Influencer marketing is one of the hottest trends in marketing in 2016.

Especially with the variance of advertising on multiple platforms and changes on how platforms rank certain types of paid advertising, influencer marketing is a great way to take someone who is considered a thought leader in their space and give exposure to a product or service.

A business that is picking up pace is Captiv8, which has created an artificial intelligence platform that helps brands make smarter buys by discovering and matching with talent based on real-time audience data across social platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Vine, YouTube, and Facebook.

I sat down with the founders of Captiv8, and former founders of successful ventures such as Mobclix and BlueLithium, Krishna Subramanian, Vishal Gurbuxani, and Sunil Verma to discuss the importance of influencer marketing, dos and don'ts when working with influencers and much more.

1. Why is Influencer Marketing important?

Krishna: Millennials are reshaping the way entertainment is created and consumed by spending less time in front of the TV and more time in front of YouTube, SnapChat, Instagram etc.

YouTube reported that they reach more Millennials than any cable network in the US. Now more than ever, Millennials are highly influenced by their peers hence the rise of the digital influencer. This shift has led to a whole movement we like to call "democratizing the celebrity". We are seeing talent emerge from what traditional society would consider "everyday" people but they are far from that. These self-made celebrities truly know the meaning of connecting with their audience to create authentic experiences. 

2. Why should brands shift their budgets?

Krishna: Brands can't keep doing what has worked in the past.

Millennials are blind to banner ads so don't expect them to click on anything, let alone make purchases.

Influencers have deep emotional connections with their audiences -- these connections drive viral moments or what we like to call Oprah effects. We are seeing big brands like Taco Bell, Microsoft, Listerine, SmashBox, and Pepsi, engaging their Millennial audience by leveraging the influence of creators through entertaining and authentic sponsored campaigns.

3. What do you predict will be a game changer this year?

Krishna: The major turning point will be when you can predict Oprah effects for brands, at scale.

The more a brand can understand their target and match with an Influencer that hits that exact group, the more successful they will be at creating virality. They also need to give the Influencer creative freedom to build authentic content that speaks to the brand but most importantly, the audience.

Snapchat and facebook will race to beat YouTube's ad exchange. Snapchat needs to make some enhancements to truly compete and in order to meet the pressure of generating revenue, they will likely do it through acquisitions. Some potential moves I could see them making: acquire a data player, an exchange, a video DSP, a company that has creative optimization.

4. What are some tips for brands wanting to work with influencers?

Krishna: We recommend working with a partner, like Captiv8, that uses data to drive decisions. We go through a process to identify people that are driving conversations across certain topics, geos, demos etc. to help them solve one of the biggest problems in Influencer marketing, which is discovery. 

5. What are some common mistakes when brands pick influencers to work with?

Krishna: A common mistake is to partner with a top comedian or Influencer that has millions of followers as opposed to finding an Influencer that will resonate with the brand.

Fragmentation is also a major concern, especially since there are so many platforms and we continue to see new ones emerge. Brands need to understand the benefits of each platform and align their marketing tactics accordingly.

6. What are some Industry Challenges?

Vishal: Attribution - If you don't get robust campaign analytics/reporting, it's hard to tie ROI back to campaigns.  The industry needs to come together, likely through a 3rd party like IAB to put standards in place. Right now the closed platforms are in control and we will continue to have problems until standardization is set.

Pricing is a challenge in terms of how influencers price their content. Typically talent and celebrities have always priced their value based on intangible metrics (ie Movies). Now when you get digital talent and connect them to digital campaigns, it becomes very clear how much engagement they are driving. As the ecosystem evolves, there will be standardization around pricing and attribution that allow brands to measure performance and spend accordingly.

7. Why did you start Captiv8?

Sunil: We started by looking at how and where people are consuming content, and the opportunity surrounding these platforms. There was no scalable, data-driven solution for brands and agencies to reach consumers. It reminded us of the situation back in 2008, when we started Mobclix, just at the beginning of the app ecosystem where the larger platforms provided a vessel for a lot of opportunities.

8. What do you do differently from other players?

Sunil: We started with a data-first approach. We have relationships with all the major talent agencies and don't have any exclusive deals with talent - this allows us to provide unbiased talent recommendations that align best with the brand's campaign goals.

9. How do you create value for creators? and for marketers?

Sunil: Creators - At the end of the day, we help them sustain a lifestyle while pursuing their passion.

For marketers, we are creating repeatable, authentic experiences for brands to better engage with consumers. The predictive platform provides an automated, scalable approach for identifying trends, engaging Influencers, launching content, and optimizing advertiser goals.

10. Before this, you founded Mobclix. What's one of the biggest lessons you learned?

Vishal: Timing is everything. If it's too early in a market, you end up spending a lot of resources educating the market. On the flip side, if it's too late, you are stuck catching up. It's important to test fast and make decisions based on data, not emotions. You should continue to rapidly test until numbers make sense.

11. What's one tip you have for entrepreneurs?

Vishal: If you have a passion for something, you should start a company.

Published on: Apr 21, 2016