A Quick History of Influencer Marketing Discovery
The first step in a successful brand advocacy campaign is finding perfect talent: resonant to your brand, with an authentic following and a creative output that matches your product. But with billions of active social media accounts to consider, finding the perfect social media creator on the social platforms themselves is a daunting and inefficient task.
Savvy influencer marketers have used "discovery" tools to quickly find and filter creators that perfectly match their target audience. Early discovery existed solely on Twitter.
At first, Twitter itself didn’t have a search functionality until it bought one in 2008 from Summize. As early as 2010, free tools like Followerwonk (later acquired by Moz) made uncovering creators and searching via filters -- like audience composition or geography -- easier. These early tools were the first to drill in what was an untapped influencer marketing oil field.
Enter the influencer platform boom. Since the advent of Instagram and YouTube creator culture and the subsequent legitimization of the influencer marketing industry, opportunistic companies have been trying to crack the creator discovery code. Dozens of softwares -- many of them CreatorIQ's competitors -- have offered the ability to surface talent through complex pivots.
In March of 2018, Facebook announced that it would roll out a creator discovery tool to allow brands to find influencer matches natively on Facebook -- the first attempt of its kind by one of the big social platforms.
While Facebook will likely invalidate many smaller players in the field by virtue of its first-party data, larger platforms will continue to serve bleeding-edge brands, agencies, and media companies with rich data sets and sophisticated recommendations.
Because Facebook can only look to Facebook to build useful profiles around creators, they will be limited in the information they can surface and in the influencers they can display. Platforms like CreatorIQ utilize data from all large social networks.
Additionally, most professional brand advocacy marketers need one connected place for discovery, campaign management, and reporting. While these things remain true, there will remain a booming market for independent influencer marketing platforms.
How Influencer Marketers Have Been Finding Creators
To date, there have been three common approaches to creator discovery:
Search by bio: Influencer platforms search in the creator-defined “description” or bio. Usually limited because bios have character restrictions and are self-promotional
Search by vanity metrics: Influencer platforms look at follower growth percentages, total follower counts, engagement rates, and total interactions (collectively called “vanity metrics” in the industry). This kind of search does not necessarily account for the integrity of the creator’s audience or the creative match of his or her content. Inasmuch, these metrics should be treated as an indication of health but not a primary decider in discovering brand advocates.
Data enrichment filters: Platforms have partnered with data enrichment services to add more nuanced demographic and psychographic pivots to their creator profiles. While sexy, this data can also be incorrect since it is based on assumptions instead of first-party data from the creators themselves.
What does the industry get wrong?
Places too much weight on audience interest percentages: Though it is rather disingenuous to place a real person’s social profile into a single interest category, most platforms do so for followers’ social profiles. This consolidation of interests is done in an effort to simplify a creator’s audience composition into a collection of searchable segments.
If these platforms didn’t do this, almost every creator’s audience would overindex in almost everything. In short, because most people are interested in dozens of things rather than one thing, audience interest percentages are usually less truthful than they might at first seem. Who isn’t interested in “music,” “food,” or “lifestyle?”
Doesn’t account for problems with assessing micro-influencers: Similarly, micro-influencers’ audience data usually over-indexes in a particular segment because they have not yet acquired enough followers -- aka data points -- to draw a statistically significant conclusion. Friends and family who have an artificial propensity to engage with that creator’s content may skew vanity metrics as well
Enter: Content-first discovery
Instead of looking at a creator’s bio, vanity metrics, or third-party data sources, brand advocacy platforms should also utilize the most obvious source of truth: creators’ actual content. This has traditionally been insurmountably difficult for tools as it requires a powerful search engine, sentiment analysis, AI-driven recommendation systems, and the post data itself.
Content-first discovery has several big advantages.
- Allows the drawing of a stronger conclusions around creator affinities (including brand affinities and propensities for advertorial engagements)
- The data is not guesswork
- Better for unearthing "strong fit" creators
CreatorIQ's Discovery (part of our core product) is content-first. We leverage the most precise machine learning and interest algorithms, the most thoughtful discovery methodology, and the strongest intentional data set.
How Influencer Marketers Should Be Finding Creators
- Understand your ideal target audience, develop a customer persona, then dig deep. There are millions of creators to choose from; don't settle for just a couple interests. If you stop your search too broad, you’ll end up with too broad of creators
- Understand who your creator is and for what they stand. The best creators you can find are those who have posted about your type of product or in a tone similar to your brand before.
- Estimated data is less precise for smaller creators. Look at content for micro-influencers by using a content-first discovery platform. In fact, look at content for macro-influencers too!
- Understand definitions. If an influencer discovery platform is "ranking" creators, understand who those rankings are meant to benefit.
For platforms that have a small core of “in-network” creators, understand that “recommended” creators generally have exclusivity agreements with the discovery platform. It’s important to know who is excluded from your talent search and why. The perfect creator for you may not even be in your discovery tool’s database.