Simplifying the influencer selection process became one of the biggest influencer marketing trends of 2018. The industry saw a number of companies using automated software to find and select influencers, however is this software really necessary or indeed effective? The truth is, as long as you set your goals correctly and strategically, finding the correct influencers can be a relatively simple process.

With the rise of influencer marketing comes the rise of bandwagon jumpers and short cutters who think that success with influencers is straight forward. It’s no wonder there are so many software tools sprouting up that can find influencers and automate the process. However, we’ve now hit saturation point, there are so many options and little difference between offerings. More so, we’ve seen just how ineffective these tools can be when they lack the correct approach, strategy and system required to achieve success.

While these software tools can highlight ‘popular’ social media users with high follower counts, they don’t offer any guidance on whether they will actually be a good fit for your brand or the campaign at hand. Only one to two software offerings that have launched in recent months actually vet influencer’s followers and social engagement to ensure they are genuine, which as we know is a fundamental factor during the selection process.

It’s worth noting that Instagram itself, arguably the most important platform for influencers right now, allow very little public API access, so there is very little accurate information on many software solutions out there. Facebook, Instagram’s parent, does not want you to access this data. Instead, they want you to buy it through Facebook so it was now surprise when they launched their own influencer finder tool – the Brands Collabs Manager – in time this will likely supersede the efforts of many software companies.

The best tool we’ve seen at Disrupt was deep.social, they built AI around public data, scraping it to give you real audience demographics, when Facebook caught wind, they changed their algorithm and had to (very sadly) shut up shop.

Why automation of influencer marketing is tricky

The careless automation of influencer marketing can make your brand, and the influencers you use, come across as inauthentic. Brands are discovering that automated influencer programs are harming their campaigns. Luckily, most are not giving up on influencer marketing, they are just changing their methods back to a much more personalised influencer selection process – and many are utilising influencer marketing agencies who already have expertise in the market to achieve that.

An alternative way to find influencers

The best way to find influencers is actually within the platforms themselves. Find an entry point for your brand, once you have an idea of the type of person you want to work with, search high and low for them. This is very much a manual process but it’s worth it. With each of our clients at Disrupt we build shortlists based on an agreed persona. Once we’ve found the right fit we look at who else they follow, who follows them and build a network of related people. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are now making it easier with every update to find like-minded people and this should not go unnoticed when searching for the ‘right’ influencer. Take note of the people who Facebook believe that are ‘similar to’ someone you just found, YouTube’s ‘up next’ autoplay is also a good option to unearth influencers of a similar ilk, as well as the trusty drop down bar on Instagram. Manual as it may be, there’s no substitute for human judgement, with a little guidance from those in the know – the social platforms themselves.

So, what software should you be using?

Prioritising the software that’s right for your business is imperative, we value the ability to track posts and populate shortlists over “finding influencers” when you have the right tools to track performance and focus there you can measure success. With influencers, building a relationship is key, automating this process for us is non negotiable. Owning the relationship should be a priority for the brand, only through this can you negotiate a deal that’s right for you and ensure that its scalable.

To put it simply

We do believe there is a place for software in the world of influencer marketing, in cases such as identifying follower legitimacy it’s vital, however we really do recommend taking the manual approach when it comes to the search process. Look at it from a personal level, you wouldn’t use a software to find people to befriend on social media, why would you expect your brand to?