The 2016 Ad Age Digital Conference occurred on April 5th and 6th, together with some of the greatest minds in the digital marketing industry to share opinions, findings, and future predictions for influencer marketing. With everyone and their agencies feeling the flux of the industry, the conference is described as such:

“At the 2016 Ad Age Digital Conference marketers and agencies rethink their work, out loud. What is advertising now—an ad or an experience? How does it get done—and by whom? No conversation is off the table as big brand, technology, and media leaders answer tough questions head on with the Ad Age editorial team framing the conversation.”

With companies across the spectrum of several industries-such as Buzzfeed, AT&T and Chevy- giving sessions that covered everything from measurement metrics to the timeline of influencer marketing, we took comprehensive notes to give you a cheat sheet on the need-to-know of the conference. Below, we broke down the wants, trends, themes, hot topics, and future predictions of the 2016 Ad Age Digital Conference:

RJT_6O2A0092_20160406_Future_of_TV_Advertising                                                                    (source: Ad Age)

What Do Marketers Want From Their Influencer Platforms?

When evaluating influencer platforms, brand marketers want control, scale and ease of use. The desire for a painless influencer strategy has led to influencer agencies such as Fullscreen, Whosay and Niche finding success within their soup-to-nuts influencer programs. As influencer strategies become more of a science (backed by data) brand marketers will be able to identify and rank influencer platforms based off of the ROI that their influencers are driving. Instead of picking an influencer with millions of followers and potentially no real value for a brand, marketers want to be able to pick and choose influencers across the spectrum that have predictable measurements of success backing them up.

Can We Customize Our Influencer Strategies?

More and more, brands are creating influencer cocktails for their marketing strategies, combining mega, macro and micro-influencer campaigns in order to amplify their reach and engagement. By using all three spheres of social media participation with creators, engagers, and amplifiers, these brand strategies are able to tap into the massive reach that celebrities can offer, while simultaneously leveraging influential customers to drive high levels of engagement and authenticity within their smaller follower bases. By combining various influencer strategies into a personalized, unified campaign for a brand, marketers will be able to iterate and respond to audience feedback, seeing which content is performing the best and adjusting accordingly.

What is the Expectation Economy?

One of the general themes of the conference was the desire to integrate consumers into brand content, in a way that rings authentic. One such panel entitled “From Ads to Experiences” led by Jill Cress (MasterCard) emphasized the power that consumers now wield over brands; the result of this “Expectation economy” is that brands have to create content for consumers above all, and to create stories that foster emotional connections rather than push a product. As brands are increasingly challenged by an ad-resistant climate across social channels, it’s likely that UGC will become a complementary strategy, providing unparalleled authenticity and intimacy to branded content.

How Are We Changing Our Metrics to Determine Success?

Up until this year, most influencer marketing strategies have used “soft” metrics-such as views and likes- as a determinant of success. However, most influencer programs are now monitoring a combination of engagement metrics, traditional digital media metrics and video metrics to determine social media success.  

What was once considered the “Wild West” of influencer marketing is now being honed by marketers into a sharper, more accurate strategy of program measurement and accountability, with companies like Nielsen providing industry-wide data to fill in knowledge gaps. Several companies emphasized this shift in metric measurement: one rep from Niche noted, “Years ago it was simple social engagements, likes and shares…Now we are measuring sales lift and awareness through partnerships with Nielsen and Datalogix.”

What’s Next for the Influencer Space?

Influencer marketing is valuable in the current marketing climate because it provides an opportunity to connect with consumers in a way that branded advertisements do not; it follows, then, that an emphasis on mobile video and social capital is the frontier by which influencers will be able to connect with consumers, since this is how consumers are currently connecting with one another.

As social media networks update their news feed algorithms to emphasize video sharing and viewing, influencer strategies will have to incorporate videos in order to stay relevant. Furthermore, the notion of social capital is becoming increasingly paramount as brands attempt to tap into their micro-influencers to drive desired ROI. In the coming years, there will be a shift within influencer platforms as they attempt to address and solve the question of social capital: how to determine the social capital of a brand’s customers, and subsequently tap into the customers with the most social capital.

Want to figure out how to make your very own influencer cocktail? Take the first step, and find out who your 100 most influential customers are on Facebook.

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