Initial report card on my 2018 recommendations and a prediction: the influencer marketing industry will see significant consolidation

by Susan Getgood on January 22, 2018 · 0 comments

in Blogging,Branded content,Facebook,Influencer Marketing,Marketing,The Marketing Economy

So far, so good.

One of my key recommendations for digital success in 2018 was to diversify your content distribution strategy and focus on building a loyal audience that regularly returns for your content.

January isn’t over yet, and Facebook has demonstrated the critical importance of this. Its pending algorithm changes are forcing publishers to shift their strategies. As reported in Digiday:

“Some are returning to old standbys like search and email; others are putting more resources into different platform products. […] In most cases, the goal is to build sustained engagement with publishers’ content, rather than chasing the flyby traffic that Facebook sometimes drove.”

Another recommendation was the critical importance of your editorial voice. Dan Greenberg, co-founder and CEO of Sharethrough, agrees. Discussing brand safety concerns in an interview with eMarketer, Greenberg said

“brands are shifting back to buying from premium, curated, real publishers that have an editorial voice, instead of just putting a box on the corner of a random webpage.”

I am batting 1000, so figured I’d drop one more on you. The influencer marketing industry will see significant consolidation by the end of 2018. It’s already started, with the acquisition of Whosay by Viacom earlier this month.

Every day, I read at least one, and sometimes two or three, articles announcing that 2018 will be the year of influencer marketing. Influencer marketing as a marketing practice has been around for a decade or so, since the very first blogger relations programs circa 2007/2008. Customer centric marketing, as a buzzword if not in practice, has been around even longer. The idea of using your customer as an evangelist, as an advocate, is not news.

What IS news is that it is now an important element in the marketing plan for many brands. A must-do, not just a nice-to-have.

This trend has been developing over the past couple years. You can almost follow its growth by tracking the growth of influencer marketing agencies, platforms and networks. Ten years ago, it was a handful of companies. Now, there are countless specialized agencies and technology platforms, nearly every consumer publisher has some influencer offering and the integrated agencies, not to be left out, have both practices and products to offer their clients.

As Digiday reported this morning, brands are also increasingly bringing all or part of their influencer marketing in-house, using a combination of internal staff, agencies and technology platforms/tools.

While there is plenty of work to go around, I predict significant consolidation. Here’s why.

You shouldn’t build your business on someone else’s platform. As influencer marketing increases its importance in the marketing plan, it will be critical to protect the investment. That is certainly why Viacom bought Whosay rather than continue to work with it as a vendor. Bonus — acquiring the platform you use removes it as an option for your competitors, another common reason for mergers.

As a result, the most promising small companies will be acquired, by media companies, agencies and larger more established competitors that can extend the platform (and the acquisition costs) across multiple advertisers. Some of the big consumer brands are possibly also in the mix as acquirers, but I think that less likely overall.

All these companies could develop their own solutions from scratch, but honestly, there are so many start-ups in the space, it is a far smarter business decision to buy, not build.

Not every brand that wants to use influencer marketing as part of its strategy will have the means or interest to acquire a platform in-house. There will still be need for independent software companies and agencies that sell various combinations of platform, services and influencer access.

But consolidation will reduce the industry back down to a reasonable number of tech companies, some of which will focus on small and mid-sized business, and others that will operate on the scale, enterprise level. Much like any other SaaS product. It is an inevitable right-sizing. Some firms (see above) will be acquired, some will acquire smaller competitors, and some will close their doors.

The key for brands that choose to use outside platforms will be to protect their data. To retain control over their results and the influencer relationships they nurture. This means making sure that they can capture and keep the data about the influencers they work with, and the results of the campaigns they do. Otherwise, they risk becoming hostage to a technology platform. You want to make absolutely sure that your information is stored to be portable to another platform, and that you are contractually permitted to do so. You need that fail-safe, because, I repeat, you shouldn’t build your business on someone else’s platform.

Who will be the winners? It’s anybody’s guess about the tech platforms (although I have a few,) but no matter what, the customer is a winner. Those that have nurtured their social influence, whether big or small, are getting a piece of the advertising pie. And for all of us, sponsored influencer content is better, more authentic, more engaging advertising.

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