by Bradley Elliott (@BradElliottSA) What will the future of influencer marketing look like? Will celebrities still rule the roost, what role will technology play, and what will influence the future of influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing has come a long way since US silent movie star, Roscoe Conkling ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, was paid by Murad cigarettes in 1905 to promote that brand’s product. Given this marketing practice was born out of celebrity endorsement in a broadcast age, it comes as no surprise that the first wave of social influencers were stars who successfully embraced digital, like Kim Kardashian and Selena Gomez, or, in South Africa, the likes of Bonang Matheba, who cut her teeth on TV — SABC 2 — at the tender age of 15.

Five predictions

Here are my five predictions for the future:

Value interrogation

In SA, influencer marketing is evolving in a recessionary environment, which naturally drives value interrogation. But, as with any maturing marketing discipline, as measurements, technologies and strategies mature, so too will the understanding of what value is. Expect movement from intrinsic value (the value the players set for themselves) to more fair market value.

Here come the rules

Across the pond, the US Federal Trade Commission has put clear guidelines in place for social influencer marketing, and the crackdowns have begun. Down under, the Australian Association of National Advertisers has followed suit. Locally, influencer marketing falls under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) 68 of 2008 and the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) Code of Advertising Practice [since this column was written, the ASA has gone into liquidation — ed-at-large]. The latter stated that “advertisements should be clearly distinguishable as such, whatever their form and whatever the medium used”. The Interactive Advertising Bureau of SA has clear guides for Native Advertising, too, but as influencer marketing becomes more mainstream, these guides could well turn into regulations if influencers aren’t more transparent or compliant.

Measurement matures

Reach has been a dominant metric in influencer marketing, because of advertising’s broadcast legacy, but digital technologies and algorithms have yielded more-sophisticated measures. Engagement, resonance and relevance will smartly supplement reach. Also, as technology automates and becomes more sophisticated, data — and its analysis — will reveal how true influence in networks happens.

Networks of influencers

The first iteration of influencer marketing has been all about individual celebrity influencers, but this will change as technology enables brands to identify and group networks of individuals who may be engaged as social brand influencers. Technology will enable brands to harness groups of influencers, and to work with them, yet maintain one-to-one relationships with those influencers.

From endorsement to participation

Influencer marketing 1.0 was all about endorsement. But technology enables more, and this will drive greater collaboration between brands and influencers. Expect to see influencers getting involved in the creation of products, and the broader marketing of brands.


Bradley ElliottThe founder of Continuon and Platinum Seed, Bradley Elliott (@BradElliottSA) is a serial entrepreneur who’s created a number of businesses in the digital and technology sectors. He believes that marketing needs to be reinvented so that it becomes more useful to humans and brands. He’s also a collector of fine whiskey. Bradley contributes the monthly column, “Only Connect”, which focuses on influencer marketing, to

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