Influencer marketing. The radical push for critically needed attention. How most people do it, why that sucks, and how you can do it 1000x better.

The industry is slated to become a $5–10 billion dollar market over the next 5 years. I’d say that extreme growth is an understatement considering that in 2012 the term was barely heard of in Google search trends:

Sponsored endorsements have been around forever but the term “influencer marketing” to me, and to most people means emailing a publicly posted address listed on a social media rockstars bio, asking for them to post about your brand, testing, and hoping for product sales on the other end. Pretty straight forward but not exactly the safest and most automated transaction I’ve ever seen.

  1. Influencers set random prices for themselves based on rather wild guesses and limited research. Some choose to price each sponsored post based on the number of followers they have. This is extremely risky for advertisers considering the number of fake followers/ bots out on the web. You can pay thousands for a post that has the real engagement value of someone who would have charged you $50.
  2. You need to make sure they stay FTC compliant.
  3. You need to get a 1099 signed if a currency exchange is made. This becomes more complex on the international level.
  4. What if you want the influencer to post with your physical product? Many brands wish to have influencers pose with their products or at storefronts within the content they create. In order to do this, brands manually gather addresses for shipments and track delivery for each influencer via email communication. This process can be daunting when attempting to leverage more than a handful of influencers. Another concern is the safety of an influencers private data as many big time influencers have fans exhibiting creepy/ stalker behavior. The short term solution for many influencers has been to rent a PO box and have shipments arrive there, while others continue to give out private data to marketers.

I won’t bore you with additional things that cause marketers to just throw this process out of the window from day 1. The bottom line is that the old school model isn’t scalable. Imagine trying to get 5,000 people to post about your new product launch! GTFO. In fact, 75% of marketers in a study noted frustration with identifying the right influencers to utilize, communicating with them, and scoring results.


  • Last year polling globally showed that 84% of marketing professionals expected to initiate a minimum of one influencer marketing campaign in the next 12 months.
  • Out of the marketers whom have already completed a campaign. 81% said they were happy with the results and it was effective.

So if it such a hassle to do these campaigns why is it growing? You guessed it… it bloody works… really… really well. We’re talking 4.5–7% engagement avg’s! Compare that to banners, PPC, email blasts, or your companies blogs averaging a disappointing sub 1%. Not to mention it’s 100% viewable attention. Not by paying per post of course but I’ll get into that later. This is an extreme win for marketers considering the rise of Ad Blockers.

Even big names are jumping onboard the influencer train:

Gary Vaynerchuk: Marketing guru and owner of A-List Agency VaynerMedia who’s clients include: Pepsi/ GE etc mentions the rise of influencer marketing. (His snapchat)

Mark Cuban: Discussing the 2016 presidential election on his blog: LINK

“Social media endorsements are more important than traditional political endorsements. There is a mantra I repeat all the time… If the information is important it will find me. We don’t go find the news, the news finds us. The majority of presidential election voters don’t turn on the evening news or open a newspaper or even tune into cable news networks to learn about the candidates and decide on who they will vote for… what they trust are their social media feeds. Whats on their Instagram. Whats mentioned on snapchat stories. What’s in their FB feed. We are on the verge of a Ground Game meaning not just what influencers you can get going door to door or calling their friends, but who will develop a FB, snapchat, Instagram and twitter following and get messages out.”

How about Victorias Secret Fashion Show? Victorias Secrets 2016 lineup of girls controls 290 million fans on social. Because of that reach, in 2016 they dominate almost every magazine cover and major fashion show in the world as well:

Want to see what that kind of engagement looks like through social notifications? Here’s a single posts live engagements from Demy de Zeeuw, who runs a soccer-focused Instagram account 433:

So how does someone automate the process of influencer marketing? How do we stop the direct buy method and move towards:

  • Pay per engagement (Much like familiar services: Google Adwords) where you pay for the value of an engagement. Obviously a “like” on Instagram is a much more passive engagement by a user than the process of them taking the time to comment on a YouTube video. So a realtime budget system is necessary to make sure each engagement is paid for with the correct currency amount.
  • Automated fraud prevention (Fake followers removed, fake engagements removed, etc.)
  • Auto activate influencers based on their followers interests, demographics, etc.
  • Automated de-activation of poorly performing influencers
  • Automated algorithms that use historical datasets for future optimization. THIS IS IMPORTANT! How do you expect to optimize when you leverage more than 5 influencers? If you utilize thousands of influencers, big and small, you need to know how they contributed to your ROI and CLV.
  • Auto shipping coupons/ perks/ physical product to influencers
  • Automate influencers signing tax docs and payouts after a programmatic fraud sweep
  • Automate FTC compliance checks

Here’s how:

  • 79% of influencers want brands to reach out directly to them via programmatic platforms such as the marketplace. This gives influencers the time they need to focus on creating beautiful content and growing their brands. Only 4% of influencers polled want to be contacted directly by 3rd parties. It’s a hassle. Marketplaces like Sway protect both parties personal information and automate most if not all of the items listed above. For a bigger list checkout:

If I’ve learned anything from programmatic marketplaces it’s that they are critical to enterprise level scale. Ambassador networks, remnant modeling agency rosters, and individual influencers need that on-demand market connected directly to their supply. This access creates more avenues to faster transactions, at a greater scale, to more relevant audiences.

  • Consumers have access to more information about products and services than ever. An estimated 81% of consumers conduct research on-line before making a major purchase. A large percentage of this information comes from third parties. Smart brands are capitalizing on the thirst for knowledge through influencers. By providing genuine, authentic product information and promotion that helps us make smart purchasing decisions, brands can change their relationship status with consumers from annoying adversary to friendly advisor. An influencers voice means 10 fold more than the call to action in your Facebook ad or your company blog.

Examples of this approach at work:

Kylie Jenner:

Alexis Ren promotes snapchats new feature “stories” to followings on her Instagram… a competing social network:

W Hotels creates content with influencers and then edits it together to showoff a first person perspective. Then puts it in paid ads: