Chris Buetti: The Founder of Lionize on Cultivating the Success of Influencer Marketing
Who is Chris Buetti?
Lionize is an acclaimed influencer marketing platform that uses state-of-the-art AI practices to seek out some of the best creators for the world’s most iconic brands. Since launching in 2018, Lionize has gone on to see an abundance of grandiose success. The CEO and Co-Founder, Chris Buetti, discusses his journey into influencer marketing.
‘When I was at my last job, I sat near the marketing team and there was a big push for the NBA to use social media influencers and I kind of sat there and watched them really struggle with what they were doing. I spent a lot of time talking to them and they were telling me that they wished they had some tools because they didn’t like the programs they were using.
I brought this up to my manager a few times and said ‘Hey, I think I could help these guys. I think I could help build something that would make their lives easier.’
He continues to explain how he pursued this idea independently.
‘I kind of got shut down. My manager said ‘We have these things that we have to do and we can’t be focusing on that.’ So I decided to kind of just pursue that myself. I felt I had enough information and knowledge from talking to these marketers over and over again that I knew there was an issue. I knew there was a market for this.’
Finding Virality in a New World
As Buetti began to branch out into the lucrative world of influencer marketing, he describes how he was able to build an avid customer base through his written work.
‘I spent the first few months looking into this influencer marketing world. I really lucked out because I did some writing about it and it went pretty viral. So I was able to get seen pretty naturally and pretty easily. I had a lot of people reaching out to me so I have a good customer base to start. I got all the requirements I needed to build a software program, started building it, and released it fully about two years ago.’
The Birth of Lionize
Although Lionize is still in its early stages of growth, the company has become affiliated with a series of prosperous brands such as Taste Republic and Wendy’s. The CEO goes on to explain how he attracts clients and continues to remain competitive.
‘When I left my corporate job, I would just say to people ‘When it comes to influencer marketing, what are you trying to do? What are you struggling with? How can I help?’ What I had heard was that this was somewhat new but it was definitely an emerging industry. People were trying to take advantage of not only the stereotypical influencers like the Kardashians but also micro-influencers. So I wanted to help these brands by giving them a tool to be able to work with a lot of these creators at once.’
Alongside its plethora of analytics and influencer outreach tools, Lionize also provides a series of educational resources to help both brands and agencies to learn more about the power of influencers. It offers a free masterclass called Mastering Influencer Marketing that goes into more detail about how businesses of any size can reap the benefits of social media personalities.
Buetti also explains how brands can use Lionize to cultivate strong relationships with much smaller influencers and track their progress throughout a campaign.
‘When you wanted to work with a hundred smaller college athletes, there weren’t a lot of tools to manage it at scale. Lionize is an influencer marketing software platform that brands could go to as a way to partner with influencers and kind of manage the whole life cycle.’
Sourcing the Right Brands For the Right Influencers
Chris Buetti continues to describe how Lionize diversifies itself in an ever-changing and highly transformative industry.
‘The way we work is a little bit different than the other tools that exist. These already existing tools have brands on one side and there are influencers on the other side and they kind of work with each other on the platform. But we handle things a little bit differently. We’re more similar to a zip recruiter where the brand will come to our platform and they’ll fill out exactly what they want to happen.
The type of influencer they want to work with, what they want them to do, and how much they want to pay or incentivize them. Our system automatically builds this little application, almost as if you’re hiring just any other job, but for influencers and then we’ll go out and look for influencers that fit the desired application.’
He elucidates more about Lionize’s influencer outreach strategy.
‘So we’ll actually go to social media and start looking for influencers that fit these criteria. We will reach out to them and encourage them to come and apply for the program. Those that are interested will submit and then brands can give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down. For the ones they do choose, we help facilitate the rest from there such as the tracking payment and contracting.’
Finding New Financing Options for Success
In 2022, the company announced that it secured a $3 million investment from Cultivation Capital and ScOp Venture to help expand its AI capabilities. The CEO explores this process further.
‘We had been doing this for a while and then we decided to take it to the next step in terms of financing. We wanted to raise some money to work on some bigger incentives, like expanding to other social media platforms and hiring salespeople.
We are lucky that we are in an industry that is extremely hot right now and we presented this as how prevalent the industry was. But we were able to present it as you don’t have to work with celebrities anymore. That mommy blogger in Kansas or that backup quarterback from Iowa, or the person always posting about their dancing, they’re all pretty influential and you don’t have to spend tons of money to be able to work with them.’
Lionize’s Expansion Into New Platforms
Chris Buetti concludes by stating the company’s next steps for exponential growth and success.
‘When we started with Lionize, the goal was to be able to work with these influencers at scale. By being able to work with a lot of them, we needed a place to start so we chose Instagram. But now that we’ve raised these funds, we are going to be expanding to other social media networks. We’re working on being compatible with TikTok and YouTube and even thinking of longer terms such as the B2B side with LinkedIn. Soon, we will be able to not only fulfill some of the influencer marketing needs but all of them.’