It will begin to start maturing next year, and benchmarking is one of the reasons why.
I have had some very interesting discussions recently about how some people are trying to clean up this very promising channel to empower brands to know which people have fake followers and which are both the real deal and influential in their niche with the right target audience.
The latest was with Buzzoole, which has already teamed up with Nielsen to launch a "True Reach" calculator of how many people really were exposed to an influencer's message. This allows a brand to see how many eyeballs it was paying for rather than just relying on the large number of followers a bunch of influencers have in total.
In other words, it's not about the vanity metric that sits in the middle of an influencer's profile, but rather, the number of real-life exposures to the desired audience they actually delivered.
The point here is that a company can look at how many people it reached and then determine whether it represented good value for the money by comparing a campaign on another channel. Did x budget on influencers reach as many male rugby-loving millennials as y spend on display, and so on.
Where this becomes interesting is a plan to take this individual benchmarking to the next level with industry-wide benchmarking.
As with other channels, the plan is that Buzzoole data can be combined with the user's data as well as Nielsen's. This will allow influencer marketing campaigns to be benchmarked against industry averages for a particular product or service within a specified target audience.
At the moment, brands can tell how influencer spend stacks up against the rest of their budgets, but they can't compare it to other companies looking to reach a similar audience.
If 2018 was the year when the social media platforms deleted hundreds of millions of fake accounts and the tech guys produced the tools to tell the fakes from the real deal, then 2019 will be more about targeting and metrics.
I quipped last week that influencer marketing was growing up as it embraced the need to sponsor posts as well as rely on organic reach. It is a direction of travel underlined by Campaign reporting on the forming of an independent body, The Business of Influencers, to advise brands on best practice.
This notion of benchmarking shows a new direction through which a platform can provide the metrics and analysis to make influencer marketing as responsible for accounting and reporting on spend as any other digital channel.
That is the missing step that influencer marketing has to take before it can be considered a fully fledged channel CMOs rush to engage with rather than dip in their toe because everyone else is.