By Joe Gagliese, co-founder and CEO of the global digital and social innovation group viral nation†
The influencer space would always take off. Then came the pandemic and added serious fuel to the fire for those who create content online and those who sit at home and consume it at levels previously unimaginable. As a result, more than 50 million people all over the world now consider themselves influencers (or creators). Total investment in maker’s space $5 billion last year alone. Meanwhile, Influencer Marketing Hub estimates the total market size of the creative economy will be approximately $104 billion, with a substantial growth trajectory comparable to the gig economy – noting that this predicts a future valuation in the trillions of dollars.
This immense cultural and financial momentum will inevitably fuel the growth of the influencer arena. And as this happens, influencers will become more and more mainstream, touching our daily lives and shaping the future. But don’t just take it from me. Nicole Quinn, general partner at global venture capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners, summed up the situation at a recent industry event, tell public: “The same way we talked about technology eating the world, now it’s the creators eating the world.”
So here are my predictions for ways the continued rise of the influencer economy could change the world as we know it:
1. Social influence will be the new bachelor. For decades, the BA was a prerequisite for many types of high-paying, sought-after jobs. But in the not-too-distant future, an equally widespread condition will emerge: social influence. Whether an aspiring politician, singer, marketer, real estate agent or small business owner, the ability to build a social brand will determine whether many are in the right position to succeed in their careers. . It is important to note here that having a huge following or visibility is not necessary. As we now see reflected in the rise of micro and nano influencerswill serve people well if they can use social media to engage a relevant audience.
2. Social media influencers are becoming the new mega-celebrities. When we call up some of today’s biggest celebrities, we think of the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Scarlett Johanson, Tom Hanks, and Jennifer Lawrence. But in an eventual shift in the not-too-distant future, social media influencers will replace them to become the new household names.
As the world accelerates towards digital and social, top influencers already have larger, more engaged audiences and higher visibility compared to many “traditional” celebrities. Remember that a star like Leonardo DiCaprio currently shines on average in one movie a year† When it comes out, millions of people will see it, and Leo’s fandom is boosted by that event. Meanwhile, the many influencers with millions of followers are engaged with their audience every day. It’s an exponential difference in frequency and visibility that will inevitably lead to a switch where social media influencers will become A-list celebrities in popular and mainstream culture. YouTube’s chief business officer, Robert Kyncl, recently shared his vision with the Hollywood reporter that the influencer economy could ultimately “come easily with Hollywood in terms of economic impact and job creation.” I couldn’t agree more.
3. A live streaming trading trend will flood North America, powered by influencers. Streaming and live streaming are about to boom in the future state of influence in North America. In particular, we will see a surge in the growth and popularity of live streaming for e-commerce, following on from what has already happened in Asia. In China, for example, live streaming trading was a nearly $300 billion market last year, and by 2023, that figure will more than double. This phenomenon has been largely catalyzed by social influencers, with Chinese live streamers rake in as many as billions of dollars in hours. It’s only a matter of time before the trend catches on more widely in the West, as more people see the potential of building a streaming audience, be it for entertainment or profit.
4. All companies have an influencer strategy. A few years ago, Walmart launched Spotlight, a new initiative that aims to turn its own employees into small-scale influencers on platforms like TikTok to advocate for and on behalf of the company. Dunkin Donuts and Dell are just two other big brands that have also launched similar influencer programs for employees in recent years. Of course, top brands make sure they reap the full benefits of influencer marketing, whether they hire external influencers for campaigns or, in this case, build their own in-house influencer armies.
Why? Influencers help brands connect with audiences and customers in a very authentic way, building a level of trust far beyond what traditional, obfuscated types of campaigns were capable of. And all this can be done much more economically and on a larger scale. It’s only a matter of time before every brand has an influencer strategy and influencers that represent it in such a way that we forgot a world where this was not standard business practice.
Bonus prediction: The word ‘influencer’ will disappear. You heard right. I am the CEO of an influencer company and I want to make the term ‘influencer’ disappear. The main problem with naming people influencers is that it doesn’t come close to capturing the diversity of people being thrown into the category right now. The term also doesn’t represent the sheer amount of work, passion, and dedication it takes to build a following and be accountable to it on a regular basis. Stay tuned. I will tell more about this in the future.