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Influencer Marketing Trends To Watch Out For In the smartphone era and with the dawn of social media, brands have slowly adapted themselves to this new medium, now opening themselves to the idea of working with 'influencers'.

By Debroop Roy

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Over the years, with the evolution of technology and new gadgets, there has also been a shift in how companies market their products. From print to radio to television, brands have constantly evolved to ensure that the money they spend helps them reach the right kind of audience. In the smartphone era and with the dawn of social media, brands have slowly adapted themselves to this new medium, now opening themselves to the idea of working with "influencers'.

While the definition of social media influencers is quite broad, and even celebrities who have made a name through other mediums now putting themselves out there as influencers, originally these were creators who were digital-first and built an audience all on social websites. Platforms such as Instagram and TikTok are making it increasingly easier for brands and influencers to collaborate, essentially creating an ecosystem.

So, what makes influencer marketing different?

"Influencer marketing relies heavily on trust and authenticity between the influencers and their audience," said Prashant Sharma, chief marketing officer at NOFILTR Group, adding, "This is where micro and nano influencers were able to achieve popularity by applying their personal connect and relationship with their audience."

The company works with influencers and brands to create effective campaigns. Their portfolio includes the likes of Amazon and Cadbury.

"Since many people use social media to keep in touch with friends and trends, it's only natural that bloggers have become a new leading voice within the marketing world," said Deepak Sharma, founder at digital marketing agency Withstartups.com.

2019 For Influencer Marketing

The rise of China's TikTok was one of the biggest trends to hit the influencer marketing sector last year, according to Prashant. "In tier II and III cities, Tiktok's download rate sprung the highest and it became one of the most downloaded apps," he said.

The year also saw the stupendous and steady rise of Facebook-owned Instagram, said Deepak. "According to statistics, 69 per cent of marketers planned to spend the most money on Instagram for influencer marketing this year. That is over six times more than YouTube (11 per cent), the second most-selected channel for top spend."

Instagram stories and IGTV also became major tools of engagement, he said.

Apart from the rise of such platforms for influencers, short format and user generated content also gained popularity with many brands switching to short content format for collaborations, said Deepak.

Challenges

Despite the growth of this channel, it continues to face a few major challenges.

Deepak said marketers have singled out measuring return on investment as the single biggest problem for influencer marketing. Brand lift, direct conversions, increased branded search volumes are among some of the potential results of a good marketing campaign but none is easy to measure, he said.

"That's doubly true on Instagram where impressions are not available, and links are only possible via the profile page," said Deepak.

Prashant believes the same and said the lack of tools to measure direct sales continues to be a challenge. From the brands' perspective, he feels they are still falling behind when it comes to taking part in influencer narratives.

Fake influencers with fake followers had also become a challenge, according to Deepak. "I suspect this will be a long-term issue that third-party tools and marketers will struggle against, just as Google and SEOs struggled against webspam and black hat tactics for the last many years."

Instagram has been vocal about actively working on removing fake followers, likes and comments which are generated by third-party applications.

How This Year Shapes Up

Deepak sees influencer marketing businesses in India expanding their directory to include overseas influencers, giving them a better chance with brands which have presence across geographies.

The current year will see TikTok become an integral part of all brand marketing campaigns, said Prashant. "2020 is where Tiktok will become widely acceptable and even a necessity for brands to run influencer campaigns."

Debroop Roy

Former Correspondent

Covering the start-up ecosystem in and around Bangalore. Formerly an energy reporter at Reuters. A film, cricket buff who also writes fiction on weekends.
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