Estimates around the worth of the global influencer marketing industry vary, but from the number of sponsored posts coming up on the average scroll through one’s Instagram feed, it seems safe to say the market is worth a lot and growing steadily; a report from Mediakix puts it at US$1 billion. With that kind of money up for grabs, it’s no wonder that the number of influencer platforms and agencies looking to connect brands to influencers keeps growing.
One such agency is Brisbane’s The Exposure Co, founded by Tara Kingi and Victoria Harrison in 2015, when they were 22 years old. The cofounders met while working for a digital marketing agency.
“At the time, a former colleague was struggling to promote an ecommerce business through Instagram; influencers were running off with the product, not following briefs and just being unreliable. We all agreed there had to be a more efficient way to leverage the power of influencers and thus The Exposure Co was born,” Harrison explained.
It first started as a Friday afternoon project, encouraged by the agency, as an exercise to keep the pair at the forefront of the fast-paced digital marketing space, Harrison said. They then started working on the idea and building it into a business around their full-time work hours.
“Six months in we were faced with a 24 hour ultimatum from our boss: give up on The Exposure Co or quit our current full time jobs,” Harrison said.
With nothing to their names, they chose to go all in on running their own business, resigning the next day.
Starting a business is a risky decision at the best of times, whichever sector you might be working in, but influencer marketing in particular is a difficult space. Along with being a competitive space, with the likes of venture-backed Vamp, Tribe, and Hypetap in the market, the outcomes of influencer marketing campaigns can be difficult to determine, with influencers claiming a range of metrics that can be hard to verify.
Where The Exposure Co differs, Harrison stated, is in its focus on audience data insights at the start to ensure the right fit between brand and influencer.
“Despite its popularity – and increase in marketing spend being put towards it – Tara and I are still shocked to see how many ‘educated guesses’ and vanity metrics are used when it comes to influencer marketing,” she said.
“While most influencer platforms and agencies focus mainly on follower size, engagement rate, and niche to determine which influencers are a good fit, our insights allow us to delve one step deeper into our influencer’s active follower data.”
The Exposure Co looks to break down each influencer’s most engaged followers and, with the Instagram API, determine stats such as gender split, age, location, and language.
“The stats are very interesting – many female models, who are engaged to promote female-centric products, often have more active male followers than females – a key takeaway that most brands would be unaware of without our data,” Harrison said.
According to Harrison, The Exposure Co’s cost per engagement (CPE) per campaign is 21 cents, where the industry average is 93 cents, while its average influencer post engagement rate is 2.6 percent, compared to an industry average of 2.01 percent.
At the moment, influencers brought on are all personally verified by Harrison, which she admitted is time consuming, though necessary; they’re then re-checked before they are engaged for a specific campaign. The company currently has around 2,000 influencers in its network.
“Follower size is only one of the metrics we look at when determining their influence. In addition to their active follower insights, account engagement, quality of content, comment sentiments, average impressions per post and post frequencies are also carefully verified,” Harrison explained.
With The Exposure Co offering an end-to-end process, the agency works to develop, activate, and manage tailored campaigns based on a client’s goals.
“This full service offering allows us to pick the right strategy and the right influencers for the job. It’s very important to note that the type of influencer doesn’t only differ between clients, but also between campaign types,” Harrison said.
“For example, if the client’s goal is to create content to repurpose on their own channels we would put more emphasis on finding an influencer with beautiful content creation skills, and worry less about metrics such as follower size and reach. Conversely, if we were looking to drive sales and click-throughs, we would look to influencers with impressive stats in terms of impressions, reach, positive comment sentiments and bio click-throughs.”
This data is key as the influencer market grows; Harrison said both client and influencer expectations have come a long way since The Exposure Co launched.
“Clients are demanding more transparency when it comes to ROI and influencer rates are increasing. This just means that as the influencer price tag continues to climb, it’s more important than ever to justify the cost for clients,” she said.
Of course, with the growth of spend in the market, more prospective influencers are looking to get on board, and aiming to help them get to the top is a recently launched Sydney startup Crushfame.
Founded by Matt Sterne and Jarrad Collings, the startup essentially wants to give users a how-to guide to becoming a top influencer through video courses.
The platform’s first course comes from Gabby Epstein, who boasts 1.8 million Instagram followers. Comprised of 51 videos spanning 15 modules, Epstein’s course gives viewers a step-by-step guide to creating a profile for themselves and how to stand out.
“We started by asking each other why no one had yet created the how-to of social media influencers in a rich and engaging format from actual influencers themselves, and not from a corporate voice,” Sterne said.
Collings added, “A common trait shared among the top influencers we’ve met is a very different mindset on what it takes to develop your own personal brand online and live life on your terms. We felt this needed to be explored.”
Crushfame will look to develop more courses focused on various niches within the influencer space.
Image: Tara Kingi and Victoria Harrison. Source: Supplied.