Once a niche marketing strategy, teaming up with social media stars may be the only way for brands to truly get ahead now.

Influencing has become big business for creators, and companies are noticing. Traditionally, brands collaborate with influencers on one-off sponsored product placements. But increasingly, they’re integrating these creators into their core marketing strategies and teams. In some cases, they’re even training their own staff to become in-house influencers.

Many well-established brands have achieved success with influencer marketing campaigns, like Dunkin’s collaboration with TikTok sensation Charli D’Amelio, and MAC’s partnership with Sabrina Bahsoon. And according to Influencer Marketing Hub, the influencer marketing industry is expected to grow to approximately $21.1bn (£17.4bn) in 2023, with TikTok being the most popular influencer marketing channel.

It’s not a new phenomenon for companies to partner with big names to push their goods and services – celebrities and even royals have endorsed products since the late 1800s. Yet the rise and mainstreaming of social platforms as conduits to major exposure through both sponsorship and earned media has rocketed the appeal of partner marketing into another stratosphere.

“We’re in an era where traditional media no longer holds the monopoly on information dissemination,” says Hilary Gorbould, influencer marketing manager at Stockholm-based Redgert Comms.

As social media commands more and more attention, she says, not only does it provide new channels for revenue, but it also enables businesses to precisely hit their ideal customers. “Influencer marketing allows brands to convey their message to a target demographic while hand-picking ambassadors who resonate with their ethos,” says Gorbould.

As a result, both small and massive companies alike are now taking influencer partnerships as seriously as the stalwart marketing campaigns they’ve invested in for decades. And experts say that increasingly, influencer partnerships will become the future of business.

‘Everything can be monetised’

As the influencer market has boomed, so has the ability for practically every brand that wants a partnership to get in on the strategy – business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) companies alike.

Some businesses go straight for the high profile influencers with millions of followers, like D’Amelio or athletes and celebrities – whom Gorbould calls “mega” influencers. But these partnerships cost a great deal.

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