The Danger of Automating Social Influencer Marketing


Tyler Oakley- mentioned

Tyler Oakley- mentioned

Flood of new tech platforms promising brands access to influencers worries ad buyers

Companies like TapInfluence say they can help marketers connect with relevant social influencers. But some ad buyers worry that the rise of tech platforms to connect brands and influencers is negative for an ad tactic that is inherently handcrafted. PHOTO: TAPINFLUENC

Companies like TapInfluence say they can help marketers connect with relevant social influencers. But some ad buyers worry that the rise of tech platforms to connect brands and influencers is negative for an ad tactic that is inherently handcrafted. PHOTO: TAPINFLUENC

Marketers have come to realize the power of social media influencers, who can get an advertiser’s message in front of thousands of young followers. 

And now, so have a slew of entrepreneurs who are promising brands easy access to this world of influencers with a few clicks.

Over the past several months, a flurry of startups have emerged touting technology platforms designed to help advertisers connect with, and run ads, using social influencers on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube and other networks.

Some ad buyers, as well as executives at some of the big social platforms, are asking whether all these tech platforms are good for this still nascent sector of the ad industry.

Unlike social media-focused ad agencies, or even boutique firms that specialize in brokering deals between brands and small groups of influencers, these newer entrants are focused on software and data platforms geared for helping ad buyers find influencers who might be appropriate for a particular advertiser. Think of it as ad tech for social influencer deals.

But instead of helping a brand buy thousands of banners ads via a web-based interface, these companies theoretically provide marketers access to similar slick dashboards, where they can sift through thousands of digital creators and find the ones they want to pay to feature their brand messages in a Snapchat video, a tweet or an Instagram image.

Veteran social media marketers worry that a flood of companies bringing this sort of approach to an ad tactic that is inherently handcrafted is resulting in subpar ad executions, such as awkward brand mentions in social media posts or poor targeting. 

Major social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are watching these influencer tech intermediaries closely, concerned that a bad experience could result in a marketer abandoning their platform altogether, said people familiar with the matter.

“This is terrible for the industry,” said Sarah Hofstetter, chief executive of the ad agency 360i. “It runs the risk of being exploitative and ruining it.”

The list of influencer tech firms is long and growing, with names like Influential, ReadPulse, TapInfluence, Social Bluebook, Cirqle, NextBee and FindYourInfluence.com.

Their websites use phrases such as “enterprise technology” and contain big promises such as Cirqle’s claim to “provide brands with a proprietary technology platform to create, scale, and maintain better relationships with consumers by harnessing the reach and relevance of online influencers.” Cirqle says it has access to more than 5,700 influencers reaching over 180 million people each month.

Steven Lammertink, the company’s founder and CEO, says platforms like his actually make things much easier for brands, which often employ multiple ad agencies for a single social influencer effort.

Companies like Cirqle offer brands digital dashboards where they can evaluate various social influencers.PHOTO: CIRQLE

Companies like Cirqle offer brands digital dashboards where they can evaluate various social influencers.PHOTO: CIRQLE

“This often introduces a lack of transparency and friction in communication of ideas and results,” Mr. Lammertink said. Instead, with Cirqle’s platform, brands can get social ad campaigns—starting with, for example, basic brand mentions in an influencer’s content—up and running in 20 minutes, he said. 

Ted Murphy, CEO of the social influencer firm IZEA, estimates that there are over 200 companies in this social influencer tech platform sector. His company has been exploring potential acquisitions, but has found few firms with any real ability to execute on what they promise.

“I liken it to the early days of ad networks,” he said. “Few of these startups have anything real under the hood. A lot of these places are just scraping data [and listing all the same influencers] and haven’t actually signed anybody up.”

That’s a common complaint. Many of these startups seem to employ the same databases of influencers without having any established business relationship with the talent. For example, the YouTube star Tyler Oakley is featured on the social influencer platform company NeoReach’s website. Yet according to his manager, Lisa Filipelli, vice president of talent at Big Frame, Mr. Oakley doesn’t actually work with NeoReach.

This happens often, she said. “It’s definitely confusing for brands.”

Misha Talavera, co-founder at NeoReach, said it isn’t his company’s role to provide direct access to influencers. “NeoReach doesn’t act as a middleman but as a software provider for brands and agencies to do their own outreach,” he said.

While some of these intermediaries have proven to be valuable partners, the crowded marketplace makes it hard to figure out who is worth working with and who is “simply finding a new way to charge you,” said Joanna Kennedy, supervisor of digital content strategy at the ad agency RPA.

This part of the ad ecosystem is “really a hot mess right now,” Ms. Kennedy said.

[By: Mike Shields ] [ The Wall Street Journal ] [ Read More ]

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