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It’s no secret that influencer marketing is one of the most effective channels for reaching your audience right now. With some brands such as Gym Shark, Glossier and Kylie’s Lip Kits building billion-dollar empires around influencer marketing strategies, the power of influence is undeniable – yet few know how to wield it.

After working with over 200 brands looking to build influencer growth programmes, we at Tailify have distinguished three key challenges that stand in the way of consistently high ROI: influencer selection, influencer collaboration, and ROI measurement. In this piece, my intention is to lay out the first of these challenges and help you understand how to find the right influencers for your campaign.

To help bring to life these challenges, let’s approach influencer marketing through an analogy of dating. Just as in dating, lots of people are playing the influencer marketing game, but few are truly satisfied. Those unsatisfied are generally playing with the hookup strategy, trying their luck with the goal of many transactional, single-use relationships. Brands playing this way want to use influencers as billboards for one-off brand-driven campaigns, a shortsighted strategy which generally amounts to little in the long run, where most of the benefits of relationship truly arise. By contrast, those with a more focussed, long term strategy in seeking a partner tend to realise the full benefits, including consistently high ROI.

If you are ready to find true love, read on to understand the first of these challenges and how to find influencers who are a great match.

The first key challenge a brand faces when doing influencer marketing is discovering and deciding who to work with, a task often more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack. To give a sense of scale, few have yet figured out how to consistently pick the right stocks for an ROI positive portfolio, and there are only about 630 thousand global securities. Well, there are over 100 million global influencers in just one influencer database, two orders of magnitude more, but it’s even worse than that. A stock’s value doesn’t change depending on who buys it, but the potential value of an influencer post is highly dependent on the brand collaborator. Discovering the right influencers is therefore among the most complex matchmaking problems in the world.

How might you solve this problem in the dating context, if you were looking for love? You don’t have time to go on 100 million first dates, so you’d need to get really clear on what you are looking for to filter out low probability matches. You might start by defining your dealbreaker criteria – living in the same city, being within a compatible age range, sharing the same core values, and other factors for which if they aren’t so, it’s a no. Then you might define your preference criteria – a certain height, high income, a love for pets, and other aspects which would make them ideal but which could be compensated for by other factors. A little self-inquiry now can save a lot of wasted time later. For instance, we can all sense when there’s a difference in core values when we talk with someone, but not all can accurately articulate their values consciously. Articulating these values upfront allows you to filter for fits when considering potential dates.

At Tailify, we’ve found it important to approach the influencer selection process with the same care you’d take when choosing your potential partner – because you are of course choosing a potential partner as a brand. You can find your ideal influencers in three steps:

  1. Know yourself. Before considering who you want, it’s critical to clarify who you are. What values does your brand stand for? What does your product really help people do? What are your true growth ambitions? At Tailify, we use a workshop and psychometric assessments to fill out a brand profile, but you can also answer these questions for yourself with reflection.
  2. Map out your partner evaluation criteria. Start by writing down the dealbreakers, such as audience geography, age, and other factors which would qualify a potential customer of your product. Then put to paper your preferences, which we at Tailify split by cold-headed (e.g minimum subscriber engagement rate, average post reach, upload consistency, and other objectively measurable factors) and warm-hearted (for example shared values, domain authority, community health, and other subjectively assessable factors). Mind maps are useful artefacts for capturing these criteria.
  3. Search, filter, and shortlist. Use a social search database such as Social Data to narrow down your consideration set. Start by using search filters to exclude all influencers who display any one of your dealbreakers, then narrow again by filtering out influencers who don’t meet a minimum threshold by your cold-headed factors. For those who remain, review these profiles subjectively by your warm-hearted factors, paying attention to dimensions such as post topics, audience interaction, and sponsorship history.

One challenge you may run into is that even after applying your filters, there are still hundreds of potential partners. Assessing each one subjectively takes time and skill, and it’s often difficult to make comparable evaluations between influencers or to know which evaluations are really most important in determining ROI. Which influencer is a greater authority in a particular topic, how important is that authority compared to say how engaged their audience is with their respective content when it comes to ROI, and how can you make these assessments across hundreds of influencers?

In these situations, artificial intelligence is useful for prioritising these potential partners in collaboration with experienced influencer marketers, which is the approach we take at Tailify to shortlisting the best matches. Think of Hinge’s ‘Your Most Compatible’ option, but with influencers.

In conclusion, if it were easy to find, build, and maintain a happy relationship, many more would be satisfied than we see today. And while we may more often see examples of unhappy couples, those who are clearly in love reveal the possibility of a great relationship – if done right. Finding, building, and maintaining relationships with influencers is much the same. It is challenging, but if done right, it is transformative.

To learn more about the second and third challenges, please join our Tailify Masterclass or keep an eye out for the second article in this series.

Ian Randolph, head of product and research and development at Tailify.