Influencer marketing is booming. Poised to become a $5-10 billion industry in the next 5 years, influencer marketing is now a major consideration for the world’s biggest brands. With the rise of influencer marketing comes a rise in influencer marketing networks, aimed at amplifying influencer efforts and making influencer marketing campaigns more effective and easier to manage.
Rates, content creation, contracts, and promotional efforts change from campaign to campaign and influencer to influencer. No two campaigns are the same, and there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach for influencer marketing. That’s where influencer marketing networks come in. But what is an influencer marketing network and how does it affect various approaches to influencer marketing?
The term “influencer marketing network” is broad and an informal term used to describe the associations and relationships each influencer marketing entity has. Just as there are different kinds of influencers on different platforms, there are different types of influencer marketing networks. Multi-Channel Networks (MCNs), Instagram influencer networks, influencer marketing platform networks, and blogger networks are all different types of influencer marketing networks, but they all function differently and with varying degrees of success.
Some networks, like platform networks and Instagram influencer networks are alive and well in today’s influencer marketing landscape while others (most notably MCNs and blogger networks) have fallen out of favor. In some cases, these influencer marketing networks work in conjunction with agencies. In others, they exist externally. In others still, influencer marketing agencies are something of the evolution of early influencer marketing networks.
There are common threads connecting influencer marketing networks, though. Regardless of the type of platform on which they operate, the type of influencers they work with, or how they go about facilitating influencer marketing campaigns, they exist for many of the same reasons: To streamline the campaign process for brands and influencers and to leverage shared resources to maximize the results of influencer efforts.
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MCNs were all the rage in the early days of YouTube stars. Essentially a collection of popular channels intended to make advertising opportunities, rights management, monetization, and channel management easier, the MCN model has become less popular in recent years. After a series of contractual controversies surrounding popular MCN Machinima and recent news of heavy cutbacks at Disney-owned MCN Maker Studios, MCNs aren’t as desirable as they once were. Instead, influencer marketing agencies and platforms have risen to the challenge of simplifying the partnership process, making MCNs less necessary. More informal networks (which are essentially like clusters of channels that promote one another and work together)
Blogger networks have encountered a similar kind of obsolescence. Once the only avenue for creating and sharing content online, blogs now occupy a different space in the digital content landscape (especially with the rise of social media platforms). Blogs are important and a key driver for traffic and influence, but in some cases, they exist alongside an influencer’s social media presence. Though blogger networks like BlogHer, Blog Meets Brand, and Blogger Society still exist, they’re much less common, in less demand, and pervasive than other types of influencer marketing networks.
In today’s social media marketplace, Instagram influencer networks and influencer marketing networks on platforms and within agencies are much more common and impactful. Instagram is one of the biggest platforms for influencer marketing, and though it may not have the massive user base that Facebook enjoys, its Instagram’s influencer market is large and thriving. Instagrammers are often tastemakers, making them a natural fit for influencer marketing campaigns. As such, a number of influencer networks have sprung up around Instagrammers. Some influencer networks, like Kitten Agency, have a talent roster of influencers and work with clients to match influencers to campaign goals.
Others exist on influencer marketing platforms like InstaBrand, Popular Pays, TapInfluence and FameBit. These platforms are self-service and were created in the interest of giving brands and influencers a space to connect and to create, manage, automate, and pay for influencer campaigns.
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Though every influencer marketing platform has its own toolset and features, most function in roughly the same way. For the most part, the platform exists to help brands find influencers (who have opted into the platform network) and negotiate contracts and campaigns through the platform. In the context of platforms like these, an influencer marketing network is the network of influencers who have created profiles or opted in — essentially a network of influencers who are discoverable on the platform.
Influencer marketing agencies have similar networks of influencers, too, but they don’t exist on platforms in the same way. Rather than a collected database of searchable influencers, an influencer marketing network in the context of agency is the group of influencers that an agency works with. Where an influencer marketing platform’s network is all about making brands and influencers discoverable to one another, an influencer marketing agency is primarily focused on connecting brands and influencers by finding the best match for every campaign.
An “influencer marketing network” isn’t a term that can be applied widely across the influencer marketing industry. It means different things in different contexts. MCNs, blogger networks, Instagram influencer networks, influencer marketing platforms, and influencer marketing agencies are all wildly different, and influencer marketing networks function differently within them. But at its core, an influencer marketing network exists to help influencers and brands get the most out of an influencer marketing campaign by fostering beneficial partnerships, leveraging available resources, and amplifying influencer efforts.