There’s no doubt that technology has helped to scale and streamline digital ad planning, buying, and optimization. Similarly, there is no doubt Influencer Marketing has hit a point where automation will likely be the key to scale. As this surge towards automation begins, we must keep in mind that machines can’t do all the work. In fact, part of the power and resonance of influencer marketing is its ability to authentically connect with consumers. As it occurs, the introduction of automation cannot be blind outsourcing — it must be a careful and at times labor-intensive adaptation of human workflows to new technological capabilities.
The term “influencer marketing” surged in popularity in September 2016, according to Google Trends. In a poll of 125 marketers last year, 60% said they plan to increase their marketing budgets. In December, eMarketer published the results from a survey of 170 US marketers on influencer marketing.” According to that research, about half of the polled practitioners said they plan to increase budget for influencer-focused campaigns in 2017. As the influencer marketing trend has matured into a full-blown industry, campaigns themselves are blooming at a rapid pace, leveraging increasing numbers of influencers per campaign. With this wave, we have begun to hear the cries for automation.
On a quest for scale, marketers find automation to be an alluring prospect. If it’s working — and influencer marketing campaigns are working — it’s a safe bet that marketers will turn to automation to scale their programs. But take note: the wise marketer knows that the human touch remains essential over the entirety of any given campaign. There are areas where automation is more constructive than others. Knowing just where to let computers supplement — and not supplant — human interaction is the key.
Thoughtful Audience Science: Human and Machine
In the realm of influencer marketing, the human purview is key for specific pieces of the process. One of them is in the selection of the influencers themselves. It takes a team of marketers to review the ever more advanced data (both influencer and audience segments) used to identify and define influencers and/or micro-communities, as well as understand the composition and attributes of these groups. While the system certainly delivers the data, a machine cannot exercise the level of discretion or expertise required to make the final decisions about who best works for a client’s complex campaign objective and brand ethos.
Human Input is Essential to Content Ideation
There is work to be done once you’ve discovered the right Influencer. Nothing can replace human imagination when it comes to strategy and content ideation. To navigate its subtleties, human creativity is required to concept and tailor the opportunity to ensure a successful campaign where the selected influencers create interesting, engagement-worthy content that showcases the advertiser while remaining authentic for their own communities. These Influencers are humans too, after all.
Automation Drives Distribution
Now, whether you or your influencers have created the content at hand, you are ready to harness the full power and opportunity programmatic brings, to scale distribution and simultaneously hit multiple channels and influencer communities. The combination of advanced data targeting, massive scale and optimization orchestrated in a more efficient automated manner allows for quicker, better results. Utilizing programmatic for distribution as well as to execute proven data-driven marketing techniques such as lookalike audience targeting, puts the content you worked so hard to create to work in this environment. But, no matter the particular methods,it is the human who thoughtfully charts the twisting, turning course forward, especially where the factor of “influence” and engaging audience communities is involved. It takes a human eye and human experience to truly identify success.
As complex as computers and their algorithms get, it would be impossible and a disservice to influencer marketing campaigns to step away from the human connection completely. Specifically, if a brand is looking to utilize influencers to create content, the human component is key in order to retain trust and authenticity — two vital tenets of influencer marketing. Programmatic is key for optimal distribution as it allows access to massive scale, data targeting, retargeting and dynamic optimization — but the human connection keeps the soul of the program intact. And connection is essential where influencers are involved. Authenticity is the influencers’ expected point of entry. So, without authenticity and connection (continually, thoughtfully optimized connection), you lose the benefits of accessing the influence in the first place.