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With a shift in focus from the Zoellas and PixiWoos of the world to the more relatable and affordable micro-influencers (defined as social influencers with less than 100,000 followers), managing an influencer campaign has never been more complex or time-consuming.
This explosion of influencer options makes finding the right influencer to promote your brand an increasingly cumbersome task. Brands now find themselves spoilt for choice in choosing the right talent that aligns with their vision, mission and identity in order to execute a successful influencer campaign. But where there’s a problem, there’s usually an adtech solution.
Over the past year, tech partners have flooded the influencer marketing space to automate the gruelling process of influencer recruitment and management. Brands and agencies can now log-on to a website, apply a few filters and ‘order in’ an influencer as quickly as it takes to order a takeaway. This has greatly raised the stakes for adtech vendors who are eager to show their value in this space.
Adtech can, after all, reduce manual labour, simplify processes and improve analytics – but programmatic influencer platforms come with a risk. As the hype around micro-influencer marketing has grown, so too have the number of services offering to artificially inflate wannabe influencers’ social media followings. These tools, which allow customers to buy likes and comments, have led to a new breed of social media user: the fake influencer.
The closer brands move towards automated influencer solutions, the more vulnerable they become to those seeking to exploit the market. In what quickly became the blueprint for how not to run an influencer marketing campaign, US marketing agency Mediakix demonstrated the ease with which brands are signing up faux influencer talent when they secured sponsorship deals for two Instagram accounts created for fake influencers ‘Amanda Smith’ and ‘Alexa Rae’. When it’s just follower numbers and audience reach figures you’re looking at, it’s an easy trap to fall into.
In many ways, the ‘adtechification’ of influencer marketing can be likened to the early days of the digital display ad network: programmatic influencer databases aggregate the longtail of influencer inventory and sell it to the highest bidder. But this was before brand safety concerns and ad-verification software forced digital display publishers to raise the bar.
Adtech can help solve a lot of problems for social influencer marketing. But in the end, effective influencer campaigns are most beneficial in the long-term relationship the brand establishes with the talent and the content they produce – treating it as a fast-paced numbers game is counter to this cardinal principle. If we automate this process and lose the authentic human touch the channel prides itself on, we could see it lose its magic.