An algorithm for the influencers’ industry


The window of Josh Lopez’s office, which has a view to the Lake Park at the City of Knowledge, is full of encrypted messages, algorithms, marketing acronyms, and possibly, a Skype meeting with a customer from another country in a couple of hours. Just below knee height the walls also have some more discreet messages, more reminiscing of the mythical Mayan wisdom (both for being permanent and illegible). These last few codes have been written by the hand and artwork of his two and half year-old daughter. She wanders around the halls of Media Rank, the digital marketing agency that sets innovation standards in Panama and the region, without any fear of being reprimanded because her mother (Viviana Ordóñez) is the accounts manager and her grandmother (Iris Arbelo) is the chief financial officer.

Can you say family entrepreneurship? Josh López, avoids being labeled as the guy who created an algorithm to help large brands read the data generated by social media users. “When in this industry I work in they say I created an algorithm people imagine things that go beyond what I did, like ‘this guy created perpetual energy,’” Josh explains while in his office, and talks more about the need that he envisioned in the market and where he took a gamble with Media Rank, a company founded in 2013 after studying in two schools (Computer engineering, Electronics and Communications, both without graduating) and having launched an initial “boutique style” marketing agency.

Media Rank was created to address the need that television stations in the country had to measure ratings in the way the market required. From that point, I took the lead to develop a technology that would fulfill that need: how do social media audiences react regarding the content they see on television? Josh explains that his product is already helping television channels (Telemetro, TVN, OYE, NEXtv), and its characteristics have also been applied to other local brands (+Móvil, Cerveza Atlas) and international brands (L’oreal, Uber, Reebook).

With this product in motion, with family on his side, and a partnership with Tony Hau (operations and venture capital) in the company, they found in the bubbling phenomenon of influencers the new strong branch of diversification that the marketing agency was looking for and Social Rank came to life: a type of Media Rank spinoff — in Josh’s words — used to rank, in several categories, those people who generate content on Instagram and are classified as influencers. What sets Social Rank apart from other similar tools, Josh says, is that his tool can detect all the brands that these new ambassadors of our daily decisions mention: a lucrative return for companies who want to capitalize on these market niches as well as those who make Instagram a look into their lifestyle, and who also want to profit from it.

On the other hand, in the ABCs of entrepreneurship, the game Josh is proposing with his team would be considered “high risk” for those who view it as an investment opportunity. What happens if Instagram dies tomorrow? And what if this phenomenon of influencers starts to deflate? “On the one hand, having a presence in businesses related to social media is complicated because we develop based on what they allow us,” Josh explains, “however, we acknowledge that if you implement a business model based on this, but keep strict return on investment and sustainability outlines, you can do so without going broke. That is why we create products based on market needs, which decreases our probability of errors. Likewise, we are a company with other business pillars, such as consultancy and web pages.

“Regarding influencers,” Josh continues, “they have always existed: Michael Jordan, Koby Briant?all of them were influencers; from the moment they went out wearing a particular brand and made people want what they were wearing. Today’s influencers have hired an additional platform for promotion. This type of marketing is not going to die; only the platform would change. Instagram’s success is its simplicity, and this allows people to adapt their message to show their lifestyle and gives others the power to consume summarized information. Look at memes: they are social criticism presented in a graphic format, they are not just a distraction but an intelligently adapted message.

“Meanwhile, Josh and his team are committed to the regional expansion of their brand, as much as their abilities (intuition and human resources) allow. They have customers in Argentina, and they measure influencers in other countries in the region such as Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, among others, with the purpose of drawing more people to their agency. All of this transpires at an office with a handful of members and all of them are paying attention to the same influencer…the small artist that has no Instagram and who doodles encrypted messages on the walls.

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