LOS ANGELES — When Kylie Jenner posts a picture on photo-sharing app Instagram, as many as 208 million of her followers get a glimpse into her glamorous lifestyle and the products she endorses — including her own cosmetics line.

The reality-TV star provides a notable example of the power of influencer marketing to raise brand awareness and drive sales — and yet she’s among thousands of social influencers who have developed a following that’s valuable to marketers.

Matching influencers with sponsors has become an increasingly sophisticated process of crunching data, Ryan Detert, founder and CEO of influencer marketing agency Influential, said in this interview with Beet.TV.

His firm has worked to make the influencer marketplace more transparent by gathering vast amounts of information about social media activity, and processing it with artificial intelligence (AI) technology. The goal is to help brands boost their return on investment (ROI) from their campaigns by partnering with the right influencers.

‘Largest Crowdsourcing of Opinion’

Influential “brought a data and AI focus around identifying the best talent to match to audiences and brands based on transparent insights like demography, contextual relevancy and psychographics,” Detert said. “When you marry those to the best possible talent, you seen much greater conversion for these campaigns.”

Influencer marketing used to be like hiring a celebrity spokesperson or brand ambassador to generate publicity. The focus was on evaluating whether the talent was a good fit for the brand, while metrics were secondary. Influential has worked to make influencer marketing more data-driven.

“Social media is the largest crowdsourcing of public opinion in human history,” Detert said. “In order to understand it, you must structure it. We’ve been able to structure it through partners like IBM Watson.”

Technologies like natural-language processing (NLP) help to understand the meaning and context of conversations that people have on social media. That information can help marketers in industry verticals, such as consumer packaged goods or automotive, in their collaborations with influencers.

“There are key terms and topics that are most relevant for their vertical,” Detert said. “Aligning that with AI can lead to much better results.”

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