Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to significantly change the business world. The International Data Corporation (IDC) notes that industries are expected to spend $110 billion on AI by 2024. Cash investments in AI are already approaching the $50 billion mark. But what are businesses getting out of these investments? Are there positive changes in how these companies interact with their consumers as a result? One of the newest uses of AI is to help companies identify viable influencer marketing channels. Before we see how AI has changed the influencer marketing game, we must first examine how widespread influencer marketing is today.
A brief description of influencer marketing
Sprout Social defines influencer marketing as a social media channel that leverages the audience of a popular personality on a particular platform. In the early days of the influence marketing craze, companies had very few options. They looked at which users had the most followers and offered to promote products to them. As social media has evolved, companies have become more cautious in their choice of partners. Choosing an influencer could reflect badly on the company if they were involved in a scandal.
The catch in finding an influencer
Companies have now realized how powerful influencer marketing can be. As the entire world faces social distancing in 2020 and part of 2021, influencers are some of the most effective marketing tools brands can use. Unfortunately, finding the user with the most followers is no longer easy. Influencers mostly work in niches such as beauty, fashion and food. Lifestyle marketing is how influencers influence their audience. They sell people the idea of a great life. Unfortunately, finding the right influencer for a brand means researching their posts and the engagement of his or her subscribers. It can take a person hours on any social media platform to do this.
The role of artificial intelligence
Marketers are used to rolling the dice. In the early days of marketing, a lot of things were random. However, as technology has evolved, we’ve seen more targeted marketing to eliminate the element of randomness. The same thought process underlies the use of artificial intelligence to pinpoint marketers who fit certain brands. Artificial intelligence is an iterative technology. In the beginning, it will take some time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. However, with each new project it takes on, it learns from its mistakes. Like a professional in a field who can reduce his work time many times that of a novice, AI can do the same compared to an ordinary human. What’s more, the AI engine can easily match several dozen indicators on the number of subscribers. The data, which would fill several spreadsheets, can be condensed and simplified into a recommendation or suggestion to move on.
The issue of the number of subscribers is controversial. Some marketers look at it as a guide to action, while others understand how common it is to sell follower accounts. The number of followers may be inflated, but engagement still can’t be faked to any significant degree. What’s more, research on social media engagement and brand impact notes that fewer followers can be positive for marketing. Fewer followers means that the influencer has a greater impact on each individual follower. From a brand perspective, this can easily lead to a small fan base of an influencer turning into brand evangelists. AI can help find such micro-influencers and see if the number of their subscribers falls into the main demographic of the company’s target audience. While this is a simplified methodology, the basic premise remains the same.
Using artificial intelligence is harder than it looks
Many companies make the mistake of thinking that AI is the cure-all. AI is not just a plug-in that just works. You can’t just give it a social media platform and criteria that you want to meet and let it go free. AI is a self-learning system. It needs to be guided to find the right hits. The engine can quickly determine the number of views on a YouTube channel and then delve into subscriber data in a matter of seconds. Once it has found a candidate, however, it can consistently do so faster and faster with each iteration. The catch with this approach is that the company must already know what it needs in an influencer agent. What makes an influence agent applicable to a company? What are the key character traits that this influencer’s audience should have? Finding the first successful influencer sets the stage for all the others. This allows artificial intelligence to know what the company is looking for.
Marketers are excited about the potential that AI has for finding the right influencers. Unfortunately, they erroneously rely on the infallibility of the mechanism. AI is a black box. A marketer can’t tell it to find the perfect influencer for a brand according to given criteria. Instead, it can input data and check the results. Then, on a second pass, the marketer can refine the instructions and re-run the algorithm. With each pass, the results get better. Like all programs, however, it is only as good as the instructions the marketer gives it.
AI can also save influence marketing. Sometimes, with so many social media posts being posted from one account, influence agents can get the tags and links wrong. The AI can scan the posts and automatically correct these errors with brand names and logos. The posts can be redirected to the company’s social media page to better engage consumers. In some cases, AI bots can even perform basic interaction with consumers, passing them on to customer service agents if queries become too complex.
A happy balance between humans and AI
Before a brand starts throwing its full weight behind finding influencers using AI, it’s important to note the shortcomings of the technology. AI still needs a human to guide it. If you let the AI do everything on its own, you’ll get mostly unspecialized results. Without proper guidance, those results will still be useless. Humans need to test products and give positive feedback to the AI so it can improve. The AI is capable of many things, but only if it is helped by humans. Striking a balance between humans and the mechanism offering the AI is critical to success.