What influencer agencies are watching in 2024: paid media, virtual influencers and commerce

This article is part of a series exploring trends in marketing, media and media buying for 2024. More from the series →

Influencer marketing and social media are poised for more growth in 2024 as trends from social commerce to paid media continue to accelerate.

Social and influencer agencies anticipate the emergence of more niche social platforms, artificial intelligence experimentation and paid media investments to continue increasing in the new year. It makes sense given the developing industry: The global creator economy is projected to have grown to $127 billion in 2023 and is forecasted to reach $528 billion by 2030, according to Coherent Market Insights.

Here is a look at the biggest trends agencies in that space are expecting in 2024.

Increasing paid media

With more advertising interest in using influencers and content creators, agencies are seeing growing investments in paid media opportunities. Desiree Marchetti Russell, director of the influencer marketing program at Trade School (spun out of agency 22Squared), noted more client interest in television and commercials using influencers, as well as a trend of merging brands’ affiliate and influencer programs.

“[We are] allowing our contracts with influencers to include paid media usage rights and also to tap into specific content types that we want to run,” Russell said. “They’re doing everything from delivering those with exact specs, voice overlays and really being able to kind of fine-tune the way that paid media is evolving into influencer-led production as well.”

There will be continued demand for user-generated content, added Daniel Collins, COO at social agency Pepper. The agency has seen a 23% reduction in cost per acquisition with user-generated content, and its research showed many brands plan to increase UGC in the next year, Collins noted.

“It’s unsurprising that advertisers are including influencer-generated content more and more in their paid media mix,” Collins said.

Commerce potential

More shopping and advertising are shifting some spend toward social platforms, and these trends will continue playing out next year. Permele Doyle, U.S. president and co-founder of influence agency Billion Dollar Boy, predicts that social commerce will grow as brands keep testing commerce features like TikTok Shop and other “smaller social commerce platforms” using influencer marketing.

However, feelings are divided on the success of TikTok Shop and storefronts on the other major platforms. Urvashi Ajmera, senior strategist at digital agency Barbarian, believes TikTok Shop will transform user feeds and overall content experience. “More and more organic content will have the Shop feature, and you’d be scrolling through an infinite feed of shop and sponsored content,” Ajmera said.

Others feel that these shopping features will fall short in the U.S. market. “I believe [TikTok’s] shoppable efforts will continue to be met with indifference and skepticism from U.S. audiences,” said Erik Hamilton, vp of search and social at Good Apple. “Revenue growth will need to come from leveraging their unique creator community as more marketers become familiar with and open to UGC.”

Micro and virtual influencers

In 2023, more brands and influencers experimented with AI-generated content and new content and campaigns, including leveraging AI or virtual influencers and microinfluencers. Trade School’s Russell also pointed to brands being curious about other testing, like buying an influencer or celebrity’s likeness for campaigns.

“We’ve seen a few [virtual influencers] work with some brands, and we’ve also seen Meta… doing an experiment with Kendall Jenner becoming an AI bot that you can talk to,” Russell said. “Those things are definitely happening in our space.”

Olivia McNaughten, director of product marketing at creator platform GRIN, also mentioned growing interest in using microinfluencers as platforms continue offering incentives for UGC. Microinfluencers also offer a more cost-effective way for brands to reach sometimes niche communities — since not every influencer needs to have millions of followers to generate sway.

“Instagram’s professional dashboard tools now display achievements that can be earned by posting — essentially gamifying creator growth,” McNaughten said.

Social media competition

Social media competition will remain fierce in 2024, especially as major events (including the U.S. presidential election) approach and new challenger apps surface. Stevie Archer, chief creative officer of SS+K, predicts that TikTok will keep dominating as it gains video and TV viewers.

“It is already the fastest-growing platform in terms of brand priorities,” Archer said.

On the Meta side, Good Apple’s Hamilton believes the social giant’s revenue will “continue to grow,” while Threads introduces its ad units to advertisers — “regardless of TikTok’s efforts to steal share.”

As the big platforms battle it out for ad dollars and users, Irving Shark, head of Billion Dollar Boy’s Companion platform, expects to see more platforms try to diversify their revenue beyond advertising — from “social commerce and influencer gifting to paying for ad-free scrolling.”

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