There have been significant discussions around influencer marketing for social influence, in digital marketing and brand management circles. This is not surprising given the dawn of social network influencers as entrepreneurs and Forbes declaring “2017 as the year where influencer marketing will explode”.
Emergence of AI in Social Influence
At the same time, influencer marketing for social influence promises to allow brands to create authentic, high impact conversations with their customers in an era of fleeting eyeballs, ad-blockers and crowded screen real estate.
Data is what drives social influence today, and the next logical step is to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to power the next stage of this authentic business-to-consumer conversation.
In this context, it is important to understand the difference between a full-fledged influencer marketplace from a stand alone influencer marketing service offering that is driven by artificial intelligence.
The influencer marketplace facilitates transactions like campaigns and endorsements between marketers and influencers. It is oftentimes powered by a technological platform that lies between the influencer (supply) and marketer (demand), with the platform doing all the heavy-lifting between the two parties in an influencer marketing ‘transaction’.
What constitutes a vibrant influencer marketplace
The role that AI technologies can play in that and how it can enable a marketer or advertiser to engage with their customers through deep dialogues.
For the influencer marketplace (just like any other marketplace), there are 3 key pillars that are fundamental to success.
1. Reducing Friction
One of the key imperatives for an influencer marketplace, is the ability for both marketers and influencers to transact with the least amount of friction.
We now have the means for advanced discovery and matchmaking of the most relevant influencers to the personality of the brand. Whilst discovery engines powered by advanced semantic search or deep-learning based models could provide better matched influencers to the brand, this alone is not enough.
Influencer marketing sits somewhere in the middle of social and performance marketing - it has the ability to drive deep conversation and engagement that makes other mediums pale in comparison. Measuring and analysing such engagement, audience reach and brand impact in a seamless, clear manner to drive insights for a business is precisely what makes things easier for brands to tie their influencer marketing strategies holistically to their overall digital marketing strategy.
On the other side of the marketplace, in the social frenzy driven millennial-world of influencers, a similar principle applies. Influencers are not shy about opening their private lives to the world but are picky, restless, imaginative and passionate about things they care about. A platform that engages with influencers, would be an extension of their digital social circles without being intrusive or difficult to use. This again goes back to how design thinking principles could be applied to seamlessly integrate influencer campaign workflows into the young millennials’ professional life as an influencer.
2. Driving Momentum
A marketplace is as good as it’s buyers and sellers. In ‘The Tipping Point’, the author Malcolm Gladwell, talks about an interesting phenomenon that happened in the clubs and bars of Manhattan where young ‘influencers’ started buying Hush Puppies shoes, which had become a somewhat beaten brand. What this did was ignite momentum for demand, amongst a whole generation of young people, driving fashion designers to start featuring the shoes in their collections.
Momentum is that very force that drives up and holds together an influencer marketplace. It all begins with ‘anchor’ brands and marketers understanding the potential of influencer marketing in a crowded digital marketplace. These early adopters need a certain degree of guidance and curated influencer campaigns, which in turn helps ramp up a supply of relevant impactful influencers.
An effective marketplace development effort works towards increasing spend on influencers through key brands and at the same time acquiring, developing and grooming high quality influencers across categories.
Needless to say, this is difficult - achieving a significant, well-balanced momentum on both sides of the market is the key to driving great outcomes for both marketers as well as influencers.
3. Building Trust
Influencer marketing, in spite of its hype, is currently a concept where the rules of the land are still being laid out. In such a landscape, it is of absolute importance for a marketer to be able to operate with the confidence that its valuable brand positioning would not be compromised.
Challenges in Influencer Marketing for Social Influence
Whilst, brand safety has been an ever-trending topic in the digital advertising world, the influencer marketing world brings its own unique challenges:
● One key area of risk for any influencer marketing campaign is something that would be classified in the business world as operational risk. In a best case scenario, this is the risk of an influencer not following defined campaign scopes. In the worst case, there is the risk of posting inappropriate content or content in an inappropriate context
● Pricing risk is a key practical reality, where due to the lack of a benchmark pricing, both brands and influencers struggle to come to a consensus. This is further exacerbated by ad-hoc influencer marketing service providers who are out to make a quick dollar in an opaque framework
● Fraud risk is the 3rd key component of risk in this marketplace - this could be due to inflated engagement metric by followers who might be fake
Finally, trust is a two-way philosophy. In this context, the influencer needs to have the ability to trust demand partners and marketers who might operate on discretionary payment terms or non-transparent whitelists.
There are various ways to understand these deeply and a mature influencer marketplace deploys several technological levers like trust ratings, predictive pricing, fraud detection etc as well as business initiatives like robust contracting.
Influencer marketing as a tool and concept has come a long way in 2017. The next big evolutionary change is the maturing of this into large liquid marketplaces, supported by cutting-edge AI driven platforms and end-to-end consultative services to drive more personalized, impactful marketing.