Commentary

AI In Influencer Marketing: Buzzword Or Real Deal?

Since the onset of artificial intelligence’s use for previously manual business functions, headlines have both heralded the technology and criticized its potential to take over myriad jobs. The influencer marketing industry has been the latest to discuss where smart AI integration can occur, and even integrate artificial intelligence directly into campaigns. But, with exciting technological advancements poised to support smarter influencer selection and management, AI will neither replace the tastemakers of the future nor will it eclipse the need for human marketing experts to continue to drive innovation in marketing strategy. 

A future of computer-generated influencers? Not likely 

There is an increasing fascination among social media audiences with computer-generated influencers. Perhaps the most famous Instagram influencer of this kind, Lilmiquela, has been in the media as of late not only for the mystery of who’s behind her account, but also for her recent collaborations with Pat McGrath and Outdoor Voices.  

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While this trend is sparking curiosity from brands and audiences alike, it’s unlikely CGI influencers will ever make human influencers a thing of the past. The biggest advantage influencers pose for brands is a trusted, personal voice. A recommendation from a favorite influencer can be likened to a suggestion from a close friend. Undoubtedly, computer-generated influencers may be able to offer inspiration, but they are unable to build a true personal connection with an audience. 

AI in brand-influencer partnerships

Influencer marketing AI is still in its early stages, but given that one of the biggest obstacles for the industry is the ability for marketers to adequately scale influencers effectively as a channel, applications of AI can certainly help advance the industry. 

AI can create classifications for “influencer attributes” based on particular sets of data, ranging from things like audience breakdown, past partnership performance, brand affinity and sponsorship saturation. And then it can go even further. We've learned that an influencer who works well for, or can achieve certain goals for, one brand may be completely ineffective for others. In the last 12 months, we have worked with over 75,000 influencers, publishing over 6,500 pieces of content each month and this is where we see the most opportunity for artificial intelligence.

AI can sift through past performance data, assess what types of brands influencers have worked with in the past, and which influencers continually drive high, qualified engagement around specific types of products or types of content. All of this enables advertisers to focus less on execution and more on making the right marketing strategy decisions. But, a human element is certainly still required. 

Influencer campaigns need a human gatekeeper not only for critical decisions when it comes to selecting the right influencers for a partnership, but also to continue to drive innovation around content and social media strategy. Where AI excels in pulling together a wealth of information about influencers and supports smart decision making with maximum efficiency, it lacks the creativity and ingenuity humans have to drive a narrative.

More than ever, there is a need for the role of an influencer strategist who continually looks beyond campaigns to see what is happening across various social platforms, how influencers are adapting to new channels and features and also drives new ideas that combine the goals of the brand with the experience and knowledge of the influencer. 

In summary, AI is paving the way for more streamlined influencer-brand collaborations, but the human element is still a critical success factor to ensure creativity and innovation and, in turn, impact.

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