Services Offered: Campaign Management, Influencer Marketplace
Channels: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Wordpress
Depending on your source, Influicity started either in 2010, 2012, or 2013. That last date is from Jonathan Davids’ LinkedIn profile, and he founded the company, so let’s go with that. That his personal profile on LinkedIn has a different start date for his company than his actual company’s website is a bit weird, but it seems to fit with my general feeling about the platform: confusion.
Influicity is both a campaign management tool and an influencer marketplace, and the various aspects of each of these functions range from good to very good to very well done, indeed. But it also has a search function that lacks on so many levels I found myself wondering if I just wasn’t understanding it. The difference between what Influicity does well and what it does poorly is that jarring: I first had to make sure I was functioning properly before I could accept that their search tool wasn’t.
A look into Influicity’s history demonstrates that the company may always have been something of an enigma, even to itself. It began life “as a brokering firm, connecting social media influencers to Fortune 500 companies,” according to their website. By 2014, they’d created a self-service platform for brands to search through Influicity’s network of (then) 140,000 YouTube influencers and then negotiate for their services. Today, the platform’s focus is on the campaign management side of things, which you can see from the company’s marketing of itself. Influicity’s website makes it clear that its clients rely on them to manage and scale their influencer operations, while saying very little about search & discovery.
For that reason, Influicity could be a good fit for boutique agencies and smaller brands that are already using search-only platforms, but need some cohesive software to help manage and track everything. Any entity operating with a bigger budget than these niches is likely already using something better.
Summary: Quick Jump Menu
Even with pricing, Influicity manages to leave me feeling conflicted. On the one hand, their monthly access fees across 4 levels of subscription cover a wide range of budgets. I like this for the simple fact that it allows small companies to join in on the all the influential fun the bigger companies have been having. But the plans are structured in a way that I’ve said before is maddening: they restrict different features based on which plan you’re on, and they include some core features in those restrictions.
I took InfluencerDB to task for this, and I’ll do the same here. First, it’s worth noting that there are some kinds of features where it makes sense to include them only at the higher levels. I’m thinking of things like the number of users, or the number of offices, or collaboration tools—these are all features designed to help larger companies that need more or greater access to the platform, and it makes sense to charge them more for it. That’s a lot different than telling potential customers they can “leverage powerful analytics” and then only allowing them that leverage 15 times in the course of a month (and that’s at the highest level of Influicity’s service).
On the bright side, Influicity does off customizations to any of these plans, so that customers can tailor them to their needs. These four plans should then be considered foundational:
- Free, $0/month — Includes 10 influencers in your Hub, 1 User, 1 Client Account
- Lite, $199/month — 50 influencers in your Hub, 10 Trending Influencer Searches, 1 Campaign, 1 User, 1 Client Account
- Pro, $499/month — 125 influencers, 10 Trending Influencer Searches, 5 Open Insights, 2 Campaigns, 1 Client Account, 1 User
- Elite, $1250/month — 350 influencers, 10 Trending Influencer Searches, 10 Open Insights, 10 Magic SearchRequests, 4 Campaigns, 2 Client Accounts, 2 Users
- Enterprise, $2500/month — 500 influencers, 1,000(!) Trending Influencer Searches, 15 Open Insights, 25 Magic Search Requests, 10 Campaigns, 5 Client Accounts, 4 Users
And here’s a quick glossary to understand what some of these features mean:
- Hub — This is your “master list” of influencers you are working with, or would like to work with. The larger your plan, the more influencers you can keep in this list.
- Trending Influencer Search — This is, frankly, a pretty misleading feature to include here. There is literally nowhere in the software where you can conduct a “Trending Influencer Search.” The only place these words show up when you’ve logged in is in the Upgrade section, where you can see what features come with each plan. I used the platform’s live chat feature to find out where this was, and was pretty shocked at the answer: it’s in the “Labs” section of the Influicity interface. That’s the section where they let subscribers try out new features they’re developing, with the operative words here being “they’re developing.” That’s because it simply doesn’t work yet. It’s not even halfway there: the interface is a mess, and simple keyword searches yielded results very far afield from what I’d asked for.
- Open Insights — These insights are for when you want to leverage those powerful analytics Influicity talks up. All you get, though, are basic demographic information about an influencer’s audience: age, gender, and location. This is one of those areas where setting limitations according to the subscription level feels arbitrary and wrong. Lite subscribers will have up to 50 influencer in their hub, but get no Open Insights with their subscription. Users on the Pro plan will be able to catalog 125 influencers, but only get this information for 5 of them. In all cases, if you’re left with zero Open Insights for the month, you’ll have to pay $10 for each report you want. Then you’ll only end up with same basic information that pretty much every other influencer marketing platform includes at no extra charge. Bonus disappointment: you have to wait 48 hours to see it.
- Magic Search — This is the “official” (read: supported) version of search on the platform. Instead of basic topic searches and then filtering down to get the results you want, you can submit a “Magic” Request. You fill out a form, select some criteria for the channels and reach, and then type in a plain english description of what you’re looking for (something like “Americans living in other countries between the ages of 21 and 30 who drink whisky”). This is another problematic feature, which we’ll get into in The Details.
Let’s start here with the positive, because there are good things about Influicity. The campaign management and marketplace functions are very well executed—they’re as full featured as tools like that get.
Creating a campaign is easy, but not at the sake of being thorough. Influicity’s interface provides the space to fill out the all the relevant data—product background, campaign overview, platforms, timelines, etc.—as well to craft a detailed brief on what you’re looking for from the influencer. This includes not only a description of the content you’re looking to get, but also any required hashtags, mentions, CTAs, and any other special requests or guidelines you’ll need the influencer to follow.
The campaign is then shared out to the influencers that have accounts with Influicity, who can view and respond right from the platform. If you want to invite influencers who are not yet on the platform, you can go ahead and add them and they’ll receive an email from Influicity informing them of the offer and instructions for signing on to view it. A really nice feature: because it can be tough to make first contact with an influencer (especially one that’s not on and/or has never heard of the platform), staff at Influicity will monitor the status of the invite and make follow-ups on your behalf to make sure they’ve at least received the message. This all happens behind the scenes and requires nothing from you to get started.
Once you’ve selected your influencers and invited them to participate, you can handle every other aspect of the campaign through Influicity. You can negotiate fees, manage the budget, communicate with influencers, track their progress, and review their content. Submitted content can be accepted, declined, or sent back with a revision request. For agencies, all this can be managed for multiple clients—and each of those clients can have multiple brands associated with them. When Influicity boasts of helping companies manage and scale their influencer operations, they aren’t kidding.
Of course, in order to successfully run influencer marketing campaigns, at any scale, you need influencers. I’m here to tell you that you likely won’t find that influencer using Influicity. Let’s now, and finally, discuss the search function of the platform. There are three ways to find influencers using it:
- Search by Name — While the marketplace function requires influencers to have accounts on Influicity for it to work, the influencer search isn’t restricted in that way. There’s no master database of influencers here, just an algorithm that can retrieve real time data from the internet. If you know the screen name of the influencer you’re looking for, you simply type it into Influicity’s search bar, and the algorithm searches through all known profiles on the social web. That’s huge—over-a-billion-and-a-half-users, to be more specific. It takes a minute or so to get the results, which is understandable, and when you do you’ll have access to the influencer’s basic stats (followers, likes, comments, user growth, and an estimated fair market value for their content. It’s actually really cool, which ultimately serves to heighten the disappointment for the rest of the search capabilities.
- Magic Search — This is for when you don’t have any specific influencers in mind, but instead want to browse through a list of influencers who meet certain criteria. Remember when I said there was no database of influencers on the platform? Here’s where that comes back to bite you. The “magic search request” ostensibly allows you to pass your search along to an AI powered algorithm, which then searches the web for you. Depending on how precise you want the search to be, it can take either 8 hours, 1 day, or 2 days—your choice—to get the results. These results are then passed off to a person on the Influicity team who double checks to make sure the AI got it right before being sent off to you. Does that sound like magic to you? It didn’t to me, either, but I gave it a test run to see what it could do. I submitted a query to find Instagram influencers. I specified a range of the follower count I wanted (I kept it low, to make it easy), and then tasked the AI to go find me “visual artists living in Orange County, California, over the age of 30, who aren’t pretentious snobs.” I figured the first part would be easy, while that last criterion would be a nice test of the AI.Within 20 minutes of my submission, I received an email from a person who told me she was the one who handles all Magic Requests, and did my results really need to come from Orange County? To her credit, she was relying on her real intelligence (not artificial intelligence) and had already decided to enter in the names of towns that were part of the county—but results were slim and wanted to know if she could include surrounding towns, too. Within a few hours, I had my results. All 10 of them, which is the maximum number of results you get. Only one of them was a visual artist, and the majority were not from Orange County (half weren’t even from California). I started to doubt that there was even an AI element to the search, believing that it was all this one woman doing manual searches for people all day. The reality is, though, only a computer algorithm can screw up that badly. In contrast, I typed “Orange County artist” into the Instagram search field and found 20 people in under 30 minutes. I suspect the friendly woman helping with the search would have done the same if she weren’t forced to use their in-house search tool.
- Advanced Search — Also known as Trending Influencer Search, this is the beta search function I mentioned in the pricing section. The only good thing I can say about this search is that is still in development.
None of these is sufficient to discover new influencers, and I might not be so hard on Influicity for it if their aim was to be a marketplace and a management tool only. But their marketing deck promises users to “discover influencers across every social platform, through the most advanced influencer search tools available today.” It arguably isn’t even close.
And as for the data that you get for each influencer, it’s similarly underwhelming. You get all their performance stats as you’d expect, and a little bit of demographic background, but again: you’re limited by your subscription in getting to see this data, and you have to wait 48 hours to see it after requesting it. And the reports you get don’t appear to be very reliable. Here’s the demographic data for an Instagram user who has over 21,000 followers:
Even with rounding decimals to the nearest whole number, this is highly improbable. Also, note that this woman does not have any male followers (according to the data)—only an equal number of females and transgender people. Again: highly improbable.
Jonathan Davids, Influicity’s founder and CEO, seems not only to be the face of the company, but also its mouth. He’s very active on social media, talking very excitedly about influencer marketing, spreading its gospel and just being super-ethusiastic about the practice. At the website, the “News” section is simply the feed of his and the company’s social media accounts. On YouTube, Davids stars in dozens of videos, talking about his company specifically and influencer marketing in general. It actually comes off as a sincere passion—listening to him speak you almost get the impression that he’d be making these videos even if he didn’t own a company in the industry.
From my perspective, though, that passion hasn’t really translated to a mature or focused product. Influicity, as its name suggests, is 100% an influencer marketing company—that much they know. But just that much, it seems. What they want to do with that passion still hasn’t crystalised. First, they connected influencers with brands. Then they helped brands discover influencers. Now, they’re trying to help brands manage their influencer campaigns, and given them a platform to source content. Perhaps soon they will do something else: it’s hard to tell. While Influicity is a company with a guiding belief in the power of influencer marketing, that guidance seems pretty high level and appears to offer no real direction.