As the founders of Retroviral, an online agency that specialises in getting campaigns to go viral, Mike Sharman and Murray Legg have learnt a lot about digital presence and online influence.
This is why it didn’t take long before they became the go-to guys for agencies wanting to access online influencers.
Soon, the idea to digitise an analogue process that would essentially bring those with a strong online presence and advertisers together on one platform, began to take shape.
Sharman knew digital, and with an investment background Legg knew financial management, but the magic that was to become Webfluential would need someone with a strong coding background who could design the platform. Dave Phillip was their man.
And so the work began. “We understood that we needed three distinct channels on the platform — influencer, marketer and PR,” explains Sharman.
“Digital references are trust-based. People follow personalities whose opinions they share and who they trust. We’ve designed the platform to allow marketers to post a campaign with certain parameters, who they’re targeting and their budget, but it’s up to the influencers to choose to be involved. They need to believe in the product or the service. It’s paid media, but influencers have their brand to protect too, which gives their endorsements legitimacy.”
Influencers can be invited to launches and events, in the hope that they’ll spread the word, more commonly known as ‘earned’ media. These invites can be determined by the demographics, industries and markets that influencers target.
This is why Webfluential is set to work so well. Agencies and PR companies now have access to top online influencers across markets — all on one easy-to-navigate platform.
Influencers can apply to join Webfluential or be invited. Once they’re accepted, they create a profile on the site, complete with their areas of influence, demographics of followers, and which platforms they are most prolific on (currently, Webfluential caters to Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and blogs).
They get ranked according to an algorithm, and they’re able to set a price for their services (per tweet, post or image). The site is able to clearly measure the reach of each post as well.
“We’ve used three criteria to calculate influence: Reach (number of followers), relevance of data, and resonance (shares, likes and retweets),” explains Legg.
“This is what the algorithm is based on, and it’s allowed us to monetise online influence, which gives influencers a stream of income and marketers and PR agencies access to those influencers through one platform.”
PR agencies pay a yearly fee for full access to all influencers. Marketers pay per campaign. They decide on a budget, and a sliding scale will determine the right tweet or post ratio for their budget.
For example, you can choose 100 tweets from a less influential person, or ten tweets from someone with a larger reach, depending on the size of markets targeted.
“The whole system is online,” says Sharman. “It’s simple to use and gives marketers clear analytics. Numbers don’t lie, and so the real strength of this platform is in the algorithms. We legitimise the influencers and can track their actual influence.”
The idea is so groundbreaking that brands from the US and the UAE have expressed an interest in the platform.
“South Africa is our testing ground, but the algorithms are universal and the business is easily scalable. We’ll be taking Webfluential global soon,” says Legg.
When you’re developing something new, put yourself in the user’s shoes. The Webfluential team are most proud of the fact that any problems the influencers, marketers or PR agencies might foresee have already been solved.
They spent months carefully evaluating what issues might arise for their users — and then solving them, before they ever became problems.