Ryan Schram, President & Board Director at IZEA talks about the changing scope of influencer marketing:
Welcome to this MarTech Series chat, Ryan, tell us more about yourself and your time at IZEA, we’d love to hear about IZEA’s growth story through the years and more about its recent expansion plans as well….
I’m celebrating 11 years at IZEA and it’s been an incredible journey to see the entire arc of the global creator economy evolve and rise to the stature it has today.
The company was founded during the early days of MySpace in 2006. Many platforms have come and gone since but our aims remain the same – to structure the influencer sector so that it is less fragmented and better services brands, agencies and creators.
Overall, we’ve facilitated close to four million collaborations between influencers and brands and executed influencer marketing campaigns and custom content creation for Fortune 500 businesses and some of the biggest agency names in the world from our North American home market.
Earlier this year we expanded into China and more recently into the UK. As in other markets, the influencer industry in the UK has tremendous growth potential, but lacks the expertise and innovation required by top marketers. We’d like to be instrumental in changing that and help drive maturity in the market.
How have you seen influencer marketing change over the years and what are some of the more prominent trends that marketers should pay attention to, today?
Today, influencer marketing is a fabric, not a thread. It’s made up of modern creators who are creating great content on multiple platforms. Being able to embrace that creator mindset and approach it with perhaps dozens of creations is contemporary influencer marketing in a nutshell for marketers.
The types of creators who can be involved in supporting brands has changed dramatically too. The category has broadened to include micro and nano influencers; that could be a passionate foodie neighbor, or a family member who’s into DIY. The fact they can work with brands in the same way as traditional celebrities is a powerful testament to the scalability of the creator economy.
Moreover, extensibility as a concept is increasingly important. When all budgets are being challenged, the ability to repurpose the incredible amount of content that comes from an influencer marketing investment – and to utilize all of that current and prospective customer engagement to the benefit of a brand – is tremendously powerful. Influencer marketing is more valuable than ever and is here to stay.
How do you feel the future of this segment is set to look like, given today’s market dynamics?
Due to its cost effectiveness and its overall ability to drive measurable results, I see two key changes.
First, the industry focus on vanity metrics will come under scrutiny. Economic changes will force marketers to embrace the fact they can measure influencer marketing all the way to a conversion, and that it’s no different to the media math of anything in the digital realm.
Second, there’s going to be a transitive effect in how large brands allocate budgets with a move to make investments that touch many portions of the brand house. In my career I’ve seen influencer marketing as one of the very few strategies that impacts multiple parts of the brand house. It can deliver media weight, drive awareness and engagement, or drive PR portions of the house. It can even drive SEO value on longer form social platforms, which is really important when SEM costs are at an all-time high.
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For brands who are still contemplating exploring this route, what are the five basic pointers you’d share with them?
Be a good student of what the space is. As you get into influencer marketing, it’ll then be on a strategic basis, rather than a ‘me too’ one.
That parlays into how you think about the space. Avoid silo thinking and understand it’s an advantage not a drawback that modern creators embrace multiple platforms. Chances are an influencer who’s prominent on TikTok will also be doing great things on Instagram or Pinterest. As a marketer, you’ll need to embrace that layered approach too.
Which raises the question for CMOs everywhere on whether your marketing organization can act. Is it set up in a cohesive, integrated manner to benefit? Or is it – as we too often see in large corporations – still siloed?
Don’t overlook the fact that consumers are reacting less and less to digital clutter, and instead have their eyes focused on content. Influencer marketing blends advertising with content creation in a way programmatic methods will never fully encompass. What better place to be than in a timeline where you’re part of the content, not just clutter.
Then make sure your organization is not only thinking about things with an integrated mindset, but that it knows how to measure all the byproducts that come from an influencer marketing campaign, and can put those into various funnels. I am willing to wager that an investment in influencer marketing is dollar for dollar the most effective medium in 2022 to 2023, no matter the climate. But that becomes even more empirically important if we do have more storm clouds ahead.
For B2B marketing teams especially, how can marketers capitalize more on influencer trends?
B2B stands to become a true growth area for the creator economy. In part thanks to the rise of LinkedIn as a genuine social platform, not just an online resume hub; and combined with B2B corporations embracing YouTube as a medium where they can truly position and market themselves.
There is a tremendous opportunity for B2B brands to draw from a pool of influencers creating content where their audiences live and geared to subject matters relevant to their categories. IT security is a great example. It’s very B2B and has a plethora of creators who are actively involved with audiences including CIOs, CTOs and CSOs. The vast majority of B2B marketers can lean into these spaces too.
Some last thoughts on the future of digital marketing and how channels like influencer marketing will play a more significant role (how/why).
Change is constant in life and in the marketing industry, and that’s to the benefit of marketers and creators alike. Other parts of the marketing house proverbially have not innovated in the same manner as the creator economy. This causes marketers to look inwards and reassess its impact and that of other activity. Its cost effectiveness and ability to be measured begs a bigger question – why are brands still spending in those traditional stale approach as opposed to being closer to their customers?
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Five predictions you have for the online marketing industry in 2023 and beyond?
First, the return of the value exchange. Just one year ago it was unthinkable that Netflix would offer an ad supported layer to discount its monthly price. And yet research shows consumers are willingly accept it not just to save on their subscriptions but also as a ‘permissive advertising’ viewing experience. It’s a sign that consumers are increasingly savvy about the value exchange in types of advertising.
Second, data suggests advertising spend may decrease overall in a difficult economy in 2023 but I believe that because it reflects where consumer are, spend on influencer marketing will rise on a percentage of share basis.
Third, the continued move to mobile will make snackable and shareable content paramount. Brands are up against consumers’ short attention spans and the scroll velocity of someone looking through TikTok or Instagram. That will force savvy marketers to figure out how to break through and capture attention.
Fourth, Apple will continue to position itself as a security company for consumer permission, not just a sexy, well-designed mobile device. That will continue to plague the social platforms that were previously able to utilize all of that tracking and location data to further their programmatic efforts.
And finally for balance, it’s worth acknowledging that Apple is very quietly but significantly building up its own ads team to become the antidote for the problem it helped create for marketers. We’re not sure yet what that will look like in 2023 but the widespread use of iOS on a national and global basis gives us an indication of the path ahead.
About IZEA Worldwide, Inc.
IZEA Worldwide, Inc. (“IZEA”), is a marketing technology company providing software and professional services that enable brands to collaborate and transact with the full spectrum of today’s top social influencers and content creators. The company serves as a champion for the growing Creator Economy, enabling individuals to monetize their content, creativity, and influence. IZEA launched the industry’s first-ever influencer marketing platform in 2006 and has since facilitated nearly 4 million transactions between online buyers and sellers. Leading brands and agencies partner with IZEA to increase digital engagement, diversify brand voice, scale content production, and drive a measurable return on investment.
As President & Chief Operating Officer, Ryan Schram provides day-to-day leadership and managerial oversight for IZEA – championing the needs of its team members, clients, partners, and creators around the world. Schram was appointed to IZEA’s Board of Directors in November 2012 and is presently serving his 10th consecutive term.
Prior to joining IZEA in September 2011 as the company’s first-ever Chief Marketing Officer, Ryan served as Group Vice President at Merkle and held marketing roles of increasing responsibility at CBS/Westwood One and iHeartMedia.
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