The Difference is Influence
Today sees the launch of xInfluence, yet another new influencer marketing platform. Co-Founder Mark Wright tells us why xInfluence has one foot confidently planted in the past to ensure a better chance of success in the future.
As some of you will be aware I’ve been in the influencer marketing (IM) world for a few years now. In hipster terms that’s almost a media lifetime. London is awash with Influencers and there’s no question, for the modern marketer, the rise of social has created a plethora of new channels for brands to connect more directly with consumers, and at significant scale. This new breed of social shoppers trust fellow consumers to inform their purchasing decisions.
Instead of looking at brand organisations for ‘inspirational advocation’ this audience now look to personality and public for ‘influential recommendation’’.
We’ve all been party to the rapid growth of this new industry and we’ve listened to the comments from lovers and haters, but for the seasoned media planner or buyer the space has often seemed more flaky than focussed. That said, it’s early days and I firmly believe the next generation Influencer platforms will prove to be profound and complimentary marketing channels for blue chip advertisers, but the sector is still in much need of some media accountability, measurement and proven metrics if it wants to be taken seriously as an industry.
Just like digital and online media back in the 90’s, after the initial rush of excitement comes the structure and best practice. IM is currently without a neat agency box to live in, being passed around between creative departments, digital display or within hybrid social or even PR departments. Emerging from its embryonic phase, many IM companies still have limited experience of the wider digital advertising business and brands from whom they hope to secure fees. Influencer companies are full of clever people who need to work harder to valorise the space using metrics that that brands and agencies respect and understand.
It’s certain that with social media’s reach, Influencer marketing is here to play but needs to perform if it wants to stay. I’ve been lucky enough to work through the birthing of early digital – so have seen this before and whilst the advertising medium may have seen a lot of changes the advertising messaging hasn’t moved much. My client’s business challenges and their communication issues are still pretty much the same as they always were, now we simply have more smart tools at our disposal to deal with them.
So I’m old school, a digital dad with nearly twenty years’ traditional media experience behind me and just like the early days of web and on demand platforms- the space has significant potential if we can work together with agencies to apply robust planning integration, accountability, and transparency.
So that’s just what I decided to do. My brother and I are launching a new company xInfluence next month. We will be the first influence marketing business built from the ground up to put media agencies and advertisers first, deploying campaigns and measurement in a language they understand and can quantify.
The xInfluence proprietary platform is dedicated firstly to advertisers and their agency partners. No buzz word bingo or digi-jargon, we set out to build a new influencer platform that is both intelligent and intelligible. Reassuringly our leadership team are grown-ups with long standing careers with blue chip brands, advertising media digital agencies and publisher groups who know what the market expectations are.
We’ve engineered a platform that not only showcases the engagement and measurement of a IM campaign but also the full user journey. As well as defining user’s preference and propensity to purchase, xInfluence’s platform will evidence more detailed real-time engagement metrics driving consideration and conversion and we’ll back this up with some no-nonsense reliable reporting.
Platform X operates across all channels. Insta and FaceBook are already standard but we will also be adding YouTube and Twitter to our mix. We want to cover all bases and reach our customers audience whatever their social touch-point preferences. The X platform is smart. That means we make complex stuff simple such as ‘boosting’ your campaign posts.
1-So xInfluence is not reinventing the Influencer wheel. Were just making the ride more comfortable and fun. Lets keep it simple. Like all other media formats IM is just a supply and demand model. The advertiser sits on the demand side and the influencer talent (or creators as they call themselves) sit on the supply side. Easy
2-IM, like the early stages of digital display marketing, is still looking for a permanent home within the established media ecosystems. Whilst forward thinking agencies are already very acquisitive re snapping up influencer companies they need to be integrated to the core channel mix if they want to secure decent media budgets. The media world doesn’t owe IM a living. They need to earn it – literally. Let’s normalise the medium for brands and garner enough confidence and trust from agencies to engage at a mature commercial level.
3-The IM lexicon needs redefining and remodelling. I’m proud of the UK’s dynamic digital entrepreneurs, but I do feel there is a lack of basic media knowledge throughout younger IM companies who have been unable or unwilling to invest in mature media planning and buying talent. I believe, this has led to ad agencies and clients dismissing IM out of hand, who can blame them. All gong and no dinner, just as it was in the early days of new media, interactive, digital, on demand and now social. The IM sector should now start to attract and fund mature media players to help the space establish itself despite the new acronyms and capabilities the IM world will no doubt keeping throwing at us.
4-Finally and importantly, the trust just isn’t there yet, but its coming. Having spent some time on the supply side of IM, there are a myriad of smoke and mirror creator ‘platforms’ out there that claim to be full ‘end to end’ solutions that sadly fall way short, so confidence, credibility and accountability on the customer demand side is eroding quickly. I’ve been heavily involved in building and finessing some early digital display ad networks and more recently the DSP world (SSP/DMP) so I know what they do, how they operate and how they’re measured, but here’s the rub- so do the super savvy smart media buyers who manage their client’s investment using multiple third party data sets, optimisation capabilities that offer complete transparency and fiscal delivery from start to finish. Importantly you can operate these tools yourself. The true meaning of ‘self-serve’.
Our new Platform ‘X’ is dedicated to media and agency needs- with measurement at the core as well as free third party auditing and brand profiling of every creator we work with. We’ll also deliver clear report on the full user journey through to purchase, something we know advertisers have become accustomed to in their display schedules but, realise it has been sadly lacking in IM world to date. We can demonstrate the true ROI and ROE (Return on Engagement) of IM campaign along side other media. During this process, our team will optimise performance tracking echoing tried and tested proven methodologies we’ve learned and trusted throughout our traditional digital careers.
As brands and agencies start to allocate more budget over to social media the space – xInfluence has been listening and will reciprocate by fielding some much-needed governance and productised performance metrics that can dove tail with tried and tested accountable advertising methodologies and reporting- that media agencies and their customer can understand and trust. Its still the wild west out there and the Infuencer GoldRush is still attracting a lot of immature prospectors that need the right tools to succeed.
Here’s something interesting: when we launch xInfluence we’ll also be the first influencer company ever to go to market with a single laser focused audience target: Generation X. (This is the forgotten generation when it comes to social)
Generation X are now valuable audience containing leaders in both business and politics. They are the first generation to come of age in a digital era and were the first to use it. They know the world was less fun before digital and therefore embrace it with greater reach and frequency. Before targeting any other wider sectors xInfluence will focus its attention to Generation X- the fastest growing cohort across most social media channels globally and over 66% of all internet users in the UK.
Genuine decision makers- GenX have their own homes, cars, families and nearly twice the disposable income of the under 35 market whilst paradoxically, they have been forgotten by the younger influence marketing companies to date who tend to focus on younger Gen Y-Z segmentations. It’s no wonder the big brands are only tentatively spending against a younger audience. This sector can interact but don’t yet have the means to transact like GenX do.
This is fine if you’re trying to leverage more burgers or lippy on your local high street, and there are a lot of young influencer agencies with nice haircuts and trainers who can help you, but we believe the big advertisers and their agencies might enjoy helping define the process when needing to attract the big purchase makers. In this respect, our new X platform delivers big performance.
Above all xInfluence is a platform that connects, collaborates and communicates results as we deploy solid media methodologies from established advertising and media sectors worldwide. There’s a lot we can learn from the past to make sure the influencer has a valuable role to play in the future
We are beyond excited to start making a difference.
Platform X will launch September 6th, 2019 and we are looking forward to working with you. For all enquires contact Mark Wright on firstname.lastname@example.org.