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The State of the Influencer Marketing Landscape

November 5, 2018

Many definitions and interpretations about what an influencer is exists in the industry, with no real standard. At R-Squared Digital, we strongly believe that an influencer is someone who has the capacity to shift the perception of others overnight, just by sharing their opinions.

The difference between influencer marketing and brand advocacy:

  • brand advocacy is a regular person influencing people within their own circles,
  • influencers have credibility and influence over a larger number of people who may not know them

“52% of marketers are planning influencer marketing programs that leverage multiple levels of influencers as part of an integrated strategy (source: Linqia).”

Conventional Marketing offers one generic corporate campaign message broadcast to a static target audience (the message is delivered by the brand or creative agency, and everyone within the target audience may see the same message).

Influencer Marketing enables social influencers who are content creators to endorse brands in their own way and style, in their own words. It’s personalised and it’s people talking to people. It’s not the brand talking to the audience, it’s the influencer talking about the brand to the audience. This means that extended audiences in the same target market may see completely unique, relevant content and messaging on the same campaign, dependent on the influencer/s that they’re following (meaning that the content is original and tailored to the influencer’s audience, and it’s not generic).

Celebrity influencers are meant to be seen and heard, but are generally not interacted with. Communication with the celebrity runs one way as a single message leveraged on a platform, like a television broadcast, meant to reach as many people as possible. Celebrity influencers are selling their image and respecting a script, not sharing their own authentic voice and this is where we make the difference between influencer marketing (working with celebrities, when they are sharing their own voice vs when they respect a script).

“Upcoming Trends”

Influencers have significant impact on vertical markets and/or social media platform. Brands and agencies partner with influencers in order to create authentic engagement and awareness around products and services.

Here are several projected key influencer marketing trends for 2018.

  • We foresee more long term campaigns, with yearly strategies, rather than one off campaigns. These campaigns would include brand ambassadors, for example: Basetsana Kumalo and Nandi Madida’s appointment as the Lux brand ambassadors are an example of this trend. Gal Gadot being appointed as the 2018 global brand ambassador for Revlon and Karlie Kloss being appointed as the 2018 global brand ambassador for Estee Lauder are further examples. We also see longer term campaigns for smaller micro influencers which would include pop up activations, specific actions, news etc. diversifying audiences and increasing the impact of campaigns.
  • Authenticity in engagement and a move away from celebrity influencers. Influencers are endorsing products because they really believe in them, not just as a result of being compensated, and this is where savvy audiences are highly sensitised to inauthentic content, creating a lack of credibility for the influencer and the brand, when audiences don’t really believe in your product. Nothing is more powerful than a genuine recommendation. Influencers will begin to understand their true value, whilst creating content they’re paid for yet, genuinely enjoy sharing about. We’re seeing influencers like Nadia Jaftha and Aisha Baker monetising the significance their honest opinions have with their audiences, with resounding success. We see this as a huge growth area in influencer marketing this year.
  • Television used to be an ideal medium to convey mass market campaigns to broad spectrum audiences. With technological innovations, it’s now possible to schedule your viewing with no advertising, presenting a challenge to advertisers who want to share campaigns. Influencer marketing solves the challenge, presenting targeted demographics per social media channel, for authentic person to person conversations and real word of mouth opportunities. Speaking to your direct audience, and the ability to measure real ROI, continues to show good business sense. We foresee continued attrition in traditional media channels.
  • Influencer content creation, not advertising, is another trending factor. Brands will see a drop in brand-created content, and a growth in sharing and remarketing of influencer created content, vetted by influencer marketing experts to ensure the same high quality brands would produce and protecting the brand equity, but with the genuine flavour of the influencer, especially using original photos and videos. Knock-on effects of influencer content creation remarketing include lower costs of brand content production, and higher engagement rates due to the nature of the content not being scripted by the brand. Video has been shown to be the most powerful tool to increase sales, including Instagram videos and IGTV, which have proven to be more engaging, and although YouTube has performed well internationally, has been less effective in a South African context. More statistical research reveals that 95 million photos and videos are posted daily on Instagram, with users liking 4.2 billion posts every day. According to HubSpot, there was a 197% increase in influencer marketing on Instagram in 2017.
  • The industry will mature with more standards around the definitions (influencers vs brand advocacy vs celebrity influencers), contractual requirements, performance reporting, etc. While R-Squared Digital is already at the top of all of this, we often see that the industry is immature with too many players applying their own definitions, as standards do not exist yet.
  • Guidelines regarding disclosure of incentivisation. While we in South Africa are not bound by the FTC guidelines (while we use influencer marketing to a non-USA based audience), nevertheless, your influencer marketing campaign should still follow the basic tenets the FTC lays down, including #ad or #sponsored tags in social media posts. All influencers should disclose that they’ve been incentivised for their content. The use of Instagram’s branded content and Facebook’s business partners options are valuable to brands considering influencer marketing. Added to the FTC guidelines, GDPR is bringing a lot of regulations on data, so a savvy influencer marketing agency will ensure you can navigate the social media minefield effectively. Other rules may apply or you may want to be more clear using the paid partnership button. Brands fear disclosing reimbursement will create a loss of credibility for the brand and the influencer, but the reverse is true. This creates authentic messaging for the influencer’s audience. Each country, including South Africa, will get closer to following the FTC regulations. Brands and influencers will understand that this transparency adds to authenticity that is appreciated by followers and creates more engagement.

“Influencer marketing is no longer just a trend.”

Influencer marketing has outranked organic search and email marketing as the most cost-effective and fastest-growing online acquisition channel (according to a recent poll hosted by Tomoson). Influencer marketing is vital for brands to integrate into their marketing strategy.

Brand audiences are saturated with advertising messaging. Academic director of Market Research and Consumer Behaviour at the IE School of Human Sciences and Technology, Jaime Veiga Mateos confirms that the growing number of distractions is definitely posing a problem for today’s marketer. “As consumers, our attention is divided across different screens and multi-tasking so the fight for our attention is tougher than ever,” he said. According to research house Forrester, 38% of U.S. adults had installed an ad blocker, and 50% claimed to actively avoid ads on websites in 2017. Influencer marketing is native content by a social media user (the influencer), not an advertisement, and is therefore not blocked, circumventing the ad blocking situation.

Nielsen’s famous “Trust in Advertising” report states that 92% consumers trust recommendations, above all other forms of advertising, and 83% take action as a result of those recommendations. As a result, 81% of marketers are using influencer content in other channels, with the content performing an average of 35x better than the brand’s own content.

If you’re dying to know more now and you’d like expert assistance with creating and managing your influencer marketing campaigns, you can contact us on

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