As artificial intelligence technology advances, marketers have been adamant about being able to predict the effectiveness of campaigns before it happens based on past data. However, it is challenging to determine the return on investment involving campaigns powered by influencers especially due to the flood of fake likes and comments spreading on social media. So, Los Angeles-based Influential built their Social Intelligence technology platform that analyzes a number of variables for brands to assess the effectiveness of a campaign such as contextual relevancy and psychographics.
Influential connects brands with influencers to create social campaigns for brands using machine learning and augmented intelligence. As a result, Influential's technology can accurately predict future outcomes of influencer campaigns. Powered by IBM Watson, Influential's artificial intelligence platform matches brands with the most relevant influencers. Currently, more than 25,000 influencers use the Influential platform thus making it easier to track their social content. To match brands with influencers, Influential's artificial intelligence analyzes tens of thousands of words written by each user.
Influential facilitates brands and agencies to make digital media buys on social networks and monitors the analytics based on micro-segmentation and brand relevance. Influential uses a brand-safe gateway and offers recaps through third-party analytics services. Some of Influential’s clients include major companies like BMW, Coca-Cola Company, Hyundai, Johnson & Johnson MillerCoors, Nestle, Fox TV, General Mills and Sony. Influential has raised over $14.5 million in funding from Plug and Play, ECA Ventures, Paradigm Talent Agency, Tech Coast Angels and a number of angel investors.
To learn more about Influential, I interviewed founder and CEO Ryan Detert. Interestingly, Detert is an influencer himself with 30 million followers on Twitter and Instagram. Detert did this by creating niche accounts. And since then, Detert started acquiring accounts. “I don’t sing or dance- I have no talent. What I created are called niche accounts. We were able to acquire and now own @Travel, @Automotive, @USA, @FashionAndStyle- verticalized accounts, sort of akin to the .com boom, where it was a land-grab of popular URLs, but in this case, it was Twitter and Instagram handles,” Detert quipped.
Detert was able to build this large of a following through highly curated content creation and by partnering with large accounts to build up distribution. He learned early on that by creating those verticalized niche accounts, you could reach people that had specialized interests in a particular subject. And Detert also realized that brands recognized the value of the niche accounts and were willing to pay top dollar for access to dedicated and engaged audiences.
When I asked Detert how he came up with the idea for Influential, he said that it grew out of a desire to “tame the Wild West that is influencer marketing.” As Influential started 6 years ago, Detert realized that without data, brand safety and technology, the agencies would not open up their coffers for six and seven-figure budgets unless there was accountability. So Detert set out to create a checklist of all possible concerns that brands and agencies could have. And then they looked to solve them by building a platform that checks all the boxes.
During the interview, I asked Detert how the IBM Watson integration came together. Detert said that they were fortunate that IBM Watson came to them after completing a seed round of funding and getting featured in VentureBeat. “Due to our unique abilities to make things trend, we were able to keep that story at the top of VentureBeat’s news feed for 3 days, over companies like Apple and Google. IBM took notice of this and reached out. They told us that they liked what they read about our data-first approach to influencer marketing and asked if we’d like to meet with them to discuss a potential partnership. Fast forward to nearly 3 years later, and we’re now a Developer Partner of IBM Watson, as well as, one of the few companies in their ‘With Watson’ program,” Detert confirmed.
“We also control the API token for the platforms, which allowed us to post on behalf of influencers, directly into the influencers feed, without ever having the influencers have to share their confidential information with us. We then labeled ourselves the ‘data-first influencer platform’ and utilized demographic and contextual information to help identify the best influencer for any campaign,” Detert explained. “Our biggest tech evolution was when we partnered with IBM Watson to utilize AI to help identify influencers using psychographics. We now use 3 different IBM Watson APIs- Personality Insights, Natural Language Understanding, and Tone Analyzer. In addition, we’ve created new tech partnerships, including our most recent one with the Oracle-owned company, Moat.”
Influential’s platform has been an ever-growing evolution. In the early days, Influential’s original technology was centered around the streamlining of the influencer marketing process. Ryan said that Influential was the first company to build an app where influencers could connect live in real-time with influencers and work together in the process of creating content.
Another milestone for Influential was a partnership with Omnicom Media Group, a major media agency. Together the companies created the OMD I-Score, which is an artificial intelligence and machine learning-powered scoring system. Last year, Influential also partnered with Dentsu Aegis’ content agency The Story Lab.
Earlier this year, Hyundai Motor America started promoting its small SUV Kona. Hyundai’s CMO Dean Evans wanted to learn more about the target audience of the SUV, which happen to be active millennials. So Evans worked with Influential to leverage artificial intelligence in order to define audiences better and use social content to power the marketing. And Hyundai worked with Influential to find influencers in the marketplace to help get the word out.
Influential also partnered with Kia on a Super Bowl TV ad in 2016. Detert told me that this was the first campaign launched with the IBM Watson partnership. “We were working with Kia’s agency, David & Goliath and we offered them the exclusive opportunity to launch our IBM Watson technology on their #AddPizzazz campaign with Christopher Walken. Through the partnership, we were able to get one of our first major press pieces with Wall Street Journal and also facilitate a success story presentation between IBM’s CEO Ginni Rometty and Kia’s COO Michael Sprague,” Detert mentioned.
What are some of Influential’s future company goals? “We are constantly striving to create the best technological tools for our clients and we partner with the best-in-class technology companies. Overall, our goal has always been to become the ‘Google for influencers,’” Detert concluded.
Original Story: Forbes - Amit Chowdhry, Contributor