Influencer Marketing: From 2004 to 2017

Influencer Marketing is nothing new really, but some things have changed since the first hype in 2004.

“Influencer Marketing” term on Google Trends

Influencer Marketing in 2004

If you look at the Google Trends graph above you see that Influencer Marketing was already a hot topic in 2004, but the web was much more fragmented back in these days. This infographic from 2014 made by The Connectivist shows how (sadly, The Connectivist site does not longer exist):

Let’s take a quick read of the Wikipedia definition of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing (also influence marketing) is a form of marketing in which focus is placed on specific key individuals (or types of individual) rather than the target market as a whole. It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential buyers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers.

Findings these “key individuals” was very hard in 2004, it meant doing in depth research to find Influencers, the web was fragmented, it was a pre-smartphone era and each country had its own dominant blog platforms, forum sites (aka social networks) and offline events where influencers gathered. A marketer had to manually research influencers in each market in a different way. Reach of the influencers was low or hard to measure, and the tools and platforms used for content publishing were different in each market.

Technorati was a thing back then – a blog search engine!

Influencer Marketing in 2017

From 2004 to 2017 the web changed heavily: Today we have a few big (closed proprietary) platforms to publish content on, and most of content consumption and lots of content creation happens on a smartphone. Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit, LinkedIn, Quora, Pinterest and a few others are the big platforms (or gatekeepers). This applies for most regions worldwide, but there are other big players, for example in China.

Instead of browsing from site to site, we consume streams of content in a few different apps.

The web in 2014 in North America, according to The Connectivist. 35 different websites generate half of traffic.

So when researching for influencers you can focus on a few big platforms, compared to hundreds of sites or individual blogs 10 years ago.

In 2017 you can rely on services and tools using APIs to extract the data from the big platforms allowing you to do the research in a central place. Hireinfluence, LittleBird, Collabary, TapInfluence and many other services are available to help you with that.

Screenshot: on Angellist

B2B vs. B2C

While (digital) influencer marketing works both for a b2b and a b2c audience, there are differences in how much it can be automated. A big b2c influencer is potentially marketed by an agency and easier to approach via a central site. You can research b2b influencers on LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora, Reddit and other platforms, but working with them requires a strategy tailored to the needs of your company and cant be automated to the same level as with a B2C influencer.

Slide: user generated content triggers gets more engagement – Internet Trend Report 2017

Reasons for the ongoing hype:

  • The reach of individual content creators exploded
  • As a marketer, you can focus your research on influencers on a few big platforms
  • Content quality delivered by influencers improved a lot
  • Reach with classic ads is down, ad blocker usage is growing
  • There are not many products left you can’t shop online!
  • You can rely on agencies and tools to quickly research for influencers in your market
  • Small companies and Startups can use the same tools and services to reach out to influencers as corporations


Discovering influencers has gotten way easier due to a less fragmented web, which allows you to focus your time on working on the creative part of the campaign. The reach you get will trump your classic ad campaign and the content influencers create can be of hiqh quality. Monitoring and measuring the success also got easier, as a few big platforms and tools are used.

What did not change is how a relationship to an influencer is built: it needs a personal approach, influencers want to talk to people, not brands.

How to do influencer marketing, in one tweet:

The best content, tips, and tools for curious creators. Twice a month.