History of Influencer Marketing: Past, Present, and Future

Who and what do they do?

If you’re among the 58.4% of the world’s population who uses social media, you’ve likely come across the term – ‘influencers.’ But who exactly are influencers, and what do they do? Well, Google answers this question as a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.’ The simpler version of this would be a person who convinces his audience to buy a particular commodity or a service through social media. Influencers usually have a specific type of content that they post to increase their followers. Once they’ve reached impressive followers, brands/businesses can approach them to endorse their products or services. Of course, they get paid for the endorsements, maybe in cash, for free products, or sometimes both. 

Where it all started…

And while the world assumes that influencers began their journey through social media, it’s surprising to find out that the first influencer emerged in the eighteenth century. A potter who crafted a tea set for Queen Charlotte is known as the “father of modern marketing” and was the first-ever influencer to publicize himself and sell products. 

In 1932, Coca-Cola used a fantastic strategy that brought success to the company and joy to the public. During the great depression, they presented Santa Claus to increase their sales. The strategy worked. And Santa Claus became an attractive symbol that sold products. 

Celebrities then replaced these fictional characters. In 1984, Micheal Jordan and Nike established a deal of custom design Air Jordan sneakers, the first celebrity endorsement ever. Celebrity endorsements followed these partnerships. It was easier for celebrities to influence the audience due to their fan following and human nature. Celebrities soon started becoming the face of various brands, and later they even established their brand. From Kardashians to Katrina Kaif, celebrities started their brands and endorsed them themselves.

Instagram excited these celebrity endorsements. In 2010 Instagram launched and became a platform where people around the world easily connected with others. And that’s what influencers needed. Instagram was an opportunity for anyone with the talent and skills to become an influencer. Ordinary people became worldwide sensations and started generating a steady income through Instagram. And not just influencers but even brands made sure that they used this platform to the optimum. Brands started looking for famous influencers that can successfully market their products, which has now evolved into social media marketing. The influencer market has grown beyond Instagram with the rising popularity of TikTok and even Twitter. 

Becoming a billion-dollar industry

With these platforms, the influencer marketing strategy has grown to become a 13.8 USD industry in 2021. As per the Influencer Marketing Hub, “the majority of brands (59%) have a standalone budget for content marketing, and 75% of them intend to dedicate a budget to influencer marketing in 2021”. Even these social media sites are evolving with features that can make influencer marketing more accessible and profitable for all parties. The influencers broadly use social media to influence, which is a half a trillion-dollar industry if Meta’s valuation goes by. These social media platforms use the cloud to manage the infrastructure where influencers interact; the infrastructure alone can cost a hefty amount, so optimizing cloud costs is a vital part of their operation.

Where are we headed?

While many believe that influencer marketing is the next big thing, many brands know it’s time to move away from it. Influencers affect audiences, leading to significant fraud and inauthenticity for the brand’s and said influencer’s benefit. It’s difficult to predict where the future of influencer marketing is headed since many influencers refuse to promote products that can be disappointing to their audience. With speculations regarding the future success of influencer marketing, brands are also shifting their focus on building community members as brand partners while keeping in touch with influencers.