You might be surprised to hear that despite our habits and lifestyles growing more digital, influencer marketing is slowly moving offline. As digital marketing costs rise and consumers grow wary of sponcon, product placements with expensive celebrities is decreasing in popularity.
This would mean that instead of paying influencers to push content to their online audiences, as was so effective over the last decade, the key now is inspiring tighter-knit, hyper-local communities, and focusing on physical activations that bring people together around shared interests and identities.
This shift may be sparked by technological changes in the past couple of years with follower counts counting for less and less. The breadth of platforms available today allows new creators to pop up on a daily basis. Instant virality has been made possible thanks to the algorithm of apps like TikTok, which have drawn users away from long-form content pioneered by blogs, in favour of scrolls of video clips created by amateurs.
Moreover, as the market gets more crowded, competition for top influencers can be stiff, as well as expensive. Spending on influencer marketing soared from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $16.4 billion in 2022. That’s just under tenfold.
Furthermore, as the influencer market has become more saturated, there has grown more room for niches (quite the buzzword post TikTok). Take viral TikTok trainspotter Francis Bourgeois as an example. Bourgeois has been cast in Gucci x The North Face campaigns and attended Gucci shows and while he may not appear to be the luxury brand’s target audience, his ability to tell stories and engage people in his community is successfully targeted.
In the fashion industry, the need for sustainable fashion has meant a need for sustainable spokespeople active within that niche. Over the past few years a new kind of brand culture has developed, luxury brands are seeking out key opinion leaders who have emerged from the community, displaying values that align with theirs. An example is Flock Together, a birdwatching collective for people of colour, founded by Londoners Ollie Olanipekun and Nadeem Perera during a time of pandemic lockdowns and Black Lives Matter protests around the world. Flock Together is powerful because they represent not only one influencer or creative, but a community of like-minded individuals.
Flock Together is among a cohort of creators, dubbed as genuinfluencers, who are interested in sharing advice, discussing their passions and spreading unbiased information.
This might not be a 100% offline move by many creators are trying to move their dedicated following off major social media apps and their changing algorithms and instead focus on growing post-platform communities that allow for a direct relationship as opposed to a one-way broadcast that is typical of social media networks like Instagram and TikTok.
Hugo Comte, a French photographer whose clients include Burberry, Bulgari and Casablanca, began offering a £4.49 monthly Instagram subscription fee in 2022. The goal is not necessarily to set up a new revenue stream and monetise his fanbase, but to convert his engaged followers into crypto holders, he says. Last year, Comte created his own social token $Nikita via the Web3 platform P00ls, which counts model Coco Rocha as an investor and operates by inviting users to complete tasks to earn digital tokens to exchange for rewards. While most fashion image-makers still rely on brands and magazines for income, Comte hopes to deepen his relationship with fans by rewarding them with a new kind of currency that is earned through engagement with his work. So far, Comte has over 100 subscribers on Instagram.
There’s value for brands. By working with a creator who operates a subscription model, brands can get access to a direct focus group and can strengthen ties with a captive audience that is already very engaged.