Three years ago when we founded Boostinsider, it was a marketplace connecting brands to influencers: Brands place offer, influencers bid on offers and brands select proper influencers. A week before our Beta launch, we talked to a marketing director, a senior executive from AT&T and asked him to try our product and gave us some feedback. After playing around for some time, he got back to us: “Hey Chen, I really like your product, it is a great concept! However, there are two issues here: 1) I am an old guy (well he is actually not that old), I don’t know too much about social media, I have no clue which influencers I should pick. 2) I have millions of bucks to spend every month, how am I suppose to scale this at all? I cannot just sit there and pick those influencers one by one. It will take me years!”
That’s when we decided to ditch our entire product a week before our beta launch, and started building an automated platform for influencer marketing. It was a tough decision at that time: dropping almost a year of hard work and started from scratch. Among all the advertising model, we decide to use CPC(Cost-per-click) model on our product. We think it is the most scalable/measurable advertising model and have confidence in applying it to influencer marketing. We gave it a cool name as well: Social Adwords.
Another six months passed, we built lots of fancy models to match most relevant influencers to brands, to decide what prices we should allocate to each influencer, and to add quality control for the traffic etc. We were thrilled during that time, we added all those fancy stuff simply because we were capable of doing that.
This time we launched our product on time! I still recall the ugly home page designed and coded by me. I wish I had saved a screenshot back then. Everything seemed so promising at that time: A scalable product, A super star team, and we actually got lots of revenue within six months. By the way, Kodus to our CEO Heidi, she showed up on the pitch stage, after talking about our dream and vision for mere 5 minutes, we got our first term sheet signed hours after the pitch: That was the easiest fund raising I have ever experienced and I can write a separate blog about that.
Then we started seeing problems: We allowed our customers to start with a very low budget $200. Both Facebook and Google ads allow you to spent as low as 10 dollar, right? Why it would not work on social media? It turned out that high quality influencers will not take the offer at all. In fact, even giving the entire $200 budget to one effective influencer, he/she might not take it at all. Let alone the budget is allocated to many influencers through our automated platform. As a result, only very small/non-effective influencers would take the offer, and the campaign result apparently won’t be satisfying. Remember we were performance driven platform, we provide brands with detailed conversion tracking as well. So many not-working-$200 campaign owners started to question us, even asked for refund.
Another problem was the brand damage: the system was a black box. Google/Facebook ad system is a black box as well, but brands control which content get distributed so the brand is safe. However in influencer marketing, influencers get control over what content they want to post on their social media. We use algorithm to kill bad traffic, meaning the low quality traffic would not get paid, but the post is already up there. If those users didn’t get paid because our system decides that he/she was spamming, he/she will get upset, and kept spamming social media, thus causing damage to brand as well.
We also had an extreme case: A guy put the brand’s link to a porn website. You do know that half of the world internet traffic comes from porn website, don’t you? Ironically the conversion is actually not bad at all. But when brands saw that..well, you can guess.
At that time, we also started to take managed campaigns from brands, so we put less effect on Social Adwords, shut down its public entrance, and used it internally to complement our managed campaigns as amplifier. Because those are managed campaigns with large budget for big brands, we need to hand pick lots of our influencers, show their profiles to the brands for approval, before they were put on those campaigns.
That is the dirty work I have always been talking about when running influencer marketing campaigns. However during that process, as another “side effect” (the first one is the immense of Social Book, referring to my other post), we “hand” verified a large army of effective influencers who are willing to take performance based campaigns. Ironically this essentially served as supplement for our automated verification algorithm. Within one year period, we have accumulated a large pool of verified influencers who will NOT spam our system (well, maybe I am too optimistic here), who are highly effective in creating sponsored posts, and who has high quality traffic with incredible conversion rate.
When I am talking about incredible conversion rate, I mean 90% registration rate for new users we brought to one of our client. I mean our client shifts their entire Facebook Ads budget to our channel and have been running with us for a year already: Download the case study for more details here.
Am I bragging too much already? Social Adwords is our first baby, and I am thrilled to see it relaunched again today. However, still recall the $200 budget problem I mentioned above? To fix that we have to raise the minimal testing budget to $2,000. Again, not all products can sell with influencer marketing, but if you have a good 2C product, especially targeting millennials, give Social Adwords a shot: you will be surprised.
Social Adwords is a DAPP build upon BOOSTO, an influencer driven decentralized DApp store. Follow us on
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