15 minute read

Influencer Marketing: Present State and What the Future Holds 

Influencer Agency running a successful campaign

Social media influencers are having a moment, and it’s unclear when that moment will reach its zenith.

While some may have initially scoffed at influencer marketing as a fad the way early critics dismissed TV commercials, it’s clear this form of consumer outreach has staying power.

At its onset, influencer deals were limited to A-list celebrities or blogging megastars. But today, there are over 64 million influencers worldwide.

The right influencer can grow your business, and increase brand awareness, leads, sales, and trust. If you’re not using influencer marketing for your business, it’s not too late — or too difficult — to get started. You don’t need to have a million-dollar budget or a hyperactive presence on TikTok and YouTube.

Influencer marketing is an effective way for any brand or company to reach consumers and grow their business. Whether you sell B2B financial planning services or handheld massage guns, influencers can connect your brand with customers just about anywhere online.

This article will discuss influencer marketing in more detail, including different types of influencers, how to find influencers, and how to develop an influencer strategy.

Influencer Marketing: From 1760s to Present

At its core, influencer marketing is all about popular online figures using their influence to persuade other people to buy a particular product or service.

This type of marketing has been around since the 1760s when King George III and other VIPs of the era endorsed Wedgewood pottery and chinaware. 

But in terms of online focus, the first modern-day influencer may be mommy blogger Melinda Roberts who created in 2002.

Today, modern influencer marketing is when online personalities collaborate with brands to promote specific products and services.

In the early aughts, this type of marketing was largely unregulated. But in 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) introduced many regulations for greater transparency. Notably, an influencer must openly disclose if they are being compensated for their endorsement.

These measures haven’t harmed the industry. Far from it, over the past five years influencer marketing has seen explosive growth on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. Globally, the influence marketing economy is valued at $16.4 billion.

What is influencer marketing?

On a basic level, influencer marketing is a form of social media marketing that uses public endorsements from the cool kids who are paid to talk up, or outright sell, a company’s product or services.

These cool kids have a large social following and could be viewed as experts within their niche. Anything they feature in their reels or posts is a form of social proof and plays on bandwagon marketing.

What are the four types of influencers?

There are different types of influencers based on the size of their following and whether or not they hold any real-world celebrity credentials.

We tend to think of all influencers as celebrity influencers who have a massive following, or micro-influencers who have a smaller but dedicated and relevant following. But there are more granular distinctions. There are four main types of influencers.

  1. Mega influencers
  2. Macro-influencers
  3. Micro-influencers
  4. Nano-influencers

Mega Influencers

These are influencers with an explosive reach of 1 million followers or more. These include professional athletes, famous actors and musicians, and other public figures like Lionel Messi, Selena Gomez, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

With a large following, these celebrity influencers often have a very diverse audience. This can make mega influencers ideal for a large national or global campaign to boost brand awareness.

While mega influencers can deliver colossal exposure, they are ultra-expensive to work with and their engagement rates are generally not as high as smaller influencers with a more niche audience.


These influencers are well-established thought leaders within their industry or niche and have a following that ranges from 100,000 to 1 million. Macro-influencers may be newspaper columnists, gamers, fashion designers, or popular beauty and lifestyle vloggers.

Macro-influencers generally have interests that align with their influencer posts, such as fashion, travel, cooking, or parenting.

It can be quite costly to work with macro-influencers, but they will likely deliver a more engaged base of followers apt to act upon their sponsored post recommendations.


Micro-influencers are the under-sung heroes of influencer marketing with legions of highly engaged followers ranging in count from 10,000 to 100,000.

These influencers wield a great deal of personal influence over their audience base. They have committed followers who will log in specifically to see what their micro-influencer is doing, and they are open to influencer recommendations.

Much more affordable than mega- and macro-influencers, their armies of followers pack a lot of punch. Compared to macro-influencers, micro-influencers drive a 20 percent higher conversion rate and a 60 percent higher engagement rate.


Influencers with fewer than 10,000 followers are called nano-influencers, but don’t let this relatively small audience size fool you. These influencers are strongly connected to their audience who admire their personable, authentic content and one-on-one engagements with followers.

Much more affordable than other influencers, nano-influencers are an outstanding way for brands to amp up their influencer marketing without spending a fortune.

As of 2023, brands and businesses prefer working with nano-influencers because they can drive a much higher return on investment. Nano-influencers deliver more leads and sales for every marketing dollar spent than any other influencer type — if you can find the right ones to partner with.

Is there any difference between influencer marketing and celebrity endorsements?

Yes, the two concepts are similar but not the same thing. There are many key distinctions.


Celebrities have a broader reach, but it’s more diverse and less focused on a specific interest. Influencers have a narrow niche that is more engaged around common psychographics.


Influencers are viewed as more authentic since they are everyday people. While both influencers and celebrities can be paid to endorse products they don’t believe in, consumers have more trust in influencers.


Influencers tend to interact much more with their followers, responding to questions and comments. Celebrities rarely, if ever, respond to comments about social content they share.

Content Creation

Influencers create the content they share, ensuring it’s aligned with their personal brand. Celebrities tend to adopt the persona of the brand they are promoting. The brands will create the content, not the celebrity. 


Celebrity endorsements are a huge marketing investment that can range from 7 to 8 figures. Influencers can cost a mere fraction.


Celebrities are generally used for brand awareness campaigns, making it difficult to directly attribute leads or sales to a celebrity marketing campaign. With influencer marketing, it’s easier to directly measure the ROI because you can monitor online down-funnel metrics like link clicks, cart adds, and purchases.

How much do influencers get paid?

Influencers getting paid for a successful campaign

A rule of thumb many influencers have settled on is $100 per every 10,000 followers per post. Using this formula, it could cost $500 for an influencer with 50,000 followers to do a sponsored story.

Not all influencers adhere to these economics. There are influencers with fewer than 20,000 followers who charge at least $1,000 per sponsored post. There are influencers with far greater who will charge $100. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Why do I need to use influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is effective. It works. And its popularity and power are only growing as Gen Z and younger cradle-to-grave digital generations trust social influencers more than journalists, politicians, and religious leaders.

Additionally, Gen Zers may be more influenced to make a purchase based on what an influencer is buying or wearing (45 percent) versus their friends’ style (18 percent).

Major ROI

According to an Influencer Marketing Hub study, the average company sees a $5.78 return for every dollar spent on marking. A 578 percent ROI — that you can accurately pinpoint to one specific post — is a phenomenal return.

It’s a matter of trust

Before the proliferation of the internet and online ads, consumers were mainly exposed to television commercials or billboards — two forms of highly regulated advertising.

Advertising is regulated on the internet as well, but it’s much easier for someone to post false claims or sell snake oil. It’s harder to track and shut down malicious actors. Especially when popular social platforms give consumers unfettered access to different viewpoints (realities) and the power to filter what they see and hear.

For brands trying to connect to consumers, this makes it much harder. Their audience is not centrally concentrated (you can no longer count on a Tuesday 7 p.m. reach of 60 million viewers watching network TV), and they are more skeptical of online advertising claims.

Using real people — influencers — is a way to overcome those barriers. Brands can break through into target niches and use trusted sources as emissaries to deliver their message.

Improved Leads

Beyond establishing greater credibility with influencers, they are a cost-effective way to attract high-quality leads. If you partner with the right influencer, you’re tapping into a highly engaged niche of people who are interested in your products and services and with a greater likelihood to make a purchase.

What platforms are most popular for influencer marketing?

Until recently, Instagram was the go-to channel for influencer marketing campaigns. But in the past couple of years, TikTok has emerged as the dominant player.

According to a 2023 Influencer Marketing Hub report, these are the platforms brands and businesses turn to most commonly:

  • 55.5% TikTok
  • 50.8% Instagram
  • 42.1% Facebook
  • 38.3% YouTube

LinkedIn, Twitter, and Snapchat are also frequently used too. Different platforms may attract different kinds of influencers and different user bases. Many B2B influencers have found success using both LinkedIn and TikTok to successfully engage followers.

How do I find influencers?

Here are some specific methods to identify influencers to promote your brand.

  • Search relevant keywords and hashtags on Google and various social platforms
  • Look for people who are writing (blogs, micro-blogs, and other content) about relevant topics
  • Identify platforms where people post content about relevant terms and topics
  • Use social listening to identify influential voices in your industry
  • Use an influencer marketing platform like Upfluence or TapInfluence to find, track, and manage influencers

If you’re reaching out directly on platforms like Instagram or Twitter, it’s best to email the influencer instead of DMing them a business inquiry. Many will have some details in their bio about working with them for influencer campaigns.

What are influencer marketing mistakes to avoid?

When creating an effective influencer marketing strategy, there are some key mistakes to avoid. Businesses that have had lackluster results before have often committed one or more of these blunders.

Wrong influencer for your niche

Bosses can get blinded by follower counts. Be open to influencers with smaller audience numbers or who don’t create hot, trending content. You probably don’t want viral posts. You want to find and pay influencers who have an engaged audience of potential customers, not ones who will post popular yet irrelevant reels that deliver notoriety over substance. 

No clear timelines and guidelines for the creation and review of assets

Make sure everyone knows what is due, and when. Have deadlines for assets to be ready for the first review, final review, and campaign launch.

There should also be a clear understanding of how many mock-ups or edits an influencer is willing to make within the project budget, and who will be reviewing and approving any creative assets. Everyone should be on the same page regarding what the end goal is, how feedback should be presented, when feedback is due, and the ramifications of not meeting feedback deadlines.

Failure to define success and clear KPIs

Often a business will just blindly pay — within budget — an influencer who charges a fee for creating and sharing the content. The amount charged is generally tied to the effort that goes into making the content and their follower count.

Make sure you have clear key performance indicators (KPIs) so you and your influencer know what you’re doing and why. There should be a clear goal behind your marketing efforts.

  • Work with the right influencers. Most focus on brand awareness or product giveaways. But look for influencers who specialize in achieving the outcomes you need, like driving traffic to your websites or explaining more complex products and services.
  • Defined measurement of success. Are you focusing on total audience reach? Or are you aiming for post shares, unique promo code redemptions, or app installs? Make sure the influencer knows precisely how you’re measuring success.
  • Everyone is on the same page. Make sure that all stakeholders are working toward the same goal. Too often, a campaign will get needlessly sidelined because leadership thinks a ready-to-launch campaign should have a different (untenable) goal. Or lots of people want creative changes based on personal aesthetic preferences. Up front, be clear on what the goals, timelines, and feedback processes are.


Ideally, you want to keep influencers accountable by paying them for generating the conversion actions you want to hold them accountable. But influencers want to be paid just for creating the content. And right now, good influencers are dictating terms.

Most influencers are paid per reel or per post. Very few are willing to be paid on a CPA model (i.e., $15 for every qualified lead) because they risk not getting paid anything for their time and effort.

If it’s not possible to set up a full-blown CPA influencer campaign, there are other ways to build accountability.

  • Align incentives. Make sure influencers know what your exact goals are.
  • Establish benchmarks. Let them your expectations for minimal success, medium success, or high success.
  • Offer extra incentives for hitting benchmarks. Offer a tiered bonus or additional payment for meeting your CPA or benchmark goals.
  • Ask for a blended payout structure. If a creator is asking for $5K just to create the influencer content, can you negotiate the economics for a hybrid payment? Perhaps you pay them 80% of their fee, $4K, and then offer them $500 for every X number of traffic clicks or for every X sales conversions?

Not doing your homework on the influencer

Do your due diligence. Explore multiple influencers and get a feel for what their online footprint looks like. There are key things to look for.

  • Authenticity. The partnership should be sincere and natural otherwise, it can hurt the influencer, your brand’s image, and the campaign. Authenticity is the most important trait social followers look for. Collaborate with influencers who truly love your brand products or services.
  • Experience with similar content. Has the influencer worked on similar product campaigns in the past? Have they worked with any of your competitors? Carefully evaluate their content to look at engagement metrics and check for any red flags.
  • Interactions and engagements. How does the influencer interact with their followers? Are there dozens of ignored comments? What are their post engagement rates? How many likes, shares, and comments are their content receiving? Do the engagement rates match the metrics that they share (promise) on their sales sheet?
  • Influencer voice. Is the influencer’s tone and personality casual and down-home? Or is it polished and stylish? You want to find an influencer whose voice matches your brand. Good influencers have a consistent, authentic voice that they do not alter just for sponsored content.
  • Audience demographics. Examine your influencer’s followers to make sure they align with your target audience. Influencers will have demographic fact sheets about their followers’ age, gender, location, and interests. Run a spot check on their TikTok or Instagram account. Examine the profiles of followers engaging with their organic content and their paid content.
  • Track record of success. Can the influencer provide solid examples of successful direct response or performance marketing campaigns? Can they give names of happy clients and the core metrics of success they achieved? Can you gauge the success of other influencer campaigns by reviewing their paid posts?

No briefs or an unclear brief

Many businesses make the mistake of not giving their influencer a brief — largely due to the fact they don’t really get influencer marketing and rely on the influencer to do it all. Social influencers do have an online presence, but without your direct guidelines, their efforts may be a shot in the dark.

Your brief should cover the following:

  • Main goals of your campaign. What are the measurable results you are hoping to achieve?
  • A short overview of your company’s background and a description of the product or services that you want the influencer to promote. Brief product Q&As, images, and links are helpful.
  • What makes your product or service special? How does it differentiate itself from competitors? What are customers’ favorite features and benefits?
  • Who is your target audience? Share your audience personas if you have them.
  • What are the timelines? By what dates do you expect to have preview assets, finalized assets, or a campaign launch date?
  • What is your total production budget? What is included in the total project budget?
  • Are there specific branded assets that the influencer needs to use? You may need to provide them with your style guide or digital assets with your logo, fonts, and. brand colors.
  • Share any particular content restrictions. If you are unable to use certain terms, make specific claims, or there are style elements you don’t use, let the influencer know.
  • Are there relevant sample posts or reels that you like? Share the examples with a couple of sentences about what you like. Inversely, you can share content you dislike and why.

It may seem like a lot of work to create this type of brief. But ultimately, there are many project-specific and broader long-term benefits.

You’ll save time and frustration down the road for the influencer and all company stakeholders. And you’re literally creating a blueprint for success that you can replicate for future influencer campaigns. Working off the blueprint will lessen the workload, provide more predictable results, and make it easier for you to analyze the results of different influencer campaign efforts.

Micro-managing the end product (not giving creative freedom)

An in-depth, comprehensive brief is helpful, but you don’t need to go overboard with specific details. That’s called micro-managing. Not only is it a creativity killer, but you’re making your company very difficult to work with.

People trust influencers because they are unique, creative, and authentic. You don’t want to dictate a script an influencer should use because it will come across as looking fake. If there’s a specific slogan or term you want worked in, that’s fine. But that should be a very small portion of their dialogue.

Let the influencer do their thing. Also, don’t go overboard with revision requests.

This will annoy your influencer, making it harder for them to be genuinely hyped about your brand, and it will delay your project needlessly. And if you try to work in everyone’s one-off request (based on bias, not project goals), you will wind up with a bloated product that highlights the personal tastes of a half-dozen contributors and not a crisp influencer reel.

How do I create a successful influencer marketing strategy?

Successful marketing campaign

To be successful at influencer marketing, you need a strategy for success. It requires deliberate and thoughtful planning. For example, you don’t want to blindly message 200 influencers on your favorite social media platforms, or start giving away free products to every person who asks.

Here are some tips to create successful influencer marketing campaigns.

Choose the social platforms you want to leverage

Research is the first step and social listening can be very helpful. Where is your target audience spending time? You may be most familiar with Facebook and most scared of Twitch, but it could be Twitch is where you need to start. Ideally, you want to focus on one platform at a time. You can expand later.

Research the right influencers

Do you want to work with micro-influencers or nano-influencers? Do you want influencers with a vast, broad reach? Or influencers with smaller followings who have a more engaged, niche audience? Do you want different types of influencers for different types of campaigns? Your budget may dictate the types of influencers you can work with.

Understand their payment structure

Rates of compensation and payment structure can vary wildly. Nano-influencers may be willing to accept product in exchange for payment and can be contacted directly.

Macro-influencers and mega-influencers will likely command large sums (five figures or greater) just for creating and sharing a post. They are usually represented by an agent or agency.

Micro-influencers fall in between the two extremes. Some may have an agency or they may work independently. Often they will be paid per post, but some may accept product as full or partial payment.

Define your budget and management process

After you understand compensation rates for different kinds of influencers you want to work with, create a budget. Many people create the budget first, and then focus on finding influencers who fit the budget but are not the right fit for the brand.

As you budget, consider the internal resources you’ll need to plan, manage, and measure influencer campaigns. Will you need additional headcount? Is it better to outsource this to an agency?

Managing influencers is not as automated as working with a DSP for paid online ads. You’ll need to be more hands-on to catch errors and keep content on-brand and on-message.

Determine your campaign goals and messaging

Typically an influencer marketing campaign goal is to drive brand awareness or drive conversions (leads or sales).

Determine what you want your goals to be, and the broad, supporting messaging. For the specifics, you’ll rely on the influencer who delivers a human voice and personal audience connection.

The overarching messaging should be consistent, but broad enough that you’re not stifling the influencer’s creativity and unique spin.

Continually review and optimize your strategy

You need to have milestones and metrics in place to measure the success of your influencer marketing campaign. Even if the campaign is ongoing, you still need to track your campaign’s progress and be ready to pivot as needed.

For example, you may determine that you need to pull the plug on messaging with engagement rates below a specific threshold or to target a younger audience through a different influencer or on YouTube, Twitch, or other platforms.

The more data you have, the more you can continually review, refine, and replicate past wins into your next successful influencer marketing campaign.

What does the future look like for influencer marketing?

In exploring the future of the influencer marketing industry, here are some trends to look out for.

Expansion of the Metaverse

A relatively new concept, you can think of the metaverse as the internet with an added layer of virtual reality to create an immersive, virtual experience.

For businesses, it will allow people to have a lifelike experience online, interacting with specific branded content, products, and other technologies. Rapper Snoop Dogg has created “Snoopverse” in the Sandbox metaverse where fans can get exclusive accessive to special content and music performances.

And within it, people can buy virtual goods and services. Many luxury brands like Gucci and Burberry are making millions of dollars in the metaverse by selling digital handbags that don’t exist outside of the virtual, digital world.

Celebrity and mega influencers have already bought virtual land on Decentraland and The Sandbox and other popular metaverse platforms. More influencers will take up residence and connect with existing and new followers.

Long-Term Relationships

Influencer marketing relationships are becoming long-term. In the past, most influencer collaborations were one-and-done affairs. Increasingly, brands and influencers want more than one-time flings. Both are focused on building long-lasting partnerships for a more consistent message, deeper integration with the brand, and more authenticity in the relationship.

Greater integration with other marketing channels

Brands have long leveraged influencers to reach shoppers on the influencer’s social platform, but look for these collaborations to expand to other marketing channels as well.

A popular YouTube or Instagram influencer may also be used in the brand’s digital and print campaigns, website marketing, email campaigns, and more.

Apparel and lifestyle retailer, Pacsun, has already a number of cross-channel marketing campaigns using popular Instagram influencers. And in the PacVerse, Pacsun Metaverse, the retailer has featured four popular real-life brand ambassadors and a digital-only influencer, Miquela.

Rise of B2B Influencers

Influencer marketing isn’t just for consumer services and consumer packaged goods (CPGs). Many B2B influencers like Larry Kim, Neil Patel, and Rand Fishkin have great success on podcasts, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, X (formerly Known as Twitter), and other online touchpoints.

They contribute their expert opinion on business, technology, and marketing on their own social channels and on national news sites. When it comes to many software products, apps, or business services, those B2B influencers are the tastemakers.

Bottom line

Influencer marketing is about the authenticity of the everyday individual, not the celebrity, and already plays a central role in the overall marketing strategy of many B2C brands. It’s moved far beyond its status as a fad marketing tactic and into the spotlight.

Beyond its leading role in reaching Millennial and Gen Z consumers, influencer marketing may very well be the future of marketing as we know it. Digital-age consumers are more receptive to the authenticity of influencers than traditional advertising tactics. And in the age of AI, influencer marketing is a fundamental way to elevate the human touch.


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