Influencer Marketing AI Adoption and Technology Will See Big Changes in 2018

Opinion: The primary barrier will be human resistance

Marketers will have a key role in assisting in the AI learning process

Picture a future where machines make better decisions about influencer campaigns than even the savviest marketers.

Software won’t just automate aspects of recruiting influencers and encouraging them to post content. It will learn about everything from exactly which types of influencers drive the most brand engagement to optimal ways of enticing influential customers to recommend a product or service. Instead of making manual adjustments, these machines will tweak activities continuously to optimize influencer campaigns.

In 2018, this dream of how artificial intelligence will impact influencer marketing will become much closer to a reality. As we move closer to a world where AI plays a dominant role in designing and implementing influencer marketing efforts, here are the two big changes that we’ll see in 2018:

Influencer marketing AI will improve dramatically

Machine learning for optimizing the recruitment, activation and impact of influencers already exists. But much of this technology is still in its earliest stages and simply isn’t sophisticated enough for marketers to rely on.

In the coming year, influencer marketing AI will advance in five distinct ways:

  • Reducing time spent understanding influencer-generated content: Computers are already capable of detecting basic image attributes, from brand logos to scenery. But AI-powered influencer marketing systems will use their neural networks to offer insights about influencer personas based on an analysis of millions of image attributes, such as whether an image is inappropriate in any way, or whether similar images tend to see a lot of engagement.
  • Recommending the right incentives based on influencer preference: Marketers already have the ability to implement always-on influencer identification solutions that engage consumers in the moment of interaction with a brand, whether it be on-site or via email or display ad. Using neural networks trained on historical data from millions of influencers, AI-powered influencer marketing systems will be able to accurately predict what level of incentive works best to encourage influencers to post and offer that incentive at the moment the influencer is most likely to post. This will be true for influencers of all sizes, from celebrities with millions of followers to micro-influencers with smaller, highly engaged networks of friends and family.
  • Predicting influencer performance: Much like AI-powered influencer marketing systems that will be able to predict what incentive to offer an influencer to encourage them to take a certain action, these systems will also be able to forecast and predict influencer performance based on a brand’s objective—including everything from the level of engagement on each post to the number of sales conversions that each influencer will drive.
  • Identifying trends in increased influencer potential: Related to performance, AI-powered influencer marketing systems won’t just re-evaluate an influencer’s potential every month or year. Based on learnings from each post, these systems will be able to understand when people are likely to experience an increase or a decrease in their influence and adjust incentives accordingly.
  • Offering guidance on content reuse: If the influencer is activated to create content, AI systems will be able to understand how valuable that content will be for potential brand reuse and offer recommendations on whether to use the content for an ad unit, website hero image or newsletter mention.

As AI-powered influencer marketing tech advances in these five areas, marketers will be able to rest assured that their software will achieve the right balance of motivation for the influencer and return on investment for the brand.

Marketers will adjust to their new role in an AI world

From the many conversations that I’ve had with marketing executives, the primary barrier to continued adoption of AI-powered influencer marketing in 2018 will be human resistance, rather than technological barriers.

Many marketers are afraid of losing control. This fear manifests itself in a couple of ways.

The first has to do with concerns around AI not running influencer marketing programs as effectively or reliability as humans. For instance, marketers are concerned that AI-powered platforms will not always identify influencers that are on brand. But even as marketers begin to see that AI-powered systems can run campaigns more effectively than they can, they worry that their jobs could be at risk.

While machines will certainly decrease the amount of time marketers will need to spend on influencer marketing campaigns, marketers must understand that their roles will not disappear. They will simply change.

At the tactical level, marketers will have a key role in assisting in the AI learning process. Take photos, for example: There are millions of characteristics that make up a photo, from lighting to a subject’s physical qualities. Humans can help machines learn these characteristics through manual tagging and let a machine know when it’s defined a characteristic inaccurately. This time of assisted photo learning can help platforms come to a better understanding of why one type of photo drove higher engagement than a photo that looked very similar. It can also help machines understand what type of content is and isn’t on brand, ensuring that images or videos do not content offensive materials.

Strategically, marketers will stop thinking about how to execute successful campaigns. Instead, they will focus on what types of campaigns they would like to prioritize. Marketers will still have a role in deciding the outcomes that their business needs to achieve and ensuring that the AI-powered platform they’re using is working to achieve the desired outcome.

While the AI technology advancements will happen in the next year, adoption of these capabilities will likely be gradual. The process will start with marketers getting comfortable with software helping them understand influencer personas before moving to allowing the software to make decisions on how to most effectively activate these influencers. This step-by-step implementation will eventually lead us to a world where marketers rely solely on AI to run their campaigns.

Lyle Stevens is co-founder and CEO of influencer marketing firm Mavrck.