I am a firm believer that the social influencer space has only just begun.
The first big shift that happened in what is now a billion-dollar industry was mainstream approval of this idea that having people “follow” you online is valuable. A decade ago, this didn’t exist. Even if you owned and operated a popular niche website, it was such a new concept that most people couldn’t wrap their heads around it. Why would that be considered a “valuable” asset? If anything, it was considered kind of a weird thing to spend so much time and energy on the internet.
Today, being a social media influencer with millions of followers is pretty much the equivalent of being a professional athlete, a pop star or an actor.
But I don’t think the end-game for social influence or influencer marketing is simply audience size. That’s one aspect of the equation, but certainly not the whole picture. Rather, social and digital influence is unique in its ability to create one-on-one connections with people all over the world at scale. It’s this idea that hundreds of thousands, even millions of people can talk to an influencer directly and feel like they know them personally — something that just wouldn’t be possible for any single person to do in the physical world, person by person.
As a result, I think that there are going to be two very interesting shifts that start to take place in the social influence space over the next few years, starting as early as next year.
Brands will consolidate their efforts and develop a single-source operating system.
Since more and more brands are beginning to move pieces of their advertising budgets into influencer marketing, we are going to see an increased demand for single-source operating systems — no more throwing money at popular influencers and hoping for the best. It is going to become a highly technical, ROI-focused marketing effort, measured through data and managed through technology.
Big brands are going to look to digital platforms to manage influencer relationships and campaigns from start to finish, flawlessly. This has been the missing piece since influencer marketing really became an industry, and it’s why the first thing I did with Amplify was build our own proprietary software. I wanted a platform that we could use internally to allow brands to manage the relationships they have with influencers, monitor the performance of a campaign, have access to predictive analytics and then pull from previous campaign data to make better decisions on future campaigns.
But, in the beginning, there was no sense in building technology for an industry that didn’t exist. Influencers on social media attracting the attention of massive audiences and brands looking to target those audiences had to come first.
We will create digital versions of ourselves.
The other big shift that we’re going to see is a more active approach to our otherwise passive social profiles.
What I mean by this is that, right now, our social accounts (Twitter profiles, Instagram and Facebook accounts) are all passive representations of our actual personality, aspirations, thoughts and feelings. But the platform itself does not actually engage with the user on the other side. It doesn’t talk back when someone interacts with it.
What we’re going to see over the next few years is an emergence of a “digital version” of ourselves implemented into these social networks. Because you have to think that if you’re an influencer and you have millions and millions of followers, you can’t respond to every single person. You simply can’t because there aren’t enough hours in the day. Highly intelligent chatbots are going to represent these social media influencers, to engage and talk back to users who have questions.
Take this a step further. In the next few years, we are going to absolutely see AI influencers emerge. People are going to follow digital thought leaders — created characters that operate entirely from artificial intelligence. Take for example an AI version of Mickey Mouse engaging on behalf of Disney. Is Mickey Mouse a real person? Of course not. But an AI Mickey Mouse on a social platform will have the ability to interact with millions of kids at the same time.
That’s going to happen. And it’s going to take influencer marketing as an industry to an entirely different level.