By Lauren Meltzer, CBS Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — It's arguably fair to say that we live in a world that is influenced by the power of social media.
And for quite some time, conversational platforms -- like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Vine -- have been primarily used for entertainment purposes.
Yet as the ever-evolving media industry continues to shift into the digital realm, advertisers have followed suit online by aggressively seeking "social media influencers" to connect with consumers who value their opinions.
With the recent birth of influencer marketing, agencies have placed an emphasis on using influencers, instead of celebrities, to provide trustworthy brand endorsements across social media channels.
To date, dozens of technology platforms, including The Influential Network, have developed unique ways to deliver marketing dollars to social media influencers and companies.
Since 2014, Influential has been billed as the world's "only mobile-first influencer platform" that uses third party analytics to run "brand campaigns that provide guaranteed impressions among chosen demographics," according to CEO Ryan Detert.
The Los Angeles-based company uses an algorithm to strategically pair highly engaged social media influencers with Fortune 500 companies to create viral conversations online about brands and products.
"We are unique in that we are data-driven and we media buy as opposed to [using] a talent model," Detert said. "Platforms by the nature of themselves are conversational, which is why advertisers have been driven to use them. It enables open dialogue between a consumer who trusts the brand ambassador while talking about a product."
"At the same time, consumers tend to feel a personal connection with influencers and see them as friends," added CRO Chris Poydenis. "Influencers are going towards where the money is, and it's incentivizing them to be as authentic and organic as they possibly can be day in and day out. They're putting out messages that coincide with the brand's objectives, which creates a symbiotic relationship."
In order for web celebrities to join Influential's marketplace, it takes more than displaying a coveted blue verification badge next to their name online.
The invite-only network scouts influencers who regularly engage with a minimum audience of 50,000 followers.
"We have an algorithm that scrapes these platforms and essentially tells us who is in the top one percent," Detert said. "We vet them to make sure they actually have consistent engagement, and if that's the case, we onboard them to make sure they fit our metrics before offering deal flows strictly to their phones."
The deal flows Detert is referring to are offered through Influential's patent-pending app, which represents over 7,000 web celebrities and has a daily reach of more than 4.4 billion followers.
Within the app, advertisers use a dashboard to approve influencers for a campaign, determine their relevance and "track and validate why they are perfect ambassadors for the activation," according to Detert.
Through the company's recent partnership with IBM Watson, agencies are able to tailor their ambassador selections by using a cognitive learning tool to browse through a list of more than 50 personality traits in order to determine how they are being perceived online.
In turn, web celebrities use the platform to submit engaging content for campaigns that interest them.
"When you think about it, for an influencer, it's an incredible draw," Poydenis said. "We're sending you a deal flow directly to your phone, which means you're going to be able to pull it out of your hip pocket, and only be a few clicks away from making some serious money for yourself."
As for future endeavors with Influential, Detert says he forsees "making programmatic social media buys across all networks" and using word-of-mouth scale "to encourage influencers to be the voice of the brands."
While there's no definitive way of telling what will come of the industry, it appears as though Influential's matchmaking platform has corralled the Wild West mentality of social media marketing, creating a realm for agencies and social media stars alike to flourish in financially.
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