Influencer Marketing Technology: What Tools Are There & How Do You Use Them?
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How to win in today's creator economy
Influencer marketing is a fast-growing market with proven results. But even for those experiencing positive ROI, the amount of time and organization required to collaborate with creators authentically is time consuming.
Brands used to work with influencers through marketplaces that acted more like job boards. But an increasing number of influencer marketers are now choosing to work with influencers directly to create long-term relationships with creators who already love their brand. This approach allows brands to work with creators that are a better fit, not to mention the fact that strong brand-influencer relationships always share a common love for the endorsed product. But like many industries, the demand for agile solutions is growing fast.
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It’s important to find a platform that works like a CRM but is influencer-specific. And because a successful influencer program requires a robust tech stack of its own, you’ll want to think about all the critical tasks that your program requires.
Nearly every industry feels the weight of needing a better, more intuitive solution to their day-to-day problems. Thankfully, there are more choices than there have ever been. That means that you can get picky about the tools you add to your influencer marketing tech stack.
Stages of an influencer marketing program
Some brands jump into a major SaaS purchase much too soon – they don’t know exactly what they need or how they will implement the tool into their process. Other brands wait too long, and as a result, they lose prized creator relationships and exhaust their marketing team.
To avoid a premature purchase or team member burnout, we recommend taking a closer look at your current program. To help you determine where you are, we’ve broken influencer programs in three stages.
Early stage: Program launch
In your early stage, you’re beginning to reach out to influencers and may have only run a few campaigns. Because your program is so new, you’re not completely sure what you need to scale your program. So far, you’re just figuring it out. This is a great place to be, because you have the ability to put some healthy habits into place and properly manage your budding influencer community. If you consider your influencer program to be in its early stages, here are some manual tools you’ll need:
- Spreadsheets – Whether Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, most of your influencer management will exist within some kind of spreadsheet.
- Email – To properly collaborate with your creators, you’ll need to maintain regular communication with them, as well as a basic suite of email management tools.
- Storage – You’ll want to download or screenshot influencer content during campaigns and upload them onto a secure cloud drive. Additionally, you’ll want to be able to organize your content library by creator, campaign, post style, and more.
- Payment services – If you’re paying your influencers commissions or flat rates, you’ll need to have a good system for sending prompt payments electronically.
- eSignature tool – Creator contracts are critical for establishing accountability, content rights, and more.
- Social listening – Some social media platforms give you basic social listening, such as notifications when your brand has been tagged. But if you want to catch more UGC online, you may want to look at a few low-cost social listening tools.
- Fulfillment tracking – If you’re like most influencer marketers, you send a lot of product to your creators. Using your ecommerce platform, you’ll need to develop a strong process for tracking which influencer chose what product, updating that inventory, and then sending that product out in a timely manner.
Mid-stage: Scaling your program
By mid-stage, you’ve run several successful influencer campaigns, and you have a handful of top performers that you intend to use again. The main problem you’re having in this stage is figuring out how to keep track of all the details. This mid-stage is the perfect time to invest in an influencer marketing platform that does all or most of the tasks (described above) for you. At this point, you have a pretty good idea of what you need to be a successful influencer program. You can “see the light,” but you need a better tech stack to get you there.
Full stage: Managing a high-performing influencer program
If you’re running a full-fledged influencer program, you likely have an influencer platform that everyone on your team uses to recruit influencers, manage campaigns/workflows, report performance, and maintain a creator content library. But at this stage, you’re able to refine your program. That might mean that you need a better influencer platform or supporting tools. Or, it could mean that you recognize the need to dial-in your influencer selection.
If your program requires unique features uncommon to most programs, you might already be partnering with your software providers to customize your current platform or integrate multiple SaaS tools for greater efficiency.
What do you need your influencer marketing technology to do?
It’s unlikely that you’ll find one platform that does everything listed below. What’s important for you to figure out is what your current influencer program needs look like today and where you hope to take your program in the near future.
Early on, you’ll probably be using spreadsheets, tools within each social platform, as well as other low-cost tools at your disposal. But eventually, you’ll need a better solution – one that accomplishes more in fewer clicks and does a better job of integrating with your entire marketing tech stack.
Influencer management support
Your chief influencer marketing tool is whatever platform you’re using to manage your influencer relationships and campaigns. Whether using manual tools (spreadsheets) or automation (influencer marketing platform, IRM software, etc.), what you hope is that your management support will help you achieve the following:
- Exhaustive list of influencer prospects, as well as any active or archived influencers
- System to organize all relevant details on each each influencer
- Record of communication with creators, including campaign briefs, pitches, and contracts
- Library of influencer content posted during campaigns
- Database of influencer performance metrics (engagements, revenue, number of posts, etc.)
Creator discovery & recruitment
Though your creator discovery and recruitment tools may come included within your influencer management support (see above), this task is critical enough to merit a separate discussion.
Nine times out of ten, the quality of your influencer program comes down to the quality of influencers you partner with. Many marketers lean heavily on a combination of tools to achieve the following:
- Identify influencers that match their buyer personas
- Compare influencer performance
- Track outreach messages and replies
- Identify lookalike influencers (influencers who are similar to other high-performing influencers on your team)
Launching an influencer marketing campaign requires a variety of workflow and project management tools. Keeping your campaigns organized from start to finish requires you to identify tools that will:
- Compose and save campaign briefs
- Supply relevant tags, hashtags, affiliate links, coupon codes, logos, and other content assets
- Posts and post performance tracking
Creator content library
When your creators post for a campaign, you’ll need a system for downloading, saving, or taking a screenshot of each post. Within your content library, you can confirm that your influencers are posting as agreed, and you can also use that content library to repurpose high-performing influencer content for paid ads.
Digital contracts & esignatures
It’s not feasible in this day and age to manage paper contracts with your influencers. Instead, you’ll need a process for sending, negotiating, and signing influencer agreements that holds everyone accountable to what you expect from your influencers, as well as how you will compensate them.
Whatever ecommerce platform you’ve chosen for your brand, you’ll need to integrate inventory, selling, and fulfillment with your influencer campaigns. This is especially true if you plan to utilize various social commerce tools, such as in-app shopping, IG Story Swipe-ups, etc.
If you’re using a reliable email provider attached to your domain (such as G Suite or Outlook), you’ll have many communication tools at your disposal. It’s critical that you’re able to maintain open communication with your influencers before and during your campaigns.
Depending on the size of your program, you may have too many influencers to feasibly email them individually for every task in every campaign. As your program grows, consider adding a tool that allows you to:
- Use targeted email sequences to specific groups
- Mass emails with personalized tags (such as the influencer’s name, campaign, dates, etc.)
- Customize premade email templates for outreach, campaign briefs, and more
Workflow & project management
Your influencer program exists as a piece of your greater marketing strategy. You’ll need to coordinate your creator collaborations with other campaigns, such as product launches, experiential marketing events, holiday promotions, and more.
A great addition to your influencer marketing technology list is a project management or productivity tool that will make it easier for you and your team to oversee workflow, timelines, and milestones.
Performance tracking & influencer reporting
Performance tracking and reporting demonstrates to you and your leadership that your influencer program is working. When your program is young, pulling together key metrics from multiple spreadsheets and manually calculating ROI is understandable. But once you’re overseeing multiple campaigns and a handful of influencers, you’re going to need a tool that gathers your performance metrics for you. Ideally, you want your reporting tool to track:
- Number of posts per influencer and per campaign
- Post views/impressions
- Engagements per post
- Link clicks
- Influencer costs
- Overall ROI
Automation vs manual tools – Pros & Cons
Manual tools (spreadsheets, social media platforms, email, etc.)
Manual influencer marketing tools are any free, pre-existing, or general tools you use to get the job done. For new influencer programs, manual tools make the most sense. Naturally, this approach requires you to gather, store, organize, and retrieve information from a few different places. But if you don’t have too much data to work with just yet, you’ll be able to launch your program with few issues.
- Little to no financial cost
- Clean slate from which to launch your program
- Data stored in multiple places and formats
Influencer relationship management (IRM) software
Once you’re managing a handful of influencers that you plan to collaborate with over and over again, the manual approach won’t suffice (unless you hire a couple new team members to help you keep track of everything).
The automated or software approach means that you’re looking to consolidate your influencer/campaign data into one place and do far more in fewer clicks. Using IRM software also adds credibility to your program, since your creators will notice that you are running campaigns using better tools.
When shopping for an influencer-specific platform, it’s critical that the software is meeting your needs, such as automatically pulling data that you formerly had to scour for on social media channels or gathering performance metrics into an easy-to-use ROI report.
- Do more in fewer clicks
- Integration with multiple software tools
- Easier to scale influencer program
- One person can do the work of several people
- Upfront costs
- Long sales process
Choosing the wrong platform could impede growth and cost you more money
Step-by-step guide: How to shop for the right influencer marketing platform
Step 1 – Establish your program goals & KPIs.
The big question about your creator program is, What do you want to accomplish? What you decide your objectives to be will determine what your key performance indicators (KPIs) are for you and your influencers.
Step 2 – Identify what stage your influencer program is in.
Investing in heavy-duty software solutions when you’ve only just launched your program could put you in bind. There’s so much you’ve not yet learned about who your ideal influencers are and how to best incorporate your products into your campaigns.
When you hit your stride and start to grow, that’s when you’ll start to long for a better technology solution for you and your team. And when you reach that point, pay close attention to the processes and workflows that produce the best results. When you’re ready to use a more robust tool, you’ll know exactly what you need that tool to do.
Step 3 – Consult reputable review & research websites.
Because you have to start somewhere, we recommend consulting experts. Each of the review and research websites below will allow you to search within several categories related to influencer marketing, social media, productivity, and more.
When taking a closer look at potential vendors, don’t just look at the scores – look for reviews that are authentic and detailed. Doing so will give you an idea of what each SaaS platform’s strengths and weaknesses are.
Step 4 – Book demos with your favorite vendors.
After you’ve chosen 2-4 vendors that you really like, the next step is to book demos with the sales team. In these demos, it’s best if you come prepared to describe your program’s goals, KPIs, ideal influencer profile, campaign workflow, and ecommerce strategy.
That way, the agent hosting the demo will understand whether or not you’re a good fit for their platform.
Step 5 – Partner with your boss to vet the right provider.
If you’re the influencer marketing manager, you may need to pull your boss into the conversation after you’ve narrowed down your top picks for a particular software solution. Most likely, you’ll need to book at least one more demo so that your supervisor can also get a feel for what you’re recommending.
What to keep in mind while researching influencer automation tools
Look for solutions that allow you to do more in one place.
It doesn’t make sense for any brand to onboard a complicated tech solution that doesn’t actually streamline its process. During product demos, pay close attention to phrases like:
- “We actually don’t do that. You’d have to use [name of another tool] to do that.”
- “Actually, you can take care of that within the platform and save yourself time.”
It’s unlikely that you will find one software tool that does everything super well, but you’ll be successful if you focus on accomplishing more creator campaign and relationship management tasks with fewer desktop windows open.
Communicate your influencer program needs to your boss as soon as possible.
The best software solutions usually come with a price tag (and there’s a good reason for it). As such, don’t wait too long to spring the conversation on your boss. Most likely, adding the right tools will require a budget meeting for you or leadership.
Come to product demos with a list of questions and problems you want to solve.
Since most product demos take anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour, it’s important that you make that time count. Getting in the right mindset with a list of questions and goals will keep you from wasting your time.
Make sure that any influencer marketing platform providers you use offer a thorough onboarding experience.
Few things in the world are worse than investing in a SaaS tool and being left to fend for oneself. If the platform is as good as the demo suggests, then that means that you and your team members probably have a learning curve to climb. For this reason, confirm that the provider will take your onboarding seriously. Software support and customer service aren’t just good for troubleshooting glitches in the system, they are critical for you being set up for success.
Learn about OAuth toggling within influencer marketing platforms.
When it comes to influencer marketing and social media management platforms, OAuth toggling is a tech feature that grants you access to user data with various levels of acceptable limitations. For example, OAuth toggling in influencer marketing software means that the platform will automatically pull influencer content into your dashboard without you having to chase down the content yourself.
This feature doesn’t violate the influencer’s privacy when it comes to their profile and passwords. Finding an influencer platform that offers OAuth should be high on your wishlist when scaling your program. It will save you hours of work and keep you from having to pester your creators for campaign content.
Conclusion: Your influencer marketing technology stack should allow you to scale your program, build ROI, and bring your team members closer together.
Regardless of how many different pieces there are in your influencer marketing tech stack, the goal should always be to do more with less. That means that your software tools should make your life (and the lives of your team members) significantly better. As you shop for the next addition to your stack, keep in mind that the tools you choose should help you efficiently scale your program so that you can increase your returns, all the while improving working relationships between you, your marketing team, and your influencers.
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