Founder and CEO at Tidal Labs
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us a little bit about your role at Tidal and how you got here. (What inspired you to start an influencer marketing company)
We look like an influencer marketing company, but in reality we see ourselves as a platform to help individuals get more opportunities and share their voices more widely. This may manifest as a way for brands to compensate influencers in exchange for posting. It could also take many other forms: an “un-agency” of trendspotting creatives, a collaborative community of parents, or a place where brands can identify and build relationships with their biggest fans.
This comes from our background, when we first started seven years ago, we were a creation platform helping media companies to bring in outside contributors. This was a world before Instagram with pent-up creativity from thousands of people just waiting to be unleashed. We worked with magazine titles, like Lucky Magazine, and book publishers, like Random House.
In the last five years it’s been the brands who have wholeheartedly embraced a rush towards unleashing creativity. And this speaks to the changing environment they must now contend with. Social media has given everyone a voice and made it infinitely harder for brands to shout loud enough for theirs to be heard amongst the din. Instead, they must harness dozens, hundreds or thousands of other voices.
MTS: What factors influence (pun intended) Tidal’s decision to accept an individual as an influencer?
We have a wide array of influencers, we will generally accept anyone looking to join our pool (we have more than 650 K users to-date). We then segment and display only the ones who are involved, engaged and create high-quality content in a genuine way.
We quantitatively look at “engagement rates” (how many comments/likes someone gets on their post divided by their followers) and how they compare to their peers in a particular area. We also look at the attribution of an influencer. Were they referred from another successful member? Did they come to us from one of our publisher partners (like Epicurious or the Today Show)?
Our client partners assess influencers quantitatively, scoring influencers based on the look, feel and aesthetic of an influencer’s various content. Do they look “on-brand”? We use this manual scoring to help train our systems, but in the end, this subjective human eye analysis is hard to replicate.
MTS: Given how quickly influencer marketing strategies have been accepted, how do you see this market evolving over the next few years?
I compare influencer marketing to mobile advertising twelve or so years ago. Marketers know it’s the way of the future, driven by consumer demand, but nobody quite knows how big it will get or what it will look like, so they are in the test and evaluate phase of adoption.
Influencer marketing is also similar to the slow-then-sudden growth of e-commerce. In the beginning, most retailers adopted a wait-and-see attitude. Over time, as it became clear that this would be an important channel, retailers converged on a universal set of standards, and now a retail strategy that doesn’t include e-commerce is considered to be incomplete. Likewise, we’re still in the slow period of influencer marketing. As more brands learn the value of influencers and understand common standards and practices, influencer marketing will become commonplace.
MTS: What do you see as the single most important technology trend or development that’s going to impact us?
The collapse of traditional marketing will be much more rapid than expected and will completely transform the nature of marketing.
Whatever new social technologies do emerge, however, influencers will always be able to adopt it more rapidly and authentically than your brand. You can never go wrong with building strong influencer relationships as a way to strengthen your brand both now and into the future.
MTS: What’s the biggest challenge for startups to integrate a CaaS platform into their stack?
The biggest problem is legacy protocols and strategies. Heavy-handed control is antithetical to creative content being produced by influencers. If too much control is taken by the brand, the content will not resonate as authentic with an influencer’s audience and fail to perform well. Finding the perfect balance between what the brand wants and what the influencer wants to create is the key.
Like with anything else, too many stakeholders and decisions-by-committee dampen the effectiveness of a CaaS platform.
MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
We’re partnering with, or at least keeping an eye on, many other startups that work within the world of connecting brands to individuals. Interesting startups like Olapic are helping brands gather, integrate and make sense of huge amounts of social content to drive purchase.
MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
We’re on the Hubspot marketing platform and really like it. Hubspot gives us a deep view of every person we’re interacting with, where they go on our site, what conversations we’ve had with them, how they interact with our emails, proposals, presentations and other collateral. We love the out-of-the-box integration.
MTS: Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success)
The skin care company Clarins USA teamed up with Tidal Labs to extend the successful 2016 influencer marketing campaign, #worththewrinkle, by making influencer efforts a part of their ongoing marketing mix in 2017.
For Clarins USA it was not just one campaign, but working with influencers to launch content every month of 2017. The company utilizes our technology to target relevant influencers for different product/campaign pushes, optimizing a pool of influencers to continuously produce content for the brand. We worked closely with the Clarins USA marketing team to with the goal of driving social awareness, in addition to producing authentic content for owned channels.
The real success has been how much and how widely that content has been utilized for the brand. Owned social channels, web pages, email campaigns, you name it, the content produced has proven to be an unexpectedly valuable resource and has outperformed other types of creative. Clarins utilized an “influencer CRM” to automate relationships with hundreds of influencers in order to generate high-quality posts, pictures and short videos per month to reach their target audience of beauty consumers.
Success was measured based on ROI and the overall efficiency improvements for influencer efforts managed in-house or with partner vendors.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader?
For us, it means making sure we’re building our systems and processes as Legos, building blocks, rather than be beholden to one particular platform or worldview. This allows flexibility in how we ingest, process and analyze data. And it ensures we’re (relatively) future-proofed for whatever data manipulation task may come along in the future.
THIS IS HOW I WORK
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
Frenetic. Running a (profitable) startup means that there is always always a half dozen spinning plates close to toppling. But the busier I am the more I tend to get done… to a point.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
We espouse automation for influencer marketing, so that means automating as much as possible of our own work as well; getting in touch with people, scheduling, creating proposals and onboarding new clients. Even at a startup centered around automation face-to-face time still goes a long way.
MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
Load all the snippets of text you type every day into an autocomplete macro app, like Atext for Mac or PhaseExpress for Windows. Then, wherever you are, email or Calendar, you can save yourself keystrokes by instantly typing long URLs, conference call numbers, etc.
MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
There’s a few psychiatry books I’m reading with the recurring theme of learning to listen. It’s something that I know I can improve on, and that I think many people are struggling with in our over-saturated society.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
With business prospects, investors and others – ask for money and you’ll get advice, ask for advice and you may just end up with money.
MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
Persistence. In startup life, you need to be able to weather countless storms and keep a sense of optimism along the way. I’ve found myself to be particularly good at sticking through ups and downs.
MTS: Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Jose de Cabo of Olapic
MTS: Thank you Mathew! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
I became an entrepreneur long before I knew it was called that. I started out selling “levitating magnets” in 3rd grade. These days I’m the founder/CEO of Tidal Labs. We want to make the world a more inspired and inspiring place.
The internet is fueled by passionate storytellers. Our technology inspires engagement through personable content from the world’s top creators.
Tidal Labs’ technology powers the world’s most successful content-driven campaigns by activating thousands of influential creators and connecting them with the brands and publishing partners they are passionate about. The result is captivating, higher-trafficked and better monetized sites and communities.
About the MarTech Interview Series
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.