April 18, 2019

Nano Influencers | Artificial Intelligence | Influencers | Machine Learning | Social Intelligence

How AI will drive the future of influencer marketing

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Influencer marketing is the new darling of social media branding, but how should marketers find the right talent and get good returns? The answer lies in artificial intelligence. The future of influence will be all about smart social intelligence platforms that use machine learning to offer segmentation to match brands with the right influencers in their networks. This marketing disruption will literally flip marketing segmentation on its head.

Influencer marketing is a powerful tool in the marketer’s arsenal but how should marketers go about choosing the right kind of influencers for their brand? There’s no doubt that the use of influencer marketing is growing.

Why? Research that shows, if done well, influencer marketing works. A recent Nielsen survey found that 84% of consumers will take action based on the reviews and recommendations of trusted sources, above all other forms of advertising.

At the same time, trust in brands is on the decline. The Edelman Trust Barometer shows this decline is massive. Edelman calls this phenomenon a “collapse of trust”, and places the blame for this dwindling lack of confidence firmly at the feet of the political climate. Hardest hit is the media, with 63% of respondents saying they “do not know how to tell good journalism from rumour or falsehoods, or if a piece of news was produced by a respected media organization.” Although it’s easy to blame the Trump-era mantra of ‘fake news’, trust in brands has been dropping off dramatically since 2015.

Given the trust deficit, where are humans going for advice, referrals and suggestions about what brands to buy? Edelman’s research shows that instead of consulting the media, advertisers or brands humans are rather engaging in word-of-mouth. Digital transformation has realised a democratisation in the power of consumers, who are rising in influence. Trust in advertising may be declining, but when used smartly, influencers are yielding solid returns.

Why? Over 31% of consumers across the US and Europe said they have purchased a product or service based on a social influencer post, according to Olapic's Psychology of Following study. Age is a major factor in this statistic, with up to 53% of under-35-year-olds claiming to follow social media influencers — the figure dropping to 21% for the oldest segments of the study.

Most respondents cited ‘authenticity’ as a deciding factor in choosing to follow an influencer. ‘Relevance’ was also a major factor. Shared relevance builds social trust, and trust in a brand equates to brand loyalty. What brands need to take note of that this requirement for authenticity only deepens in younger generations.

A big conundrum for brand owners has been how to choose influencers. The good news is that data together with skilled data analysis and artificial intelligence have enabled new ways of segmenting social audiences in a way far superior to the forced segmentation methods offered by Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. Moreso, the new segmentation tools don’t slice and dice humans by traditionally imposed demographics — here I am talking classic segmentations like age, income or geography.

As Marketing Week writes, “research shows marketers are shifting away from classic demographics to find more nuanced ways to segment consumers based on their behaviour, personal interests and life stage.” In an article headlined: “Why behaviour beats demographics when it comes to segmentation”, Marketing Week states that classic demographics like age and gender – despite being tried and tested for years – appear to be losing their popularity. “The wealth of customer data now available means brands are increasingly evolving their approach to reflect their consumers’ behaviour, attitudes and life stage,” the piece reads.

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Marketing Week cites Procter & Gamble which shifted its segmentation strategy focus from being “wasteful mass marketing to mass one-to-one”. “The FMCG giant has combined anonymous audience data covering 90% of the US population with purchase data and analytics to move from ‘generic demographic targets”, such as women or an age group like 18 to 49, to more than 350 precise “smart audiences”, including first-time mums and first-time washing machine owners,” the marketing site reports.

Another segmentation reinvention success story comes from food company Danone, which has started to segment its audience into ‘tribes’ united by certain passion points. “It identified 16 tribes for its Volvic water brand and served each a short-form bumper ad on YouTube, which delivered a 40% lift in ad recall.”

How are marketers achieving such highly personalised marketing and realising these new segmentations? With AI and smart tools like Continuon, a social segmentation SAAS that uses millions of data points to segment branded audiences on social media. SAAS Social Intelligence Platforms, like Continuon, which are driven by machine learning and smart algorithms, can simultaneously analyse millions of data points across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Using Artificial Intelligence Continuon enables brand owners to both move beyond mere celebrity endorsement by using real attitudinal and behavioural data to dynamically identify nano -influencers that may not be well-known personalities, but who love a brand and have significant virality in social networks. With Continuon, brands can clump like attitudes and behaviour to create connected ‘tribes’ who are united by experience or attitude.

Perfectly ordinary digital citizens, with follower counts as low as 1,000, are being courted for their influence. The whole point is that they are not famous – The Guardian

What this means is that brands can now create armies of social influence that are authentic — because they are based on real attitudes and affiliations rather than fake influence. The new influencers are the overlooked brand ambassadors or ‘fans’ who have influence way beyond their immediate network, and who are actively engaged with brands that they love. Using AI marketers can now discern who these influencers are and unite them through cause or experiential marketing to activate above average marketing returns.

These nano-influencers, brand loyalists and brand fans are not necessarily looking for payment in return for endorsing your product. But they can be nurtured through activations, events, sampling or a high-touch engagement.

Thanks to the robust and versatile segmentation enabled by AI, brands that employ Social Intelligence Platforms with machine learning and smart algorithms, can segment their social audiences in brand networks in whatever way they want. If your brand, for instance, is a premier wine brand you can discern the red wine drinkers from the white. Or you can dive into behavioural metrics and divide people in your branded social network by the actions they take. Or the lifestyle behaviours that they display. Or what they like. With AI analysis platforms like Continuon, there is no limitation to segmentation.

Marketers know that social audiences are dynamic; what matters most to humans changes frequently. But AI-driven Social Media Intelligence platforms like Continuon use analytics to reveal influencer segments and enable deep insights about these segments that are relevant, dynamic and actionable.

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