What is it?
I like figuring out what is coming next in tech. As an entrepreneur I have never wanted to do something small. I am passionate about solving problems I see in the world and I have always tried to look for what I thought was needed to fill a major hole in the market. Before there was Google, I was building search algorithms because I hated Lycos, Infoseek and Altavista. Before there was Yammer, Basecamp, Trello and Slack, I was working on enterprise collaboration - Facebook for work as I called it. Now I'm also working on what I think is the biggest shift in communication history.
The internet at scale has fundamentally changed many of the things that most of us said we would never do. Purchasing products online, setting up a Facebook profile, booking travel online instead of using an agent, buying online advertising instead of traditional media, even figuring out what Twitter actually is for.
Now everyone is sending poop emojis.
Early adopters who were adventurous and took the leap of faith with digital advertising came to understand the true ROI that was possible. It started with email marketing, then migrated to Google AdWords. Those early adopters were rewarded and came to believe that AdWords was the pinnacle when it came to your digital spend, and they were right for a while. Facebook advertising? Facebook ads will never be relevant/comparable to AdWords right? But 1.8 billion global users and digital spend ROI now greater than AdWords and everyone is flocking to Facebook.
But that is just the beginning. Even newer forms of digital media are looking to eclipse these two juggernauts. Google AdWords are down 19% globally at the moment. 19% less clicks by the same users in the last year... Doesn't mean it is going away, doesn't mean you should stop your spend there, it just means the cost to play is higher and the ROI is lower than before. There are other more interesting social engagement platforms that have captivated the global audience recently and it is important to know where you should focus your advertising budgets next. Where the users are engaging is where the greatest ROI gains can be had.
Snapchat and Instagram are just an early indicator of what is next.
The shift is to realtime engagement platforms. In the moment marketing. Not just push display ads targeted to a demographic or pull ads contextually matched to search. Not just cookies and retargeting based on what you've already looked for. No, the next opportunity is live, in the moment engagement signals, with massive numbers of actual users being influenced to buy products - that they actually want! That's the apex. Emotionally driven realtime product participation. Driven by influencers. The most grossly undervalued digital media segment today.
Pair the influencer and their audiences with AI (artificial intelligence) so that logical realtime offers can be made in the moment and you have a complete communication circle. The product data in the cloud now exists to pull from. When influencers are talking about specific products, offers can logically be connected in realtime to the audience in a way that no longer sucks. It will make sense. It will be useful, rewarding and even enjoyable.
Believe me, when a largely followed influencer creates an outfit of the day post on social media - those items sell out. The ROI difference compared to traditional media advertising is mind-blowing. Most of the brands currently just don't know how to capitalize on this yet. Very few marketing platforms even offer it.
Companies who have embraced influencers have quickly risen to be global contenders. Take Bodybuilding.com and the vision of its founder Ryan DeLuca. His company was recently purchased by Liberty Media, one of the most active acquirers of ecommerce sites and the recent acquirer of Europe's racing sports franchise - Formula 1 . Ryan grew his company by partnering with numerous popular influencers in the body building space who had amassed huge followers in social media. People like Steve Cook were given pages and product lines on bodybuilding.com in exchange for commissions on the sale of products. The results speak for themselves.
Currently though, less than 2% of the global $556 billion dollar advertising spend flows to influencers. There is no large-scale programmatic solution to find the audience when realtime engagement is happening and in that moment match relevant content from brands. All the deals done in the space are still the traditional process that involves RFPs, human negotiations and manual insertion orders. That old-school process never capitalizes on in-the-moment marketing. It leads to fake content creation to simply promote product from signed sponsor deals. Users know they have to put up with it so their heroes can make money and keep doing what they do, but it's tolerated at best, definitely not enjoyed. The true ROI potential of in-the-moment influencer marketing hasn't even been quantified yet.
Most social networks gain their main audience traction when celebrities and influencers start to participate. They bring over millions of followers as new users to the platform. "Find me on Snapchat" is pure gold for the company when a celeb like Ellen decides to start engaging there and tells her audience to follow her. Sometimes a single new celebrity can bring more traffic and users than all the marketing efforts to date by a social network itself. Yet sadly, as in the case of Facebook, the celebrities and influencers are not paid for the content they create and the engagement from their fans on that platform. For example, Facebook simply displays ads on Will Smith's Facebook page but does not share a single penny with him from that revenue. Only Youtube shares ad revenues with their content creators, although only 45%.
All the current sponsorship deals being shilled by influencers on their social profiles are manually negotiated and promoted. The opportunity for programmatic influencer marketing is staggering and the beauty is it just makes so much sense.
There is no rhyme or reason as to why some people become rising stars and others do not. No one has figured out how to manufacture celebrity. Youtube has become the greatest filter for stardom and anyone now has the chance to be the next Justin Bieber. We just can't determine ahead of time, who exactly that will be. Once it happens though, there should be a better system for supporting these new entertainers. The social platforms help find and create these influencers, but the networks are basically stealing their incomes from them.
The greatest shift in communication will be the empowerment of our content creators with a new programmatic AI revenue solution that puts them first and helps them sustain the work they do. Only 1% of the planet are content creators but they are where the audience is. The age of pilot TV programs and traditional film making is coming to an end. The internet star is now created and sustained by the crowd. They vote for what they want and it can change in an instant. The traditional media systems respond too slowly to compete. Leveraging this network of influencers on a different platform than the social networks themselves is where I think the opportunity is.
Operating separately from the social networks allows the influencers to own their brand rather than rent space on something they can't control. Think Vine, or even 2013 when Facebook started limiting the reach of an individual's post visibility to their followers. Now Facebook wants you to pay to reach them all... That's just not fair. And BTW, when I say an influencer's brand, I am not talking about their personal brand. They should be using their influence to build a brand separate from themselves - 100X the value.
Realtime, in the moment marketing using programmatic AI solutions for influencers really will transform our digital experiences. People hate ads, but they love genuine recommendations. It's coming folks. Communication could really see a total transformation that finally delivers on the promise of the future. I'm very excited to be part of the revolution.