Industry Spotlight: Julius CEO Steve Oriola Discusses The Future & Trends Of Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing, albeit a young and ever-changing landscape, has started to reveal industry titans across influencers, social media channels, and influencer marketing companies. From agencies to influencer marketing platforms, and amidst fierce competition, a select handful of companies are rising to the top.
Julius—a leading influencer marketing software solution—is a company whose expertise in the space has enabled brands to execute influencer searches, activate campaigns, track deliverables, and analyze campaign results with great efficiency. Julius prioritizes brand safety by carefully vetting each influencer profile with the aid of human review.
In an industry where best practices seem to be overshadowed by misconceptions and challenges, Julius brings clarity and ease. Leading the charge are Julius’ experienced executives, including CEO, Steve Oriola.
As a B2B veteran and SaaS expert, Oriola’s resume is impressive. He’s earned various leadership roles at successful businesses, including two as CEO before Julius. Now, he brings his skills to the influencer marketing table.
We sat down with Oriola at this table, and invite you to pull up a chair to discover unique insights into the rapidly evolving industry as he discusses where influencer marketing is headed, the common challenges, and what’s in store for Julius in 2019 and beyond.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in influencer marketing.
I’ve been in the B2B SaaS space since 2001—a long time—working entirely on marketing and sales applications.
My understanding of influencer marketing was admittedly limited, until I met Julius founder, Mark Gerson, in 2017. I spent the subsequent year getting a deeper understanding and realized what an important new tactic this is for marketers. It became clear to me that traditional marketing tactics were diminishing in effectiveness as media consumption has shifted.
If you want to reach younger demographics—like my own kids—this is the way to do it.”
I grew increasingly excited about the business and joined as CEO in August 2018.
2. When did Julius get started? Give us the background on your company’s history.
Julius was founded by Mark Gerson, who first started the sports company, Thuzio, in 2012 with former NFL player, Tiki Barber. They thought influencer marketing was an interesting space and decided to turn it into a business, which they spun out of Thuzio. Julius garnered significant funding in 2017.
3. How has Julius changed and evolved since its start?
We established brand equity pretty quickly, and since my joining, have built an entirely new leadership team. We realize we can’t do everything on our own, so we need to establish complementary partnerships—like the one we have with you at Mediakix. Julius is known for the human vetting of our influencer database, which will continue, but we are also employing machine learning to grow our database without losing the depth and quality of human review.
4. What do you get most excited about in the influencer marketing industry?
Great brands can develop large followings, but they’ll never have the level of intimacy with an audience that an influencer has.
The most successful influencers are open, honest, and authentic in genuine ways.”
I firmly believe that people trust people far more than they trust brands. If a brand can align themselves and some of their attributes with that sort of authenticity and trust, they’ll achieve something they could never achieve on their own.
5. What do you find most challenging about influencer marketing?
It’s more about what our customers find most challenging, which is the discovery of the right influencers, and the friction of working with those influencers to execute great campaigns. It’s difficult managing the workflow from beginning to end as a purely manual process with lots of opportunities for error.
Influencer marketing can be more labor intensive than people realize before they dive into it. Reducing this pain and friction is why we’re in business.”
6. In your opinion, where is influencer marketing headed?
First, we expect to see longer-term partnerships between brands and influencers across both macro- and micro-influencers. Right now, talent agencies and creative agencies manage rosters of influencers, but we see brands doing more of that and achieving greater depth of knowledge about their preferred influencers.
Second, influencers are starting to understand the value of being discovered, and in order to win business, they need to be easy for brands to find. How they’re presented on a platform like Julius will become increasingly important to them.
7. What are some common misconceptions marketers have about influencer marketing?
One of the misconceptions of influencer marketing is that it can’t be measured.”
But data can be captured directly from social media platforms to show how effective it is. There’s also research on how influenced consumers are by influencers.
Another misconception is that influencers are just 20-something narcissists who are only in it for the money.”
That may be true of some, but I’ve seen that a clear majority are motivated by true passion and creative expression. We conducted a survey of influencers earlier this year and financial motivations is the #4 reason they do influencer marketing, after being creative, sharing a passion or expertise, and building a personal brand. So, most influencers have pretty pure intentions. And the vast majority (84%) are diligent about following FTC regulations and making sure they’re not perceived as fraudulent.
8. Do you think the influencer marketing bubble is about to burst?
I don’t think influencer marketing is a bubble industry. Beyond reaching an audience, marketers are also using this tactic to significantly increase their creative production capacity. Getting multiple influencers to create branded content enables marketers to repurpose that content through existing channels, without the expense of expanding creative teams in-house.
Combining an intimate connection with audiences and increased production capacity, the tactic becomes too compelling to ignore.
9. What existing or emerging social media channels do you think will have the largest impact on influencer marketing in the next few years? Why?
Instagram has led the social media pack in the last few years, and with IGTV and Stories, it has evolved into more of a storytelling platform. YouTube’s longer format attracted some great storytelling influencers and continues to do so, but it seems like Instagram makes it easier to share a developing narrative with a community of followers. I see both platforms continuing to be major players in influencer marketing in the next few years.
TikTok—a user of the Julius platform—is tapping into youth culture globally in a unique way, and offers users a fun way of sharing their creative talents with the world, while building a following. Although still new for influencer marketing, we believe TikTok could have a significant impact on the market.
We’re also intrigued by the potential of Pinterest as an influencer marketing platform—so much so that we recently formed a partnership with them. Pinterest is unique in that it’s less personality-driven, far more content-driven, and that content has an exponentially longer shelf life than on other platforms. And people are on Pinterest for ideas, often with the intent to buy, shortening the gap between inspiration and purchase.
10. How do you foresee the relationship between brands and influencers transforming in 2019 and beyond?
It goes beyond just a long-term partnership.
There will be a heavier reliance on influencers for strategy, and we’ll see influencers pulled into the virtual team.”
Brands will use them not just to promote and produce content but actually pick their brains and ask for input, sometimes through formal consulting arrangements.
11. What brands exemplify influencer marketing well?
Foot Locker does a great job organically. Its customers care about their influencer strategy. A good example is their #ThatSneakerHasLife campaign which came straight from their audience. The campaign had influencers describe what their sneakers meant to them and was hugely successful.
BJ’s Wholesale Club takes an always-on approach to influencer marketing. They have a core group of micro- and macro-influencers who they work with repeatedly, and fully integrate influencer campaign content into their social media, PR, and other marketing tactics.
12. Do you have a favorite influencer marketing campaign?
My favorite influencer marketing campaign featured Dining with Skyler. I started following her and saw the Emirates campaign of her and her boyfriend chronicling the entire experience. They documented their time in Dubai, which was a promotion of the Emirates airline but also the destination. Skyler got a tour of the food prep on her flight back and continued to thoroughly chronicle the full experience.
It’s probably the most interesting, colorful, and inspiring campaign I’ve seen.”