Austin Firms Handle Influencer Campaigns For Companies

Austin Firms Handle Influencer Campaigns For Companies

(Originally posted in Austin American Statesman)

Sarah Ware runs Markerly, a marketing company specializing in growing social media consciousness and helping connect bloggers, vloggers, and instagrammers with fortune 500 companies. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN.

In 2012, Sarah Ware founded a company called Markerly that built tools to make it easier for bloggers to share their content on social media.

Ware said their widgets allowed Markerly to gather data on which bloggers were “truly influential” based on how many people were sharing their content. So Markerly had the idea of sharing this data with brands interested in working with these social media influencers.

Soon, they were making more money off their influence marketing business than the widgets. Markerly, which started in San Francisco but moved its headquarters to Austin, is now focused exclusively on helping brands find influencers and develop campaigns.

They employ 15 people and raised $800,000 two years ago, most of which came from a single angel investor, Ware said.

As the popularity of the influence marketing industry soars, it’s also created an opening for middle-man tech companies.

These firms develop technology that helps brands find influencers, manage and automate campaigns and create metrics for measuring influence.

In Austin, there are several influence marketing companies that launched within the last three years. And even traditional advertising agencies like GSD&M now have entire teams dedicated to influence marketing campaigns.

Some influence marketing companies act like talent agents, building a network of influencers who sign up with them and then connecting them with brands based on the type of campaign. They will also help out with the negotiations and with planning the campaign.

Other companies also have developed technology that helps pinpoint exactly how much influence these influencers have.

It’s not enough to just count how many followers on Instagram a fashion blogger has accrued, in part because it’s fairly easy to “buy” followers.

Daniel Carter, a doctoral student at the University of Texas’ School of Information, has studied influence marketing. He wrote a paper that examined computer science techniques that could be used to better measure influence on social media.

But he explained that social media companies keep a lot of their data to themselves because that’s how they sell ads, rendering it nearly impossible to use extensive data science to find the best influencers.

So influence marketing agencies are forced to look instead at only the publicly accessible data, such as followers, retweets and likes, comments and shares.

Markerly, for instance, has developed software that allows a brand to find their own influencers based on keyword searches. They also measure influencers based on “engagement” scores, which Ware defines as how many people liked, commented or shared content from a certain influencer, as well as total follower count. “They are able to find the perfect voice for them,” Ware said. Markerly’s technology also helps brands contact the influencers and monitor campaigns.

She said the company still handles influencer campaigns on behalf of companies, but they built this software so that companies can manage these campaigns in-house.

Austin-based influence marketing firm Mattr has also developed software and other techniques to help brands and influencers connect.

Austin-based influence marketing firm Mattr has also developed software and other techniques to help brands and influencers connect.

“We come in as the middle man and we have different reports and features through the app that monitor the campaign from beginning to end,” explained Carol Scott, a senior director of marketing for Mattr. Like Markerly, the agency also developed ways to measure engagement, which can help guide how much an influencer is paid.

“The more engagement they get on their post, the more a brand will pay,” Scott said. Like Markerly, the 5-year-old company initially focused on a different type of technology before shifting to influencer marketing.

They also offer marketers access to a “few thousand” influencers that have signed up to be part of Mattr’s network and are vetted by the company to determine their suitability for campaigns, Scott said.

Influencer marketing firms said the companies and brands they work with aren’t always concerned about generating sales.

Sometimes the goal is simply to generate awareness of their brand among millennials, or to get people talking about a certain product.

“Millennials have zero trust in anything outside their own social networks,” Scott said. “They only trust their friends, their family, a small group of people, and they all have social media accounts. This is how they are getting their news, their value, what to buy, what to wear, what to eat.”



Non-Paid Ways to Activate Holiday Micro Influencers

Non-Paid Ways to Activate Holiday Micro Influencers

The holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s produces more sales than at any other time throughout the year. Holiday gifts, Black Friday deals, and post Christmas discounts result in consumers dropping massive amounts of cash (or credit, in many cases!). This, of course, means that the holiday season is one of the most marketed times of year. It’s also the time of year to jump on micro influencers to help spread your brand’s holiday cheer.

During the holiday season, many brands, especially those who sell products through retail channels, are looking for creative ways to set themselves apart from competitors. Many are considering influencer campaigns using mid or micro influencers to attract new buyers. The largest brands, think Target or Samsung, set aside major marketing budgets for this time of year. They have plenty of money to run successful and paid influencer campaigns.

The largest brands, think Target or Samsung, set aside major marketing budgets, including for for mid and micro influencers, during the holidays.

Smaller regional brands, however, may not have the marketing budget to pay mid or micro influencers. That doesn’t mean they’re out of luck when it comes to running influencer campaigns, though. Sometimes micro-influencers who aren’t pay-for-play can still provide brands with that extra boost of holiday exposure!  

Micro influencers: motivated beyond the cash

One way to get micro influencers interested in promoting your brand is by offering a product/ service discount or freebie if they agree to promote your products, specials, and/or sales through their social channels. This might be a one-time, one social network promotion. Or it could be an ongoing campaign into the New Year via blog, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat – or all of the above! By offering a discount or freebie to your current brand ambassadors, all parties will benefit. Influencers will get that extra incentive for reaching out to their audience about your brand through the end of the year. And your brand will increase awareness through a trusted and authentic source.

Perhaps your brand doesn’t have anything tangible that they can offer at a discount during the holidays. What do you do if you’re a local magazine, publisher or blogger hoping to increase readership to end the year strong and please your advertisers? Why not work with a micro-level influencer with brand-aligned content (i.e. travel, beauty, sports, tech, etc.)? Perhaps offer them a Featured Guest section in the online version of your magazine if they simultaneously promote your publication to their target audience on social. Not only will your brand awareness increase, but your business will maintain positive relationships with those advertisers whom you promised a certain number of eyeballs.

Offer micro influencers a Featured Guest section in the online version if they simultaneously promote your publication to their target audience on social.

Another way to create an organic, non-paid micro influencer campaign, is to offer free tickets to highly anticipated holiday events. Perhaps your company is hosting a VIP invite-only New Year’s Eve party this year. You’ve managed to round up a handful of extra invites. Or a popular holiday singer is touring through major cities this season, and you can easily get backstage passes and tickets through a friend or partner. Get creative! Influencers are real people, just like you, and sometimes they just want to get out of the house, away from their screens, and have some fun! Bonus: they’re likely to continue promoting your brand while they are having the time of their lives at your event.    

Hire your micro influencers, and happy holidays for all!

The holidays are here, people are ready to spend and the spirit of giving is in the air! It’s time for you to start contemplating where or how you’re going to use marketing dollars for influencer marketing and other campaigns this season. Why not start by reaching out to a few like-minded micro-influencers that are already discussing your brand? These people would probably appreciate an offer for a discount or guest blog post on your website. Build, maintain, and enjoy these new relationships! Meanwhile, you and your influencers BOTH can have very happy holiday!