Influencer marketing is become an essential piece of the modern brand’s marketing. The creator economy has grown so fast, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released guidelines to govern influencer partnerships and keep influencers transparent about their deals.
In 2021, roughly $3.7 billion dollars were spent on the influencer marketing industry in the US, a 33 percent increase compared to 2020. In many ways, influencer marketing has become the standard for brands across categories, from beauty to gaming hardware to food and beverage brands.
This guide to influencer marketing trends will dig into the up-to-date numbers, explain what they mean, and even share some expert insight around the future of influencer marketing.
15 top influencer marketing trends to shape 2023
1. Brands will show micro-influencers all the love
Micro- and nano-influencers are behind the biggest social media moments in beauty, according to Launchmetrics data. Quick recap: micro influencers are accounts with between 10,000 and 100,000 followers, nano influencers have less than 10,000 followers.
Lauchmetrics found that these influencer made up the most Media Impact Value (MIV), a metrics for measuring media placement impact, across the board. In June 2021, Dior was ranked the number one luxury beauty brand globally based on Launchmetrics MIV data, with 34% of its MIV coming from influencers.
"Coming out of the pandemic, we know that customers are looking for real connectivity, when it comes to brands and products," said Alison Bringé, Launchmetrics CMO, reports to Glossy. The days of celebrit endorsements are behind us, as micro and nano influencers evolve into becoming key opinion customers.
Serg Aspidoff, founder and CEO of Shoutcart, a self-serve influencer marketplace that reaches over 150,000 influencers, is also seeing brands have success with smaller influencer accounts.
“These are influencers with smaller followings, but they have highly engaged audiences and often specialize in a specific niche market Several factors play into their success, including authenticity and a higher likelihood of forming genuine partnerships with brands,” he says.
“These people are often more flexible and open to unique collaborations, leading to more creative campaigns and a higher ROI. Primarily, though, their smaller audiences result in lower costs for brands. This is because micro-influencers typically charge less for partnerships and are more likely to accept products or experiences in exchange for promotion.”
The Jacob and Co. jewelry business was founded in the 1980s. There are five stores and boutiques, and over 40 stockists worldwide. Jacob and Co. has 3.5 million followers across Instagram and TikTok since investing in social media five years ago, as reported by ModernRetail.
A key part of the company's social media strategy is to use "faceless" micro-influencers who show off eye-catching watches in short bursts.
Depending on the influencer's reach, the company pays influencers between 100 dollars and a thousand dollars per post. Their posts also utilize a Halo Effect. For every 50 accounts that post, another 50 to hundred will repost it for free, giving the brand more visibility.
2. Repurposing influencer content across social networks
Brands are stretching their influencer marketing dollars by repurposing content across various social media platforms.
Dan Cassidy, founder of Brandhopper Digital, a marketing agency and Shopify Partner, says, “Most people think the value of influencer marketing is about getting in front of the influencer’s audience, but the main trend we’re seeing is that it’s all about the content, and less so the audience anymore.”
Cassidy uses a multichannel strategy to promote influencer content, which “can be amplified across platforms like TikTok and Instagram through paid advertising,” he says.
“Brands who want to be successful at influencer marketing today will focus on content creators who can tell a brand story quickly and visually so that can be repurposed by the brand across organic + paid social, on the ecommerce store, and in marketing communication via email as well."
3. Influencers will control the narrative
Glamorise is a 101-year-old company that closed the sizing gap, offering plus-size bras for women who can't find their anywhere else. The brand has worked with many influencers over the years, and found that giving influencers creative control yields the best campaign results.
“One thing we do with influencers is let them have a large degree of creative control of the content they produce for us, says Maeve Gesuadli, social media coordinators at Glamorise.
“We give them generic tips and pointers, but generally, let them create content that they think their audience would like to see and engage with.”
For example, the brand partnered with creator @fashionveggie to promote a range of brands from its collection in recent Instagram Reel. “All the bras seen in the video are Glamorise's, but she integrated the collaboration seamlessly with the other content she has on her page. This video also performed well on our own Instagram and TikTok pages when we reposted it,” Gesuadli says.
4. Influencer posts will become more authentic
When choosing influencers to partner with, many brands are focusing on engagement rate instead of follower count. In a survey of US adults, 61% said they were interested in brands providing authentic content.
As brands seek out more content, creators (not influencers) are becoming more prevalent. It is easier to form personal relationships with them and they are more agile when it comes to creating content.
When it comes to finding influencers to partner with, recommendations from friends and family as well as peer-to-peer recommendations are becoming increasingly common.
For brands looking to partner with influencers, audience size no longer stands as the only indication of success (Glossy Influencer Index)
The product doesn’t always need to be the main focus. For example, Glamorise also partnered with @streetsbeatsseats to promote its no-bounce camisole sports bra.
“Our sports bras are all seen in the Reel, but they aren't the main focus/message of the video,” says Gesuadli. “These kinds of influencer collaborations stay true to the feel of the influencer's page and keep the audience engaged because it's what they're used to seeing from them, instead of it being a blatant ad.”
5. Investments in ongoing brand partnerships
Ongoing partnerships, rather than one-time deals are becoming increasingly popular in influencer marketing.
Melanie Edwards, senior ecommerce and digital product manager at OLIPOP, explains, “It takes time to acquire new customers. A month-long campaign can be beneficial, but it won’t produce as dramatic results as a year-long (or longer) campaign will.”
“Make sure you partner with someone who has staying power. You want your influencer relationship to go the distance,” she adds. Look for an influencer with an engaged audience that is excited to see new content from them.
It is best to have a contract in place that outlines the expectations, goals, and deliverables for both parties. Taking this approach will ensure that each of you are on the same page and the partnership will be beneficial to everybody.
6. More brands will take advantage of video content
The Glossy Influencer Index found that brand and influencer categories determine which content performs best with engagement.
As expected, beauty brands had strong engagement through video posts. Surprisingly, “other”-type influencers (which included gaming, tech hardware, food and alcohol brands), outperformed fashion influencers with engagement on video posts.
As Instagram pushes video content over still images, video posts have higher engagement ratios than influencer and brand posts. By providing additional video focused exploration pages, Instagram provides a counterweight to video-centric TikTok by favoring Reels and video content. Videos view counts are also boosted by paid promotions.
We’re seeing an average 1,000+ hours of added time on site per month after adding influencer videos to product pages, and a conversion rate increase of up to 18% after shoppers watch videos. The boost to EMV is remarkable.”
-- Claudiu Cioba, founder of VideoWise
7. The rise of creator marketplaces to find influencers
As advertising costs and inflation soar, many brand owners are searching for alternative ways to acquire users.
A new tool called Shopify Collabs allows approved creators to earn revenue by partnering with Shopify merchants. Following Shopify's April 2022 acquisition of influencer marketing company Dovetale, the platform launch is the latest step in fueling merchant growth.
Using Collabs, sellers and influencers can connect, collaborate, and sell products in front of new audiences across social platforms. Merchants can set their own terms for paying for content and negotiate rates with creators.
Cathay Nguyen, a beauty influencer on Collabs, reports to Glossy that the platform is “user-friendly and has niche brands that my audience would really enjoy.” She plans to use Collabs on TikTok and Instagram, where she has 348,000 and 45,000 followers respectively. Add the Shopify Collabs app to your store today.
8. Cosplay influencers and live streaming
There has been a significant impact on the latest trends in beauty from Twitch's cosplay influencers. The Essence Makeup brand recently sponsored a "Cosplay Contest" campaign on Twitch and Reddit, and hosted it with cosplayer and League of Legends Twitch streamer Emiru.
On October 25, Emiru livestreamed on Twitch to reveal the winners of the contest, where participants are asked to submit their cosplay looks on Reddit. The Essence Twitch campaign is the latest example of beauty brands recognizing the influence of Twitch streamers and cosplayers.
“With Twitch, there’s a first-mover advantage. When brands come in early, they’re rewarded for it,” Shini Wark, chief growth officer at agency Ader Gaming, reported to Glossy. The Essence campaign was created by Wark and she works with brands on gaming-focused digital marketing campaigns.
Emerging platforms like Twitch are not unfamiliar to Essence Makeup. In January 2022, it launched its first TikTok campaign, and it also sells through Flip, an e-commerce platform for beauty short videos.
“I foresee Essence partnering with cosplay influencers on Twitch at least a couple of times a year,” reports Jill Krakowski, the CMO of Essence Makeup parent company Cosnova Inc., who added that the brand plans on continuing to sponsor the Cosplay Contest in the future.
9. Brands will hire more influencers to run brand accounts
Traditionally, brands partnered with social media influencers to promote its products to a larger audience. Now, brands are hiring creators and influencers to manage their accounts.
If an influencer has a track record of going viral with their own accounts, chances are they can replicate the success for a brand. Companies like Nerf and Olipop have already hired creators to run its accounts, and now beauty brands are joining the trend.
Influencers often know more about social media than a corporate manager. They also have friendships with other influencers that can help brands build partnerships and extend their reach. For example, TikTok influencer Michael Dion introduces skin-care brand Wldkat to potential brand partners, as reported by Glossy.
10. Goodbye affiliate programs, hello influencers as creative directors
Brands are increasingly working with influencers for creative director roles, too. In fashion, creative directors have become more than just designers, they’ve become the face of the brand, acting a pseudo-influencers in their own way.
There’s been some critique on these moves, like:
- It takes away jobs from more qualified candidates.
- It’s a PR stunt, versus a strategic move.
But what’s the difference between an influencer with a big following, and appointing a celebrity as creative director of a brand? Influencers are arguably more in tune with their audience and have bootstrapped knowledge on growing an online brand.
Fempower Beauty took this concept on step further in August 2022. Rather than hire an influencer as creative director, they partnered with beauty influencer, Blair Imani (528,000 followers on Instagram) and made her co-owner of the company.
11. Brands will enter the metaverse, or at least try it
The COVID-19 pandemic boosted consumer and business interest in the metaverse. Estimates show the metaverse may be worth $800 billion by 2024, with several big tech companies getting involved in the metaverse. Most notably, Meta, which recently invested $10 billion on its metaverse division to build out AR and VR hardware, software, and content.
And retail brands are taking notice. Prestige hair care brand Olaplex recently launched its virtual influencer in May, Kai, introducing the character through Decentraland. Kai ran a contest for people to design a new NFT hairpiece for Kai to wear in the virtual world, with a $2,500 grand prize for the winner and their charity of choice.
Olaplex isn’t the only brand investing in the metaverse. Gucci, Balenciaga, Nike, and Coca Cola are a few notable brands who’ve entered the metaverse in the last few years. Brands can do a lot in the metaverse, such as hold events, giveaway NFT wearables, run fashion shows, and collaboration with other brands.
12. The return of in-store influencers
As the ecommerce boom has cooled down, people are beginning to shop in stores again. In fact, between 60 and 70% of consumers across categories prefer to shop both in-store and online, McKinsey found. In response to this, brands are investing in training retail employees on specific products, giving them guidance to make better recommendations and sell IRL.
Currently in beta, a new app called BeautyFluent lets indie beauty retailers train store employees on product usage, rather than send representatives on site. Beauty brands typically spend up to 10% on retail sales to send representatives to stores weekly.
Sarah Chung, founder of BeautyFluent’s parent company, Landing International, said in an interview with Glossy, “Brands wouldn’t even blink at spending $10,000 for a micro-influencer to post maybe one grid [post] and one story about their brand. [But] they’re actually kind of reticent to spend that same amount on beauty advisors who are dealing with their customers every single day and really are their brand ambassadors at the point of sale.”
By seeing store employees as influencers, brands can compete with mega brands on retail shelves and succeed in brick-and-mortar.
13. Influencer marketing will continue to grow
Danny Desatnik, the social manager at Hashtag Paid, says that influencer marketing platforms will continue to flourish, as working with creators becomes an alternate source of valuable content:
"To grow, brands need to continuously reach a larger audience today than they did yesterday. As they grow, so too does the need to relate with more diverse audiences. One way to relate is through content. Specifically, content with diverse subjects and environments. Brands can do exactly this by working with a diverse set of creators to solely produce branded content. Use the content for email, SMS, online, and even out-of-home placements. Think of creators as a hybrid between a production house and a creative agency.”
There are many other reasons why the influencer marketing strategy will continue to gain popularity. Raj Nijjer, CMO at Refersion, believes it will become increasingly necessary with massive changes coming to the realm of data privacy.
"User privacy changes from Apple and Google heightened the need for brands to work with first-party data, and the demise of cookies has caused advertising platforms like Facebook to struggle with accurate attribution. Every marketer should use influencer or affiliate marketing platforms powered by first-party tracking technology that enable accurate attribution.
The right technology partner helps brands report accurate ROI and cultivate a trusting relationship with their influencers with accurate and on-time commission payments.”
14. Influencer marketing will be more budget-friendly
Jason Wong, Managing Partner at Wonghaus Ventures, believes running influencer campaigns will continue to be more cost-friendly than running ads:
We’re seeing more influencers increasing focus on new channels like TikTok and Instagram Reels, where impressions and engagements are more favorable compared to posting on feed and Instagram Stories. Those assets are then amplified by brands through white-listing on social platforms, bringing down the cost of acquisition compared to running the ads directly from the brand itself. While white-listing isn’t a particularly new concept in the space, it’s been more prevalent in recent months from brands looking to counter the rising cost of advertising, since creatives are making the biggest difference across the board.”
15. ROI will evolve
Blaire Kang McClure, Associate Product Marketing Manager at Impact, predicts that there will soon be a more holistic way to measure tangible ROI from influencer marketing.
"Paying per post has been the predominant mode of compensating influencers, and engagement is still, by far, the most common metric used for measuring influencer marketing success. Now, the pressure is on to connect influencer activities to tangible ROI. But in order to accurately track and measure it, brands need a holistic view of the customer journey, from last click to conversion, and a way to programmatically monitor attribution, revenue, and influencer payout information.”
No one can predict the future with certainty, but these insights should help you start thinking and planning for the future of influencer marketing.
What can brands achieve with influencer marketing
Influencers are essentially internet celebrities who collaborate with brands as an ambassador, helping them achieve a variety of goals. Here are a few ways brands are leveraging influencers’ audiences and achieving impressive results.
1. Increase in sales
Influencers have remarkable sway with their audiences. One survey found 38% of shoppers rely on influencer reviews when online shopping while 30% said they’re open to hearing from influencers several times per day.
Learn more: Social Commerce Is Here and It’s Reshaping How We Buy
As such, influencers can inspire their followers to take actions like visiting an online store, browsing/following a brand’s social media accounts, and even buying their products.
It works, too: HiSmile has eclipsed $130 million in sales thanks to influencer marketing. The oral care brand signed promotional agreements with three landmark influencers: mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor and Jenner sisters Kylie and Kendall.
A wave of customers flooded the HiSmile store when the brand was endorsed by these notable influencers. The Instagram campaign with Conor McGregor alone got a five-times return on ad spend along with a 90% increase in total male customers.
The brand now boasts more than three million social media followers, 5.5 billion social media impressions, and more than 1.5 billion views on its social videos across Instagram and YouTube.
2. Brand awareness and trust
Getting the word out about products or services through influencers also means tapping into the trust they’ve built with their niche audiences. As a result, rather than having to start from scratch, customers attracted via influencers are warm leads who are often ready to buy.
Tammin Sursok, an actor and content creator, posted about her partnership with Lulusimonstudio through a heartfelt story during Mental Health Awareness Week. As a result, her audience learned of the brand, already convinced of its authenticity.
Lending trust is especially important during times of uncertainty, when consumers feel unsure about their economic futures (like they did during the pandemic). One survey showed that during the pandemic, consumers trusted influencers more than brands.
The reason: An influencer’s approval feels more authentic and relatable compared to a brand’s and serves as a powerful form of external social proof.
3. Increase in earned media value
Earned media value (EMV) is a metric that helps brands understand the ROI of third-party marketing activities like influencer marketing campaigns and provides a dollar amount for the value of impressions an influencer generated. It can be tracked through page views, unique visitors, likes, shares, and comments on social media.
Influencer marketing provides a significant boost to EMV through its broader pool of potential customers. In fact, a research analysis of more than 5.5 million posts found the top 20 retailers, who collectively spent $172 million on influencer marketing, generated a staggering $3 billion in EMV.
Influencer content is excellent social proof to tie into product pages, too. Not only do they help increase time on site, but they also help drive conversions by providing more visual context that convinces shoppers to buy.
Influencer marketing pitfalls to watch out for
Influencer marketing—when done right—can be a goldmine of new customers and opportunities. But successful campaigns are just as much about avoiding the pitfalls as they are about taking the right steps.
Here are some pitfalls to watch out for.
1. Not choosing the correct social platform for your audience
Just because a social platform is popular doesn’t mean it’s the right one for your business. The optimal social channel should have the type of influencers you want to work with as well as the target audience that aligns with your buyer persona.
The social media platform you choose should fit your brand messaging and your product.
When it comes to working with influencers, relevance is so important. Get to know the creator, their follower base, their interests, and even their geographical location. If your product doesn’t align with the content they’re sharing, viewers will sniff it out instantly. Brands should always look for creators in their niche to build relationships with.”
—Savannah Sanchez, social advertising expert
Here are a few questions to consider when evaluating social channels for influencer marketing:
- Does this platform have the demographic that my brand sells to?
- Are the users using it for shopping and discovering new brands?
- Are my competitors finding success in this space?
You may find that while most of your audience is on one platform, they aren’t active there or aren’t using it to find new brands. Be sure to do your homework.
2. Lack of transparency
The FTC guidelines explain how influencers can properly endorse products online. Aside from following all the legal aspects, it is important to remember that influencer marketing is about authenticity and transparency.
Customers trust influencers and act on their recommendations because of the rapport they’ve built with their followings over time. Your brand should continue to uphold this trust. Staying transparent about sponsored posts and paid collaborations and avoiding false advertising are simple ways to avoid damaging the trust of prospective customers.
3. Measuring only conversions and reach for ROI
Measuring ROI from your influencer marketing efforts is necessary as it helps you make data-informed decisions, helps identify what’s working, and provides insights to help you change what doesn’t resonate with your audience.
But measuring the ROI only through the number of conversions or reach is a common mistake. Sometimes customers need some time before they make a purchase. This doesn’t mean that your campaign has failed. Staying as the top choice in a customer’s mind is still making a buck in the future through influencer marketing.
Reach alone can also be a dangerous metric. While it’s tempting to hire someone with a huge following, it’s important to note the quality of engagement they receive.
Thousands of comments look great, but how many of those are meaningful interactions, and how many are just emojis or one-word compliments? Pay attention to the quality rather than the quantity when vetting influencers.
"Follower count and engagement rate don’t always indicate success, so experiment. Find the right creators. Pay the creators to produce and post Instagram stories. Give each creator a unique link to use as a swipe up. Look at each creator’s CTR relative to their engagement rate.
The better the ratio, the greater the indicator that their audience trusts them. Limit the investment required to test the relationship, get the signal you need, and respect the creators by paying them their rates.”
—Danny Desatnik, social manager at Hashtag Paid
4. Hiring the wrong influencer for your brand
Finding a relevant influencer is crucial. Many brands make the mistake of hiring someone notable and popular just because they can afford to. However, the influencer you choose should ideally be within your niche and have a community that aligns with your target audience.
Once you find the right influencer, Blaire Kang McClure, Associate Product Marketing Manager at Impact, suggests you develop a long-term relationship with them rather than a one-time collaboration:
"Long-term partnerships are becoming the preferred form of engagement for brands and influencers as brands trend away from one-and-done sponsor campaigns. By engaging in a more long-term relationship with influencers, brands are able to lock in a consistent flow of content that can be repurposed across distribution channels (i.e., social media, email marketing, out-of-home). Repeating content leads to higher conversion rates and can be a cost-effective way to partner with a small number of on-brand influencers instead of spending significant amounts of marketing budget on a broad group of partners to see what sticks.”
Shama Hyder, CEO and founder of Zen Media agrees. She believes that long-term relationships with influencers will be much more powerful.
I think we will see brands invest in more long-term relationships with key influencers, rather than more transaction project-based work. One-off sponsored posts only go so far, but engaging with an influencer on a regular basis where they truly become a brand ambassador, that’s going to be much more powerful.”
Learn more: How to find the right ambassadors for your business
5. Creating repetitive content
A great thing about influencer marketing is that influencers already know what works for their audiences. Even so, brands often make the mistake of having stringent rules around content creation for the influencer. As a result, the message style may or may not be a good fit with the influencer’s community.
Trust that the influencer knows best. Give them the freedom to talk about your product the way they deem appropriate. This doesn’t mean you completely hand over control. Feel free to ask for a round of edits before publishing and offer a wide net of flexibility.
How to get started with influencer marketing
Influencer marketing can be overwhelming. There’s a lot to handle, including finding relevant partners, managing different campaigns, monitoring KPIs and progress, strategizing with influencer marketing agencies, and so much more.
But it can also deliver results better than many other marketing channels combined.
Working with a marketing agency or a partner can reduce the time and cost involved (and improve the efficiency of your campaigns). Check out apps like Refersion and Impact that specialize in affiliate and influencer marketing.
Their expertise and technology can help you find the right creators at reasonable rates and run a successful data-driven campaign.