Influencer marketing — using individuals with no specific celebrity other than their digital presence to promote products or brands — is big business, with just the Instagram influencer market reaching $1 billion this year (and that’s just one platform of many!) The reason? Social media-attached millennials are now the generation with the largest retail purchasing power, with Gen Z coming into their own as well.
Not only are these consumers living a good portion of their day online and on social media, but they’re savvy to ads — they don’t trust billboards or even television commercials like their parents used to.
This is a space Jeremy Haile has been at the forefront of for his whole career. He led development of social media management software at Vitrue (acquired by Oracle) and served as CTO of a startup in the social community software space. While entrenched in building technologies to manage social communities, Haile saw the emerging value brands were placing on relationships with influencers — but he also saw a dearth of tools to manage and measure those relationships.
After teaming up with tech and media entrepreneur Tree McGlown, Haile co-founded Sideqik, a marketing and data analytics platform that traffics specifically in influencer campaigns. The platform helps marketers find relevant influencers in their industry, activate campaigns utilizing those influencers, and measure KPIs like engagement and ROI.
“My experience thus far showed me how powerful it can be when you pair data and analytics with reaching your brand advocates,” says Haile.
The SaaS platform is tackling a growing industry — Haile estimates a $5 billion market total. They already have signed on clients like Coca-Cola, virtual reality giant HTC Vive, TBS, and more.
Haile says, though their clients are largely B2C brands thus far, they’re seeing a slow trickle of business from B2B brands, and they have the ability to expand to any social platform where there might be a need.
But Haile and McGlown say the platform is moving beyond its current capabilities, to an even more predictive capacity. In addition to connecting and tracking influencers, they want it to help brands predict the next big influencer, the next social media star.
“A lot of our customers now are trying to figure out, not just who are the top influencers now, how to track and manage them; but what they really want to do is find out who’s going to be next in that space. So being able to find the next up and coming musician, or that artist, or that influencer that can help you in your market,” says Haile.
How would this work? By crunching the hundreds of thousands of data points they’re already collecting and using machine learning to study the path to the top that previous influencers have taken. They would then identify up-and-coming individuals that look like they may take the same path, and connect big brands much earlier on.
“What we are building out now is a product with a focus around that predictive portion — being able to tell a brand how much impact that influencer is going to have; being able to tell them ahead of time that that person is going to be huge,” says Haile.
“We look at the influencers succeeding in that area and then look at the signals that show their success, and then we look for other people who match that pattern,” says Haile. “The big thing about this for brands is, instead of just going out and looking for someone because we like their feed or we like their message, is we’re actually looking at all this data first.”
Finding those influencers early on isn’t only valuable for the marketing ROI, but for a company’s bottom line. Influencer marketing with the top players can get expensive, so Haile says building a relationship early could save big dollars in the long run.
“Who can I work with now that isn’t going to break the bank, that works within my budget, but who I know that developing a relationship with now will be worth it down the line?” says Haile.
The platform also has applications for business teams beyond marketing. As influencer marketing becomes the norm, social platforms and government agencies are instituting more regulations to protect consumers, similar to the ad industry. Influencers on many platforms now have to divulge a paid relationship with a brand to their followers. Haile explains that clients are now giving access to the Sideqik platform to their legal teams, so lawyers can monitor and ensure influencers are being compliant with those regulations.
To support all of this product growth, Sideqik is scaling quickly. The team of 10 has moved into a new office with room to grow, and plans to double the team by the middle of next year.
They also recently pitched at the Venture Atlanta conference with hopes to raise a $3 million Series A round.
“Directors of marketing have more data than ever available to them today, but that doesn’t mean they know what to do with that data,” says Haile. “So we’re stepping in.”