(Originally posted in Austin 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.
“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.”
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Host: Kyle Leach, Mattr
Guest: Aimee Slade, luxury travel blogger/ influencer for Type A Trips
Up Your Game to Increase Your Influence
In Episode 1 of our ‘And It Is Amazing’ podcast, Aimee Slade knows from personal experience what it takes to build influence. Her discussion provides several relevant tips for anyone who wants to follow their passions and become a full-time social influencer, including the importance of communicating to your audience in an authentic way to increase engagement with your posts.
“If you’re just trying to get free things out of being an influencer, you’re in it for the wrong reason, and it’s going to be exhausting.”
In this episode, Aimee shares:
- How she got started as an influencer 3 years ago
- What tools or platforms she uses as an influencer
- Which goals she has placed on herself in regards to her social posts
- The science behind how she decides what to share with her audience
- What she sees in common with her most engaged posts and how she encourages that engagement percentage to continually grow
Running time 12:15
Be sure to subscribe to us and review us on iTunes!
Here at Mattr, 2016 has already been an exciting year! Some of our most anticipated Influencer Marketing features have been added in January, like the ability to activate influencers,with more coming the next couple of months! Here’s a breakdown of what you will now see in the app.
Activate Influencers for a Campaign
Users now have the ability to create an influencer campaign through Virtual Agent. Search through our pool of Featured Influencers, select and monitor influencers based on your unique campaign goals, and then activate those influencers, instantly, for campaigns. Set campaign details, like specific hashtags to be used by influencers and your campaign budget.
Track Campaign Engagement
View campaign stats for each influencer once the campaign goes live, including number of impressions and engagement (shares, likes, etc). Track how much you are spending on your campaign and how many days the campaign has been active. Exhaust your campaign once your budget has been met- or if the campaign goes viral, increase your budget!
Stay tuned for more feature updates, coming soon!
Is Your Brand Really Getting Greener?
Monitoring the effects of a campaign on your brand has never been very easy, particularly if it’s a specialized campaign, like trying to increase your brand’s reputation for environmental friendliness.
To address this need, we’ve added two exciting features to the Overview section of an influencer report. The ‘Time Machine’ allows you to go back to the baseline of when a report was created or any range of days in-between.
Now you can see the percent of environmentally-friendly people responding to your messaging as a simple ‘Before/After’ metric, or monitor the changes in real-time as you launch new content. Use Time Machine to track the report metrics most important to your campaign, everything from influencer interests to audience personas.
Further, we all want to see social metrics tied to our campaigns. Are specific brand handles gaining or losing followers? Are our engagement numbers increasing or decreasing? Each of these metrics is now available to you in near real-time, as well as time ranges from creation to current.
Want to see for yourself? Check it out now; it’s live on your reports! Select any of your current reports, including your Favorites, and go to the Overview screen. See the video links below for a more in depth description on how the new features work.
We hope you find great value in these two features and continue to send excellent feature requests and feedback our way!
Facebook’s recent newsfeed algorithm changes might feel like yet another twist of the ear for brands. The changes mean that brands’ purely promotional updates won’t be seen by as many consumers. Although Facebook is doing this to improve the consumer experience, it’s actually a good thing for brands. Facebook is taxing these “brand cigarettes” out of your reach, saving your brand’s vital organs from a slow and painful death. All this while making the marketing world a nicer place to live.
The rationale for metering these posts is a nanny state done right, in my opinion, and would have been welcome early in my career.
I had this crazy idea: include voice minutes for free in a bundled plan. My boss, a slight, quietly competent guy about my age, asked me to develop the market and product requirements with help from people throughout our $2 billion telecom.
It was a complete bust. You see, this was 1996 and the market hadn’t heard of bundled products. My boss offered me some solace:
“It’s not a bad idea. It’s just that no one is ready for it.”
There’s a clinical reason why you hate such posts at some times, while at other times you’ll happily click.
Mini Case Study
Let’s see how this story fits Facebook’s latest change by analyzing a recent cancerous post. This advert disguised as a status update from Gilt was in my newsfeed a few days ago. If you’re the project lead who coordinated this post with the relevant departments would you be happy with one share? I hope not.
It’s nice looking content and is probably a compelling offer, like my free voice minutes idea. It just didn’t pop. Because I just wasn’t ready for it.
So what would have made me click? There is a formula which Facebook is now forcing you to adhere to that can significantly improve your engagement and conversion rates. Read on.
Mind the Buying Decision Formula
Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella talk about the consumer buying cycle in their best-selling how-to for influencer marketing, Influence Marketing.
The context is influencer marketing but the concept for all marketing is the same in abstract: 1) the audience needs to know you exist; 2) they need to react to your message and ask questions; and, 3) only then do you give them the call to action.
In traditional marketing you might hear these three steps as:
- Consideration, i.e., “the Story”
Armed with this context, think about your brand and its content marketing. If your posts commonly draw an unsatisfying point-zero-something percent engagement, ask yourself the following set of questions:
1. Does your target audience know you exist? If so, do they really know what you offer and why they should pay attention to you? In the Gilt example, I just know that they appear to have swanky men’s clothes and gear. Not much else.
2. Do they have enough information about the benefits of your product and how your competitors compare? I have only a vague knowledge of Ghurka bags but no idea if they last longer, feel better, or how their status level compares with others. With a name like Ghurka there’s probably an interesting story to be told that I’m not hearing, like they’re made from leather that Nepalese Gurkhas used as a strop to hone their battle blades razor sharp. Last, I have no idea why I should buy from Gilt instead of Amazon or my local men’s shop.
3. Does your content have a trigger?
A trigger would be something like Thanksgiving, Throwback Thursday, Happy Hour, Humpday, etc. To quote Jonah Berger, it’s the “jelly” that goes with “peanut butter”. I see no trigger here other than an attempt with the mystifying #ComeTogether hashtag.
Getting the Ratio Right
One brand making us look really bad on Facebook is Williams Sonoma. Their ratio of conversion posts to “story” posts is 9:50 (scrolling through their page today). Notably, their conversion posts are very topically pointed and suggestive, transitioning seamlessly from their lifestyle posts.
You hardly realize some of their calls to action are actually conversion posts. Bravo to Williams Sonoma. Gilt, in contrast, was at 100% conversion or calls to action. No stories, no background, no value, no see.
You may not want Facebook filtering off your promotional “updates”. And they may even prevent some of your non-promo content from being seen by your audience. But until your audience is ready for a call to action, they’re saving you from yourself.