Influencer marketing is in flux, as brands look to the experts to help them reach the elusive ad-skipping generations. We spoke to StyleHaul’s CEO, Stephanie Horbaczewski, to learn more…
2018 will be the year that influencer marketing matures, as more brands look to the experts to revamp their strategy and safeguard them against pitfalls that have become painfully obvious in the past year. While influencer marketing has been hailed for its high rate of engagement among young consumers, it has also been entrenched in controversy—first spurred on by the viral fallout from Fyre Festival. The event sparked a debate about the idea of “paid for posting,” resulting in a crackdown from the FTC and the rollout of a new tool on Instagram. The controversy currently making brands question the effectiveness of their campaigns? Influencer fraud. Sway dug up some startling stats on Instagram, like that over 50% of engagements on each day’s #sponsored or #ad posts are fake. The New York Times also recently shone a harsh spotlight on Twitter, where influencers are buying millions of fake followers, and brands are unwittingly buying the bots’ engagement. Not to mention major YouTubers’ decisions to post controversial content that brands don’t want to be aligned with in the first place (Think: Logan Paul and Pewdiepie).
Seven in ten brands are working with Instagram influencers according to L2, leading brands and young consumers to wonder “what’s next?” Ask the experts. Many think companies will start to collaborate with influencer agencies to both to choose the right people for their product and to take advantage of those companies’ use of data to target demos effectively, and ensure meaningful engagement. StyleHaul is one company doing just that, customizing their approach on a client-by-client basis to create personalized, authentic campaigns. They’ve worked with Maybelline, Target, H&M, and a laundry list of other brands getting it right with Millennial & Gen Z consumers, and their community of over 60,000 content creators generates over over 2.2 billion average monthly views.
We know that influencer marketing can be highly effective with Gen Z and Millennial consumers when done right. In our trend, the Influencer Effect, we uncovered that over three in ten 13-34-year-olds consider online celebrities their friends, and almost half say they’re more likely to consider buying a product their favorite online celebrity recommends. (We even asked young consumers which products they’re buying.)
How can a brand tap into these connections? What does it mean to bring a middle man into the equation when working with influencers? We talked to Stephanie Horbaczewski, the CEO of StyleHaul, to get the whole picture:
Ypulse: Can you tell us about StyleHaul and how/why you started it?
Stephanie Horbaczewski: StyleHaul is a contemporary marketing influencer agency and home to the largest global style community of content creators. StyleHaul develops multi-platform content strategies with unprecedented engagement for top brands through highly targeted campaigns designed for the 18-34-year-old female demographic. In 2011, I saw the bonds developing online between creators and fans and wanted to build a powerful social network to create meaningful stories that connect audiences with brands.
YP: What impact have influencers had on advertising and brand partnerships?
SH: Influencers have had a huge impact on advertising. Social networks such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram have created a new way for people, especially Millennials and Gen Z, to connect. The conversation happening on those platforms did not include brands until companies such as StyleHaul developed solutions that allowed brands to be a part of this meaningful conversation through multi-platform marketing campaigns.
YP: Why do you think influencers are successful at marketing to Millennials & Gen Z?
SH: The influencers are successful because they create tailored (authentic!) content that directly relates to and connects with Millennials and Gen Z. Millennials have replaced search with discovery on social platforms and rely on more relatable and trusted voices that influence their lifestyle and purchasing choices. The most successful campaigns we have seen are experiential, where creators get immersed in an experience, and the result is creative content that is truly personalized.
YP: How do you maintain an influencer’s authenticity in a brand partnership?
SH: There is now enough data available for a brand to make informed decisions around creator selection to ensure authenticity and success. A brand cannot over-script or demand that a creator use language that isn’t authentic to their personality; these are real people talking to real people. StyleHaul identifies the best creator fits and the most effective content format and products to ensure the best outcome.
YP: Let’s talk about micro-influencers compared to influencers with larger followings. What are the advantages of working with each?
SH: There’s a shift in focus from the creator to that creator’s audience, and more and more, micro-influencers and the behaviors of their highly engaged audiences are becoming increasingly more relevant. There is still tremendous value in larger influencers, by the sheer volume of their following—but we know that’s just one component of an effective campaign. It all goes back to selecting the right creator for your campaign—and developing the right approach to deliver on the specific KPI the brand is looking for. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all solution in the work we do.
YP: What does StyleHaul bring to an influencer partnership that a brand can’t get from working directly with talent?
SH: Through proprietary data insights around the creator and their audience’s behaviors, StyleHaul is able to connect influencers with more custom campaigns with brands that make sense for their channels—brands we truly know they will be passionate about working with. Versus a one-off post, we encourage brands to have a deeper commitment to a creator to extend the life of a campaign and reinforce messaging. We’re here to help brands understand the landscape, including industry trends, social media, and StyleHaul excels at executing meaningful, successful campaigns across all platforms.
YP: What are the most important traits of a successful brand partnership?
SH: A successful brand partnership is often rooted in a creator’s sincere fondness or passion for a product, experience or service. This makes for a better piece of content as that passion comes through. When the brand and the creator feel connected, the audience can sense that. That trust is key to action and can drive meaningful social conversation and sales conversion for brands.
YP: Do you have any advice for brands working with influencers?
SH: A few years ago, it was all about who had the largest audience, but now that we have data, I encourage brands to use it to select the right creators and the best formats to ensure that the campaign results are driving the goals expected.
YP: How do you expect this industry to evolve?
SH: The advancements in technology and the impact of data on our ability to define the value of the investments brands make is continually increasing. We can now capture information about every engaged consumer across YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as what creators and which content influenced a viewer. Once we have the list of viewers who engaged with a specific brand’s content, we can retarget those viewers with additional messaging. Additionally, machine learning is rapidly advancing the incredible value of predictive analysis. We are far from realizing the impact this will have, as the more data and history gathered, the more accurate predictions and algorithms will become.
Stephanie Horbaczewski, Chief Executive Officer
Inspired by the deep bonds she saw developing online between creators and fans, CEO Stephanie Horbaczewski co-founded StyleHaul in 2011 with the aim of building similar bonds between brands and potential consumers; consumers who follow inspiring, popular creators.
Under Stephanie’s leadership, StyleHaul has partnered with marquee global brands on multi-platform marketing programs that have sparked an industry shake-up, redefining the way agencies and brands value, purchase, and measure content. Stephanie’s commitment to excellence and innovation, along with her dedication to fostering meaningful conversation between creators, brands, and their loyal communities, resulted in the successful acquisition of StyleHaul in 2014 by RTL Group, Europe’s leading entertainment network.
In 2017, Stephanie was named one of Adweek’s “Young Influentials”, following the 2013 honor of being included in Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business” list. She has been featured in leading publications such as the Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times.
Stephanie holds a BA in Classics from Trinity College, and a JD/MBA from Suffolk University.
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