We talked to Brett Garfinkel of Sylo on how he provides access to the most accurate and comprehensive dataset in the industry, allowing marketers to optimize every step of their influencer programs and maximize ROI and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Brett Garfinkel: We are healthy and taking it day by day.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Sylo.
Brett Garfinkel: I’ve been involved in some capacity in media beginning back in college while at Emory University, working as an Intern at CNN Sports (yes, they had a sports division that once rivaled ESPN’s Sportscenter). From there, publishing opportunities in sales with magazines I grew up reading at Conde Nast, Meredith and Wenner Media provided me with a terrific experience in media strategy, buying, selling, and overall an old-school knowledge how to navigate both brands and advertising agency relationships. I applied this experience and began developing new innovative approaches when I entered the burgeoning digital video space in 2004. It helped to pioneer brand integration within original live streaming programming.
In 2014 I entered the world of Influencer marketing, and joining me was my good friend Erick Schwab who also came from a publishing, digital, and programmatic advertising background. At this time, 90% of the influencer campaigns took place on YouTube, but we knew it would be expanding to other platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. With a philosophy that the best data wins, we set forth to learn how to access the most amount of data to provide both creators and brands a marketplace to work together where data transparency was prevalent. Campaigns could be measured accurately by an independent, unbiased source and provide brands the right pathway to ROI. It meant building the best fraud detection globally and accessing verified data versus scraped, via creator authentication, which is compliant with privacy laws, and the social platforms’ terms of services. It is how Sylo came to be. To this day, we are, as far as I know, the ONLY company in the world that has been collecting and storing authenticated, verified data within the influencer marketing space.
How does Sylo innovate?
Brett Garfinkel: Having more experience (5 years now) than any other company playing with authenticated (backend) data has afforded us the ability to innovate along the lines of fraud detection, campaign benchmarks, and sales attribution with our Nielsen partnership. Our goal has always been to help segment the industry at which point influencers are certified, so brands will have a marketplace to work with that will provide confidence, accountability, and an outcome of greater efficiency.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Brett Garfinkel: The pandemic has halted growth capital for many companies, but at the same time, it’s afforded those of us to consider new opportunities and potential pivots as well. It has opened up fascinating conversations surrounding partnerships as well as acquisition.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Brett Garfinkel: There’s been many. The one that has always stood out was how we should collect the data. Every influencer marketing platform (over 1200) relies on a process known as “scraping,” which utilizes a webcrawler or such to access private data without the owner/creator’s permission. This method has proved to be highly inaccurate and an impossible route to take when looking to detect any fraud running rampant throughout this space and needs to be handled. It also violates the privacy laws (GDPR, CCPA) and the TOS of the social platforms but has continued to be permitted for some reason. This method allowed companies to build “search and discovery” tools for brands and agencies to access data (although not accurate) without the influencer’s knowledge. We took the high road where all creator data collected and shared is permission-based, so the creators first have to authenticate into our platform and then approve any user who is requesting their data. So they know at all times where their verified data lives. It is an extra step that many agencies are not willing to enforce or mandate to protect their brand’s investment. I believe it’s the agency’s fiduciary duty to inform their brand clients that they can preserve their influencer investment with 3rd party measurement and fraud detection.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Brett Garfinkel: I remember that this job/company doesn’t define me. My friends and family are most important, and I’m blessed to have some fantastic people in my life.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Brett Garfinkel: To be honest, I cannot recall another company in the world that has positioned itself as a 3rd party, unbiased auditing governance for influencer marketing collecting, storing, and serving authenticated (verified) data.
Your final thoughts?
Brett Garfinkel: The influencer marketing space has tremendous potential to take those “gettable” TV dollars, but first, we need to separate the bad actors from the good by segmenting the industry (think “professionals” vs. everyone else). Once we have a certified influencer marketplace, all parties (brands and creators) will benefit. There will be data transparency, ROI, sales attribution. As I stated earlier in this Q&A, this marketplace will increase brand confidence, accountability, and better efficiencies. With that, more Ad dollars will be placed here benefiting those certified creators/influencers, and globally this customer acquisition method will prosper, sustain, and scale.
However, suppose brands, who control the $$, continue to allow for this current state of automation from the 1200 influencer marketing platforms and talent agencies, without repercussions for those who commit fraud or scrape and present inaccurate data. In that case, we will remain a space where brands will continue to be unaware of the actual value when investing in influencer campaigns.
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