In many ways, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is part of our daily lives. Whether it is Alexa et al. telling us, which products to put on our shopping list, a vacuum robot cleaning our home surfaces from dust and dirt or simply streaming Netflix – AI can be a real help in many everyday situations. How to successfully implement AI into a business explained us Sara Hildebrandt, CSO of the micro influencer platform and Instagram search engine VIMATO, in an interview about AI and how it can be of great use for sustainability.
aware: What was the intention or inspiration when founding VIMATO in 2017? And how did you become part of it?
Sara Hildebrandt: The founders noticed that there was a need from brands to find User Generated Content (UGC). After building a search engine for UGC it was the next logical step looking at the market need to also enable the search of influencers, campaign management and communication between brands and influencers. In 2019, I got in contact with one of the founders and was immediately hooked; it is such a dynamic, booming, and interesting market. I was offered the possibility to join the management team as CSO and have been part of VIMATO since.
aware: What would you say you do differently in comparison to (other) agencies that are specialized in influencer marketing?
Sara Hildebrandt: First, we are not an agency, so the influencers are not listed with us. We offer a self-service software which helps to look for the right fits for our customers and can be especially helpful when it comes to micro and nano influencers and in niche verticals. So, while agencies have a determinate number of influencers, which mostly are part of the classical influencer genres such as beauty, fashion and lifestyle and have a huge number of followers, VIMATO can provide you with hidden gems agencies do not have in their portfolio. Also, we offer a transparent and more objective data-based view of who they are and what they offer, simply based on the content they post and the followers they have.
aware: AI and sustainability seem to be unrelated at first. How can these two be put into the same context?
Sara Hildebrandt: AI can help in any context. Fortunately, already for some years, sustainability is growing in every aspect of life and to achieve the goals of a more sustainable way of living, growing, and producing, AI can support in that manner. Depending on how AI is used, it can make processes easier, faster, and smarter – saving people time and helping them achieve their goals better and quicker. If this is used to make products and processes more sustainable, it is a win-win situation – not only for companies and consumers, but especially for the environment. Since it is a growing field, you also have limited investment capabilities in terms of time and money, and it is vital to identify the best possibilities where to put these investments to retain this growth and persist against established approaches which do not have these constraints. Here, AI can support your decisions with insights and analyses you just could not identify otherwise.
aware: Are there any limits or risks to sustainability in AI?
Sara Hildebrandt: AI is only as good as the way it is used and as the data it analyzes. When we take this concept to our company, thus using AI to match brands with their most fitting brand ambassadors, this means that the data will be much more accurate when looking at real people and their real accounts than just taking information out of what influencers share about themselves on a set card. But there is so much data that getting through all that information and deciding where to look for relevant insights takes time and capacity.
aware: VIMATO is specialized on micro influencer marketing. How is this approach more sustainable than marketing with influencers with a big following?
Sara Hildebrandt: Macro influencers will reach more people, yes, but how sustainable is their relationship with these followers? Do people really do what they suggest, or will they just scroll to the next post? Smaller influencers have a much closer relationship with their followers, their bond is tighter and what they recommend is taken into consideration much faster. Their integrity is still intact, and they perform well due to their high amount of authenticity. The more specialized or niche your service/product is, the more vital it is to reach out to your most relevant audience, which is naturally smaller than audiences for established, mainstream services/products. And regarding that earlier mentioned constraint of limited resources to do that, having a more effective approach to reach these relevant audiences is not only necessary, but also naturally more sustainable because of its higher effectiveness.
aware: What specific methods does VIMATO use to ensure quality influencers?
Sara Hildebrandt: We look if influencers have bought likes or followers. Our algorithms determine if their followers are genuine and valuable. Do they match with the interests of the influencers and if so, to what amount? And how engaged are they regarding these interests, quantitatively and qualitatively? That is very important for any company considering using influencers in their marketing mix. An influencer marketing campaign is only as good as the relationship of the influencers with their followers. If their followers are real people, with a real interest for the influencer and in the target group of the company, they are extremely valuable, as they will be the future customers.
aware: Would you say sustainability is one of the influencers’ main interests or topics these days?
Sara Hildebrandt: Definitely. Sustainability is not just a trend anymore. More and more companies try to be as sustainable as possible and it is important that all their marketing channels show this. That means their influencers should have a focus on this as well. Louisa Dellert and Laura Mitulla are just two examples of sustainability influencers that have a huge impact.
aware: VIMATO’s aim is to find the right fit for an influencer or a company – what would be the right fit for aware_?
Sara Hildebrandt: I would say this is not only one person, but it should also be a whole community that shows aware_ to their followers. That can be from the single dad living in the south of the country with only 200 followers, to someone like the already mentioned Louisa Dellert with her 437.000 followers living in Berlin. The best thing you can do as aware_ (as most other companies as well) is to find a community of brand ambassadors who differ in followers so that you do not reach the same people through too many different influencers. You need people from different regions, different age groups, genders, and interest. Diversity is key to reach those people who are interested in your product, or as in this case, in your platform, and most importantly those who do not know yet, that they are interested, but turn out to be your audience.
aware: Thinking futuristically, one may be fascinated about how AI will be part of their daily lives. Do you think there are ways of how AI can enable a more sustainable or eco-friendlier future?
Sara Hildebrandt: Definitely. In so many ways. Just to give some examples: AI can help us to be more aware of how we pollute our environment, how much food is thrown away or the often-unnecessary usage of water. It is sometimes in the little things, as it can measure the right amount of detergent in our washing program. That is amazing, it makes our daily life easier and is good for the environment, as most people tend to put too much detergent in the washing machine. And those are the little things that make the lives of millions of users easier, on a bigger scale, when for example AI is used to improve the traffic light system, this will at once not only bring everybody (walking, on bikes or in cars) faster to their destiny, but also have a significant impact on the pollution of cities. It is the vast amount of these little decisions where AI can give us very good guidelines by inferring knowledge based on a lot of data which you could never comprehend yourself.
by Kim Fischer