Want to hear a secret? I’m not a marketer by trade and that provides me an outside perspective to the industry. I like to take stock of a few observations that stand out each year. 2016 was an exciting year to watch the growing interest in this tactic that allows brand marketers and consumers to connect in more intimate relationships. Here are a few things that stood out to me this year:

Consumers (all of us) want to relate, and they are way ahead of brand marketers – Every day meeting rooms are filled with debates on what social channel is the next big thing or which tactic will rope in the most millennials. What’s not debatable is that consumers prefer influencer marketing to most traditional advertising content. According to a Google case study, 40% of millennial subscribers on YouTube state that their favorite YouTuber “understands them better than their friends.” and 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers say they relate to YouTubers more than to traditional celebrities. It’s about relatability and storytelling, and influencers have an audience because of their ability to connect with that audience.

Handing over the keys is harder than you think – I don’t have a teenager, but I imagine that passing them the keys to your car for the first time and sending them out the door is pretty daunting. And though it isn’t life threatening, passing creative control over to influencers can cause lots of anxiety to brand marketers who are responsible for a brand’s reputation. We remind ourselves how this type of marketing is still new for many marketers and that the training wheels are just beginning to come off. We do know that when brands do the hard work upfront– discovering the right influencers, providing them with adequate brand education, and communicating expectations– their level of trust and comfort is much higher. It’s easy to forget that influencers are actually brand marketers themselves and there is more common ground than you might expect.

Media buying won’t look the same going forward – The Insertion Order has long been the template for how to buy media, but the next wave of media buying is a tough fit for this simple ‘spots and dots’ model. The blending of content production and delivery by the same parties and channels makes this new breed of media buying a more dynamic effort. The traditional role of a media buyer is changing away from planning and purchase to having a hand in shaping the content and targeting its placement. Similarly, the metrics used to calculate the success of old-model media buying are a tough fit for influencer marketing. Not only will media buyers continue to change what they buy, they will also change how they measure the success of those buys.

Influencer marketing is just the tip of the iceberg – Influencer marketing isn’t new. What is new is the amount of screens, devices, experiences and places where consumers will engage with content. The options are only going to increase and marketers will want to be where the consumers are. It’s exciting to imagine how we can translate the emotional value of a brand through the eyes of incredible content creators. As experience, information and technology collide, we have the opportunity meet our customers in new and exciting ways.