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The Human ‘X-FACTOR’ in AI-Driven Marketing

July 25, 2024 1:18 pm Published by

Op:Ed By Jhene Nel, Divisional Head of Sales at Webfluential

A few years ago, as whispers of artificial intelligence (AI) began permeating the marketing sector, there was a palpable buzz. Part excitement, part scepticism. Across industry gatherings and in hushed conference calls, professionals half-joked about AI potentially rendering traditional skills redundant. However, as we ventured into this new terrain at Webfluential, our initial apprehension gave way to a profound realisation: AI wasn’t here to replace us; it was here to enhance our capabilities and extend our reach. 

Reflecting on this, a quote by author Joanna Maciejewska comes to mind: “You know what the biggest problem with pushing all-things-AI is? Wrong direction. I want AI to do my laundry and dishes so that I can do art and writing, not for AI to do my art and writing so that I can do my laundry and dishes.” This insight beautifully encapsulates the ideal role of AI in influencer marketing – not as a creator but as an enabler, allowing human creativity to flourish.

The Benefits of AI in Influencer Marketing

Enhanced Targeting and Personalisation:

We know AI excels in processing vast amounts of data, in marketing this is a game-changer in identifying precise audience segments. It enables marketers to tailor their influencer campaigns with unprecedented accuracy, ensuring that messages are delivered to the most receptive audiences, significantly boosting campaign relevance and effectiveness. 

Efficiency and Scalability:

AI-driven tools streamline campaign management from influencer discovery to performance tracking. This efficiency allows marketing teams to juggle and manage multiple campaigns simultaneously, scaling their efforts more effectively than ever before, and ensuring consistent performance across all initiatives. Gone are the days of one campaign per quarter. 

Predictive Insights and Proactive Adjustments:

AI doesn’t just analyse current trends; it predicts future behaviours. Quite accurately, when done correctly. These predictive capabilities allow brands to stay ahead of market shifts, adapting their strategies proactively to maintain engagement and relevance.

The Irreplaceable Human Touch

The Psychological Need for Human Connection:

Despite the digital revolution, the fundamental human need for connection remains unchanged. Influencers fulfil this need by acting as relatable figures who share personal insights and experiences. They bridge the gap between a brand’s digital presence and its human audience, turning abstract brand messages into personalised interactions.

During a talk on the impact of AI at Suits & Sneakers, Richard Mulholland shared a powerful insight, reflecting on a personal experience that highlighted our human advantage. He noted: “Good service is defined by how well you do your job. Great service is defined by how well you do your ‘not my job.’ It’s the things that people don’t pay us for, that we do, that they remember us for. The machines can’t do this. That’s the unfair human advantage”.

This sentiment captures the essence of what machines can’t replicate: the unexpected, deeply personal touches that forge lasting connections and memories. In influencer marketing, this human element – our ability to go beyond the expected and genuinely relate – remains our greatest asset.

Authenticity and Trust:

Influencers are the human face of modern digital campaigns, providing a level of authenticity that resonates deeply with audiences. They build trust through personal stories and genuine interactions, which are critical in converting followers into customers. This human element creates a loyal customer base, as consumers are more likely to engage with a brand that feels familiar and trustworthy.

Emotional Intelligence:

People excel at understanding and conveying emotions, a nuance that AI has yet to master, and many suspect, never will. Influencers use this emotional intelligence to connect with their audience, crafting content that is not only relevant but also emotionally engaging, thus deepening the impact of marketing messages.

Strategic Integration of AI and Human Creativity

As businesses increasingly rely on influencer marketing, the collaboration between AI and human creativity has become a necessity. AI enhances campaign precision and efficiency, allowing brands to harness deep insights and scalability. Yet, the success of these campaigns still heavily depends on the nuanced, emotional intelligence that only humans can provide.

Delivering Data-Driven Insights in Influencer Marketing:

Influencer marketing thrives on data-driven insights that allow brands to react and adapt in real time. The industry increasingly relies on AI to sift through complex datasets, enabling marketers to refine their strategies for better engagement and ROI. Speaking from experience at Webfluential, we use AI to translate vast amounts of data into actionable insights, helping our clients understand and harness the dynamics of their campaigns effectively. This approach not only boosts campaign precision but also empowers brands with the agility to make informed adjustments as market conditions evolve.

The Role of Human Insight in a Data-Driven World:

Authenticity, which is central to the influencer’s appeal, cannot be manufactured by algorithms. This is why, even as we integrate sophisticated AI tools to enhance our campaign strategies, we maintain a strong focus on human creativity and intuition. The balance between machine efficiency and human empathy is crucial, ensuring that our technology enhances rather than replaces the personal touch that audiences value.

Finding Balance Between Technology and Personal Insight:

Successfully integrating AI with human insights does not just enhance operational efficiency – it enriches the creative process, making campaigns more effective and resonant. In practice, this means leveraging AI for its analytical strengths while still depending on human understanding to craft messages that truly speak to people. We strive for this balance, ensuring our campaigns achieve not only technical precision but also emotional depth, which is often the hallmark of influencer marketing success.


In the end, the tools and technologies at our disposal are just that. Tools. They are designed to enhance our capabilities, not to overshadow the irreplaceable human elements that are the bedrock of meaningful communication. As we look to the future, our focus at Webfluential remains steadfast on nurturing these human connections, ensuring that every campaign not only reaches but truly touches the audience. It’s in this careful balancing of technology and personal insight that the true art of influencer marketing lies. 

And as someone who has seen both the possibilities and the pitfalls of this dynamic field, I believe our greatest successes will not be measured by the data we analyse but by the human moments we create and cherish. Let us not forget, in our rush to embrace the new, that sometimes the most cutting-edge tool at our disposal is a simple conversation, a genuine story, a moment of real human connection.

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Wilson, H.J. and Daugherty, P.R. (2018). Collaborative Intelligence: Humans and AI Are Joining Forces. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at:

Cook, G. (2013). Why We Are Wired to Connect. [online] Scientific American. Available at:

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The Three Apples That Changed Our World Op:Ed By Murray Legg, Co-Founder of Webfluential

July 17, 2024 2:51 pm Published by

Three iconic apples have profoundly shaped human behaviour over the centuries. It began with Eve’s fateful bite, symbolising our innate temptation for social status. Then came Newton’s apple, revealing the gravitational forces that exist between objects and people. Finally, there was Steve Jobs’ Apple, putting a powerful handheld window to the world in our palms – allowing us to seamlessly connect, purchase, and share our lifestyles like never before. 

From the garden to the orchard to the Apple store, this trinity of apples has converged in the rising phenomenon of social commerce. Their symbolic undertones of status, social influence, and mobilised consumer behaviour have manifested into a meaningful shift in how we interact with brands and make purchasing decisions today.

As someone immersed in the tech world, I’ve become fascinated by the convergence of community, technology, commerce, and creativity. This intersection represents more than just intrigue – it’s a paradigm shift in how we engage, influenced by the same temptations and forces that the three legendary apples set about. 

Our recent analysis of creator metrics on traffic, trust and conversion revealed social commerce’s powerful impact first-hand. Like Eve’s apple, the illustrated social status of the influencers we follow taps into our desires for mimicry and ultimately, product purchase. It delivers authenticity through the trusted voices and stories of influential creators that hold gravitational pull in our social orbits, and like Jobs’ ground-breaking devices, social commerce allows these influencers to mobilise consumer behaviour with incredible immediacy and seamless shopping experiences.

The Social Commerce Revolution

This transformation extends far beyond simply adopting new digital tools or chasing trends. It reflects a fundamental shift in how brands, creators, and consumers interact. The era of shopping as a passive, disconnected activity confined to physical stores or basic e-commerce sites is over. Social media has blossomed into vibrant digital communities and marketplaces where creators don’t just carry influence – they cultivate relationships, tell stories, and drive purchases directly through the gravity of their resonance and reach.

Consumers aren’t just buying products anymore. They’re buying into authentic narratives crafted by people they feel drawn towards. Creators have turned their social feeds into modern-day apple orchards, blending product showcases with personal storytelling to make every interaction shoppable and gratifying on a primal level.

Social commerce’s power lies in this perfect mashup of ancient tendencies and modern convenience: It delivers on our aspirational indulgences, through gravitational influences, and is seamlessly executed through engaging experiences aligned with how people prefer to make purchases today.

The Rapid Rise of Social Commerce

While the tendencies behind social commerce are rooted in humanity’s earliest eras, its recent growth has been staggering. Live-streaming commerce alone is massive, valued at around $774 billion globally. This scale underscores how adeptly social platforms can influence consumer behaviour by harnessing age-old psychological forces.

In South Africa, local brands aren’t just participating – they’re pioneering live-streaming as a way to transform passive viewers into active shoppers. By broadcasting engaging product experiences through trusted creator voices, brands are reinventing the customer journey as an immersive, instantly shoppable event. It’s that Verimark experience we used to watch on TV, with a “click to purchase” convenience right on our phone.

The opportunity extends far beyond live shopping, too. Shoppable posts that tag purchasable items directly in photos and videos are enhancing the act of scrolling our social feeds. What was once simple browsing of friend’s life experiences and enhanced photos, has become large-scale industrial level-harvesting, allowing consumers to effortlessly pick and purchase any digital apple that catches their eye.

Seizing Social Commerce’s Low-Hanging Fruit

While significant opportunities exist, the South African market has been slow to fully embrace social commerce’s potential. Many companies remain heavily invested in traditional media strategies despite digital’s proven ROIs and consumer gravitations. This adoption rate has partly been governed by internet access and online purchase comfort, but is being accelerated by competitive behaviour between marketplaces such as the recently launched, Temu and Shein.

Closing this gap requires a digital-first mindset, one focused on not just advertising alongside social content but embedding commerce capabilities directly within these authentic digital communities where consumers already cultivate relationships with brands organically.

Here’s how brands can start harvesting social commerce’s benefits:

  • Audit your digital presence and realign it with where consumers truly spend their time.
  • Partner with creator communities that resonate with your brand to amplify your narratives through voices that carry real gravity.
  • Measure your efforts not just by followers or likes, but by how effectively social interactions translate into tangible sales.

At Webfluential, we understood from the beginning that authenticity breeds influence. This philosophy has perfectly positioned us to cultivate social commerce, designing our platform to connect brands with creators who can help them grow naturally within digital communities through genuine storytelling and relationships.

Every interaction on our platform represents not just a digital touchpoint, but an opportunity for brands to blossom and bear new commercial fruit. Because in today’s world, the real temptation isn’t a single apple, but entire orchards of shoppable personal narratives waiting to be plucked.

The three legendary apples may have originated in different contexts across the centuries. But their collective impact on human behaviour has paved the way for an era where community and commerce not only harmoniously co-exist, but are becoming inseparable. For brands willing to embrace this reality, the opportunities are ripe for the picking.

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Beyond Viral: The New Era of Influence

July 12, 2024 12:21 pm Published by

Late one evening, in the dim glow of a single desk lamp, a marketing manager at a burgeoning brand discovers a mention on Instagram. It’s from an influencer, someone not yet on the mainstream radar but with a fiercely loyal following, sharing a candid moment that unexpectedly includes the brand’s product. This tag doesn’t just go viral—it sparks a conversation, a community, and ultimately, a transformative campaign that catapults the brand into the hearts and feeds of countless new customers. This isn’t a tale of serendipity; it’s the power of influencer marketing, meticulously leveraged and astutely executed.

In the fast-evolving realm of digital marketing, where algorithms reign supreme and consumer attention is the ultimate prize, influencer marketing emerges as the David against the Goliaths of traditional marketing channels. While it may not be wielding a sling; it is armed with authenticity, creativity, and the unmatched power of personal recommendation.

The Rise of the Specialists

As influencer marketing matures, a new crop of heroes enters the scene: specialist influencer agencies. These agencies have turned influencer marketing into a science. With a keen understanding of the digital landscape, they navigate the intricacies of influencer partnerships, algorithm changes, and campaign analytics with the ease of a seasoned sailor in familiar waters. 

Their expertise? Not just knowing which influencer’s aesthetic aligns with a brand, but also which influencer’s audience aligns with a brand’s target market. It’s like matchmaking, but the stakes are higher, and the romance is between brands and potential customers.

“In the dynamic world of digital marketing, understanding the pulse of your audience is key. Influencer marketing, when done right, isn’t just about reach; it’s about building authentic connections and sparking meaningful conversations,” says Albert Makoeng, Head of Sales at Nfinity Influencer, a part of the Nfinity Group which owns influencer platforms such as theSalt and Webfluential.

Building on the nuanced expertise of influencer marketing specialists, these agencies extend their value far beyond mere matchmaking. They equip brands with a sophisticated marketing toolkit. This suite of resources is meticulously designed to ensure that each campaign not only reaches its target audience but resonates with them, driving engagement and fostering genuine connections. 

Let’s delve into what one may find in their toolkit and why these components are indispensable to clients and pivotal for marketing success.

Technology Platforms: Central to the modern influencer marketing strategy, these platforms offer unparalleled precision in pairing brands with influencers. This precision ensures that marketing campaigns are sharply focused from the outset, maximising the likelihood of achieving desired outcomes.

Manpower: The human element remains irreplaceable. Agencies bring together teams of strategists, creatives, and analysts who apply their collective expertise to craft campaigns that speak to the hearts and minds of the target audience. This manpower is the driving force behind campaigns that not only capture attention but also inspire action.

Adapting: The capability to quickly adapt and execute influencer campaigns within increasingly tight timelines is becoming a crucial competitive advantage. Agencies and brands that can swiftly navigate these challenges are better positioned to capitalise on fleeting trends and moments.

Reporting: With a keen focus on accountability and optimisation, comprehensive reporting tools provide deep insights into campaign performance. These insights allow brands to fine-tune their strategies, ensuring continuous improvement and a robust return on investment.

Gone are the days when the success of a campaign was measured by gut feeling or likes alone. In today’s data-driven world, measuring ROI is paramount. Agencies and brands alike are delving into the nitty-gritty of engagement rates, conversion metrics, and audience growth to justify every penny spent. It’s not enough to create a buzz; the buzz needs to convert to sales, sign-ups, or whatever the golden metric of success may be for the campaign at hand.

AI and the Future of Personalisation in Influencer Marketing

“Following our insight into the metrics that matter, it is clear that the future of influencer marketing lies not just in numbers but in the intelligent application of those numbers. This is where artificial intelligence steps in, bridging the gap between data and human connection, and offering an array of tools for creators that revolutionise the way campaigns are conceived, executed, and analysed,” says Pieter Groenewald, CEO of the Nfinity Influencer Group.

AI tools are at the forefront of this transformation, enabling a level of personalisation and efficiency previously unimaginable:

  • OwlyWriter AI for content creation offers a unique blend of ChatGPT’s language model with proprietary content formulas, streamlining social media captioning and post generation to save countless hours.
  • ChatGPT stands out for idea generation and brainstorming, providing a basis for social media post ideas, blog outlines, and more, making it an invaluable asset for content strategy.
  • Dall-E and Midjourney bring a new dimension to visual content creation, generating original graphics and art with just a text prompt, perfect for social media graphics, blog illustrations, and more, enriching the visual storytelling aspect of influencer campaigns.
  • Podcastle simplifies podcast production with AI-powered recording and editing, making audio content more accessible and polished for creators of all experience levels.
  • Canva with its “Magic Design” features, accelerates the content creation process across platforms, ensuring brand consistency and enabling efficient content repurposing.
  • Synthesia and Murf present innovative solutions for video and audio content, allowing for the creation of AI avatars and human-sounding voice overs, respectively, enabling diverse content creation without traditional barriers.

Trends on the Horizon

Exploring what’s next for influencer marketing unveils key trends poised to transform how brands and creators engage with audiences. According to Groenewald and his team at Nfinity Influencer, here are just some of the developments shaping this dynamic field:

  • The rise of Nano and Micro-Influencers: With their authenticity and high engagement rates, nano influencers represent a growing trend, offering brands a cost-effective way to reach specific audiences.
  • Integration of technology: Beyond the utilisation of AI for personalisation and efficiency, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are starting to play more significant roles. For example, AR can enable shoppers to see how furniture would look in their home or how a makeup product would appear on their skin. Influencers can use these technologies to create more engaging and persuasive content that showcases products in real-life scenarios, enhancing the consumer’s decision-making process. By integrating AR and VR into their content, influencers can offer audiences a virtual try-before-you-buy experience. This not only adds value to the consumer journey but also elevates the influencer’s role from a mere promoter to an integral part of the customer’s shopping experience.
  • Financial empowerment through affiliate and referral programmes: Influencers are increasingly leveraging their platforms for direct financial gain, adopting affiliate and referral programs that align their earnings with their ability to drive real results for brands.
  • Long-term partnerships and authenticity: The shift towards longer, more meaningful collaborations between brands and influencers underscores the importance of authenticity in today’s marketing landscape.
  • Socio-political activism: More influencers are using their platforms to engage with socio-political issues, resonating with audiences who value corporate social responsibility. This trend reflects a broader expectation for brands and influencers to take stands on societal issues, contributing to a brand’s image as socially conscious and engaged.

“Influencer marketing continues to be a vibrant, evolving field. For brands willing to dive deep, the rewards are manifold: from forging deeper consumer connections to driving tangible results. As we edge further into the digital age, one thing is clear: influencer marketing isn’t just surviving; it’s thriving,” concludes Groenewald. 

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