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    The Changing Dynamics of Influencer Marketing

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    Influencer marketing has been around for some time and has had one of the most significant impacts on digital advertising and marketing. While overall spending on traditional and digital advertising mediums slowed globally during the pandemic, influencer marketing grew rapidly. Brands could effectively reach out to their audiences with authentic content that resonated well with them. In fact, global influencer marketing spending is expected to reach $16.4 billion by the end of 2022 from $6.5 billion in 2019, according to market and consumer data firm Statista. The data from the same company showed that even the global influencer marketing platform market is estimated to cross the $200 million mark in 2022 from $148 million in 2019, denoting the increasing demand for third-party solution providers.

    Closer to home, consumers in the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been talking about the influencers more than ever, and the brands here have started to engage with creators to reach relevant audiences actively. The influencer marketing market in the MENA region is estimated to reach $250 million by the end of 2022. And what is encouraging about the growth is that almost 50% of regional marketers have started allocating separate budgets for influencer marketing. In MENA, Instagram rules the influencer marketing game, with YouTube rapidly rising in popularity.

     But if we talk about the past year, the influencer marketing landscape has evolved much faster, keeping the brands and creators on the hook. There has been continuous development in influencer marketing trends, content types, and brand-influencer partnerships that have tremendously scaled the effectiveness of this marketing channel. While some changes have become more mainstream, marketers are exploring others to understand the value they bring.

    Influencer marketing in the metaverse

    The biggest upcoming trend that will broadly impact how brands and creators leverage influencer marketing has to be the increasing popularity of the metaverse. I say this because influencer marketing and the metaverse share almost the same audience. Millennials and Gen Zs, which form the core consumer base of social media worldwide and are instrumental to the success of influencer marketing, are the ones who are the early adopters of the metaverse, making it easier for brands to reach out to their target audience and communicate with them effectively. Within the metaverse, brands and influencers can collaborate to create immersive 3D experiences, invite their followers to join them, and create high engagement. In addition, some top creators have started to leverage non-fungible tokens, popularly knowns as NFTs, to develop additional monetization opportunities while adding value for their followers.

    Rise of virtual influencers

    With the evolution of the metaverse, influencer marketing has adopted technology to altogether a new level with the creation of virtual influencers – computer-generated creators with lifelike features who can influence the audience the same way as a real-world creator. Many brands have created their own virtual influencers, who now enjoy a considerable following, and reach the same audience with engaging content. The advantage brands have with virtual influencers is that they have complete control over the messaging and creative processes and can be used simultaneously for multiple campaigns and events. In addition, there are no physical limitations of what the virtual influencer can do, which gives brands flexibility and limitless opportunities to create their influencer marketing outreach. Some top global companies like Samsung, Balmain, Ikea, and KFC are using virtual influencers to develop winning campaigns. Although only a handful of international brands are currently exploring virtual influencers, I am sure its adoption in the global and local influencer marketing scene will go mainstream within the following year.

    Performance-based compensation

    First and foremost, influencer marketing is witnessing a sea change when it comes to brand partnership contracts. Unlike the earlier practice of compensating the creator for every post they make on their social media channels, irrespective of engagement and reach, brands have now started to remunerate creators based on their performance. Since both brands and influencers are finding ways for deeper collaborations and moving away from working on a one-off project, this new payment method is getting popular across the globe. This emerging trend of performance-linked remuneration has made influencers put in extra effort to create engaging and authentic content that ticks all the right boxes. On the other hand, it delivers excellent value to marketers as the arrangement improves their ROI remarkably.

    Growing importance of live commerce

    What has propelled live commerce to prominence is the medium’s ability to showcase the products closely from all angles while describing the goods in detail to the viewers, its two-way communication module that allows consumers to ask questions to the presenter, and the quick sales it generates in a short span of time, all this with engaging and meaningful content. As a result, beauty and fashion brands have adopted live commerce in a big way, as it is helping them acquire new customers, leverage additional revenue streams, and significantly reduce the rate of return. What started in China in 2016 has quickly spread to the US and is now making its way to the entire influence marketing industry worldwide.

    Video and audio content is the future

    With greater 5G connectivity in the offering, marketers will push for high-definition immersive video posts and audio podcasts to increase customer engagement and enhance user experience. Of course, text and images have not become irrelevant yet, but most of the popular social media platforms have understood the importance of video and audio and are investing in promoting these content formats. Higher internet speeds and the proliferation of smartphones worldwide have massively increased the adoption of short videos on Instagram and TikTok and detailed videos on YouTube. And with influencers trying their hands on audio podcasts, the medium has started to pick pace steadily, delivering strong engagement.

    Authenticity cannot be replaced

    While influencer marketing is evolving rapidly, one thing that has been the mainstay of this marketing channel is authenticity. Influencers and brands cannot scale their campaigns without authentic and relevant content. For creators, partnering with brands whose products and services resonate with their followers is crucial. The same is with the brands. The campaign will not perform as expected if the audience sees a disconnect between the content and the brand or influencer. Also, just creating high-quality pitch-perfect social media posts will not scale your campaigns or give them an authentic look. Instead, understanding the product inside out and creating content that engages and excites the audience will make for a winning campaign.

    In my opinion, the points mentioned above are already significantly impacting the influencer marketing industry and will continue to play a crucial role in how this marketing channel behaves in the future. Besides, the growing clout of nano and micro-influencers, user-generated content, employee advocacy, and social commerce are some of the other vital trends that are changing the dynamics of the influencer marketing industry.


    About the Author

    Iman Fawaz is the Head of Partnerships at iConnect. Fawaz is a digital media & marketing professional with over a decade of rich experience working and understanding MENA’s digital media landscape. Her forte lies in building and developing strategic marketing offerings for fashion, lifestyle, luxury, and beauty brands across the MENA region. In addition, Fawaz demonstrates a sound understanding of the Middle Eastern consumer’s behavior and interests in terms of content consumption, response, engagement, and advertising formats.

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