Social Discovery and Marketing
Bloglovin’s mission is to help influencers succeed. Success to influencers is bringing self-expression and inspiration to their audiences.
Bloglovin’ serves as the portal for fashion, beauty, and lifestyle content for over 10 million registered active users. The platform encourages users to discover and share their favorite content while connecting with the influencers they love, all in one place.
In 2016, I joined Bloglovin’ with the unique opportunity to help carry out a redesign of their newly acquired influencer marketing platform.
From a business standpoint, the natural next step for Bloglovin’ was to acquire Activate. Activate’s robust technology would help in partnering Bloglovin’s 850K+ content creators and many of the world’s respected brands. Content creators would be able to grow their online following and monetize their influence, while brands would be able to partner with relevant influencers to reach their target audiences throughout native advertising campaigns. This was a match made in heaven.
I was brought on to focus on two things:
Deliver a reconsidered web experience.
Define a strong foundation of reusable UI components.
An influencer marketing platform consists of a lot of moving parts. Our primary aim was to provide both social media influencers and businesses with end-to-end solutions. We knew that this meant shifting the product toward a self-serve model, where users could operate campaigns completely on their own.
Trust the process
The first part of this project was to understand and diagnose pain points. We conducted interviews with our campaign managerial team and with our customers. By doing this, we were able to uncover facts, patterns, and tensions that helped us make informed decisions.
Focus on one problem at a time, and fast
Our product development process was largely rooted in prioritizing user needs within two week sprints. Tasks were typically organized by level of urgency. These tasks would consist of either designing and implementing changes, putting out fires, or clearing out our backlog.
Customer First Approach
With this redesign, we put people at the center of everything we did. The challenge was in providing customers with a more powerful and simple platform.
And we were more than excited to take this on.
Painting the picture for you
Let’s take a step back to understand the state of digital content. Social media has fueled a decentralized content supply base that competes for attention with existing centralized media, and is now coming out on top. It’s also made content today smaller, more instant, and more accessible. Those who have become adept at creating engaging content in this new media economy, influencers, have emerged as decentralized mini-brands that consumers trust and pay attention to. This is where influencer marketing comes in.
So what is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is a burgeoning form of marketing where brands use influential people to market their products and services to their audiences.
What is an influencer?
An influencer is any individual or entity with influence over an audience.
What are campaigns?
Brands collaborate with influencers in many creative ways in hopes to cultivate new audiences, grow social followings, and more. A campaign is a marketing effort with a specific agenda in mind. Brands assign a set of guidelines to a campaign for participating influencers to fulfill. Campaigns are living, breathing organisms. They carry on well beyond their publish date, as marketers leverage campaign analytics in real-time.
How is influencer marketing at Bloglovin’ different?
Through Activate, Bloglovin’ takes a full-stack approach to influencer content creation and distribution, supporting a variety of brand initiatives.
How do brands and influencers interact with one other?
The platform provides complete communication and collaboration features with its interconnected draft feedback system and messaging tool.
What does campaign execution look like?
While the immediate value in working with influencers is growing brand awareness and reaching new audiences, value drawn from influencer marketing contributes to overall SEO, benefits other marketing efforts through redistribution, and continues to inspire sales. This process starts with brands. Based on a brand’s needs, they initiate a campaign and set parameters. Suitable influencers are then engaged and are expected to produce a preliminary version of marketable content. This draft is then reviewed by the brand. When a brand feels that the content is ready to be released into the wild, they then give the influencer the go ahead.
Now that you have you some context on influencer marketing and its mechanics, let’s dig into how we went about rethinking the Activate platform.
Social media is still a great way to communicate directly with customers, but generic, transparent ads are no longer sufficient. Companies have to create meaningful brand stories in order to stand out. It’s important to cultivate audiences because targeted exposure will reach the intended customers. And this happens by recruiting influencers that best represent their brand aesthetic.
Drawing from this, we first looked to improve the influencer search tool. To start, the search tool could filter for interest, reach, demographics of the influencer, and give a quick overview of influencers.
Upon user feedback, a more fulfilling experience looked like having the abilities to:
Invite influencers to an existing campaign.
Add influencers to a Network — a brand curated list of influencers.
Filter and see audience by demographic and location.
See who you’ve previously worked with and your Network(s).
This list naturally implied to make the process of inviting influencers more intuitive. We certainly didn’t want to overcomplicate things, so we opted for a lightweight feeling interface with a modular layout.
The influencer profiles on Activate helps brand and campaign managers accept an influencer for a campaign. Part of the decision process is getting an overview of an influencer. We asked marketers what factors they consider most and they said:
Quality and Authenticity of content.
Size of audience and social following.
Engagement: how often they interact with their following.
Cost of influencer.
Aesthetic: the type of content they produce and identify with.
The challenge, here, was in arranging these high-impact details into an easy-to-parse interface. Ultimately, we preserved the modular layout. This would keep the content organized, thus easy to make out.
This is where brands create campaigns on Activate. Activate offers two types of campaigns: Sponsored Content and Distribution campaigns.
A Sponsored Content campaign or a Custom Content + Distribution campaign is where influencers are let to create custom content and distribute it across as many social channels as instructed. This kind of campaign is wide in breadth in that it supports multi-platform publishing (Personal Blogs, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram-Only).
A Distribution campaign is where brands create and provide the content for the influencers to share. Distribution campaigns support distinct publishing (Twitter, Sweepstakes, Pinterest, or Youtube).
For influencers, the recruitment process is different for various campaigns. Sponsored content campaigns are the only campaigns where the brand will individually select applicants. Influencers will receive an Activate notification confirming that they have been selected and engaged on the campaign. Other campaigns (YouTube video promotion, Targeted Twitter, Pinterest Sweepstakes) allow influencers to opt in to participate–there is no brand selection involved.
Within a campaign, a community of influencers forms. Brand permitting, influencers can also make means through something called amplification. Amplification is where members of a community share or amplify each other’s live posts to their own audiences.
Once a lengthy process crammed into a single page, we broke down the campaign creation process into 5 separate steps: Setup, Instructions, Filter, Compensation, and Review & Publish.
Setup: A brand chooses a campaign strategy, on which platforms to distribute, a title, a description, and a timeline.
Instructions: A brand leaves instructions for the participant for which to follow, such as what handles to mention, what hashtags to include, an aesthetic preference, and what to include in the caption.
Filter: A brand describes what type of influencer they’d like for their campaign by specifying the preferred gender, household income, location, ethnicity, areas of influence, retail preferences, and they can also automatically include those in their Network(s).
Compensation: A brand describes how they would like to compensate a participant (fixed fee, influencer bid, non-cash), depending on the compensation type they then enter the amount or reward.
Review & Publish: This step acts as a safeguard, by allowing the brand to review the campaign, before they enter their payment details and hit publish.
Draft Approval Process
The draft approval process is where content creation happens. Influencers create and submit drafts as per campaign instructions. The drafts are then reviewed by the brand, where they decide whether the content is ready to be published or not. A lot of communication and collaboration takes place throughout this process. We prioritized a consistent and transparent experience, so that a user knows exactly at what stage their drafts are in.
As a full-stack platform, Analytics on Activate provides deep campaign insights and analytics from accruing impressions. For brands, seeing a break down of their campaign’s metrics and understanding its ROI is everything. This the place where representations of the data should absolutely stand out. We used contrasting colors and emboldened large numbers to convey their prominence.
At the start, Activate’s marketing assets were rough around the edges, riddled with technical terms, and unappealing to customers. We set course to:
Better communicate the effectiveness of Activate’s technology.
Impose brand cohesion by using a consistent visual language across both platforms and their properties.
In getting there, a complete overhaul was called for — everything from sales decks to marketing pages, emails, research reports was rethought.
My time at Bloglovin’ was a ride of ups and downs, but more importantly, it was one full of learning experiences. Moving on, I’m glad to be doing so a more mindful designer. Below, I’ve listed some key takeaways from my time there:
Share work early, often, and to as many eyes as possible.
Focus. With so many things going on, you can easily get distracted. You make more progress by focusing on one thing at a time.
Have a bias for action. Think you may have a better solution? Substantiate your ideas and provide visuals.
Provide valuable feedback to your team.