360i is Building a Klout-Like Platform to Help Brands Go Viral

Digital Agency Believes it Can Hack Viral Marketing With its Influencer Tracking Technology

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Predicting what's going to go viral is something agencies have been attempting, with meager success, to do on behalf of their clients for years.

Any number of enterprising firms and apps have cropped up claiming to know how to crack the code, and know their way around the production of viral videos. It can be costly. Many break through --as evidenced on our weekly chart of the best viral efforts from brands -- but it's largely still hit or miss.

That was evident during this year's Academy Awards broadcast when numerous agencies tried to interject their clients' brands into the Twitter conversation by using the #Oscars hashtag. Twitter responded to most of these shamelessly self-promotional tweets with a resounding shrug.

These agencies were trying to replicate the social media success that digital agency 360i achieved just three weeks earlier with the Oreo "Dunk in the Dark" tweet that rippled through the Twittersphere after the lights went out on the Super Bowl.

Much of that came down to being in the right place at the right time; as the Dentsu-owned agency explained in the wake of the chatter, Oreo marketers and 360i execs were sitting together in the same room, able to quickly create, approve and disseminate the cheeky tweet.

Now, 360i wants to take things a step further to better grasp the science behind web virality. It thinks the secret in creating more consistent hits is embracing those people who are legitimately influential on the web.

Over the past several months, 360i has identified more than 10,000 bloggers, journalists, Pinfluencers and YouTube stars with large online communities and built their profiles into a proprietary platform. The hope is that when an important event occurs, 360i can use its digital map of influencers to involve their clients' brands in the conversation. In short: they are looking for speed, reach and authority.

360i used contractors and in-house developers to design the technology which is built on top of Salesforce and integrated with Outlook. Within seconds, 360i's team of 14 "influence monitors" --the only ones within the agency who have access to the platform-- can query the system and receive a list of people with particular expertise and whose digital reaches range from niche to mainstream. 360i then pitches these influencers on covering one of its brands or marketing on its brands' behalf.

Case in point: while preparing the digital campaign for Oxygen's "Best Ink," 360i used its database to find a "mommy blogger" with tattoo sleeves on both arms. The database even included a note about the pregnant blogger's expected due date.

"A message seems much more authentic and organic" coming from someone who isn't famous, 360i's VP-Influencer Marketing Rebecca McCuiston said. "These folks aren't going to work on a brand project unless it's something that they want to do."

While it was that one well-time Oreo tweet that has earned the agency so much attention this year, 360i is turning its attention to using its influencer platform to recruit brand ambassadors for lengthier campaigns.

360i President Sarah Hofstetter pointed to how 360i "borrowed [Jamie Geller's] relevance" earlier this year to promote Temp Tee cream cheese. The agency recruited (and paid) Ms. Geller--whom Ms. Hofstetter called "the Rachael Ray of Kosher"--to be a brand ambassador for the Kosher cream cheese in the weeks leading up to Passover. After crowd-sourcing cream cheese recipes from her fans, Ms. Geller ran a 50-part video series on her joyofkosher.com website of various recipes that include Temp Tee.

The agency has started to tout the benefits of its influencer network technology to prospective clients, Ms. Hofstetter said. Specifically, 360i is telling them how its system can reduce time spent tracking social spread, thus allowing more time to be spent on getting work into the market.

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