Social media marketing using influencers has exploded and it looks like it’s here to stay awhile. This shift from outdated (read: lame) advertising strategies is a much welcome change among marketers and their audiences alike. Influencer marketing has changed the game in that everyone with a smartphone and a creative eye can now be their own micro-advertising agency. Its un-salesy nature and versatility among industries across the board have made it the quickest-growing marketing strategy in the past few decades. If you want to know the deets on exactly why influencer marketing is so powerful, click here.

Whether you’re a brand or an influencer, being one step ahead of the game is always in your best interest. Looking forward to 2018, here are the 5 biggest trends to embrace when it comes to influencer marketing.

  1. Multi-level influencer integration

Well that’s a tongue twister. Currently, brands who collaborate with influencers tend to use the same type over and over. This can be a celebrity influencer (i.e. Kim Kardashian), a macro-influencer (a few hundred thousand followers), or a micro-influencer (below 100k followers). While this works just fine, optimizing influencer marketing requires having a healthy mix of low, mid, and highly followed players.

The year 2017 was won by micro-influencers. This group are typically very dedicated to growing their following, finding brand partnerships, and building a responsive audience. This results in a higher than average engagement rate which translates to clicks and ROI for the brand.

What 2018 will bring though is a movement toward mixing celebrity, macro, and micro influencers to strategically reach different target audience segments. We’ll also see a merge of different influencer programs to reach marketing goals. This can include word-of-mouth strategies, referral programs, paid ads, and loyalty programs. Influencer marketing will move more toward a complete and rounded experience rather that a few one-off collaborations.

  1. Higher influencer valuation

Influencer marketing is the cool new kid on the block. The cooler it gets, the higher its valuation will rise. Though the number of both male and female accounts with thousands of followers is increasing every day, the demand for these influencers is rising even quicker. If my high school economics class taught me anything, it’s that a higher demand will lead to an increase in value.

While 2017 saw a lot of product-for-post exchanges or unpaid partnerships, 2018 will require brands to put in a little more effort and dig a little deeper into their wallets. Because influencers will have more offers to choose from, they’ll also be pickier about who they choose to work with. Partnerships that have a more intrinsic value to them and is most authentic to their brand will take precedence over others.

  1. More video marketing

I don’t know about you, but the photos on my Instagram feed are all starting to look the same. Between the flat lays of cosmetic products from beauty bloggers to the aerial shots of a foodie’s acai bowl, things are getting repetitive. For this reason, video marketing is going to become bigger than ever. Influencers are already shifting between photo-only feeds to a mix of photo and video posts. They’re doing this using videographers or even high-tech toys like drones.

Followers enjoy the shake-up and like the rawness that comes with a video. As photos are usually heavily edited and warped, videos are a lot more real (relatively, anyway). This is evident in the uber popular InstaStories and Snapchat. People want to see their favorite influencers in action and shorts video clips are the perfect way to do that.

  1. Better analytics tools

One of the main reasons why brands are reluctant to invest in influencer marketing is the lack of measuring tools to see if their investment was worth it. Calculating their return on investment is imperative for companies to evolve their marketing strategy towards influencer-based initiatives.

With a growing number of companies requiring analytics for their campaigns in 2018, we’ll see a spike of metric tools and new software programs. These will be used to measure both return on investments (ROI) and key performance indicators (KPI). This will allow the analytics process to be much more seamless for both brands and influencers alike. Getting in-depth and measurable reports of partnerships and campaigns will allow the influencer industry to grow even bigger.

  1. Stricter rules

When influencer marketing broke onto the scene, it wasn’t really big enough to need to have controls in place. Since its eruption though, the Federal Trade Commission has needed to buckle down and start regulating things.

It’s no coincidence that your favourite influencers are now all hash tagging #ad or disclosing that their post is a paid sponsorship. The FTC has been cracking down on both influencers and brands who were collaborating without being transparent that it was paid.

Another huge move on Instagram’s part is draining the swamp of fake accounts, fake followers, and bots. For a couple bucks, aspiring influencers are buying thousands of followers to give off the appearance that they’re a good investment. This is not only creating a dark side of influencer marketing but is de-legitimizing the Instagram platform. Until Instagram has a fool-proof way of deleting each and every fake account, a good way to sniff them out is to focus on an influencer’s engagement rate. Because fake followers rarely engage, you’ll be able to tell if their follower count matches their like/comment count. If it doesn’t, run for the hills (and if you’re feeling snitchy, report them).