A Look Back at Influencer Marketing in 2019

2019 Influencer Marketing

It’s been quite a year for Influencer Marketing (IM). With more organizations starting to understand its impact and benefits, adding more budget to their IM department and micro-influencers coming to the forefront, it’s been a big year.

There have been bad examples and there have been good. Personally, I still think a lot needs to be done in terms of the ASA and cracking down on influencers breaking the rules by not disclosing adverts, affiliate links or gifted items – but how can we control or monitor every influencer out there? It would seem near impossible.

What I’m hoping for in 2020 is more enforcement from the ASA, clearer rules and online courses of a strict ‘what’s against the law’ for both influencers and influencer marketers because it still seems like a bit of a guessing game when it comes to advertising on social media. 

But I’m going to take this post to look back at the past year of Influencer Marketing and what caught both mine and the PR world’s attention and created some discussion and hype.

The removal of Instagram likes

Instagram announced this year that it will be trialing the removal of visible likes on the platform where users will not be able to see how many likes the accounts they follow, receive. A user is able to see the number of likes they themselves receive, but won’t be able to see for those that they follow. 

It is unclear whether Instagram introduced this for mental health reasons or to force content creators to either create better content or start paying to appear at the top of their followers’ feeds. Time will tell when the change is rolled out across the globe as so far only a minor few countries have received the trial. 

I can see that this will affect influencer marketers and make their job a lot harder as they will have to reach out to the influencers they want to work with and ask that they send over all of this information. It will no longer be the case of simply clicking on an influencers’ account and conducting the research themselves.

Of course, Influencer Marketing is not solely dependent on likes and it is not the be-all and end-all, but it plays a part and tells a fair amount about the engagement levels of any influencer.

The introduction of TikTok

It always takes a while for new social media platforms to take off as we are all quite skeptical that no social platform will ever come close to the likes of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. But it appears that the new TikTok app has really taken off with huge influencers starting to create accounts on the platform in the panic that they may join too late.

I personally haven’t joined the platform as it just seems to be funny video content but perhaps the platform may gain some popularity over the coming months.

Will there be ads on there? Will it be regulated? Will Mark Zuckerberg be throwing all of his money at it to gain full control of social media?

Good influence

Usually, we get a little tired of influencers constantly pushing clothing labels, beauty products and those diet products that need to be banned, but this year I have definitely noticed a rise in ‘good influence’ – influencers promoting a social cause. 

One of the best was Brita’s #nofilternofuture campaign where influencers took to beautiful destinations and PhotoShopped the landscape around them to predict what our oceans and beaches will look like in the future if we don’t stop our consumption of plastic. The content was amazingly executed, the message loud and clear and didn’t hide the fact that it was also promoting a product that helps the environment. 

Another example that I favoured this year was Irish influencer Rosie Connolly’s Christmas giveaway. Usually when you see an influencer conducting a giveaway, it’s usually for self-promotion – asking for follows in return of entries.

However, Rosie Connolly was giving away a Gucci bag, and to enter, followers had to donate $5 to her chosen charity on a Go-Fund-Me page. Her target was $5,000 and in 48 hours she had received a whopping $120,000 for her chosen charities. She didn’t ask for it, but she gained a follow from me and I’m sure a whole lot more of others. 

New rules from the ASA

The ASA introduced a lot of new rules throughout the year for bloggers and influencers and to say it was confusing and strange was an understatement. There was a lot of backlash on social media with a large amount of influencers taking to their platforms to complain. 

And rightly so. I thought it strange to have to declare a post as an ‘Ad’ even if you weren’t paid to post it but had worked with the brand in the last 12 months, and to declare whether something is gifted, paid or affiliate in every single Instagram story that you feature it. It all seemed a little excessive and too controlled in my eyes.

I think in 2020 we will see a huge crack down on influencer regulations on social media and a more tight-knit guide on what to do and what not to do, because for me, right now it seems a little all over the place.

Influencer fraud

2019 was the year of Fyre Festival – yep, remember that one? It was the greatest way to showcase how much Influencer Marketing works, how it can also not work and gave the world an insight into the influence of celebrities on social media.

I delved into influencer fraud quite a bit in my dissertation, talking about faking followers, engagements and likes. With the removal of public likes, things may change and we may see less of fraudulent activity.

Instagram are also rolling out a platform to help with Influencer Marketing, to make things a lot easier for marketers. It will include all analytics for an Instagrammer’s profile, so I’m guessing faking numbers and comments won’t be able to happen anymore.

Virtual influencers

Another topic that made its way into my dissertation was ‘virtual influencers‘. I had actually no clue about them until I came across the term while doing some reading.

The likes of the KFC Colonel, Miquela and Imma are all artificially and CGI created to appear like real people, doing real life things, acting like an everyday normal person does.

It baffled me that these cartoon characters were being paid to advertise for clothing brands and music brands, with a few of them even being ‘flown’ to Coachella.

As we all know robots are going to take over the world someday, virtual influencers might just do so before they do.

What’s going to happen in 2020?

I’ll have a separate post detailing my predictions but I expect a lot of the same as 2019. I’m hoping for more regulating, more control from Instagram of content being put out and for marketers, more transparency with fees and costs.

There could be an introduction of a new app, the demise of another or a change in ownership. Who knows what is to come, but there’s never a dull moment in the world of Influencer Marketing and social media, that I know.

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