- Efficient influencer relationship management is crucial for building long-term partnerships with influencers and running successful influencer campaigns.
- IRM solutions can optimize every aspect of relations with online creators, from searching and recruiting influencers to tracking campaign performance. With powerful data analysis and automation tools, an IRM system can significantly improve influencer marketing activities, creators’ engagement, and campaign ROI. However, the tools currently available on the market have their flaws, which make users search for alternatives.
- To build a custom IRM platform that meets the requirements and aligns with the business goals of companies that do influencer marketing, you need a clear vision of the future product and a team of highly skilled, motivated tech people with relevant expertise.
The influencer marketing market almost doubled in value in just two years, from 2019 to 2021, and the figure is expected to reach $174,60 billion by 2031. But as the companies’ demand for cooperation with online creators grows, marketing teams face new challenges. They need to manage an increasing number of influencer relationships while caring for marketing campaign metrics. This calls for automation tools or influencer relationship management (IRM) platforms.
This article guides you through the process of building custom influencer relationship management software step-by-step. But first, let’s briefly consider the concept of IRM systems as one of the custom marketing solutions and how they help foster long-term relations with online creators.
IRM software: What it is and how it works
Basically, influencer relationship management platforms are systems akin to CRMs, but instead of managing relations with customers, they forge lasting partnerships with influencers. This software can cover the entire process of running influencer marketing campaigns or just some of its parts.
A well-designed influencer relationship management software can improve different stages of influencer marketing:
- Developing an influencer marketing strategy. An IRM platform enables marketers to monitor trends, gather data, and make informed decisions. Based on this information, they can develop efficient, data-driven influencer programs and strategies for influencer campaigns.
- Finding the perfect candidate. Influencer recruiting is a tough job. An IRM system can offer a creator database and advanced search features. They will make it easier for marketers to find the most relevant celebrities for influencer programs, quality influencer content, and the right vibe to engage the specific target audience.
- Influencer due diligence. Not all influencers are trustworthy. Sometimes, those whopping follower, engagement, and influencer outreach counts are fake. With influencer relationship management tools, marketers can automatically filter the fraudsters out and focus on reliable partnerships.
- Signing up influencers. Influencer relations management software can also help marketers deal with formalities in their cooperation with online creators: draw up contracts using built-in templates, tweak them to specific influencer activities, send them out, and get them signed quickly.
- Setting objectives, tracking progress, and making adjustments. With a good IRM solution, marketers can set KPIs for influencer marketing campaigns, monitor influencer performance, including traffic, impressions, and conversions, and change campaign parameters if needed.
- Cultivating long-term relationships. Each creator is unique, with a different story and approach to the creative process. An IRM platform will help you establish lines of communication to clearly convey expectations and hear the influencers’ concerns and opinions.
- Paying creators for their services. Compensating your influencers on time and in full is crucial. With an IRM system, you can automate the entire cycle of calculating rates and paying invoices.
- Performing post-campaign analysis. Influencer relationship management platforms allow marketers to calculate ROI from influencer programs, balance various influencer marketing channels, prioritize best performers, and part ways with creators when things don't work out.
With an IRM solution, marketing teams can accomplish more in less time, cut back on routine tasks within influencer programs, and focus on maintaining good relations with online creators.
Examples of ready-made IRM solutions
The market offers a selection of ready-made best marketing automation software, including influencer relationship management platforms. Created for typical scenarios, these platforms share many core features and can cover a lot of basic needs. Here are two successful examples of IRM systems offered on the market.
Upfluence is a cloud-based platform providing tools for connecting businesses and influencers and streamlining their marketing collaboration. Using Upfluence, businesses can explore & connect with individuals across a 6,3M database and 529 billion social contacts. This platform is a ready-made all-in-one solution for brands willing to start their influencer marketing activity quickly, relatively inexpensively, and don’t have very specific needs. So that they can get by with the level of customization and features offered by the platform.
Let’s have a quick glance at the Upfluence features to find out how such solutions can help your business:
- Influencer discovery based on specific criteria such as audience demographics, engagement metrics, location, industry, and keywords.
- Influencer management provides a centralized dashboard allowing businesses to save their favorite influencers, offer them tailored promo codes, and so on.
- Campaign management and analytics with abilities to plan, execute, and track influencer marketing campaigns, gather in-depth insights into performance to help businesses measure their ROI.
- Content collaboration between businesses and influencers through content creation briefs, content approval workflows, and content scheduling.
- Chrome add-on Influencer Analytics by Upfluence shows advanced information about influencer profiles, their audience, and post performance.
- Social monitoring has solved the manual performance tracking problem. By gathering statistics across all known social media altogether, users can track which posts, media, and influencers are better in terms of performance stats.
Upfluence offers a wide range of marketing, CRM, and e-commerce integrations essential for businesses looking to streamline their campaigns. These include Zapier, Klaviyo, WooCommerce, Adobe Commerce, Shopify, PayPal, Mailchimp, Gmail, Outlook, and Refersion, which allow businesses to create targeted campaigns and reach their ideal audience. The option to connect your website store to Upfluence makes up another handy e-commerce integration.
Upfluence provides three pricing plans to meet the needs of different businesses. However, you cannot see the actual price on their website, so you have to contact the company individually. Moreover, regardless of the chosen plan, the contract length starts from one year. These might be cumbersome and unsuitable for some businesses.
Striking a good balance of functionality for both influencers and marketers, this platform has a comparatively modest base of 175,000 creators and over 250 million social media profiles to choose from. Subscribers must pay a monthly fee to gain access to the platform's database and managed services for ad campaigns. Creators will find a complete set of features for finding collaborations, learning new skills, and growing their income.
This platform also offers a multitude of features similar to Upfluence. The software includes services for influencers and brands, affiliate programs that allow businesses and creators to boost sales, and a collaboration hub. A latter service is a tool within the IRM platform itself. It's mainly used as a customized campaign service.
Let's take a closer look at the Creator.co features:
- Search engine among the influencers from such social networks as TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Twitch, Youtube, and Pinterest with advanced analytics;
- Collaboration hub tool to explore a variety of partnership opportunities, from paid campaigns to giveaways and affiliate programs.
- Campaign automation — a step-by-step procedure for the business and creator that makes creating campaigns intuitive. The higher the subscription tier you go, the more assistance you'll get.
The service offers four packages starting at $460 per month. The most expensive plan with extensive customization options will cost you $3,495 per month. Creator.co also provides additional services, such as social media content and ads management, for an extra fee.
Take into account
There are at least a dozen more IRM solutions on the market with a variety of features for every use case. All of them are quick to start using, relatively inexpensive, and relieve you of the worries associated with software development and support. This might seem like a good place to start.
However, it is worth remembering the significant limitations inherent in SaaS marketing automation platforms. Here are a few of them:
- Limited rights to cooperate with influencers through the intermediary model. Some SaaS IRM platforms may restrict the rights of brands and agencies to directly cooperate with influencers.
- Limitations on data ownership and control. Businesses might have limited access to raw data, making it challenging to perform in-depth analysis or integrate with other systems.
- Customization and flexibility limitations. SaaS platforms have predefined features and limited customization options. This can restrict the ability to tailor the platform to specific business needs and workflows.
- Scalability limitations. SaaS platforms have scalability limitations, making it challenging to accommodate the growing needs of businesses with larger influencer networks or complex campaign requirements.
- Integration challenges. Integrating a SaaS IRM platform with other existing marketing tools or systems might be complex or limited due to platform constraints. This can hinder the ability to streamline workflows and data synchronization across various platforms.
Considering ready-made IRMs, their features, peculiarities, and limitations, you might consider an option to create your platform from scratch.
This option is, of course, more time-consuming and more expensive at the development stage, but it provides unlimited possibilities for customization and scaling, which no SaaS solution can provide.
You can consider one more opportunity to benefit from the creation of a custom IRM platform. If you find off-the-shelf solutions not perfectly suitable for your needs, you can build a custom platform and offer it to other companies as a SaaS solution. If you find using the ready-made solutions challenging, chances are high that other companies in your field also face similar issues. Why not offer them a platform that provides features and opportunities that cover all their needs in the management of relationships with influencers? You’ll benefit from providing a subscription while your clients enjoy using a feature-rich and optimized solution.
Custom development is the only way to build a tool that perfectly matches the needs of creators and their clients. If you’re considering building a custom marketing solution with a focus on influencer relationship management - keep reading.
The next section explores how to build an influencer relationship management platform. We will break down the development into a series of steps and zero in on each one.
Building a custom IRM platform
Before diving headfirst into the nuances of the development process, we need to make an important disclaimer. Custom IRM systems can be different since they are built for different purposes.
You may build it for marketing agencies as primary users and strive to automate all processes related to influencer marketing.
You may target influencers and build a platform for handy communication with clients and seamless content production and approval.
You may decide to build a tool for brands and provide them direct access to hundreds of influencers, filtered by their location, positioning, target audience, pricing, etc.
For example, agencies that manage dozens or even hundreds of influencer relationships need a platform tailored to their specific demands. Meanwhile, companies searching for their niche in the booming IRM market might want to create a customizable all-around product, most likely as a SaaS (software as a service) solution. But a development team would have to take the same basic steps, whatever the purpose.
However, regardless of the software type or its purpose, there is one important thing to consider.
When it comes to getting a glimpse of your future product, we're big believers in building an MVP, or a minimum viable product. This way, you can quickly release a simple product and slowly build it up, checking in with market needs. It's far less risky than investing in a complex solution only to find out later your ideas weren't as relevant as you thought.
That’s why we recommend focusing on minimal but sufficient requirements first. This will allow you to test a working version of your platform with a real audience, get feedback, and, if you’re a startup looking for funding, pitch your project to investors.
So, let's get down to business. Here are the essential milestones on your journey to creating a custom influencer relationship management tool.
Starting with the discovery to determine your project's scope and goals
Every software development project begins with careful planning. To make a plan, you need a crystal clear vision of your business objectives — and its rigorous translation into technical terms. That’s what you can achieve during the discovery phase.
The idea here is to learn as much as possible about your product and then plot an efficient and safe course to your goal. You’ll need to clarify your IRM strategy and set realistic requirements and expectations for the product. The discovery phase typically involves creating documentation, doing market research, assessing risk, and estimating the budget and time for product development. You can start discovery by yourself or involve a software development vendor to achieve better results.
So why do you need discovery at all?
It's often a reality check, a chance to find out how feasible your idea is, whether it's aligned with your business needs, where you stand in the market, and where you need to be headed. During the discovery phase, you can also build an interactive prototype to validate your idea with a focus group.
Here are some of the essential points to go through during discovery when developing an influencer relationship management platform:
Identifying the goal, target market, and target audience for the platform
First of all, you need to draw a comprehensive strategic blueprint for your business:
- What's your value proposition?
- Where's your target market?
- Who's the audience for your IRM software?
- How exactly will your product make money?
The answers will differ depending on whether you're building an influencer relationship management software for internal use in a marketing agency or for individual use by creators. You may also want to build a solution covering only specific tasks within IRM, such as influencer tracking software and so on.
Gathering influencer marketing software requirements
Typically, the requirements for a software product are divided into functional and non-functional:
- Functional requirements describe the features of the future app. For example, they determine that an influencer relationship management tool is supposed to help users manage multiple influencer campaigns, needs separate access rights for creators and agents, and so on.
- Non-functional requirements set the desired standards for app performance and quality. For instance, you can specify the IRM platform's desired uptime, page load speeds, or compatibility with operating systems and browsers.
Functional and non-functional requirements are usually formalized in the product requirements documentation, which is an important deliverable of the discovery phase.
Every custom IRM system has unique functionality. But to give you a general idea, here are just two examples of IRM MVPs and their respective sets of features that your developers may work on.
Features of an IRM platform for brands/agencies
The target audience of such platforms is businesses looking for influencers for marketing cooperation. Therefore, the product should provide a fast and effective search for influencers, management of cooperation and campaigns, performance tracking, as well as workflows for approving and managing content.
Therefore, a product of this kind may contain the following functionality:
- influencer discovery tools (creator database with historical data, due diligence checks; searchable by social media platform, type of content, hashtags, reach, etc.);
- recruitment-related features (with editable contract templates);
- tools for content creation and promotion (content library, review, and amplification tools);
- campaign progress tracking and analytics panel;
- communication module (e-mail, live chat, etc.);
- billing tools (invoice generation, payment tracking).
For your own custom solution, you may want to add such features and functions as advanced influencer search filters, integration with specific social media platforms or APIs, enhanced billing and payment features, and others, depending on your marketing goals.
Features of a creator-centric IRM solution
This type of platform will require slightly different functionality as its target audience is creators. Such software should simplify content approval workflows, facilitate payment and contract management, provide collaboration tools, and enable opportunities for discovery and growth in the influencer space. Therefore, the functionality of creator-centric IRMs can include:
- influencer registration portal (via social media platforms);
- brand/campaign search tools (database of vetted brands/agencies, AI-assisted match, search by category, etc.);
- tools for providing compliance (audience segmentation, content moderation, data security, and privacy features, compliance reporting);
- task progress tracking tools;
- payment tools (invoices, payment options);
- third-party integrations (social networks, content creation and editing tools, payment services, task manager, chat, etc).
Remember: your MVP shouldn’t be a comprehensive feature-rich solution. Optimize resources and focus on developing the features that are essential to your vision and will allow you to test your assumptions.
Choosing the technology stack
At this stage, you’ll also need to decide what programming languages and frameworks work best for your use case.
Depending on how you plan to deliver your solution (a web or a mobile app, native or cross-platform mobile apps, and so on), you will need to choose the best-fitting tech stack for the task. Other factors like your budget, security, and scalability requirements will also play a role.
Once again, let's think of this in MVP terms. How to launch a product faster without wasting time and budget?
First of all, you need to choose the platform for your product. One of the most versatile options is the web. Building a web app first makes all the sense in the world — it will work on any device so you can reach a wider audience, and the cost of MVP development will be lower when compared to mobile app development.
We recommend using Angular, Vue or React for your frontend, and Node.js for your backend. This way, you're staying within the JS ecosystem, which makes it easier to develop, manage, and scale the product.
However, if you want to start with a mobile app, going with React Native is an optimal choice. This framework has a lot of reusable components while offering all the perks of native development. You'll get your Android and iOS apps without having to hire two separate teams for each platform.
There are a lot of nuances you have to consider when choosing the tech stack for IRM application development. Consult with the development team to make it right during the planning phase, and you won’t regret the choice when scaling.
Creating a project roadmap and setting deadlines
A project roadmap - a high-level overview of the development stages, with milestones and deliverables clearly identified is another important deliverable of the discovery phase.
Also, as you have the project roadmap and the requirements for your application, your team is finally ready to discuss the deadlines and prepare an itemized estimate of web app development cost so you know exactly what your budget will be. If you decide to expand the scope and, let’s say, build a mobile app, you'll need to factor in the cost of mobile development, too.
With the number of deliverables you get throughout the discovery phase, your idea will have no choice but to start taking shape. And as you know exactly what you want to achieve and how to achieve it, it’s time for implementation.
Designing the platform's UX and UI
You're about to build a marketing app involving content creators. There’s no need to explain to which extent the look and feel of a product determine its success. User interface and experience are two sides of the same coin, no matter how you flip it. Your platform will never top the charts if it looks and works like a pre-schooler slapped it together in computer class.
But here's the good news: if you're building an MVP, there's no need to design for every device and screen in the world. Instead, thanks to the research you did in discovery, you can save resources and zero in on the devices your users prefer.
Let's take a closer look at the UX/UI design process.
When designing the user experience for your influencer relations management tool, your team will strive to make the user's interactions with your product a consistently positive experience.
The process begins with ideation — finding ways to solve your customer's problems in the simplest way possible. For example, marketing teams need convenient access to quick actions and commonly used reports. If your platform offers features for creators, they’ll likely expect an easy-to-navigate profile with buttons for uploading content and managing tasks.
UX design helps you identify the needs of your target users and satisfy them, making their interaction with your app seamless.
An important note: all your UX design choices must be data-driven — you have to know the target audience of your influencer marketing platform. For instance, you know that your potential users might have vision or hearing impairments. In this case, your product should have certain accessibility requirements to address their needs.
At this stage, the design team will create wireframes — schematic diagrams of interface layouts. These will give you a general idea of your platform’s structure.
All of the above should come wrapped in attractive visual elements. User interface designers will take care of the color palette of your influencer marketing tool, its imagery, icons, animations, buttons, and typography. The goal is to make the IRM interface look aesthetically pleasing to potential users.
The next step is building a prototype — a high-fidelity representation as close to the final design of your MVP as possible. We recommend putting the platform's prototype through its paces with a focus group to receive feedback and make changes if needed.
Developing your custom IRM app
You made up your mind about your project’s tech stack and timeline. You created your IRM prototype. It’s time to code! For the next few months, your team will be focused on three primary tasks:
- Building the project’s front end. At this step, your team builds the client side of the platform — its visual elements and the mechanisms that define how the UI/UX components look and interact with each other and the rest of an application to provide the platform’s interactivity.
- Building the project’s backend. At this stage, developers build the database layer of software, or its server-side part — a system that ensures data storing and processing, including exchanging data between the platform’s components and third-party services.
- Building APIs. APIs, as sets of rules, protocols, and endpoints, are connectors between the client side and the server side of an application. Fetching influencers’ data, submitting campaign details, and retrieving analytics are possible due to APIs. APIs also ensure IRM integration with social media platforms and other third-party tools.
What looks like a list of steps in the article isn’t a sequenсe of actions that follow each other; it’s rather a set of concurrent and iterative processes that, being effectively organized, result in fast development and the creation of a software product of high quality. Today’s frameworks, libraries, and other programming tools allow developers to use pre-built modules throughout an application independently, i.e., all of the platform’s layers will be developed at the same time, speeding up development and reducing time to market.
Testing and debugging
Your brand-new influencer relationship management platform has to meet the requirements set at the discovery stage. To check if it actually meets them, a team of experienced QA engineers will need to run extensive tests, followed by beta testing by real users. Here's how it all works.
Manual testing run by your QA team
The QA team must ensure that all features of your influencer relations management software function as described in product requirements. For that purpose, they'll have to run manual tests to monitor the app's behavior and find possible defects.
However, your QAs won't be able to test the platform on every device and in every possible scenario. That's what the next stage is for.
Using beta testers
This kind of testing is run by actual users and is important, especially for an MVP. By having your product tested by actual end-users, you can kill two birds with one stone:
- run your app on a wide range of devices with different OS versions and service providers, and have your IRM platform tested in a variety of real-world scenarios by a large and diverse group of people;
- receive feedback from your actual target audience.
When you're done, developers follow up with the testing team and make necessary improvements. Afterward, the QA team runs the final acceptance test and approves the app for release.
Launching the product
If you've built the platform for internal use in your company, deployment, and staff onboarding will do the trick.
However, if you're selling your IRM software as a standalone product or a SaaS solution, there are a few more steps to take:
- make your IRM app available for download from app stores or deploy it to allow customers to run it from the web;
- supply users with all the necessary documentation, tutorials, and support (via phone and text, possibly adding a chatbot option);
- monitor the platform's performance, collect feedback, and provide regular fixes and updates.
Congratulations, you have created a working version of your custom influencer relationship management tool! It has the core features you wanted, is user-friendly, and has been tested in the field. That’s a great starting point on the way to your ideal product. You'll get there soon — with some feedback, a tweak here and there, and more custom functions.
It won't be long before you start building lasting influencer relationships for your business or enjoying the profit from selling your product. There is one condition, though — to make all this happen, you need a professional technical team that can literally bring the product to life. Let’s talk about this next.
Finding a team for your IRM development project
As you see, to get your project rolling, you must do lots of careful planning. You'll also need people with hands-on experience in UI/UX design and the right expertise to build the architecture and the backend and frontend components of your platform. Having a reliable team means that you’ll go through every stage of development with the best possible outcome. If you already work with such a team, you’re the lucky one. If not, you have three options:
- Hiring talent for your in-house team
- Contracting freelancers
- Outsourcing development to a tech partner with expertise in MarTech services
The first one is a great investment, but the process can get time-consuming and expensive.
Working with freelancers may save costs, but managing them can be a headache.
Mobile and web development outsourcing seems to be the best of both worlds: you get access to hand-picked talent at a reasonable cost, and you don't have to manage the team directly. This cooperation model saves you more time and energy that you can devote to your core business.
If you do decide to outsource your IRM development, keep in mind that the market of providers is saturated. To make the right choice, consider these aspects: relevant tech expertise, portfolio, and client reviews. You can consider outsourcing to Ukraine since it offers a large talent pool with proven communication and management skills.
How much does it cost to build a custom IRM platform
There are a few factors that influence the cost of building a custom influencer relationship management platform. They are as follows:
Scope of work
The more features you expect to see, the higher the cost of development is, since the larger scope of work requires more time and implies using more complex technologies.
Composition of your team
The number of professionals you need, including developers, business analysts, UX/UI designers, QA engineers, a project manager, and other specialists, depends on the platform’s complexity. A feature-rich project can require an extended team.
In Clockwise Software, we dealt with projects of different scopes, representing different industries. We can confidently say, based on our own experience, that you need approximately $100,000 and six months to develop an MVP for your custom IRM platform. The final figure will fluctuate depending on the number of features; however, you can consider this estimation as a baseline.
MVP allows you to validate the idea of your software product and attract investment funds, using real user feedback as a foundation for pitching. Furthermore, you can reinvest first-user payments to scale your project.
To summarize, you can use an MVP as a springboard and develop your IRM platform to increase your revenue and elevate your business's status.
Let's be honest: managing multiple influencer marketing campaigns can be a handful. As if keeping track of influencer analytics and campaign metrics was not enough, marketers also need to nurture personal relations.
A well-tuned influencer relationship management platform lets marketers take full control of the numbers and processes, saving time and money in the long run. With an IRM solution, they can stay connected with influencers, cater to their needs without micromanagement, automate influencer campaign tasks, and monitor important metrics — all in one place.
However, building an IRM system is a challenge. That’s why you must carefully choose a suitable software development company for your project. We'd be remiss if we didn't recommend you hire Ukrainian developers. Their experience, dedication, and quality of service are hard to beat.
Also, before you fully commit, try your prospective partner's software development consulting services. It's a great and cost-effective way to test the waters and see if you're compatible for long-term cooperation.