Tim Sovay started his career in the film industry where he worked in digital and social media marketing at multiple film studios.
“I started at Disney in 2004 and got to work on global film franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Pixar movies. Went to Summit Entertainment which back then was a small startup studio that had a film franchise called Twilight which really showed the power of social media and an audience to me, and what you could build online, and the affinity people had for film talent and these franchises.”
His experience at Summit inspired Tim to start theAudience in 2011 with some colleagues.
“That became an early days influencer marketing incubator. We worked with hundreds of talent, celebrities and digital creators that reached billions of people monthly. We were a social publishing engine that really brought the first forms of influencer marketing onto the Facebooks and Instagrams and Twitters of the world. We worked with brands like Target, American Express, Vice and Coachella. We saw the acceleration of affinity for celebrities and for creators delivering messages online via branded content was immensely powerful.”
Tim was convinced that the industry was on the cusp of something special. In the early days, the influencer marketing space was little understood.
“Back then, it was the Wild Wild West. We were not only building a business but trying to build an industry. The first two years of my time at theAudience, it was future-selling a concept of what an industry could become. We were meeting with dozens of talents a week. I spent weeks and months walking down the halls of town agencies signing talent to the platform. At the same time, we were selling Target, American Express, Ford, Calvin Klein and all these first mover brands of the potential opportunity on their side and why it was important. We were in senior marketing executive offices pitching this idea of ‘Yes, continue building your brand on social media but figure out how to work with talent to accelerate your brand’. We had to really sell the importance to all parties involved.”
While the power of influencer marketing was now apparent to him, Tim had observed a gap in the availability of technology that could help brands scale what they were doing internally. This led him to join CreatorIQ in December 2016.
Working at CreatorIQ
Tim sees CreatorIQ as the dominant enterprise platform for the influencer marketing space.
“We are the Salesforce for influencer marketing. A technology platform that solves all the pain points of workflow, measurement and analytics helping brands scale from working with dozens of creators on an annual basis. We have clients working with hundreds of thousands of creators annually. Our platform is a full end to end campaign workflow and measurement solution. We have a robust CRM, campaign automation, measurement and reporting. We help customers pay creators and boost content.”
The platform helps reduce friction between brands and creators working together, he says.
“One of the biggest challenges the industry has is the friction of finding the right people to work with. How do we pay them? How much are they worth? Also for creators to find brands to work with. It goes both ways. We want to allow brands and creators to work together on an easier basis and both sides flourish as part of this two-sided economy.”
CreatorIQ is looking to take relationships between brands and creators to the next level.
“We want brands’ most loyal advocates who are out there talking about those brands, love those brands, to become their most successful business partners. The relationship between brand and creators is not just about being a megaphone for that brand. Creators are building their own media businesses, developing products and launching their own companies. Connecting those dots and allowing creators to flourish and become businesses of their own through a myriad of ways of partnering with traditional brands is our ultimate goal.”
CreatorIQ currently has about 500 customers spanning about 35 categories.
“While we think of beauty, fashion and travel categories as being important for influencer marketing, we work across food and beverage, B2B and cannabis. It scales across every single vertical today. We have upwards of 100,000 creators on an annual basis being brought in the campaigns on our platform.”
Tim Sovay on the Acquisition of Tribe Dynamics
CreatorIQ recently acquired Tribe Dynamics, Tim says.
“We are really excited about that team coming on board. We were already the largest technology company in the category. This accelerated our growth and brought in a fantastic complementary product. With the addition of Tribe Dynamics, we can become that full form measurement solution. We can now really work with any B2C company in the world and the different types of marketers in these companies. Paid marketers, performance marketers, growth marketers, paid media buyers, multiple personas.”
Improving Brand-Creator Relationship
Tim sees the biggest challenges facing the industry as reducing the friction between brands and creators by ensuring each understands the viewpoint of the other.
“Brands understanding what it takes to create content. The time, sacrifice and effort that goes in. It is a fulltime job to be a content creator. How is that properly priced and measured? Really educating brands on the value and importance of creators. And the same thing goes on the other side with creators. What brands are looking for, what they view as successful, the importance of delivering content on time with the right brief or specs.”
Reducing the friction makes it easier for both sides to build long term relationships and not be transactional, Tim believes.
“Audiences can see through transactional, one-off relationships. The strongest brands are building multiyear relationships with creators. It doesn’t have to be celebrity multiyear contracts. Brands are building relationships with their customers, with nano and micro influencers. They’re building ‘networks of partners’ that they have really figured out how to have them be advocates organically. Things like gifting and other areas that are not necessarily paid transactions between brand and cohort of creative partners.”
A key mistake brands make is to want complete creative control. Nevertheless, this seems to be a diminishing trend in Tim’s view.
“Let creators create content. They know their audience better than anyone. They’ve developed content for thousands or millions of their followers. They are more analytical than ever. They are looking at the performance of their content. They know what works and what doesn’t. However, some traditional brands still want to have full creative control and approval over content.”
Improving Chances of Campaign Success
Tim advises brands looking to increase their investment in influencer marketing to first determine what they want out of this marketing channel like they would prioritize what they would want out of programmatic or digital video or their socials.
“Is it top of the funnel? Is it bottom of the funnel? What type of creators you work with, what size, how many. All these can impact the business outcomes you are solving for based on the types of creators you want to partner with. We see time and time again that certain creators are great at driving reach and engagement. Another creator with a very similar audience and same category, same style, may be great at driving sales or commerce. Make sure you have your brand strategy and outcomes figured out.“
Brands that do not see the results they were expecting from influencer marketing should take a step back to find out if their approach was the problem.
“Did you go into it understanding what you want? Did you develop an affiliate strategy alongside it? Did you go out and hire 10 creators but not build a strategy around it? One of the fastest growing job titles on LinkedIn is around influencer marketing. You have to have an expert in-house today. It can’t just be outsourced to an agency or partner.”
‘Passion’ Categories as Untapped Opportunity
While a lot of influencer marketing efforts often focus on things like fashion, beauty, gaming and travel, Tim sees untapped opportunity in ‘passion’ categories.
“You could be passionate about DIY or home improvement or landscaping or barbequing. There are really passionate communities online who are highly focused and highly vocal in these areas. If you push down into these ‘passion’ subcategories, you can find powerful and vocal advocates almost across anything.”
B2B holds plenty of promise for influencer marketing too.
“Look at what Salesforce has built with their trailblazing marketing which is really their advocacy network of professionals, C-suites and Salesforce power users. Their big influential vocal advocates are at the core of Salesforce’s persona and brand marketing strategy.“
As a new frontier, Tim expects consumers increasingly buying products directly from brands through social posts.
“It is not just an influencer marketing trend but a multi-trillion dollar consumer spending trend. That connection around the social platforms, paid media, affiliate marketing, direct consumer and commerce. Influencer marketing and the creator economy as a whole sit at the center of that massive consumer trend. While brand lift and awareness will be critical and will not go away, everything bottom of the funnel will continue to gain importance.”
CreatorIQ and the brands on it are advancing what aspects of influencer marketing can be measured, However, social platforms still control what information is accessible.
“I think one area that can be improved is the ability to understand and dig deeper for organic measurement that is equal to the paid media measurement products that sit on social platforms.”
Tim wants to see CreatorIQ continue to be the leading platform in the influencer marketing category, a measurement leader and focused on the full funnel.
“We want to continue to be the de facto technology partner for companies big and small who are investing heavily in this category. What’s fascinating is that it’s not just large enterprises who are investing heavily. You have the entire direct-to-consumer and the Shopify brand ecosystem who are spending upto 100 percent of the marketing budget in this category. Making sure we could help them scale and help them along their evolution, maturity or growth. We have solutions for folks getting started and we have technology to help people scale to hundreds of thousands of relationships globally.”
Tim Sovay is Chief Operating Officer at CreatorIQ, a leading cloud-based influencer marketing. solution. He previously worked at The Walt Disney Studios, Summit Entertainment and theAudience. Tim has a bachelor of arts degree in political science and business administration from UCLA. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.