The next stage of the influencer is here – what will this look like in 2024?

As long as there have been humans, there have been influencers. We all look to others who are leaders in a field to guide us. That may be experts in a complex area, people who have a natural talent or skill or simply those who entertain us or make us laugh.  The evolution of social media took this to a global level, putting us in direct touch with celebrities, enabling anyone to showcase their skills and creating a whole wealth of new influencers across every genre.  But what does the future look like? Let’s take a look at the 3 stages of the Influencer.

Influencers 1.0 – The Beginning

As long as there has been the concept of celebrity, there have been influencers – i.e. well-known people who promote products or services. The modern influencer has a strong presence on social media channels and uses these platforms to share content and connect with their followers. The first wave of modern influencers emerged with YouTube and MySpace back in the 2000s, although the vast leverage they would have over the audience and wider world could not have been predicted at this point.

Influencers 2.0 – A Meteoric Rise

People who had a big following on the internet combined this with business smarts and quickly learned they could charge big money to promote brands. Consumers liked the ‘realness’ of influencers who they identified with more than traditional TV and magazine ads. Some influencers even crossed over and started starring in those very same TV ads and other forms of content, such as films, TV shows and video games.

Influencers 3.0 – The Future of influencer marketing

After a few years of influencers promoting products and brands left, right, and centre, some people began to get turned off by them, especially big names like the Kardashians and others who launched their own product lines. Consumers found them to be disingenuous and false (remember when Kendall Jenner ended police brutality with a Pepsi?), and their ‘exclusive’ products to be little more than generic tat with a big name slapped on. Influencers who get embroiled in controversy can also affect the reputation of the brands they promote, so they must be chosen carefully.

Enter the micro-influencer, who usually has 10k-100k followers, or even the nano-influencer, who has 1k-10k followers. They have a more engaged following and target niche communities – this is ideal for brands who want to target those super-specific audiences.  The future of influencer marketing is authenticity and value.  This a common trend in new fields – an explosion of excitement and then a calming back down to what really matters to people – genuineness and authenticity.

As we move into web 3.0 (see my upcoming book on marketing in web 3.0) brands and influencers alike must understand how to create strategies that are meaningful, community-based, authentic and relevant to the audience.

AI and Influencers

AI has provided a solution for so many business and marketing activities. It can collate information, make predictions based on data and even automate processes that would take too long to be profitable if done manually. Influencer marketing has a proven track record as an effective way to increase sales and spread a brand’s reach further. Adding AI into the influencer marketing mix is a no-brainer, making the process more efficient and effective, and that’s where Influencers 3.0 comes in…

AI can make content creation more efficient and offer unique insights into audience habits. That’s why influencers who haven’t already started using it to write their video scripts, schedule their appointments or walk their dog soon will be. It’s still a bit of a novelty that AI can analyse user data to predict customer trends and habits. This means that influencers can directly tailor their content in terms of appealing to the widest audience, and therefore benefit from increased attraction and engagement.

Increasingly, the reliance on AI is impacting the influencer landscape – absurdly, reports of fake ‘people’ created by bot accounts are on the rise. Social media has long been a source of catfishing profiles made by people who pretend to be someone they’re not, but with AI-generated images and chatbot-esque programming, it’s extremely simple to create a fake profile and let it practically run itself, a strategy we’re seeing become more prevalent. Ethics concerns are going haywire with this, and full-AI influencers tend to leave a sour taste in an audience’s mouth – as well as cluttering social media with bland, uninspirational content.

Although that seems to be the point of no return, even influencers using AI lightly are at risk – becoming too dependent on the fast return rate of AI ideas is likely to bleed the creativity and human touch out of their content. Similarly, they may be drifting further and further away from what their audience expects from them, or even blatantly posting untrue or misleading information.

Influencers In The Metaverse

Digital avatars are awarded a new lease of life within the metaverse, gaining an extra dimension of reality on the platform. In time, influencers will overtake the sphere, each vying for the top spot. But for now, with the technology still in relative infancy, those on the platform tend to use their avatars to display products from brands flourishing virtually.

Virtual avatars are advertising from some of the biggest brands in the world – including luxury brands like Prada or Gucci. There is a shocking number of virtual avatars already present on platforms like Instagram or Snapchat, with many more being unveiled as marketing strategies change to accommodate them.

The metaverse is proving to have almost limitless potential thanks to the use of real-time 3D models. Users can attend work meetings, purchase virtual real estate, buy and sell real-life products, and much more. This is an untapped market for businesses to get involved with, as customers are already interacting with brands easily from the comfort of their own homes.

Influencers And AI Brand Campaigns

Collaborations and influencers go hand-in-hand, so within the metaverse partnerships are a big deal. Many brands offer influencers social media takeovers or even gifted products, seamlessly associating the brand with its biggest promoter seamlessly and effectively. Marketing efforts can be routed to the most active and engaged audience, resulting in numbers rising.

Often, an influencer’s (both real life and virtual) personality becomes the main focal point of their branding. With their seal of approval, the content they endorse and advertise gets social proof – even if it comes from someone who doesn’t exist. AI tracking metrics can also discern whether an influencer’s actual audience matches their target demographic, which is another way of ensuring the marketing is as strong as possible.

The types of data AI can track also relate to real influencers – as it’s able to scour accounts to make sure they’re legitimate. If an account is suspected of buying subscribers or comments (to falsify their engagement), AI will track the patterns of its user base and ensure the company behind the campaign doesn’t waste resources on a fraudulent account. Thai ensures the highest possible engagement with real fans, furthering an account’s reach and likelihood of a successful partnership.

What Can We Expect To See From Influencer Marketing And AI in 2024?

Brands looking to capitalise on values of trust and honesty are likely going to concentrate on developing long-term partnerships with influencers as well as using AI to refine campaigns. As well as the old marketing adage that consistency is key, recognition is another key recipe for success when selling a product. AI can lend a helping hand to influencers in getting the advantage – finding trending hashtags or topics in a flash.

Metrics are the all-powerful object of everyone’s desire, and of course, AI has its fingers in that pie too. Expect to see revolutionary updates and new releases in measurement systems that can track clickthrough rates to an influencer’s shop page or how long people spend watching their content.

Virtual AI Influencers 

There are many advantages to using AI influencers, such as:

  • AI influencers are usually more cost-effective than alternatives
  • The ability to reach wider audiences as they’re not constrained by their follower count
  • Being innovative and new enough to act as a business’s unique selling point
  • Businesses can curate personalities and enjoy full control over the influencer

Many brands who want total control over their outputs have begun to create virtual influencers. Flawless creators without a hint of misbehaviour are the perfect spokespeople for squeaky-clean brands – but that in turn becomes a problem for them. The authenticity of a brand using virtual influencers, plus ethical concerns, can be called into question. All AI-produced content should be monitored carefully, whether that’s an AI-generated script delivered by a human or a virtual entity which is controlled by AI. Quality control goes a long way, especially when making sure any automated blunders are spotted and dealt with.

Additionally, simultaneous campaigns can be run seamlessly, with data monitoring and careful planning. AI influencers are easier to manage than their bone-and-meat counterparts and AI data analysis can provide helpful insights on how close a company’s KPIs are to being met. AI influencers are deftly addressing the problems of traditional influencer marketing, and providing more cost-effective and easier solutions.

Make sure your business is prepared to hold its own in the digital landscape which is constantly upgrading itself as we speak. Get in touch with us to plan a powerful strategy to keep your business afloat and ahead.

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