With the advent of the Internet, professional marketers have slowly realized the potential of employing social media influencers to get their messages across to the younger generations. And their intuition proved correct – people, especially youths, are more likely to be receptive to certain products if they come attached with their favorite YouTube personality, who have the advantage of seeming personal, approachable and relatable.
Soon enough, almost every company adopted this model to the point where the market reached a saturation point. The veil of authenticity was suddenly pierced when companies started employing high profile celebrities to promote products on their social media profiles. As a result, companies started searching for other strategies, one of them being automating the whole marketing process. But is this a good alternative to the previous marketing model?
Why Companies are Automating Marketing
Before tackling the automation angle, it is best to explain how influencer marketing works. A 2017 Forbes article broke down the relationship between marketers and influencers in four parts:
- Discovery – Searching and finding the right influencer to promote the brand based on their popularity, following and level of content creator-fan engagement.
- Reaching out to the influencer or their agent.
- Deciding whether or not the marketer should have a say in how the influencer will promote the brand, or give them full creative independence.
- Measurement – measuring the impact that the influencer had.
These are the key elements of influencer marketing. The Internet has changed what it means to be a ‘’celebrity’’. While in the past, you had to be a constant presence in the tabloid press and own an expensive mansion to be considered a celebrity, nowadays it is enough to have over 10,000 Instagram followers to be considered famous and attract the attention of marketers who are looking for novel ways to promote brands.
More recently, because the market has reached a saturation point and influencers are asking for more money, executives, ad buyers and managers are asking whether or not this model is still viable. That is why markets are slowly shifting towards automation.
In other words, instead of media agencies and firms specialized in striking deals between brands and influencers, an increasing number of marketers are employing data platforms and software designed especially for this purpose.
Using algorithms, dashboards and raw data, marketers can use software to sort through hundreds of thousands of internet personalities and content creators and find the most appropriate influencers for a particular brand or advertiser. These influencers are paid to feature a brand or product in a Snapchat video, an Instagram image or a tweet.
These databases can help marketers save huge amounts of time and allow them to focus on other things. So, it is no wonder why an increasing number of companies are interested in developing this technology and taking it to the next level. A few examples of tech firms who offer this service are ReadPulse, TapInfluence, Social Bluebook, Cirqle, NextBee and many others.
This emerging sector has the potential of turning the marketing landscape upside down and deem previous marketing models obsolete. Still, well established social media marketers are concerned by this new technology and the rate at which it is adopted. Therefore, one might beg the question: what are the dangers of automated marketing, and do marketers and managers have a legit reason to be concerned about it?
Potential Downsides of Automated Marketing and Its Effects on the Industry
It is easy to see why automation has the potential of changing and improving the marketing landscape. The increasingly huge number of influencers makes it very hard for brands to find the right one for their campaigns.
Because doing it manually can be extremely time-consuming, brands have to constantly redistribute the manpower for this purpose instead of keeping departments focused on certain areas. Moreover, consumers have matured, are more wary of advertisement ploys and as a result, are expecting more from influencer marketing.
Tools and software can simplify this process, but they are not everything. Obviously, the reduction of manual labor is good because it allows marketers to focus more on the creative aspect of the field and leave all the grunt work and frustrating administrative tasks to numbers and algorithms. But by basing the entire model on automation, ad agencies and marketers risk losing touch with the one vital aspect that drives the marketing industry: people.
While automation is not bad in and of itself, marketers must strive to find the perfect balance between platforms and humans, because algorithms and technology can only go so far. No matter how efficient numbers and graphs can be, a human layer must always be added, especially in a field like marketing which, at its core, is based on creativity and a keen understanding of human psychology.
Moreover, as Sarah Hofstetter, the chief executive of the ad agency 360i put it, automated influencer marketing has the potential to be exploitative and ruin the whole appeal of this model. Moreover, employing influencers based on numbers and raw data, who might or might not be experienced and ad savvy, might lead to the creation of subpar ads and poor targeting that might negatively affect the brand long term.
This new model has attracted the attention of major social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram. The reason why they are watching these newly emerged intermediaries closely is quite obvious: they are concerned that major marketers could abandon their platform after a badly coordinated ad campaign.
Automating influencer marketing should not be seen as a shortcut or a way of cutting down on work, but as an auxiliary tool used in conjunction with other, more ‘’traditional’’ marketing strategies. It is also worth noting that it is too early to tell how exactly this emerging technology will affect the marketing landscape, and whether or not it will change it for the better. Nevertheless, it is best that marketers exercise precaution and not adopt this model fully.