By Jared Atchison, co-founder of WPForms

Out of all of the different ways to generate revenue and build your brand, influencer marketing is quickly becoming one of the most profitable ways to advertise. If you're not familiar with influencer marketing, let's start there.

Most traditional marketing focuses on the audience. You'll run ad campaigns, send out newsletters and promotional emails and work on building your lead list. Influencer marketing is a little different. Influencers are people who are popular in certain niches. They generally have a wide audience, regularly post content and sprinkle in sponsored content from companies just like yours.

As we settle into the new year, it's time to start looking at trends around influencer marketing, see what the research says and make the connection between your business and these trends.

Influencer spending is on the rise.

There are some trends that only stick around for a year or two. But recent reports suggest that brands are continuing to spend more and more on influencer marketing.

A whopping 39 percent of businesses that took part in a case study by Linqia stated that they plan to increase their spending on influencers next year. On that note, 21 percent said that they are spending the same amount they spent the previous year, 35 percent said they are not sure and a meager 5 percent said that they plan on decreasing spending.

So if you're questioning whether or not influencer marketing is here to stay, consider these numbers and that the usage of platforms such as YouTube continues to grow.

Less is more.

Most people think that if they have more influencers, they stand a better chance of making more money. But in my experience, this is not the case. It's better to invest in fewer niche influencers with proven ROI.

The best way to cement your top influencers for your business is simple. Do a form of A/B testing with influencers in your niche. Pick a time frame, say six months, and hire double the people you plan on keeping. Monitor the important stats such as the amount of traffic you get from each influencer. At the end of the cycle, keep the top performers.

The right platform makes a difference.

Another trend worth observing is the platforms that influencers are working on in 2019. The Influencer Marketing Forecast Report 2018 from Influicity found that influencer marketing on the right platform is more important than ever before. For example, video-focused platforms, such as YouTube, are increasingly growing in relevance. Around the world, video consumption is estimated to hit a staggering 80 percent by 2020.

The study also revealed that more business leads are using video marketing because it is simply more effective. As a result, it's predicted that influencer marketing is going to be more than just a one-off for business owners who want to promote their brands or products. Many companies are hiring influencers to stay "always on" and continuously promote their product and/or brand.

Simply put, you need to look for influencers where your audience resides. It's a safe bet that your audience is going to be a part of the 80 percent of people who consume video advertising. Combine this factor with an "always-on" mentality and it's no wonder that more businesses are setting aside additional money for influencer marketing.

Stricter guidelines are in place.

When influencer marketing first started, it was considered the Wild West, much like most of the internet. However, as time goes on, guidelines are starting to tighten up, so if you're thinking about hiring influencers, you need to make sure you know the rules of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

One of the most important rules enforced by the FTC is that influencers disclose when they get free swag or if they are promoting a business for personal profit. According to eMarketer's Influencer Marketing 2018 report, 93 percent of influencers mark their content as "sponsored" when the occasion arises, but that's not the big takeaway here.

Out of everyone surveyed, 41 percent said they only mark their videos as sponsored content if they are asked to do so by the business owner. It's vital that you remind your influencers to mark their content as sponsored to avoid infringing on FTC standards. You don't want to end up in this position and put your business at risk.

Influencer marketing is here to stay. Make sure that you're following up on the latest trends to take full advantage of this strategy in 2019.

Jared Atchison is the co-founder of WPForms, a drag & drop form builder for WordPress that's being used on over 400,000 websites.

Published on: Feb 6, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.