Crowd Mobile CEO: How and why we've launched a digital influencer business
The most important thing about being about global technology company committed to innovation is staying ahead of the curve.
Crowd Mobile has always prided itself on anticipating and responding to trends. Almost a decade ago, we saw the vast potential for building products in which those seeking answers can be matched with experts. This year, that Q&A Division achieved record revenue results and continues to grow.
A few years later, we saw a shift in how consumers were using mobiles, noting that phones were becoming not just a communication device but also a source of entertainment. This led to the acquisition of our Subscription division, which delivers mobile content such as video, apps and games to millions of customers worldwide.
In 2012, it became clear to us that digital influencers would be the next big thing in marketing and this had led to the creation of our Crowd Media division, which was launched in July 2017
Before we get into that, a quick primer: What is digital influencer marketing and why does it work?
Put simply, digital influencer marketing is when brands use social media “influencers” with significant clout to spread their message. The reason it works is due to the change in how media is consumed. With 71% of millennials using an adblocker and most Gen Zers never switching on the television, traditional methods of advertising such as commercials and banner ads are no longer effective. Furthermore, the younger generation has established a distrust of advertising and are for more likely to listen to the peers they find on social media. Another way to look at it is like this: if social media is the new TV, then it follows that digital influencers are the new TV commercial.
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Crowd Mobile's entry into the digital influencers space occurred organically. Around five years ago, when Facebook was essentially the main social platform, we began working with users that owned groups or had large followings, by paying them to post content. We then started to work with some celebrities, and as YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat grew, the amount of campaigns we were running grew too. In 2016, a number of our suppliers saw the results we were getting and asked us to do the same for them. We ran a number of campaigns and, when they came back for more so the impetus to launch our Agency was there.
Early on we realised we had something unique, so we continued to invest in the business, using our successful Q&A division to incubate it. Today, we are the only company listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) that gives investors exposure to the digital influencers space.
Crowd Media consists of two components: Crowd.Agency, which connects brands with influencers and Crowd.ly, an influencer commerce platform. In the scheme of things, setting up an agency is the easy part but we see data as being a major contributor to success in this space, and that's where Crowd.ly comes in. While other agencies may simply count eyeballs as a metric for success, Crowd Media combines influencers, audiences and our internal data to create a clearer picture of Return on Investment (ROI). Digital influencer marketing is often praised for its comparatively low cost and phenomenal ROI, and one recent study found that businesses generate an average of $6.50 in revenue for each $1 invested in influencer marketing.
As is the case with anything new, there have been challenges along the way. One of the greatest we've faced has been finding the quality developers, engineers and data scientists required to realise our vision. As companies discover that the world is becoming increasingly data-driven, the global demand for these workers has gone up. After much searching and significant vetting, I am proud to say we now have an excellent team in place.
With digital influencer marketing becoming more mainstream we expect to see more competition arriving soon. I hope more ASX-listed companies enter the fray because having peers helps to legitimise a space and bring credibility to a new sector. Although Australia is not, strictly speaking, behind when it comes to digital influencer marketing, our focus for Crowd Media is Europe. In the end, this comes down to practical concerns as Europe has a much large population than Australia, brands with bigger budgets and is where we are headquartered.
Although Crowd.ly is still in beta and for internal use only, we plan to make it available to our customers next year. Our plan is for the platform also to allow influencers to monetise their followers through the sale of digital and physical products. This is where our relationship with 220 telecommunication providers globally will come into play, allowing customers to purchase influencers' products in their home country at the push of a button.
We predict that 2018 will be the year we see digital influencer marketing become mainstream with brands making very conscious decisions with respect to their advertising budgets. In the September quarter of 2015, we executed 100 influencer campaigns and in the June 2017 quarter that shot up to 700. Currently, over $3bn per year is spent on digital influencer marketing, and this is expected to grow to up to $10bn by 2020. With the trend definitely heading up, we are very excited to be an early adopter and believe that by using data and monetisation models we can take Crowd Media, and Crowd Mobile, to a whole new level.
Domenic Carosa is the co-founder and CEO of Crowd Mobile (ASX:CM8)