Companies like Klout and Kred have already build up businesses around scoring online influence, and connecting brands with influential online communities. Today another influencer marketing platform, New York City-based Influenster, announced its relaunch with a set of new features, all aimed at connecting brands with a community of influencers to get feedback on products and encourage online reviews and updates. To date the community includes almost 180,000 trendsetters who unlock badges, build their expertise, and get scored based on their social networks and activity on the platform, and it has been used by brands including P&G, Colgate, and Palmolive.
Co-founders Elizabeth Scherle and Aydin Acar initially launched Influenster in 2010, and said they have seen the platform take off in terms of both engagement levels and the level of insight they can provide to brands. “We utilized gamification a lot to let people unlock badges that showed off their lifestyles. They get badges for different expertise in their area, and we’ve made the game more interactive and more fun,” Acar said in an interview.
Once users sign up as an “influenster” on the platform they can earn badges by doing everything from filling out surveys to connecting their social networks. Badges translate into being selected for different brand campaigns, which can include being part of a group to test out and review a new product, or receiving VoxBox, boxes filled with products sent out to users with high Influenster scores (users are scored from 1-100 based on their activity on the site). Users can earn badges in different areas of expertise, for example gaming, fashion, and beauty, which helps brands target specific subsets of users.
Brands can run custom campaigns targeted to a certain audience based on a variety of in-built badges or custom data points, with price based on the size of the group they want to target, or they can pay a set fee to be included in one fo the VoxBoxes. When running custom campaigns, brands can incentivize activities like creating YouTube videos, Tweeting, or blogging and writing reviews about their product, and reward users with free products and brand badges. The company also has a reviews section on the website, where it displays user-generated content about products ranging from Gillette Venus razors to the newest Sims game.
“What we do is run these different engagement programs with members, where they qualify for complimentary products, which they can get through having a high score, the right demographics, or our platform can run programs with eco shoppers, moms, or beauty queens badges,” Scherle said. “We’re collecting tons of data points about people, like from where they’re shopping, to how much money they’re spending to what they look for when they’re shopping for new products.”
Influencer targeting is something many companies are trying to get a handle on, and platforms are increasingly competing to be the most valuable to brands. BetaKit recently covered LittleBird, which lets companies search any topic and see who the most trusted influencers are within that community. For companies who want to not only identify influencers but engage with them, there’s influencer scoring platforms Klout and Kred, which have campaign tools for brands who want to give discounts, products and other rewards to influencers on any topic. Those platforms encourage users to share reactions with their social networks, while Influenster is unique in that it’s positioned more as a market research platform, where brands can test new products and run surveys.
Acar believes that Influenster is different because users are self-selecting what they’re interested in, for example trying to earn the beauty badge, as opposed to being influential because they tweeted about a beauty product once. “We collect a lot of self-reported data, like where they shop and being able to select badges where they’re most influential. So this is not secondary data that we’re guessing, like these people tweeted about bacon once, so they must like bacon,” Acar added.
Next up the founders said they’ll be releasing a mobile app. Influenster’s platform is trying to be a testing ground for brands looking for initial feedback on products, and for a way to generate rave reviews in time for a product launch. But with users getting product in exchange for reviews, it brings up whether reviews can truly be taken at face value. And for users that have seen themselves scored on Klout, Kred, and a number of other online influence scoring tools, the question remains whether users and brands need another platform to showcase and leverage influence.