Services Offered: Influencer DiscoveryInfluencer MarketplaceThird Party Analytics
In the latest season of Silicon Valley, the brilliant satire of tech startups that’s always way too accurate, there’s a quick scene in which you can see a whiteboard that’s been filled up with a list of ideas for potential new apps. The whiteboard was a product of a brainstorming session by Jian-Yang, the Chinese-born character whose past attempts at app development showed how his superior coding skills were undone by a lack of imagination. Jian-Yang learned the hard way that no one wanted an app whose sole function was to tell you if the picture you uploaded was a hot dog—or not a hot dog. By season 5, though, he’s pivoted his ambitions. Instead of creating something new for the US market, he decides to just build copies of already successful apps for use in China. His list of ideas on the whiteboard is essentially a list of apps we all know and love, but with a one word added to them: New Reddit, New Spotify, New Grubhub...it’s a long list.
I bring this up, because this is immediately what I thought of when I began to research the Nox Group, a software development company located in Beijing and the team behind NoxInfluencer. To be fair, The Nox Group—unlike Jian-Yang—has achieved coding success with NoxPlayer, an Andoid emulator that lets its users run their Droid apps on a PC. They also created a NoxMobi, an AI powered game distribution network that makes it easier for app developers to find their audience. Beyond that, though, the Nox Group’s catalog reads like Jian-Yang’s whiteboard: there’s a New File Manager (NoxFileManager), a New Chrome (NoxBrowser), a New Multi-Account Manager (NoxApp+), and, of course, a New Influencer Platform, the subject of this review.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with identifying a trend and wanting to capitalise on it, especially if there’s a market for it. In Silicon Valley, Jian-Yang’s plan was to develop Chinese versions of apps and websites that the country’s government blocks—he’s got a potentially huge market since his competitors are illegal there. And if this were what was going with NoxInfluencer, its limitations wouldn’t land nearly as hard. If NoxInfluencer were strictly created as a tool to reach Chinese marketers and brands shut out of modern advertising methods, then the platform might have been looked at as something promising. Not quite ready for the big time, but promising nonetheless. For reasons I cannot explain, though, the Nox Group created this software for everywhere EXCEPT China—in other words, places where much better and more refined software already exists.
Solely focused on YouTube, NoxInfluencer bills itself as a “worldwide leading influencer marketing platform,” and four out of five of those words are true. It is a globally accessible influencer marketing platform. And it’s not all bad: there’s quite a bit of useful data you can find through it. But saying that it’s a leading platform is a bit of a stretch. Read on to see why.
Summary - Quick Jump Menu:
NoxInfluencer operates by subscription, with two levels of service at very affordable monthly fees.
- Premium, $29/mo — At this level you can run up to 3 campaigns at a time, and then lists these other features you get: Influencer Identification, Smart Recommendation, Communication Online, View Profiles and Portraits, Influencer Invitation. Those last three are questionable to list as features, though. How are you going to manage identify influencers without viewing their profiles? How can you manage a campaign without being able invite or otherwise communicate with the influencers? Essentially: this plan gets you search access to Nox’s influencer database and allows you to run 3 campaigns. Those are the features.
- Professional, $69/mo — Influencer search, 5 campaigns, and reporting. Note that reporting is not available in Premium.
They also offer customised pricing for larger enterprises who want to run more than 5 campaigns.
Let’s start with what’s good about NoxInfluencer: the data. It’s not an overwhelming amount, but YouTube is notoriously stingy in this area—and for $29 a month, you can get a lot of great intel on influencers you’re interested in. There’s an overview of the influencer’s performance, either for the last 30 videos or last 30 days that’s a great way to get a snapshot of them most recently. But the data goes back further, and you can view graphs showing their subscriber and view trends over the past year. There’s also a graph that uses predictive analysis to project their performance for the following year. Even better is the glimpse you get into their audience. It’s basic Age/Gender/Location stuff, but it’s broken down nicely. You may not find the right audience with this information, but you can certainly avoid marketing to the wrong one.
Unfortunately, there’s not much more to recommend the other aspects of NoxInfluencer. With its marketplace functionality, you could skip influencer search altogether and go right to creating a campaign when you first log in. By creating a campaign brief, you can just broadcast what you’re looking for to the influencers already on the platform and then just wait for the proposals to roll in. When that happens, people who’ve sparked your interest can then be researched more in depth. This turns out to be a necessity, because there’s no way to set criteria for the influencers you’d like to work with. The whole process of setting up a brief is very basic—and frustrating.
If you want to include a picture, for instance, you’ll have to deal with a very strict size limit: 1MB. It’s not impossible to have a high quality image at that size, but it does require an extra step. In 2018, no camera—not even your phone’s—is saving photos as files less than 10MB in size. That means you’ll have to fire up an image editor and resize that thing before you can upload. And make sure you keep it around 300x168 pixels, they suggest. If you’re a photo/graphics geek, you’ll know that that’s an incredibly non-standard aspect ratio, and you’ll end up having to crop the image down so the photo doesn’t get warped. For those who don’t dabble in digital visual arts, you’ll just keep wondering why your image looks all screwed up after you’ve uploaded it.
Assuming you’ve made it this far, you can then continue on through the process. Again, there’s no way to specify any criteria for the influencers, and the most you can say about your intended audience is what country they’re from. NoxInfluencer certainly doesn’t make it easy for you to be thorough. The better marketplaces out there will have places for you to fill out Dos and Don’ts, fields where you enter what account you want mentioned, and which hashtags to use. There are places to upload photos that demonstrate your aesthetic. NoxInfluencer has none of that: just one field for you to type in everything that you want your potential influencers to be aware of.
Of course, you could invite influencers that you’ve found on the platform through the search function. Unfortunately, this is no easier or less frustrating than campaign creation. You search by keyword and then refine with a very minimal set of filters: category, number of subscribers, location, estimated exposure, and the last published date (within 30, 60, or 90 days). But really, all the filters do is refine an list of unhelpful results to a smaller list of unhelpful results. They’re unhelpful because there’s nothing in their algorithms that account for relevance. Do a search on the keyword “pizza,” and the first 10 results that appear give a pretty good accounting of what you can expect:
- Three were major US pizza chains, accounts that would likely be, at best, reluctant to advertise for another brand (whether they were competitors or not).
- Four were channels that just had the word “Pizza” in their name, but had nothing to do with pizza, or even food.
- One result wasn’t even a real YouTube channel, it was a “Topic” channel, amalgamating all the most popular videos aout pizza posted by other channels.
- Two were relevant results, pointing to channels explicitly about pizza.
If you’re patient and meticuous, you’ll be able to find yourself a handful of decent influencers, but then you’ll find yourself just plain confused as you work through the negotiation phases. The campaign management section is just as minimal as the rest of the platform in terms of its features, but the user interface gets in the way. Open up a message from an influencer, and you’ll spend a few minutes trying to figure out how to close it (hint: on the upper right of your screen sits a tiny grey “X” inside a slightly differently shaded grey circle, which sits on a slightly differently shaded grey background).
Navigating between the campaign dashboard, the campaigns themselves, the proposal screens, and the influencer profiles is basically just chaos inside a browser window. Sometimes a click opens a new tab, and depending where you’re brought the pages all look different. And by different, I mean that the colors and navigation menu changes, and it’s confusing to know where you are in relation to where you just were. You were looking at the campaign dashboard, with its red banner and a navigation menu that showed several options—one of which was “Campaign,” highlighted at the top, to let you know that’s where you were. Click on “Campaign Details,” and a new tab opens, and there’s no way to get back to campaigns. Or, on the dashboard, you click on “View Proposals,” and you stay in the same tab while the navigation remains the same. But there’s nothing on this page to tell you which campaign these proposals are for. If you’ve got several campaigns running, and multiple tabs open, it’s easy to get lost. It’s all very disjointed, and considering this isn’t even all of the interface flaws, the product isn’t good enough on the back-end to justify the struggle.
The Nox Group’s past success with NoxPlayer and NoxMobi demonstrate a company that’s got some serious technical talent, and some good ideas to go along with it. Both of these products catered to the mobile gaming space, and it’s clear this is a vertical they’re comfortable in. Their other products—the browser, the file manager, the system cleaner—are all made for Android devices. So, and again, they’ve clearly got a big comfort level with mobile. All of which makes NoxInfluencer such a puzzle. It’s such an incredibly clear departure from anything they’ve done before and, frankly, this is evident in the result.
Mostly, NoxInfluencer has the feeling of something that was put together quickly to capitalise on a trend, but they don’t seem to fully understand the trend. The data portion is worthwhile, though especially for smaller companies and brands that want to engage with YouTube in a more strategic way. If you’re already using a marketplace to find influencers and think it’s mostly good but wish you could get more data from it, then maybe it’s worth another $29 a month just for that. The database doesn’t just house profiles for influencers who’ve signed on to Nox—it’s got over 2 million accounts indexed, and the price point is low enough that you won’t even feel like you’re overpaying by ignoring its other features.
Services Offered: Influencer DiscoveryInfluencer MarketplaceThird Party Analytics