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Some 39% of B2C marketers engaged in influencer marketing expect their influencer budgets to increase this year versus last, compared to just 5% who plan to cut their influencer spending, according to a recent survey [download page] from Linqia. Expectations for increased spend come as a majority feel that their influencer content outperforms their brand-created content.

Indeed, the vast majority (78%) of respondents to the survey reported that influencer content either outperforms their brand-created content (51%) or matches it (27%) in performance.

Even so, measuring ROI remains a critical challenge for those engaged in influencer marketing. Roughly three-quarters said that determining the ROI of their influencer marketing programs is a challenge, making this easily the largest difficulty of those identified.

That may be due to a reliance on engagement metrics as opposed to revenue-based ones. The most commonly-used metrics to measure the success of influencer marketing programs are engagement (90%), clicks (59%), impressions (55%), conversions (54%) and reach (50%).

Fewer than half (46%), though, are measuring product sales.

Instagram’s the Top Platform; Snapchat Relatively Ignored

When it comes to the social platforms that are most important to influencer marketing strategy this year, Instagram is the clear winner, cited by 92%. Facebook (77%) and blogs (71%) follows as the only others considered important by a majority of respondents. Surprisingly, just 42% perceive YouTube to be among their most important social platforms.

On the other end of the spectrum, Twitter and Snapchat are seen as the least important to influencer marketing strategies this year.

Previous research from Collective Bias has found that Snapchat rates poorly among female influencers. More recently, a MediaKix study found that top social media influencers had cut their use of Snapchat while doubling down on Instagram.

Major Trends for 2018?

Almost all respondents have some type of plan to evolve their influencer marketing strategy this year, but don’t expect it to relate to emerging technology.

Only 1 in 6 (16%) are planning to use AI to improve the performance of their influencer marketing programs, and even fewer are expecting to use influencers in chatbots (7%) or to engage in virtual influencer marketing through augmented reality (4%). These are among the trends for which marketers in general feel most underprepared, so it may take some time before their use extends to the influencer marketing space.

Instead, the most popular trends poised for adoption this year appear to surround the integration of influencer marketing within and outside of itself.

Topping the list is the use of influencer marketing programs that leverage multiple types of influencers – such as celebrities, top-tier, and micro-influencers – as part of an integrated strategy. Also on the agenda are the use of influencer content to improve the performance of other channels, and integrating influencer content with e-commerce to drive product sales.

Some Ignore FTC Regulations

There have been numerous public instances of influencers flouting regulations, and some marketers responding to Linqia’s survey admit that they don’t require adherence.

While a greater share of respondents this year (71%) than last (55%) said that they know what the most recent FTC disclosure guidelines are, about 1 in 8 (13%) do not require that influencers disclose sponsored content to comply with FTC regulations.

That brings to mind recent research [pdf] into native advertising from the Native Advertising Institute, in which 11% of publishers surveyed admitted that they do not label native ads.

The full Linqia survey is available for download here. The results are based on a survey of 181 B2C marketers across a variety of industries, including CPG, Food & Beverage, Media, Retail, and their agencies, 86% of whom use influencer marketing.

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