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Visions from a Startup – We Have All This Data, Now What? – By Laura Smous

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We continue to find partners who are blazing trails in their industries, and TapInfluence is no different. Data, and in particular Big Data, have been buzz words for quite a while. With the advent of social technologies and the Internet of Things, how that data is used is becoming even more critical than just having it. From TAP’s perspective, they help organizations use data and influencer marketing to build greater rapport with their customers. Because as many of you tech leaders know, in this internet age, consumers and customers rely much more on their peers and what’s said about brands rather than what the brand is saying about themselves. Here’s their point of view.

Author: Laura Smous, TapInfluence

In July 2000, University of Pennsylvania economist Francis X. Diebold published the paper “‘Big Data’ Dynamic Factor Models for Macroeconomic Measurement and Forecasting.” In it, he asserted, “Big Data refers to the explosion in the quantity (and sometimes, quality) of available and potentially relevant data.”1

Fast forward sixteen years, and an entire landscape of technologies has emerged to support the aftermath of this explosion. Addressing quantity has proven to be only a fraction of the challenge. In the new reality for everyone from startups to the enterprise, to be successful, “You need to capture data, store data, clean data, query data, analyze data, visualize data. Some of this will be done by products, and some of it will be done by humans. Everything needs to be integrated seamlessly.”2

Navigating this new landscape is confusing enough for well-understood industries and problems; what happens when you are building a category?

First to the Party

At TapInfluence, we have been doing exactly that—building the influencer marketing category—for nearly seven years. A technology that started as a way for us to efficiently and scalably manage influencer marketing campaigns for our brand and agency clients, before anyone else knew how, blossomed into what is today a fully Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform that enables brands and agencies alike to drive revenue running their own influencer marketing campaigns, working with the 40,000+ influencers who have joined our marketplace.

For us, the challenge has not been simply creating a category, it has been doing so on top of young categories for which brands do not yet know how—or what—to measure. That means the foundation of what we do includes a sea of data, with which no one knows quite what do.

What are we even looking at, here?

To understand the data underpinning influencer marketing, we must look at the new consumer to consumer paradigm and how it has evolved. We are now in an era where consumers control their journey, and they trust each other far more than brands. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, 62% of consumers trust brands less, and Forrester found a third would trust a stranger over a brand.4

With the advent of social media, consumers had new ways to communicate about brands with one another—outside of brand channels—and, as brands became more intrusive in their advertising, started to ignore brand advertising altogether.

To adapt, brands had to radically rethink what they were doing and measuring. We have seen what brands are watching unfold in three distinct phases, mirroring the changes we have seen in the evolution of the social landscape.

Generation 1: Monitor

What brands want to see depends highly on what is motivating them, at the time. In the beginning of social media, that motivation was fear. What are consumers saying about us? How quickly can we respond? What do we respond to best protect our reputation? The thought that consumers could have a problem with you and notify their peers—at scale—without you ever knowing, let alone being able to resolve the issue, was terrifying. For this reason, an explosion of social media monitoring software hit the market.

Suddenly, brands could see what was being said about them, outside of their regimented customer service channels. They paid a premium to be alerted to emerging situations and crises, in order to respond and mitigate, before consumers did. This wave was largely limited to listening and waiting for consumers to mention your brand, positively or negatively, and responding accordingly.

Generation 2: Engage

As social networks exploded, innovative brands started to view social media beyond the simple lens of passive PR and damage control. They saw the opportunity to proactively build a following, across brand social properties, both allowing them to engage with current customers and market to them.

Further, by devoting time and resources to generating a following, brands could reach beyond their current list of known, loyal customers and build a fanbase that extended far into the social networks of those customers. It seemed the perfect way to find more like-minded consumers and market to them at scale.

It quickly became apparent, though, that just attracting followers was not enough. Brands had to create and keep engagement high, in order for social media marketing to remain viable for them. This required brands to produce both a type and cadence of content, with which they were unfamiliar and often uncomfortable. Crafting messaging that was both on brand and compelling, at the pace of the social consumer, was expensive and exhausting.

Complicating matters, it seemed every day that passed brought a new social network, with its own content types, member demographics and best practices. How would brands keep up, across all these platforms? Social media management software quickly rose to the forefront.

Brands began composing, scheduling and posting content using these platforms. Social media marketing managers and teams emerged within marketing organizations. Beyond measuring reach, fans and followers, engagement metrics, such as comments, likes, shares, pins, retweets and more entered the dizzying array of numbers marketers were expected to track.

Brands became more social than ever, in tandem with content marketing that produced volumes of content. The problem? These conversations remained one sided—brand messages, on brand properties, in the brand’s voice—a voice consumers no longer trusted.

Generation 3: Influence

Now we’ve entered a world where you need to know all of this. Brands must be able to listen to the whole social conversation around their brand, engage regularly with their audiences, AND find novel ways to create content consumers care about, at record speed.

The end game? Brands must be able to influence purchase intent, that is, drive sales and revenue with their marketing efforts, and prove they are doing it. That means harnessing the influence of those to whom consumers do listen—other consumers—which is why over 75% of marketers have turned to influencer marketing.5

The Last Mile

Because influencer marketing sits at the intersection of social media marketing, content marketing and digital marketing, we are seeing brands choose platforms and partners that bring them the technology, experience and expertise to put the pieces together.

At TapInfluence, we have stocked our team full of diverse players that help our customers and us make sense of the data and put plans in place to use the data for revenue growth. This includes some roles you would expect and some you might not, such as:

  • Demand marketers
  • Engineers
  • Strong ops (sales ops, marketing ops, dev-ops) people, who understand the infrastructure required for attribution and adding meaning to the numbers
  • Agency expatriates, who understand the digital and social landscape, tools and platforms
  • Data scientists who mine our near petabytes of data for insights and trends
  • Analysts who turn those insights into strategies

Quality, Relevance and Trust

We’re witnessing an exodus of marketers away from manual influencer marketing, point solutions and agencies who use their billable hours on either of the aforementioned. Brands are choosing robust platforms that automate the low-or-no value tasks, leaving time and money on the table for strategic endeavors, such as always-on integrated.

What’s next? We see brands asking tougher and tougher questions around influencer marketing data and demanding proof of their ROI on campaigns across social platforms, content types, audiences and influencers. Going into the second half of 2016, we will be keeping a close eye on:

  • Trends toward specialized big data, allowing benchmarking and analysis of social platform specific data
  • Ties from social conversations to commerce, filling in the dotted line from influencer marketing efforts and sales data
  • Turning data into predictive insights that over time guide, govern and optimize spend

At TapInfluence, that means adding to and using our proprietary mix of influencer data, performance data and audience data to build a solid foundation from which to draw those predictive insights and prepare our customers to lead the consumer to consumer conversation.



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Laura Smous

About Laura Smous

Laura is the Director of Product Marketing at TapInfluence, melding agency and SaaS experience with a passion for all things marketing to help our customers build their brands and grow revenue, using our influencer marketing platform.