From Influencers To Influence Marketing: The New “Studio System” For Multi-Platform Content

The nature of influencer marketing is changing in response to consumers’ new ability to exert granular control of their content and ad personalization experiences. This year, advertisers are increasing their ad spend cautiously after a blockbuster year in 2021. Even content-driven businesses like movie studios are spending less on traditional media like TV ads and more on non-traditional media services like digital and analytics and branded content creation. As a result, nontraditional media now forms the bulk of billings at The Big Three media agencies (WPP, Omicron and Publicis Groupe), showing a growth rate of 20% in the first quarter of 2022, per MediaPost.

Those “nontraditional” services include influencer marketing. Advertisers have been projected to spend more than $15 billion on influencer marketing in 2022, representing a 65% increase over 2020’s $9.8 billion.

Today’s Brands Are Reimagining Influence As A Brand-Audience Collaborative Story

According to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), influence is not merely a quality associated with a celebrity or a tastemaker, rather, it is a form of value that can be quantified, tracked and optimized in the same way that clicks can be translated into CPM. As a result, the organization recently introduced guidelines for brands and agencies to monitor influencers’ impact on their businesses and their clients’ success.

As consumers’ attention is drawn to an ever-widening vista of content types, brands are reimagining the boundaries of storytelling and the concept of influence itself. Content brands are now seeking influencers not just based on preexisting celebrity but how the content they produce aligns with what consumers are watching and interacting with regularly. Consequently, influence has become its own story—one that is less about personality and celebrity and more about the key drivers of engagement: ideas, values and shared priorities.

Brands Are Looking Beyond A Single Platform Or Medium Strategy

In the early aughts, AI-powered predictive algorithms made personalization features commonplace on social platforms and streaming services. This allowed marketers to glean insights into how consumers interacted with—or ignored—content, which allowed them to create campaigns that seemed more personal and driven by human preferences and not marketing goals.

Influencers often helmed social media-born ad campaigns that used content as a gateway to multi-platform experiences. Consumers read more, watched more and “liked” more when the content they viewed from influencers aligned with what consumers’ search data, purchasing patterns and social posts indicated they wanted to see. That made influence less about individual personalities and more about content communities, as consumers engaged with narratives that matched their values, passions and in-the-moment needs.

Influencers Are Human-To-Algo Translators

Over the past few years, the most powerful influencers have driven engagement because they embodied the audience’s story—the meaning locked within their search, purchasing and social media data. They make the data human-readable and actionable. When influencers fail to embody the zeitgeist, they often lose followers quickly. It’s not just about trending tastes but about missing what drives consumer engagement: Values, needs, wants, and aspirations that are individual but also communally shared.

Where We’re Going: Influence As An Ecosystem

Brands and agencies are catching on to influencers’ value proposition, like reflecting and amplifying community values, passions and specific, authentic needs. They’ve begun to mimic influencers’ multi-platform communications skills and look at what drives human interest, not just purchasing behavior. Influencers’ unique personalities and methods of connecting with followers will always matter, but their usefulness to consumers is limited to their capacity to evolve and respond as community tastes and priorities change. Brands and influencers can work together successfully when they can reflect the stories consumers tell through their engagement with content and products—and those stories rarely live on a single platform or device. That makes influencers excellent guides for brands seeking to stand out in a crowded marketplace, as savvy influencers help brands get better at communicating their value and consumers respond to influencers’ interpretation of that value by connecting with the content that compels them to engage.