As social media and digital opportunities continue to evolve, so does digital marketing. In an age of Instagram and Facebook Live, social media users are able to get an inside look into the lives of their favorite celebrities, bloggers, and influencers — and digital marketers haven’t missed a beat.
“When you look at advertising, influencer marketing remains the only direct method of communication between the brand and the consumer that’s non-disruptive and done in a natural, authentic way,” says Linqia COO Daniel Schotland.
Tapping into the influencer market has become a crucial part of many brands’ marketing strategies. We sat down with Linqia COO Daniel Schotland to learn how the performance-based influencer marketing company is helping brands make the most of this booming marketing avenue.
Linqia’s customers include Nestle, NBC, Unilever, Walmart, Levi’s, and Kimberly-Clark, among others.
ClickZ: Tell me a bit about Linqia’s beginnings. When did you join the team?
Daniel Schotland: Linqia’s been around since 2012, so for about seven years now. The co-founders, who are still with the company, founded it to both provide a voice to influencers and tackle brand messaging in a much more impactful way.
I joined the company a little over a year ago. I have many years of marketing technology and digital adtech experience, saw what Linqia was doing and how they were growing, and I wanted to be a part of it.
CZ: Can you explain what exactly influencer marketing is?
DS: Influencer marketing has been around for a long time. If you remember, influencers started with celebrities, the Kardashians of the world, posing with a product of some sort. That’s how it started, with mass appeal from celebrities with large groups of followers.
Since then, it’s grown into different industries. At Linqia, we focus on micro influencers, those who’ve amassed anywhere between 5000 and 150,000 native, organic followers. People follow them because they’re like-minded and have attitudes and opinions that align with their own, which is very different from following big celebrities. The type of influencers we work with are passionate about certain things and we’ve found a way to harness that influence at scale.
CZ: How do you do that?
DS: We work to provide guidance about the type of messaging and platforms both brands and influencers should use to best tell their stories. We take something that’s important to a particular brand, whether that’s a new product launch, rebranding efforts, or just increasing brand awareness, and use the AI and machine learning technology within our platform to help brands find the right set of influencers.
We analyze all of our influencers’ posts alongside what the brands post and we’re able to understand follower affinities towards certain brands or niches or markets. We also capture and utilize demographics data to see if they match with a brand’s objective, pinpointing a set of influencers that match the product or brand in a specific region or for a specific audience.
Our software creates a performance match score across thousands of influencers in our database, looking at the hard data and predicting the likelihood of good results. We make the recommendations according to our analytics and the brands can decide which influencers they want to work with based on the information.
CZ: That makes sense. What does cost look like for the brand in these situation?
DS: Overall, this way of marketing has functioned on a pay-per-post model, which can get really expensive. We decided to flip the model on its head to make the influencers a bit more accountable in driving real results, staying motivated, and performing well. When we predict how an influencer will perform, we sell on a guaranteed basis. We write out a contract with every brand who works with us, and if we don’t deliver a certain amount of impressions, clicks, purchases, or overall conversions, the brand doesn’t pay.
CZ: I imagine that changes in social media algorithms might have an effect on what your influencers are able to produce. How do you combat that?
DS: Yes, that’s a challenge for everyone in the industry. Our brands and influencers are sometimes at the mercy of a social platform’s tweak in algorithms on any given day, which is why sponsored content and ads are still so critical. We can only trust social platforms to a degree – you never really know exactly what that day will bring – but with paid media, you know what you’re getting because you’re paying for the reach.
Where we think working with influencers is going is leveraging content in a way to perform well also in paid media channels, not just at the whim and will of media platforms. That’s not to say that organic posts will not always be really important; content needs to live beyond paid ads in order to drive results at big scale. Our big focus is to help mitigate the impact of social platform changes in a way that’s controllable by us and by the brands that need the results.
CZ: On the brand side, it sounds like you’re providing guidance and recommendations for the influencers they should use and kinds of ads they should run. What kind of guidance do you provide for the influencers?
DS: We work really hard to find a good balance between how the influencers naturally tell their own stories and how the brands need their story told. We start with a creative briefing to give influencers guidance and guard rails, advising them about what to do and what not to do. Our priority is that the stories are told in an authentic way that doesn’t take away from the voice of the influencer, but we also need to think about the brand. We provide brand objectives and ensure brand safety, communicating with the influencers about certain things they should or should not mention, and then we leave it up to them.
That can be a real challenge in this industry: how much control do brands give influencers to create the messages? Over controlling messages tends to lead to a program that’s not as effective as it could be. We want influencers to tell the stories how they want to tell them, so we make sure that the brands really understand the needs of the influencers. We want to create a space where influencers can tell stories that’ll be most impactful, aligning with the voice and messaging they already naturally have.
CZ: Looking ahead, what’s something you’re excited about?
DS: Performance content is an area that we’re really excited about. Virtually every program and channel today is an important piece of the puzzle, whether that’s on social platforms, video ads, even on TV. We ultimately want to be able to drive better results through paid media. We want to take influencer content and create ads out of it, testing them against different audiences that are important to a particular brand. A brand may not even know about a user segment that may be interested, so we use paid media channels to get influencer content en masse to audiences.
Finding content that resonates is challenging. We’re excited about the endless opportunities there are in leveraging influencer content, providing paid content in a scalable fashion, seeing how it performs, and using that to ultimately drive results for the brand.
Quick facts on Linqia
- Year founded: 2012
- HQ: San Francisco, CA
- Customers: 350
- Influencers: 100,000+
- Martech category: Advertising & Promotion: Native/Content Advertising
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