The Influence Room is a startup that hopes to stand apart in a rapidly growing market of modern marketers.

After only 12 months doing business, it’s grown into an exclusive members-only online community where Influencers and brands build relationships – very often with no money at all exchanging hands.

The Sky Sports Presenter behind the venture told Prolific London: “We’re talking about a membership of 10,000 and when we’ve reached that point, we’ll close the door and it’ll be a one in, one out, policy.

“The people we want on the platform are the people who will understand how to work with brands on an advocacy-level basis and they can deliver the engaging content for the brand. We’re trying to build a community of 10,000 of the most engaged, interested storytellers.”

Whilst there are continuous conversations around Influencer Marketing, the question of how to optimize relationships with influencers still appears to be a work in progress.

Brands face the task of choosing the right talent who can connect them to the relevant audience while the influencer puts the loyalty of his or her followers at risk if they choose to work with a brand the followers don’t care about.

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When this relationship strikes the wrong chord, neither party benefits. It’s a waste of resources from the brand, and a waste of time for the people who’s audience they’re trying to make use of.

Alex Payne (left) presenting rugby union coverage on Sky Sports

It wouldn’t make much sense to try and get a gaming-focused YouTuber to promote a gym membership, or a Sky Sports rugby presenter to promote something like Star Wars… but it still happens.

Alex Payne built up a Twitter following of 16,300 whilst he’s presented for Sky Sports over the past 10 years, talking about Rugby and Poker. The majority of his followers share his passion for those sports.

“Not in any way am I an influencer or a celebrity but because of the nature and glamour of ‘television’, I have been chucked a load of products over the last decade or so,” he told Prolific London.

Roughly two years ago, he was sent a package full of around £500 worth of Star Wars memorabilia. At the top of the box, there was a note saying ‘we hope you love all of this. If you do, we would love you to tweet about the fact that we’re showing Star Wars on our movie channel all weekend’.

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“The one big problem? I have absolutely no interest in Star Wars. I ended up tweeting anyway but it didn’t work for them in any way, shape or form and it certainly didn’t work for the people that follow me.”

This failed marketing tactic highlighted to Alex a gap in the market for something that connects the right brands with the right influencers, so he founded The Influence Room with Tanya Hamilton-Smith, as a platform where these working relationships could be built and nurtured.

The members-only platform across mobile, tablet and laptop.

Alex continues: “What we have built is a dedicated site which matchmakes the brands with people that wants them, and enables brands to see what influential people are doing in their space at any one time, so that they can jump on that and help them with the story that they’re telling, whilst plugging their brand into it.”

The ‘connections’ made between brands and influencers in The Influence Room enable contra-based deals to be struck.

A popular science-fiction YouTuber could connect with Disney to receive Star Wars memorabilia which he or she could talk about on the YouTube channel, meaning that they aren’t wasting it on ‘that guy off the telly’ Alex Payne.

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Alex and Tanya have chosen to value both influence and authentic advocacy, as they believe it will lead to better business.

So far, they’re not wrong… the club currently has 400 brands using the platform and about 1,600 influencers with 8,000 positive connections made in the first two years.

Tanya said: “A good influencer is somebody who maintains and grows an authentic audience based on what it is that they’re talking about. Brands want to be able to source their advocates by having them approach them, but there is actually an element of control they would like over the messaging.

“We have got some very very famous people on our site in terms of A-list talent from across fashion, sport, TV and our influencer vertical drops down to big social media stars, chefs, explorers, journalists, then down to micro-influencers and content-creators.”

The company is now in the process of securing its first round of external investment to the value of £250k with a Series A to follow in the summer.