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Macala Wright: How Retailers Have Figured Out Paid Influencer Programs

Style Coalition allows fashion brands and lifestyle marketers to remove the middle man in taste-maker marketing.

Macala Wright
Macala Wright on May 19, 2013. @macala

In 2008, I had the benefit of meeting Yuli Ziv. Ziv and I spoke at the first conference, 140 Fashion, on social media’s impact on fashion. At the time, Israel-born Ziv was setting herself up to become one of the most important blogger and business figures at the heart of the New York Fashion Industry. Being the creative mind behind  the first user generated fashion magazines called My It Things and Fashion TV channels called Inside The Tents was guaranteeing that.

In the the past five years, Ziv has written a book on how to become a successful fashion blogger, founded Style Coalition, inked the first influencer network with Hearst publications, created one the most coveted digital marketing awards known as Fashion 2.0 and still leads the largest influencer MeetUp group in New York City.

As influencer marketing has begun to mature and reach a tipping point as it relates to context, data and actual relevance, Ziv has made another strategic move. Ziv has created a software for tactical execution of influencer marketing programs with the newly launched SCX Influencer Exchange; a pioneering automated, subscription-based solution for agencies and brands to find, activate and manage online influencers and bloggers, analyze data, and measure ROI for their integrated marketing campaigns.

“The launch of SCX not only marks a major expansion for our company, but a game-changing moment for the industry as a whole, which until now has been closely guarded and manually managed by exclusive networks and agencies,” shared Ziv, Founder & CEO of Style Coalition. “We saw an opportunity to help brands streamline the process and quantify their spend with a smart, data driven technology solution. SCX will also allow more bloggers a chance to collaborate with the brands they love and create revenue – which was always our main mission.”  So we sat down for an interview:     

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How did Style Coalition develop proprietary algorithm that analyzes an influencer’s overall media reach?

Our experience of running influencer driven campaigns for the past four years gave us a great insight into what brands are looking for. It also allowed us to analyze the metrics driving success of these campaigns. The challenge of quantifying the above was in the multitude of platforms the influencers are using and the different scale of each.

For example, 10,000 Twitter followers are not equal to 10,000 followers on Pinterest or 10,000 blog readers. Since our campaigns utilize all of these platforms, we had to come up with a way to measure influence across the board and existing tools were not able to give us the full picture. They either measured only social influence (Klout) or just the blog reach (Quantcast, Compete, etc). SCX influence score reflects all platforms and relies on directly measured, verified stats based on the respective APIs.

What factors went into it to become a usable tool for brand and agency marketing initiatives?

Now that influencer marketing has become an organic part of the digital spend, agencies need tools to allow them to scale and streamline the management of influencer-driven campaigns. Just like the online advertising industry took a while to advance with technology and ad exchanges, influencer marketing is now going through a similar process. SCX is one of the first tools to solve multiple problems for agencies – from identifying top influencers to quantifying their potential reach, managing campaign booking and eventually helping to measure success. When we show the initial Beta features to our agency partners, there is always a sigh of relief!

How does SCX show marketers the ROI from campaigns placed through the platform?

Initially the brands are presented with the full analytics related to influencers’ potential reach across multiple platforms as well as engagement metrics. This data also includes benchmarks for various activations, so the brand knows what to expect when they engage an influencer in one of their campaigns. The question we get often from brands is “I know this blog gets 1M readers monthly, but how many of them are going to be exposed to my message?”

SCX is providing you an estimate, upfront. However while we are obsessed with data and numbers, a big part of the ROI is the high quality, original content created on behalf of the brand. In addition, the next SCX release coming up in May will include full campaign analytics providing brands a full picture of the impact it created.

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What are your future plans to expand the data found and utilized by brands? Are you planning on creating an API that other influencer tools may be able to utilize?

Our goal is to help brands connect with influencers they have most affinity with, while keeping the Style Coalition filter on and focusing only on professional bloggers who have experience working with brands. By having direct relationships with influencers and access to their data, we are able to provide more efficient targeting and proven, measurable results.

There aren’t immediate plans for API, for now we aim to use the data to help brands create more meaningful relationships with their customers – a big challenge they are facing in the age of social media.

While the platform has just launched, there’s currently 130 influencers registered? How do you plan on growing its membership in terms of lifestyle blogs and media outlets?

Since the launch just three months ago we’ve received thousands of applications from interested influencers and decided to accept a total of 130 who meet our strict criteria. With these new additions we almost tripled our overall scale, now reaching 15MM unique readers, 40MM page views 6MM Pinterest and 1.5MM Twitter followers respectively.

The online platform also allowed us to scale easily into other lifestyle categories like home design, DIY, food, travel and men’s lifestyle. The last one was launched in conjunction with Esquire magazine as part of our ongoing partnership with Hearst. We do plan to grow the network further; however the goal was never to become an online directory for bloggers and simply list everyone out there. Our main focus is to assemble top influencers across multiple lifestyle categories to enable brands to execute creative campaigns with meaningful scale while at the same time, bring high quality revenue opportunities for this large group of very talented, influential online personalities we’ve put together.

A limited number of agency and brand partners were invited to Beta-test, with more invitations to be released in the coming months. Brands and agencies are encouraged to request an invitation at StyleCoalition.com/exchange.

 

 

 Having the access to verified stats is a #1 reason for many of our brand partners to sign up. It’s always uncomfortable asking bloggers for their stats and relying on external tools doesn’t always provide real data. Both bloggers and agencies love the idea of a trusted 3rd party taking care of campaign bookings, introducing more efficiency into the process and ultimately creating more opportunities for both.

Another benefit is the advanced search, allowing hyper targeting – for example if a brand is looking for an influencer who is an expert on skincare, lives in LA, has at least 50K monthly blog readers and is great on camera – we are able to locate and suggest that person for a campaign in just a few clicks. The campaign reports we are about to release will give brands the extra power when it comes to quantifying their marketing spend, which is the ultimate goal.  Working with influencers through a trusted partner like Style Coalition minimizes the risks for our customers – we eliminate the need for individual contracts, billing headaches and other operational tasks, allowing brands and agencies to focus on the creative side of their campaigns.

What are the average campaign budgets you’re currently seeing? Do you expect that to increase?

Right now we are seeing campaigns that start at $20,000 and go as high as $200,000. In the past few years the budgets have been increasing at 50% rate from year to year and we see this growth trend continuing.

Is it your goal and belief that a tool like SCX could become an industry standard tool, thus adding to the marketing software arsenal making paid influencer marketing more effective?

Absolutely. Just like DoubleClick is a standard in booking display media, we hope for SCX to become the ultimate tool for influencer booking and ROI measurement. It is an exciting opportunity to help define this new frontier and we are proud to lead the influencer revolution.

 

TOPICS: Fashion, Retail, Web & Technology
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Macala Wright is a business strategist and research analyst with a passion for journalism. As a writer, she merges her passion for storytelling and narrative with her deep understanding of technology and strategy to help bring innovative ideas, products and programs to life. Interested in the tools and platforms that society uses to communicate culture, her writing and studies explore how people can become better communicators in order to shape their futures, share their ideas and create a better world to live in.

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