2019 has proved to be another tumultuous year for influencer marketing. While fears over fake followers rages on, campaigns have continued to achieve great results. While many questioned whether Instagram’s hidden likes trial was the death knell for influencers, a massive 72% of brands revealed they are planning to increase their spend in the channel. It’s clear that influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere. But where exactly is it headed? And what should you keep in mind for the next twelve months? Here are some crucial updates to make to keep your 2020 Instagram strategy ahead of the curve.

Swap reach for relevancy

In the early days of influencer marketing, brands were obsessed with finding collaborators with the biggest following possible. They thought that the wider reach the campaign got, the better result they were able to achieve. But it didn’t quite work out that way. Marketers realised it wasn’t the number of eyes on an influencer post or ad, it was about having the right eyes on that ad. That’s what drove big results. Firstly, that means choosing an influencer that is relevant to your brand. Three-quarters of consumers say they’re more likely to trust a paid or sponsored post if it’s something the influencer has posted about organically in the past. Makeup artists showcasing cosmetics, fitness enthusiasts featuring gym gear will help the partnership feel more natural, more believable.But it is possible to go a step further and guarantee relevancy with Instagram insights. As well as giving you the vital statistics of our creators, Vamp can tell you all about their audience – their gender split, their age range, where they live. Marketers should be setting this data against their objectives to connect with the most relevant creators.Brands still seeking wide reach are now finding success through Instagram’s boosting function. This allows an influencer post to be seen by users, far beyond an influencer’s following. Posts can appear native and in an Instagram user’s feed but can be targeted with precision or with strategic paid media campaigns.

Swap creative direction for creator direction

Almost half of marketers want total control over sponsored influencer posts, according to a recentstudy. It’s understandable. For marketers used to masterminding a brand message and ensuring its implemented consistently, allowing influencers freedom to represent your brand without strict guidelines could feel daunting.But telling an influencer what to say and how to say it isn’t the answer. This control has an impact. Both on the quality of the work and the performance of the campaign. If marketers want their campaigns to succeed, they need to swap creative direction for creator direction.The beauty of social creators is they know how to convert, without the hard sell. At their best, collaborations feel like a recommendation from an expert you admire, or a style suggestion from the person you wished you dressed like. At their worst, shoehorned marketing jargon and unnatural references make them instantly recognisable as an ad and youlose the magic of authentic influencer marketing.Savvy social users, increasingly feeling as if they have seen it all before, are getting harder to impress and are eager to see something new. There is a real appetite for raw authenticity at the moment. We’re seeing it with the surge of unfiltered posts on Instagram and the body positivity movement – and with the popularity of TikTok with its rough editing, unfiltered and unpolished videos. Influencers, if given the creative freedom, can tell the story of your brand in their own voice in a way they know their audience will respond to. Brands need to remember the reason they chose influencers in the first place – new ideas, creative thinking, a captive audience – and not squash this with tight controls that produce cliche marketing. 

Swap vanity metrics for sales metrics

For a long time, influencer marketing campaigns were judged on the number of likes and comments they were able to create. Engagement was prized as highly as reach and was used to justify influencer spend. So, no wonder so many were horrified when earlier this year, Instagram began their hidden likes trial. Suddenly like counts were no longer public but tucked away and visible only to the person who posted.But what they failed to realise is that influencer marketing has moved way beyond engagement metrics. In 2020, likes and comments should be a natural byproduct of a good influencer marketing campaign, not the sole objective. A campaign should drive customers to action whether that’s downloading an app, going in-store to get a sample or making a purchase. Those are the metrics marketers should be focussed on.While they are trialling hidden likes, Instagram is working on functions that will prove more valuable for brands. There’s the swipe up function in Stories and Shoppable tags in feed and in Stories. Marketers should demand more. Set clear objectives and use these Instagram’s e-commerce functions to achieve them.  
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