Keyword stuffing, link building, QR codes, and automated cross-channel posting — all were once promising marketing tactics and strategies that have since been characterized by some as marketing fads. At one point, marketers wondered if influencer marketing was going to suffer the same fate. Many claimed that blogs were dying and changing social media algorithms continued to diminish the organic reach of influencers.

However, influencer marketing has done the exact opposite: The channel is only growing stronger as the industry matures and evolves. And as with any tactic that drives concrete business results, marketers are responding by increasing their investment in the channel.

Widespread Adoption of Influencer Marketing

Eighty-three percent of global consumers report that online advertising interrupts their online experience and the time spent watching traditional TV is dropping for every adult age group. As a result, marketers must find new ways to reach consumers with relevant messages in ways that establish trust and drive measurable results. Micro-influencer marketing has gained traction in recent years because it provides brands with the ability to reach their target audience through the voices of those they trust most: their peers.

Today, 86 percent of marketers are using influencer marketing, 92 percent of whom find it to be effective. Nearly a third of marketers run more than five programs per year per brand; and according to a new report, The State of Influencer Marketing 2018, marketers are calling for more. Thirty-nine percent of marketers plan to increase their influencer marketing budgets in 2018 to accommodate for more frequent and larger-scale influencer marketing programs. The continued widespread adoption of influencer marketing indicates it is becoming an integral part of the marketing mix and is not a passing fad.

Influencer Marketing Drives Real Business Value  

As the industry matures, we are starting to see marketers use influencer marketing to drive lower-funnel actions like signups, downloads and purchases. For example, Mezzetta, a popular CPG brand specializing in pickled vegetables, spreads and sauces, launched a three-part influencer marketing campaign to raise brand awareness and grow its email database as part of a broader initiative to increase its U.S. market share. By employing an “always-on” micro-influencer marketing strategy, the brand was able to grow its email marketing database from zero to over 70,000 qualified consumers.

Influencer marketing has also proven that it can successfully drive product sales. Gerber, which turned to micro-influencer marketing to launch its new Lil’ Beanies snack product, was able to drive a 5 percent national sales lift. When asked what made the program so successful, Gerber’s brand manager said, “If you Googled Gerber, or just Lil’ Beanies, you would see [influencer] sites come up organically that featured beautiful photography of children eating the product or the mom looking for it [in store].”

Influencer Marketing Trends and Challenges for 2018

Influencer marketing is not going away. As the industry evolves, the channel is adapting to keep pace. While 2017 saw the rise of the micro-influencer, the survey found that 52 percent of marketers plan to leverage multiple types of influencers (celebrities, top-tier, mid-tier and micro-influencers) as part of an integrated strategy in 2018. Determining the ROI of influencer marketing remains the top challenge going into 2018, calling for marketers to take a serious look at their measurement methodologies and hold their influencer marketing programs to the same measurement standards as their other media investments.

The key to realizing influencer marketing ROI is to leverage the content beyond the initial campaign to improve the performance of other programs. The survey found that 81 percent of marketers are using influencer content in other channels, with 51 percent reporting that it outperforms brand-created content. Of those that haven’t tested influencer content against brand created content yet, 59 percent plan to do so. In 2018, you will start to see marketers use influencer marketing to develop a strategic blueprint that will enable them to drive greater returns from their paid, owned and earned media.

Kristin Hersant is the Vice President of Marketing at influencer marketing company Linqia.