Facebook’s foray into influencer marketing is good news for brands

Much like Google, Facebook is the latest platform trying to stake its claim on the world of influencer marketing.

Facebook recently launched the Brand Collabs Manager, a tool that helps connect brands with social media influencers on its platform. Think of it Tinder for brands, where they can swipe left or right on influencers based on their audience demographics and portfolio of previous sponsored work.

The company began testing the product out with small number of brands in January 2018, expanding it to a broader base in June. Over 1,000 creators and 400 brands are already using the the tool.

Expect it to roll out more broadly and become a bigger priority for the social media giant as it continues to build and reiterate on it moving forward, the company said.

“Given how much advertisers tell us they want to be able to reach fresh faces with more accurate understanding of who these folks are — and how much of a business driver it is — Brand Collabs Manager is a big thing we’re investing in this year,” Kate Orseth, director of media Monetization at Facebook, told Business Insider.

Brands think it is a game-changer in the influencer space

Facebook is once again flexing its data muscle with Brand Collabs Manager, offering numbers numbers and insights of a wide variety.

For example, brands can use the tool to find influencers using a wide range of criteria, including content subject matter, demographics and engagement metrics.

“It is easy to use as well as customize for your brand, which is important, as what works for one brand in influencer marketing, doesn’t necessarily work for another,” said Jolie Jankowitz, senior director of influencer marketing and talent partnerships at subscription e-retailer FabFitfun. “Facebook’s new tool puts brands in the driver’s seat.”

Specifically, it has made the discovery influencer discovery process far easier and efficient. Instead of having to spend hundreds of hours researching influencers and finding contact information, the creators are essentially being brought straight to brands.

Reese’s campaign with House of Yumm using Facebook’s Brand Collabs Manager.

“It expedites steps that have previously been very manual,” said Samantha Wormser, director of influencer marketing at Power Digital, an agency that has used the tool on behalf of several of its clients.

Reese Specialty Foods, for example, needed influencers who could specifically highlight artichokes and hearts of palm in their content. It used Facebook Brand Collabs Manager to find the influencer House of Yumm, who created a video that was then converted into three ads for the brand. The ads led to a 219% increase in impressions for the brand’s Facebook page, the company said.

“Anybody can find an influencer, but if they don’t match your goals and audience then your efforts are fruitless,” said Sarah Bird, content director at Rinck Advertising, Reese’s agency. “It not only gave us exactly what we wanted but also saved us a lot of time in searching.”

Brands are also enticed by Facebook’s unparalleled audience size, scale and reach. They know that once they’ve found the right influencers, all they have to do is boost that content to get it in front of thousands of eyeballs with paid ads.

“It’s a game-charger in the influencer space,” said FabFitFun’s Jankowitz.

They are also waiting for it to eventually cross over to Instagram, which has historically been more of an influencer haven than Facebook.

Facebook isn’t making money from brokering branded content deals — for now

As Brand Collabs Manager rolls out to wider group of marketers, Facebook is merely acting as a facilitator stewarding the matchmaking. It leaves the coordination and production up to the brands and creators, with creators getting to keep 55% of the ad revenue from the ads.

Facebook does not take a cut of any of the deals — at least not yet.

But it’s potentially bad news for other influencer brokers

And while platforms have shied away from this service-oriented aspect of the business until now, they have started to encroach on this territory, noted Brendan Gahan, founder of Epic Signal.

YouTube has FameBit for matching creators with brands and facilitating the creation of sponsored videos, Snapchat recently announced the Storytellers program to facilitate collaborations between creators and major advertisers and Twitter has Niche.

“Every major social platform has now either acquired or developed internal marketplaces to connect creators to brands,” he said. “These are major tech companies looking to scale their businesses by creating ‘sticky’ experiences to keep as many consumers engaged as possible so that they have a volume of content to sell ads against.”

By creating opportunities for top creators to generate revenue, it is clear that the platforms are trying to incentivize influencers to invest in the platforms and continue creating content for them. In other words, the more money a creator makes on Facebook, the more videos they’ll make for Facebook and the more ads they’ll buy on Facebook, theoretically.

But at the same time, the more brands that use Facebook’s own influencer platform — the less frequently they’ll need other such partners.

“Everytime Facebook has made an investment into something that they’ve deemed worthy of going to market with, it’s had repercussions,” said Rinck Advertising’s Bird. “If I were a third-party platform, I’d be a little concerned.”

“There are businesses that will be disrupted and go out of business,” agreed Epic Signal’s Gahan. “There are a lot of similar marketplaces that offer the same thing, without the depth of Facebook’s data. They will be hurt the most.”

But others believe that it does not necessarily spell doom. While some middlemen may be cut out on the platform side, the need for vetting influencers still remains and cultivating relationships with influencers continues to be a priority for brands looking to forge authentic connections with consumers.

On the flip side, working with influencers is ‘as much art as it is science’

“Identifying influencers is just the beginning — identifying the right influencers is something entirely different, and involves significantly more work and human insight than simply plugging in some demographic data,” said Kyla Brennan, CEO of influencer management agency and network HelloSociety. “Influencer sourcing is just as much art as it is science.”

Platforms are, by their very nature, extremely biased, according to Alexa Tonner, co-founder of influencer marketing agency Collectively Inc. Influencer marketing agencies are important not just for the nuances, but also to provide brands an unbiased and neutral perspective, she says.

“YouTube wants you to put all of your budget into YouTube, Facebook wants all your budget on Facebook. But that’s not true to most consumers’ behaviors or how most influencers connect with their audience,” she said.

“Any influencer strategy that can’t take advantage of multiple channels is missing a key piece of the puzzle and the heart of influencer marketing’s effectiveness.”

Brands too don’t seem to be willing to completely stop relying on influencer agencies either. For Laurin Hicks, director of US digital marketing at Benefit Cosmetics, both platforms and influencer agencies can bring something to the table, and it doesn’t make sense to work solely with a platform and forgo establishing or nurturing an influencer-agency relationship.

“The influencer agency is an expert on what is authentic to the influencer and what would be most synergistic between the brand and the influencer, while the platforms bring data and can help us target and optimize our messaging,” she said. “The two can work in tandem.”

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