For creators making content across all platforms, from YouTube to Instagram to Twitch to TikTok, sponsored content is a core part of the business. But as we’ve written about before, the digital influencer space is still in its infancy and constantly evolving. It doesn’t yet have an established standard that can help creators (from the macro to the micro) accurately judge how much they should ask brands to pay them.
That problem is exacerbated by the fact that influencers generally have no idea how their sponsored content performs beyond views and engagement. Here’s one typical situation: A brand pays a YouTuber to post a ten-minute “get ready with me” video using their lipstick and eyeshadow palette, and to put product links to those two products in the video’s description. Once the video is uploaded, the creator’s part of the deal is done, and, payment in hand, they’re on to their next project.
But for the brand, the deal is still ongoing. The brand will continue tracking that product link, and will see exactly how many product views and purchases the creator’s content brings in over time.
Influencers generally receive financial compensation from sponsored content deals, and that’s not unimportant. Brands, though, walk away with potential traffic and sales spikes, plus a stream of data that not only tells them if creators’ sponcon was effective, but can also offer insights into which products (and colors of products, and sizes, and so on) are particularly appealing to a specific kind of creators’ audiences.
So, how could things change for influencers if they also had access to that valuable data? What if they could use real-time sales numbers alongside views and engagement to show brands their overall value? What if they could see for themselves which products interest their viewers, and tweak their content strategy accordingly?
These are the questions influencer tech company MagicLinks set out to answer when it launched in 2015. Cofounded by Brian Nickerson and Christian Levy, the business works with more than 19,000 creators and more than 3,000 brands, providing affiliate links to be used in both organic and sponsored content and serving as a bridge to hook up influencers with companies in their space. Crucially, MagicLinks also provides both brands and creators with dashboards full of information about how their affiliate links are performing.
“One of our core values is transparency,” Nickerson (who’s also MagicLinks’ CEO) tells Tubefilter. “Helping the influencer understand what sales are happening through their channel, so they can use that information to create better content that resonates with their fans.”
Understanding sales is what Nickerson does. He’s a Harvard Business School grad and Yahoo alum who’s been in the ecommerce space since 2013, when he cofounded (along with Levy) Chippmunk, a search engine that finds and compares coupon codes. It was his interest in sharing the kind of data Chippmunk collects — about what consumers are interested in, what they’re buying, and what they want to save money on — that sparked MagicLinks.
Influencers Who Know Their Sales Numbers Can Know Their Worth
The idea of being able to provide clear, transparent sales data to both influencers and brands is “really the genesis of where we started,” he says. “The core of what we do is measure sales that happen through online video posts. There are still ways in which that’s challenging, but we’re able to provide technology for influencers to easily curate a shopping list [of affiliate links] that’s related to their videos, and then share that with fans and measure all the way through point of purchase the products that are being sold.”
Influencers knowing exactly what value they’re bringing to brands, as well as knowing what products resonate with their viewers, is “really a key part” of what MagicLinks does, Nickerson says. Another key part is building long-term relationships between influencers and brands. Because both influencers and brands see MagicLinks’ data, they can foster “bigger and more strategic partnerships.” (Some creators in the MagicLinks network, he says, have been working with the same brands for more than four years.)
“An influencer can see, ‘Hey, I’m driving a lot of sales for the brand and I’m getting compensated with it, and I have these three other ideas for what I can do because it’s clear my fans love the product and the content I’m creating related to this brand,’” Nickerson explains.
Finding the right creator with the right audience for a brand is something MagicLinks does, too, because it can put all the data it has about its network of creators to work for its network of brands. (Those networks, by the way, are not easy to get into. Nickerson refers to them as “curated” networks and says that more than 84% of influencer applications and 94% of brand applications don’t meet MagicLinks’ standards.)
Nickerson gives this example: A brand that’s never made athleticwear before might come to MagicLinks because it’s releasing a line of running pants and has no idea which influencers might work best for the line. “We can say, ‘Here’s a set of a hundred influencers who have posted about similar types of running pants, and their fans have bought this much in dollar volume of those products,’” Nickerson offers.
MagicLinks will then reach out to those 100 influencers about the campaign, and then the brand can choose from those who are interested. “We help reduce the risk to the brand and maximize the opportunity for ROI both for the brand and the influencer. An influencer who’s cast as a part of that type of campaign is excited about it, because they know their fans already bought that type of product.”
That system can go vice-versa as well. Nickerson says MagicLinks often gets messages from network creators who are ready to post videos and are looking for sponsorship from brands whose products are related to the videos’ content.
Through that relationship-building and the availability and transparency of its data, the company has found a way for sponsored content deals to be valuable and fair for everyone making them.
“We’re gathering real data that is special to everyone involved,” Nickerson says. “It’s a structure that’s built for success for both parties.”