Digital influencers are the next generation celebrities, and are helping brands connect with marketing-wary young consumers. One expert tells us why they’re appealing, and what brands should know about tapping into the trend.
Brands are betting on online influencers to break through to young consumers. Millennials and teens are sensitive to ads more than ever—Ypulse research has shown that 62% of 13-33-year-olds usually ignore or avoid online advertisements, and 48% are using ad blockers. As we’ve bought up often, they’re also looking for authenticity, and 80% have told us they would like to see brands act more human. Online influencers are providing that authentic conduit to young, marketing-wary young consumer. These digital stars are increasingly seen as the solution for marketers that want to endorse products through a trustworthy source, sources that Millennials and teens see as their friends.
“Friendertainment” is giving influencers financial support and publicity, and in turn giving brands exposure to a massive audience of young viewers. Last year, companies reportedly invested $1 billion on Instagram influencer promotions. A recent survey on online influencers has found that they can get paid up to $10,000-$20,000 per Instagram post or YouTube video, making it a very lucrative venture for the young personalities. Even beloved and famous pets on social media are being tapped by brands. Digital influencers’ allegiances with brands have become expected: according to recent data from Defy Media, 63% of Millennials agree digital celebs need ads on their channels to earn a living, and 58% don’t mind watching ads to support their favorite digital celebrities.
For brands looking to sign-on talent, services like FameBit provide a platform to connect with influencers and book them for endorsements. In the past, companies who wanted to find online personalities had to go through agencies, multi-channel networks, or manually reach out on social networks. As explained by FameBit’s co-founder: “There was no other way than to actually go to YouTube and manually search for talent and send them random emails, that they may or may not respond to…it was this scrappy process.” Famebit founders, David Kierzkowski and Agnes Kozera, decided to build the website to seamlessly join brands of all sizes with some of the most influential personalities across platforms. Brands simply post a budget for the campaign, and receive proposals from interested talent. Once they have chosen an influencer, and approve the content created, then influencers are paid.
We talked to Agnes Kozera about how brands can find the right influencer and platform for their product, and why influencer marketing is resonating with Millennials and teens.
Ypulse: Why do you think the demand has grown for brands to seek out digital influencers? What are the benefits for them?
Agnes Kozera: Certainly influencers are the next generation celebrities. They created incredible shortcuts for building brand affinity and recognition as well. By working with an influencer, a brand not only gets an ambassador, they get incredible high-quality content and they also get distribution of that content to an already engaged audience. So previously those assets were very separated, you either got content, you either got an ambassador, you either got distribution—here you get everything in one. In many ways brands are now seeing that influence marketing is incredibly powerful. It’s now become very affordable and it’s efficient. By partnering with just a few people, at three or four, you are able to reach hundreds of thousands, if not millions of engaged audiences. That really depends on the individual subscriber count of the influencers that you were working with. You can reach a lot of people, and on FameBit specifically you can really hone in on who you are trying to go after, who you are trying to target. You can pick based on age group, male versus female, what the audience location is, and also topic and the vertical, which is really important.
YP: Are influencers picky with what brand they work with? If so, what kind of qualities do influencers look for when they choose to work with a brand?
AK: Definitely, influencers have worked really hard to build out an audience and their audience trust them—which is why this really works so well—so they are very picky on who they work with. They try to choose brands that care about customers, that care about customer opinion, who are flexible, because the influencers are the ones who are creating the content. The content will ultimately live on their social profiles, so they want brands who are willing to let go, who care about honesty, and who aren’t afraid of an influencer who points out pros and cons of a product, which makes it ultimately more authentic to their audience, and is ultimately better for the brands as well.
YP: Do you think influencers have a lot of creative power?
AK: 100%. Brands are definitely getting more comfortable with letting go. They are seeing the most success happens when they let go, and they pick the right influencers who match their brand and culture. Let them run with the content. So what brands are doing now at FameBit is providing an overview of their brand, providing some talking points about the product or service. So when the influencer actually tries and tests out the product, they know what to look for. They know what the benefits of the product are suppose to be already, and they see if that matches them and what their experience is. Very often influencers have a lot to add to that, and brands are being flexible and going with it. That’s where we are seeing the most success.
YP: Why do you think Millennials have responded to content created by influencers?
AK: Well, certainly Millennials are constantly connected, constantly on social, and they’re a generation influenced more by people and individuals than corporations. It goes back to the fact that they see influencers as peers and as friends, and they’re entertained by them. They look up to their content and suggestions, they trust them. But I think what it comes down to ultimately above all-else, is the power of choice. Millennials are following these influencers, and they’re choosing who to subscribe to, who to watch, what content to consume. So sitting in front of a TV and ads being served to you without your consent, or without you desiring to watch it, that’s not happening with influence marketing. The audience is actually seeking out the content and they are making the decision to watch it. As far as the content itself is concerned, Millennials are incredibly receptive to it because it’s more engaging, it’s more transparent. You can be more honest, you can show how things work, how they feel, how they fit into your everyday life.
YP: What do you think is the best platform for brands to use for influencer content?
AK: I think different platforms are great for different reasons. YouTube is incredible for brands who are new or starting out, or brands who don’t have yet a lot of social presence or doing any product launch. It’s long form content so there’s a lot of room for educating the customer, for demonstrating how a product or service works. There’s also incredible SEO value to using YouTube. Instagram is super-inspirational, so there’s really great value to that and the content is consumed is quickly. Twitter is fantastic for engaging super closely with the audience in real time. So there’s differently values to different platforms. We are seeing that brands want to have a presence on more than one, and they want to do it simultaneously. But ultimately I would say that brands should be focusing on the power of video, and using video across these multiple social channels—working with influencers at scale to create native content to those channels, rather than creating one piece of content and trying to reproduce it for different platforms. Cause at the end, the key to influence marketing is to stay authentic and native, because if it doesn’t feel authentic to the audience it won’t work.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited.
Agnes Kozera is the co-founder and COO of FameBit, the #1 self-service marketplace that connects brands to social media influencers. Prior to FameBit, Agnes was the founder of SeasonsBox, a subscription-based service that sent members eco-friendly products each month. While at SeasonsBox, Agnes got the idea for FameBit because she found that working with YouTube influencers was a great way to attract subscribers. Agnes is a graduate of York University and is based in Santa Monica, California.