What Five Years of Search Tells Us About Influencers

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Influencer marketing has been around for centuries, yet Instagram – the leading social media platform for influencer marketing – has been around for just shy of 10 years. So it’s no surprise that the latest trends in influencer-related search terms only took off in the last five years.

We’ll look at the performance of 12 influencer marketing keywords over the past five years across the United States, with the help of 16 search interest charts and maps provided by Google trends. We make some general observations, comparisons between industries, and note how word choice matters in assessing (and perhaps accessing) the demand for certain types of influencers.

General influencer marketing terms

As shown in the first chart below, the interest in the term “influencer” has steadily accelerated since 2014. Its rise hasn’t yet achieved the coveted hockey stick pattern, but the potential is there. You’ll see in the next chart that the longer search term, “influencer marketing,” gained slowly but consistently in the last five years, and then took off somewhat in the last few months.

Influencer chart

Influencer marketing chart

Influencer marketing is gaining in popularity on the marketing event circuit and with big brand names. This year, our friends at Social Media Week announced their annual theme would be STORIES: With Great Influence Comes Great Responsibility. This month, Estée Lauder’s CEO, Fabrizio Freda, publicly declared his executive buy-in and 75 percent of the esteemed brand’s digital marketing budget to influencer marketing. And just last week, Content Marketing World invited our very own CEO, Steve Oriola, to talk about Content Marketing with Influencer-Generated Content to a diverse audience of marketers interested in working with influencers.

With such a broad backdrop of adoption, you should expect to see an even greater rise for both terms – “influencer” and “influencer marketing – in the next five years.

Popular influencer verticals

Now let's dig a little deeper and compare the three front-running influencer verticals according to Google trends, using the terms “beauty influencers,” "fashion influencers,” and “travel influencers.” Looking back over the past five years, aside from the fact they’re trending up and to the right, what’s interesting is how they seem to jostle for position with the seasons and particular times of the year.

Beauty influencers, fashion influencers, and travel influencers in one chart

Further, if we look at the geographical intensity of each search term, it's clear that demand for beauty, fashion, and travel influencers is highest in America's urban centers. New York, the advertising capital of the world, is the strongest in each category. California, the most populous state and home to many of the world's most famous celebrities and stunning sunsets, shows the second-highest demand.

Beauty influencers map

Fashion influencers map

Travel influencers map

Of all three terms, "fashion influencers" is spread across the most states, adding Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Illinois going anti-clockwise to its list.

But there’s a stark difference in how general terms permeate the country's consciousness more fully compared to the three vertical-specific terms. Interest in "influencer" comes from every state, and interest in "influencer marketing" is spread across close to 80 percent of the country.

Influencer map

Influencer marketing map

Word choice matters

Having looked at examples of how general and vertical-specific terms have been trending over time and geographically, it’s worth considering the impact of word choice on search interest analysis. To start, let’s look at two of the next most popular influencer categories – food and family.

Looking at “food influencers” alone on Google Trends shows a decent rate of growth in the last five years, but when you overlay the more colloquial term “foodies,” there is a chasm between their search volumes.

Food influencers chart

Food influencers vs. foodies chart

Across the U.S., “foodies” is most often the only choice, perhaps because of its playful tone but certainly from its popular use on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Anything people have a connection with is also particularly hard to compete against, and it’s pretty safe to say “food influencers” is somewhat more limited to marketers, journalists, and PR professionals.

Food influencers vs. foodies map

For the next category, we again compare an industry term – “family influencers” – to a more emotive term – ”mommy bloggers.“ As one of the earliest online blogging communities that no doubt inspired tens of thousands of groups and countless million comment threads, "mommy bloggers" is a pretty well-known term. But if you look at the map of interest in “family influencers” and “mommy bloggers,” only New York, California, and Texas show any.

Family influencers vs. mommy bloggers map

And perhaps this has made an impact on their comparative performance over the past five years in the U.S., as well as the declining staying power of the term “mommy bloggers” – unlike “foodies,” it seems to be going out of fashion. One to watch, the phrase “family influencers” has caught up in 2019 but not convincingly surpassed the older term just yet.

Family influencers vs. mommy bloggers chart

So word choice clearly matters when researching specific influencer verticals, but what about more general terms like “celebrity influencers,” “digital influencers,” or “social media influencers?” If you look at the chart below, you’ll see the first two terms are pretty evenly searched, with each seemingly stepping up a gear in the last few years.

Celebrity influencers vs. digital influencers chart

At Julius, we divide our database into "celebrities" and "digital influencers" to allow clients to immediately filter between social media creators who built their reputation online and those who found fame through pursuits like acting, singing, or professional sports. But when we add the term “social media influencers” to the mix in Google Trends, both the chart and map below show how much it’s taken off with the public.

Celebrity influencers, digital influencers, and social media influencers in one chart

Finding the right influencers starts with looking in the right places with the right tools. With the Julius influencer marketing platform, marketers can quickly filter by gender and age, topic interests, brand affinities, audience demographics, and more. It offers advanced search capabilities that provide a highly nuanced view of a diverse set of influencers.

September 11, 2019
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