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Influencer marketing in the UK 2024: Hang on to your hats, it’s fast and furious

The UK influencer marketing industry is a hotbed of both opportunity and challenge, as brands spend up big but continue to struggle with the complexity of data-driven campaigns in Europe’s most mature market.

Flush with cash, creators and a receptive audience, the UK’s influencer marketing industry is a hotbed of opportunity.

It is also a tale of two halves.

A market defined by mature use of data by brands and agencies to drive campaign ROI, hot new trends like TikTok Shop and SEO/influence campaigns, and a willingness by brands to leverage progressive and inclusive campaigns to reach untapped audiences.

On the flip-side, the sheer volume of creators and campaigns, and the speed at which the market has come to rely on data to drive results, has bred a high level of confusion and misunderstanding in the market.

From brands and agencies that continue to focus on vanity metrics, and a lack of understanding amongst nano and micro creators with regards to campaign objectives, payment structures and regulatory requirements, the influencer marketing industry in the UK is anything but an easy ride.

“Influencer marketing is here to stay. It’s only going to grow, but the challenge is that it is so big, so unregulated,” comments beauty tech brand CurrentBody Senior Partnerships Manager Andra Dorolti.

“Everyone wants to be an influencer so it’s quite difficult to find one who is authentic and has the right audience. It’s not as easy as it was five years ago. It’s a blessing in disguise. You have all these opportunities, millions of influencers you can work with, but you can easily waste a lot of money and time because you work with the wrong people.”

Key Takeways

  • In figures: ad spending on influencer marketing in the UK booms
  • Brand and campaign strategies: integrated, innovative and diverse
  • Metrics, strategies, and payments: confusion reigns
  • Regulation: has ‘name and shame’ increased transparency in influencer marketing?
  • TikTok continues its ascent, delivering young audiences and ROI  

In figures: Influencer marketing statistics UK

Despite having a similar population to France, ad spending on influencer marketing in the UK more than doubles that of its cousins across the Channel.  

According to Statista, ad spending on influencer marketing in the UK is expected to reach a whopping £930m (US$1.17bn) in 2024, rising by a total £434.6m (48.5%) to reach £1.3bn (US$1.63bn) in 2029.  

This compares to France and Germany, where ad spending on influencers in 2024 is forecast to hit €470m (US$506.3m), and €650m (US$700m), respectively.  

“Brands are realising that, with the right strategy, influencer marketing can be a cost effective way of getting results,” comments UK influencer marketing and influencer agency Summer Managing Director Mischa Joslin.

“Brands are cutting their marketing budgets overall, but they’re getting more savvy in how they spend it. In some ways, the inflationary issue is almost benefiting influencer marketing […because] what influencer marketing offers that other forms of marketing doesn’t, is a dedicated, tailored audience that’s going to give you more ROI for every pound spent.”

The UK market is also notable for the huge amount of smaller Instagram creators it has compared to similar-sized markets in Europe.

Influencer marketers in the UK have an impressive pool of 98,000 creators with +5K followers on Instagram to choose from — 33,000 more than in France, and 45,000 more than Germany — according to Kolsquare influencer marketing statistics UK from March 2024.

And although the burst of the post-Covid bubble saw the number of very small Instagram accounts decline 23% during the same period, the UK is home to a massive 633K Instagram accounts with +1K followers, more than double the amount in France or Germany.  

“A lot of young people want to be an influencer because they think it is easy, but the reality is that most of them don’t earn enough to live on. It’s a very small percentage that earns enough,” comments CurrentBody’s Dorolti.

Brand and campaign strategies: integrated, innovative and diverse

As the market grows, brands and agencies are pushing to disrupt convential influencer marketing strategies, drilling ever deeper into the data to achieve results and measurable ROI. For Summer’s Joslin, the shift in understanding of how to drive ROI with influencer marketing services has been a key driver of market growth.

“Agencies have focused a lot more on showing ROI and making brands understand the role it can play in helping to drive everything from awareness through to sales, rather than just being top of the funnel,” comments Joslin.

With the inflationary crisis forcing brands to drastically cut marketing budgets overall, there continues to be an uptick in spend on influencer marketing as brands recognise the cost-effectiveness of working with nano and micro creators to reach the right audience.

And at the higher end of the scale, brands are increasingly engaging in long-term influencer relationships and handing more control over campaigns to seasoned creators.

“We’re seeing more integrated campaigns, where the campaign starts with the influencer before moving out to other marketing disciplines,” comments Influencer Marketing Trade Body (IMTB) Director General Scott Guthrie.

“Three years ago, influencer marketing was on the periphery. Now, creators are not just creating the content, they’re helping shape the strategy.”

To this end, major UK brands have embraced diversity and inclusion in their influencer marketing strategies. While this was especially true during the pandemic years and #BlackLivesMatter movement, the inflationary context has forced some brands to move away from using diverse creators.

Disability-led influencer marketing agency The Purple Goat Co-founder and CEO Martyn Shibley says that as the UK market matures, more room is being created for content creators to lean in to their individuality and their community's preferences.

“[Brands] definitely [had] a one-shot mentality [towards diverse and inclusive campaigns] when we started four years ago and as an industry mentality. With the proof of how diversity makes genuine business sense in influencer marketing and beyond, we're seeing many more brands returning to work with The Purple Goat,” comments Sibley.

Metrics, strategies, payments: does influencer marketing work in the UK?

Despite the evident maturity of influencer marketing in the UK, there are still large swaths of the market that have yet to fully grasp the concept that success lies in understanding the data. Many brands continue to conduct influencer discovery manually, and to focus on vanity metrics like views and followers.

“There’s still big brands that don't quite get it. They’re only just shifting out of vanity metrics to look towards intent and impact metrics. Some big household names, it’s quite surprising where they’re at,” comments the IMTB’s Guthrie.

Kolsquare Account Executive UK Ore Akinniranye agrees. He says that although UK marketers at the operational level are often well-versed in running data-driven campaigns, many C-level managers remain unconvinced.

“There is still a gap in understanding and defining metrics at the C-level; a lack of understanding in how influencer marketing platforms like Kolsquare can deliver the full impact of the campaign through detailed creator and campaign data,” says Akinniranye.  

And although brands in the UK were quick to to bring influencer marketing services in-house with dedicated teams, inflationary pressures combined with market complexity are forcing many into a rethink.

“There was a misconception of how easy it is to do. [Brands] thought ‘we can hire someone with two years’ experience and they’ll replace an agency, but what we’re seeing now is a huge amount of redundancies and layoffs,” comments Joslin, who predicts rationalisation will hit agencies that have bolted-on influencer marketing services to try to capitalise on the market’s growth.

“There will be a saturation point where brands go back to influencer-specific agencies. There will also be a lot of agencies that go niche, or home in on a specific platform or one form of influencer marketing to capitalise on doing something really well, rather than being a jack of all trades,” comments Joslin.

The huge amount of nano and micro creators in the market, combined with the growing trend of performance and sales-based influencer campaigns, also feeds into widespread confusion about payment rates and fee structures. Joslin estimates that 25% of influencer campaigns in the UK now include a commission-based fee.  

“There’s no rules on payments, on how much something is worth,” comments CurrentBody’s Dorolti. “A lot of influencers don’t understand that companies will have different campaigns in mind. It’s very hard to explain to some influencers or agents that different campaigns will have different budgets depending on whether it’s awareness or performance focused.”

Regulation: has ‘name and shame’ delivered a more transparent market?

UK consumers may have a ferocious appetite for influencer content, but they are much less enamoured with the influencers themselves.

Just 28% of Gen Z, and 18% of Millennials in the UK trust influencer ads which in 2022, were the second largest category of advertising that consumers complained about to self-regulatory organisation the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).  

Although the UK government declined to legislate a dedicated law for influencer marketing that same year, in 2023 it passed the Online Safety Act 2023 that beefed up consumer protections from potentially harmful content on social media.

“The bedrock of any regulation is going to be evidence-based and the fact that the government has a sensation that things are worse in some quarters than the evidence would suggest […] isn’t necessarily born out by the data,” comments the IMTB’s Guthrie.

Meanwhile, the ASA last year published a best practice guide for influencers covering transparency and consumer protection, and has implemented a ‘name and shame’ policy of publishing a list of influencers who have been found to regularly flout the rules around advertising transparency.

To date, just 26 influencers have appeared on the ‘name and shame’ list, with 22 having been removed after regular monitoring proved they had changed their disclosure practices.

However, many industry players argue the current regulations are unclear on two key points: influencers who double as business-owners and post about their own products, and the requirement to tag any content as an ad even the content post is outside the scope of an agreed contract.

Meanwhile, despite the widespread use of #ad on influencer marketing content in the UK today, the sheer volume of content and campaigns means many consumers still don’t fully comprehend influencer campaigncintent are ads, says Dorolti.

Platforms: TikTok continues its ascent, but Instagram remains the go-to

That the UK has been an enthusiastic early adopter of influencer marketing on social media is reflected in the figures. Some 84% of UK Generation Z, and two thirds of Millennials, social media users follow influencers, with short form video the preferred content format.

“I started [as an influencer] when Instagram was really bigging up Reels because TikTok had become popular. I started to post Reels and one of them got nearly 1 million views. That's when I started to gain more followers,” comments UK creator Ella Kirby (@ellakirbyx) who has 199K followers on Instagram, and 129K followers on TikTok.  

That said, Kolsquare data shows that although the UK market is awash with Instagram creators, it has been slower to take off on TikTok. The UK has 46K fewer influencers with +5K followers, and 3.3K fewer influencers with +100K followers on TikTok than France, and only marginally more than in Germany.

This reflects the entrenched position of Instagram in an already mature market. Kirby, for example, says her main focus is to create Reels for Instagram which she then posts to TikTok.

Paradoxically, TikTok trends are more advanced in the UK than in neighbouring Europe. The market was an early testing ground for TikTok Shop, which has become a flashpoint for influence campaigns with sales objectives since its launch late last year.

“In terms of consumer behaviour, the ease of purchase [of TikTok Shop] without ever having to go to a website is something they absolutely love,” comments Summer’s Joslin.
“It works well for certain sectors and certain types of products, like beauty and cheaper fast fashion. Anything premium or luxury is very reluctant to be involved because of the format and the way it’s delivered. It’s just got that TV shopping feel.”

The excitement around TikTok is also resulting in the phenomenon of new, Generation Z creators on TikTok being able to drive better ROI than established, expert YouTube creators in big categories like skincare, comments CurrentBody’s Dorolti.

“That just shows how the market has changed, with a lot of the consumers being younger and shopping through TikTok. Now, most of the revenue that we see [through promo codes and tracking links] is through our own direct influencers on TikTok,” comments Dorolti, who’s brand works with an average 200 influencers per month.

As new platforms and technologies like AI disrupt the industry, the rapid pace of change that defines Influencer Marketing in the UK is only set to continue.  

To succeed and drive true ROI in this ultra-competitive industry, marketers must wholeheartedly embrace data analytics combined with authentic campaigns and relatable content. Anything less will be the equivalent of throwing marketing pounds into the wind.

About Kolsquare

Kolsquare is Europe’s leading Influencer Marketing platform, a data-driven solution that allows brands to scale their KOL Marketing strategies and implement authentic partnerships with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Kolsquare’s technology enables marketing professionals to easily identify the best Content Creators profiles by filtering their content and audience, and to build and manage their campaigns from A to Z, including measuring results and benchmarking performance against competitors. Kolsquare has built the largest community of influencer marketing experts in the world, and offers hundreds of customers (Coca-Cola, Netflix, Sony Music, Publicis, Sézane, Sephora, El Corte Inglés, Lacoste, …) the latest Big Data, AI and Machine Learning technologies to drive inspiring partnerships, tapping into an exhaustive network covering 100% of  KOLs with more than 5,000 followers in 180 countries on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As a Benefit Company, Kolsquare has been pioneering Responsible Influence by championing transparency, ethical practices, and meaningful collaborations to inspire change.

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