In this comprehensive series commemorating the 15-year journey of Infegy – Consumer Intelligence, we have delved deep into the transformation of social media culture. This evolution has been powered by the rapid development of technology, encompassing software, hardware, and networking. Alongside these changes, a significant transformation occurred in how brands monetized the internet, primarily through online advertising. Starting from AT&T’s purchase of the first online ad in 1994 for a hefty $30,000, online marketing has evolved from intrusive, non-targeted pop-ups to personalized ads tailored to our search and browsing behaviors.
As we conclude this series, “The Evolution of Social Media,” we embark on a social listening journey to explore influencer marketing, the latest and continually expanding chapter in how brands harness social media for revenue generation. While influencer marketing didn’t originate on the internet, it gained prominence in the 2000s as celebrities, particularly reality TV stars, embraced social media to endorse and promote their favorite products. Subsequently, influencers emerged from all walks of life, united by their shared commitment to creating and sharing content on social platforms to cultivate dedicated audiences.
The contemporary incarnation of influencer marketing sits at the intersection of social media, content creation, and brand engagement. In this concluding installment, we examine how influencer marketing differs from earlier online marketing strategies and how it has shaped content creation as a career.
In the earlier days of online advertising, brands interacted with social users by placing ads adjacent to content on social and search platforms. Platforms like Facebook and Google sold ads integrated into organic user-driven activity. For instance, Facebook displayed ads alongside status updates and friends’ photos, while Google featured relevant ads next to organic search results. Brands soon realized that content creators with massive subscriber counts served as “captive audiences” and potential customers. Consequently, brand strategies evolved, shifting from ad placements on platforms to direct payments to influential content creators for product and service endorsements.
YouTube, founded in 2005, initially did not prioritize monetization. However, in 2007, YouTube introduced its Partner Program, pioneering the concept of paying content creators 55% of the ad revenue generated on their channels. This innovative approach was met with widespread acclaim among users and marked a significant departure from traditional media models. The program’s impact extended beyond YouTube, inspiring similar revenue-sharing models on various video-sharing platforms.
YouTube’s Partner Program revolutionized the landscape of content creation by making it accessible to individuals. Previously, aspiring video producers and filmmakers had limited opportunities to distribute their work without the backing of large studios. YouTube continued to innovate, introducing revenue-generating avenues for content creators, such as direct payments for highlighted comments, monetization of YouTube Shorts, and Channel Memberships for exclusive content access. These innovations received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the YouTube community.
Influencer marketing budgets have been on the rise, increasing by 33.6% in 2021 and projected to grow further in 2023. In the United States, influencer marketing is expected to become a $5 billion industry by 2023. A notable trend in influencer marketing is the direct payment of influencers by brands, eliminating the need for intermediaries, such as social media platforms. It is now common to witness popular creators endorsing, reviewing, or featuring products in their content. Additionally, the emergence of nanoinfluencers, content creators with fewer than 1000 followers, is gaining traction as companies tap into their small, tightly-knit online communities.
The term “influencer” has experienced a 650% increase in post volume over the past decade, reflecting the growing popularity of influencer marketing. Instagram stands out as the platform most associated with influencers, followed by Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. TikTok, a newcomer to the scene, has witnessed significant growth in discussions about influencers, indicating shifting momentum toward newer players in the influencer marketing space.
Influencer marketing, born out of social media communities, continues to reshape the marketing landscape. Its evolution, from traditional online advertising to direct influencer-brand partnerships, highlights the power of social media in driving revenue. In 2023, it is essential to equip yourself with data and analytical tools to navigate this evolving conversation, identify the right influencers, and connect with the most suitable audience groups for your business or brand. If you’re seeking the ideal influencers or consumer insights to enhance your marketing strategy, feel free to explore our consumer intelligence and social media analysis tool, Infegy Atlas.