Five Features You Should Look for In an Influencer Marketing Platform to Better Target Your Campaigns
As you may or may not know, I am the head of content marketing at The Shelf, an influencer marketing platform with an agency arm attached. We’ve run campaigns for some pretty big brands – Pepsi, eos, Famous Footwear, Donald J Pliner, Graeter’s Ice Cream (AMAZING ice cream)… We also put out quite a bit of content on influencer marketing strategy – how to run campaigns that actually work.
When we talk with new clients, they often share with us the many ways their previous agencies and influencer platforms kicked butt… along with the ways they didn’t.
We’ve arrived at one main conclusion: For all the numbers, science, and wins on record, influencer marketing is still a technique that many brands and marketers still need demystified for them.
How do you choose the right influencers? How do you get them to do what needs to be done? How much [more] time do you have to invest in this? How much is your marketing team supposed to do versus what you’re paying the influencer to do?
What exactly ARE you paying an influencer to do? Do you really need to use an influencer platform like The Shelf to do it?
I would venture a bet that most brands don’t understand this space well enough to be able to confidently answer questions like those. So, it’s that much harder for them to choose influencer platforms, let alone influencers.
We create tons of content to help demystify things like…
…. blogger outreach (wrote about that in this post here)
…. building a campaign (here)
…. uncovering vanity metrics (here)
…. measuring the performance of your campaign (good one here)
…. leveraging social proof to help your brand get better overall results (here).
In this post, I want to focus more on how brands can use influencer marketing platforms to deploy an array of different strategies because – let’s just face it – the technology available on The Shelf and other influencer marketing platforms makes it way faster, and much simpler to effectively utilize influencer marketing.
Handling Influencer Marketing In-House
You may be wondering if influencer marketing is something you can handle in-house. And the answer is yes… if you have the right technology to effectively vet influencers, launch campaigns, and measure their performance. Time and again, those are the top pain points brands identify as their biggest challenges with influencer marketing.
If you don’t have access to technology that can help you sort through and analyze the data – and you plan to do something else with the rest of your life besides click-and-view Instagram profiles looking for keywords – you’re going to want to use an influencer marketing platform like The Shelf to maximize your outcomes so you don’t waste time and money doing busy work and hoping for the best.
Be honest: Do you really want to conduct branded hashtag searches across Instagram’s one billion user accounts using just the search function on Instagram?
The right influencer marketing platform with the right influencer marketer at the helm of your campaign can help you yield amazing results, and reach those all-important business goals (yet another top pain point for brands).
The Influencer Platform Features That Build Successful Influencer Campaigns
Okay… so, most influencer platforms are very similar. They’re a lot like cars in that respect. The differences between influencer platforms aren’t the big things like search engines and filters. No, the differences are actually in the nuances. Here are five basic features most influencer platforms have, along with the back-end enhancements that can make the difference in your campaign.
#1 INFLUENCER DATABASE
Every platform comes with a database of social media users and influencers that brands and agencies can tap for influencer marketing campaigns. The size and depth of the database makes a difference, however. Here’s why the database is important:
I recently had an acquaintance of mine email me and ask me to take a look at a list of influencers an agency had recommended to deploy his influencer marketing campaign. He was launching an app targeting time-pressed, working Millennial women in New York’s five boroughs who valued their appearance and who had disposable income. He really didn’t know how to suss-out influencers for himself (nor did he have the time), so he hired an influencer marketing agency.
The agency recommended five influencers – none of them members of his target demographic. Three of the five were in high school. One was a reality TV actress, and the other was a rising actress who had been in a handful of commercials. He got pictures of the girls, a one-line bio, and a link to their Instagram accounts.
No mention of fraud detection.
No explanation as to how the girls were selected (they really were girls, I’m not being politically incorrect here).
Just pictures of pretty faces.
I didn’t really need audience demographics, though. I know a 30 year-old Millennial woman who’s paying off student loans, maintaining a social life, enjoying date night with her partner and possibly learning to see life through the eyes of a toddler, all while climbing the corporate ladder isn’t looking for makeup tips from high school sophomore. She’s just not.
Turns out, this particular influencer marketing agency was more of a talent agency that pulled from its client roster to get them “gigs” as brand ambassadors. My acquaintance – the guy I know – wasn’t provided audience demographics because the agency didn’t have them. Who knows if it even knew he would need them to run an effective influencer marketing campaign?
However long the agency’s client roster was, it wasn’t long enough to provide him with a list of proven, age-appropriate influencers for his campaign. Nor did the agency’s team understand the influencer marketing space. That part was obvious.
Of course, I told him to run, and run fast. He was surely about to waste his time and money.
Well, legit influencer platforms like The Shelf can access the profiles of millions of influencers. We don’t have influencer client rosters to whom we’ve promised contracts. That means we can find and recommend the influencers who would make the greatest impact on your campaign based on highly objective data, not talent contracts.
The Shelf dashboard can identify 98 million Instagram influencer profiles alone, and we can take that number from 98 million influencers to say, 30 or 40 influencers using all sorts of filters, in a matter of seconds… which brings me to my next important feature…
#2 INFLUENCER SEARCH AND DISCOVERY
The number and complexity of the filters you can use is typically another distinction between real influencer platforms.
For example, global brands need to be able to target audiences in different parts of the world with their products. So, it’s good for an influencer database to have access to influencers outside the Americas the UK, and Australia. We’re able to pull influencers from all over the world.
For instance, we have access to more than six thousand influencers just in Brazil alone, and we can add to or pull from that number depending on the goals of a client’s campaign.
#3 INFLUENCER AUDIENCE DEMOGRAPHICS
Most platforms can search for influencers using several different filters, including location. That’s crucial to the success of your campaign. But you also need to know the location of an influencer’s followers.
Case in point: A few weeks ago, as I researched African Influencers from 24 countries across the continent, I noticed something interesting about a popular Ghanaian influencer. She is a social activist and professional living in Ghana. I noticed her audience is heavily concentrated in North America. Curious. Is this a glitch?
I checked out another influencer, this one a fashion and lifestyle blogger in South Africa, to ensure audience distribution isn’t the same.
Just to be doubly sure, I compared those two audiences to another African influencer on my list of 17, a Nigerian influencer and podcaster. Her audience is scattered around the globe – Nigeria, North America, South Africa, Australia, South America… big difference in audience distribution between these two influencers.
To launch an effective social media marketing campaign, brands need to know not only who and where the influencer is, but also where the influencer’s followers are concentrated.
Our platform analyzes dozens of data points about infuencers, from engagement ratios to brand affinity to actual prices of the products they mention. If you want your campaign to work and to be effective, you have to be able to analyze the data other platforms and brands don’t.
The Shelf also has the ability to filter data through Boolean searches (searches with combined keywords and modifiers like AND and NOT) for deeper targeting.
#4 CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT TOOLS
Campaign management tools are pretty standard with the heavy hitters in this space. These allow you to monitor the progress of your influencer marketing campaign from start to finish. I would say the big differentiator here is the flexibility you may or may not have in making changes to your campaign once it starts.
So, we’re all about running always-on campaigns at The Shelf, because we understand that marketing is about testing. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it type of thing. Each brand is different, so each campaign is different.
That means if the campaign starts and we figure out some things are working better than others, we can go in and tweak a live campaign, down to changing the deliverables you’re getting from one influencer without affecting the deliverables you’re getting from the others.
It also means having this change automatically reflected in an updated digital contract. Each influencer contract is customizable for each campaign.
In addition to digital contracts, which can be accessed and modified from the dashboard, brands can also download every image created for their campaign to be used as they wish across their own social media accounts. No more screenshots (Yay!!).
#5 USER-FRIENDLY DASHBOARD
Influencer platforms also include dashboards that the influencer agency, the brand or client-agency, and the influencer can access. Here, utility is the differentiator.
You can have all the bells and whistles in the world on your dashboard. If the influencers and brands can’t navigate the darned thing, something’s going to get left undone.
And so it is with influencer marketing platforms. The Shelf is an influencer marketing platform with an agency attached. Our team uses and shapes the features that we roll out, and the rest of the input on which features we should have come directly from our clients (the brands). In fact, if a client asks for a feature that we believe would benefit other clients, we can often have the feature fully functional on our platform in a matter of days.
Our goal is always to make the platform the most useful tool it can be, and we continue to update The Shelf so the software stays in front of ever-changing API issues from Instagram and other social media platforms. We provide our clients with a robust set of features, more than any other SaaS in the space.
I am the head of content marketing at The Shelf, and we’re actually pretty great at creating cool, memorable, sticky campaigns for brands like eos, Famous Footwear, Pepsi, Hickory Farms, Graeter’s (whose ice cream is LEGIT)… We can help your brand build out a campaign that makes real money. Click here to set up your 30-minute strategy session.