do.
Even so, about 80 percent of influencers surveyed by Launchmetrics said sponsored content is their main source of income, as opposed to ads and affiliate links. Still, only one third always sign contracts with sponsors.
“The maturity of this growing market is quite low, which is crazy, because the sums of money we’re talking about can be quite huge,” said Michael Jaïs, chief executive of Launchmetrics.
Launchmetrics aims to serve as a one-stop shop for brands and agencies wanting a 360-degree view of the relationship, from the identification of influencers to the ROI of a campaign. In November 2017 the company acquired Style Coalition, an online influencer management platform that specialises in branded content campaigns, by connecting brands with influencers. The company is launching "Influencers by Launchmetrics," a tool for brands to identify and work with influencers, as well as measure the impact of campaigns. While influencer campaigns are becoming widespread, no standard exists to operate or track their success. As such, a platform that serves as a middleman between brands and influencers may be key to developing marketing budgets further.