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  • So we've talked about this a good amount We talked about Taylor's article from the Atlantic, is the Instagram aesthetic dead? Is like editorial perfect, beautiful imagery. Is that what works on Instagram anymore? The world would say no. The data says no. There are outliers that do work. Obviously, we talked about Tessa all the time. She's crushing it. Everything she's doing is really, really editorial. Obviously, I talk about Jamie Beck all the time. Hi, Jamie. Every time I mentioned Jamie on the show, she screenshots the like where I mentioned her with a smiley face.

    So hello Jamie. She's doing really well. She was on the show. She's doing great. Editorial can work. It is a harder path that gets you to a similar place if you're trying to build a following. In researching this and thinking about this question, I've been into what Krystal Bick and Igee Okafor have been doing recently. They'd been recreating movies as like these shoots with Grant Leegin. They did one for-- what was the silly face? What was it?

    They did one that was like-- I don't know. Some fucking old ass movie. Some old ass movie. They did like a notebook one at Coney island. Which like what turd of a movie that is but I digress. That movie is absolute trash.

    The latest one they did was Roman Holiday. So I was interested because like they are putting a shit load of effort into these things. These are multi-day multi-look shoots with Grant who is very busy and doesn't do this stuff off hand. They're renting studio space. Have you ever been Coney island? It is far. I've been to Coney Island once and I drove. Just taking the F train to Coney island. You take your life into your hands in a lot of ways and it's like two hours on the subway.

    So I was like, "Why are they doing this? Is it working?" One, they're on their third shoot, their accounts were both stalled growth wise and they have started to grow. So the first time in months they have started to grow recently which is interesting. We'll keep tracking it as they keep rolling these things out. I talked to Igee and Krystal about why they're doing this. For them, similar I think to Grace Atwood and what we've heard from other people in the show, like, "This is just what they want to do." Krystal loves editorial.

    Igee is like a walking, beautiful mannequin. I don't think he's a real person, honestly. I always expect his face to open and a little robot to pop out. I'm not saying Igee is a robot, but he seems too perfect to be real. Anyway, so I talked to them about it like, "Why are you doing this?" So they both had similar feelings of the engagement wasn't amazing. They didn't expect it to be amazing. They have gotten like a great-- like Krystal said, "If I ask my audience if they want this type of content, they absolutely would say no. They want more in the moment, lesser editorial."

    When she publishes it, she feels like she gets a big outpouring of support and love for it. Igee posts like-- sometimes he'll post like five photos in a day. He says when he does that each photo the engagement is not great. He does say he gets a huge amount of profile visits because people feel like they missed something. Again, thinking about Instagram and the algorithm, anything that you do on someone's feed. I was doing this research on Igee yesterday and I was on his feed a bunch.

    I didn't like anything, but I was just on his feed scrolling through opening photos, things like that. Today I had like three of his old photos in my feed. So like any action you can get from Instagram, I don't think it necessarily has to be likes on your account. It's going to do good things for the algorithm. Igee has crazy high reach as well in general. So that was interesting that he said that he does the drops. He publishes all the content at once and says like, "I know the engagement is not going to be good but it's going to create more of a moment. It's going to be harder to miss it."

    I think that it's interesting for them to shoot these campaigns and publish them at the same time because it's very different than how people generally use Instagram. So if you don't follow Krystal and Igee, I would definitely have a look at what they're doing. I think it's really exciting and fun and beautiful and it totally again goes against everything that you should be doing on Instagram. I think it's starting to work for them. I think that again, sorry to mention Jamie again but we talked about how she was stagnated for years.

    When she really leaned into the thing she's doing in Provence for a year of doing it, her following didn't grow. Then after that year, it started to grow. I think if I had a theory about like if Krystal and Igee kept doing stuff like this, is that like on the 10th one it would start doing really well. That it will eventually drive growth but anything that you're doing, any new type of content, like yes, you're looking for that immediate, does the audience like it? For both of them, they say that they're the way they know they have like product-market fit that the audience likes it. It's DMs that they're getting. They're getting a lot of DMs about it. So once you have that, you are like, cool, this is a concept people like. Then you just need to be consistent. You need to do it over and over and over again to really see if it works. I think if you're going to bring a new editorial aspect into your feed of if you're going to try something new be it YouTube, you're going to bring cooking in, you want to do more home stuff, whatever it is, if you're tracking the performance of that and that's something you care about, you want to know Week 1, does it have product market fit? Do people care about this? Should I spend my time on this? You should be able to answer that question within the first couple of times you publish something and then after that, give it, I'd say three months to really see if the attention stays or if people get bored and drift away and if it's something that you consistently want to do.
    Episode #158
    - Instagram Saves as a Metric, Editorial Content, Hiding Likes
  • Just a comment on-- There was a New York Times article about influencers, it says- about not dismissing influencers and what my thoughts are there. If you haven't read the article, the technology reporter from The Times went to VidCon, had this article, essentially said, "Ignore influencers at your own peril. This is no longer a question of is it a bubble, is it a thing? This is the future." I think he spoke to a few things that we talk about on the show a lot. This is nothing new. He says, "This is not new, it's just that influencers used to be sports stars, and movie stars, and politicians, and magazine editors. Now they aren't. The world has always been controlled by influential voices, and it just so happens now that those influential voices are building their own platforms on these social channels."

    He, I think, first explains the craziness of it. Again, he was at VidCon, so it's very young. It's a lot of TikTok people, it's a lot of YouTube people. It's just talking about this bigger global shift. Increasingly, every day, I feel more and more confident about the space. It is only growing every single day. The budgets are growing, there's more influencers, there's more platforms. I think what's really exciting now is this new class of influencer that's coming up, this younger person, so much different than what we're used to in the space. TikTok is bigger than Instagram already. It's got 1.3 billion users. That's pretty crazy.

    Anyone watching this show probably is going to have a really hard time building a TikTok audience. I don't think you're doing meme dances, or whatever the fuck happens on TikTok. It's a really different platform. Brands are starting to spend money there so much faster than they did with Instagram. Instagram- even Snapchat, Snapchat was up and running for years and brands still weren't investing in it. TikTok has been around for like six months, it feels like, and brands are already starting to spend big money.

    That's really interesting because I think a viable competitor to Instagram might be able to take market share away a lot faster than Instagram gained market share. The other thing that will be interesting with Instagram specifically is that as more people start to have access to shopping, I think in the next few months you'll see Instagram start to give a lot more people the ability to get whitelisted by brands that sell products.

    As that happens, it will be interesting to see people's reaction like, "Do you want to open an app where you're just constantly getting sold shit? Is that what you want to do? Do you want to be looking through a stream that is essentially an e-comm stream." I'm not sure, but the commercialization of any platform opens up opportunities for ones that are less commercialized to come in and to start to take some mind share away, because while it's great for influencers, the normal person is going to start to get ad fatigue where they just get sick of of seeing advertisements and they run away from those.

    Most people use these platforms to stay connected to their friends and most people's friends, their career isn't on these platforms and so they will go to the platform where it is most natural for them to just talk to their friends. Once that shift happens, you start to lose a lot of your following's attention because, again, most of your following is not built up of people whose livelihood depends on Instagram. As much as people love it, they will leave it very, very quickly and never look back. I think we are entering a atmosphere that is right for that, that is right for someone to come in and take some of this market share away.

    As an influencer, it's a time to think about diversifying, it's a time to think about what you want to do with your future. You certainly should be looking to these other platforms and figuring out how you can be effective on them and trying to move your audience over as quickly as possible. If you're not on TikTok yet, go and try and see if you can do something there because in six months, it's going to be much harder to build a following there than it is today. These platforms, one of the ways they grow is they make it really easy for people to grow in the beginning and really easy to gain followers so that it gets harder for you to abandon the platform.

    This is one of Snapchat's big mistakes, is that they made it really, really, really annoyingly, unbelievably- I don't understand why they did this- hard to grow your following and once you grew it, you didn't even know how many fucking followers you had. When Stories came along, it was just like, "Well, fuck this platform, they've done nothing for me, I've never made a cent from them and I don't even know how many followers I have. I'm fine leaving them."

    I would just say stay vigilant. I am overwhelmingly positive about the space, but the industry is different than your career, the industry is different than Instagram or any one platform, and you have to understand that as money flows in to anything, the stakes get higher, it gets harder to be effective and there's going to be a lot more people trying to eat that pie. It is not a time to sit back and enjoy what's happening and not be hustling because once it clicks over, you might find it's too late. It's a little bit of optimism and pessimism, which is essentially my entire life, I guess.

    I'm an optimistic realist. We've seen this happen before, this is not new. Go back to magazines, I don't have the stats, but my guess would be there was at least three or four times as many magazines in circulation 20 years ago as there was today. Now, do I think magazines or certain magazines will always be there? Probably. I don't see Vogue shutting down. Could, one day, if they fuck it up that badly, but they shouldn't. They should survive. GQ should survive. Vanity Fair should survive, The New Yorker should survive. These things shouldn't go away, but Teen Vogue, I don't know, is that still around? Maybe, maybe not.

    All the international editions are closing. Influencers, it will be the same thing, we're in these- all these dollars are coming into the market. There's all these influencers and everyone can make a living. What will happen is there will be new platforms and money will go there, or new influencers and money will go there, and then there'll be a correction, and if this industry goes to $20 billion, it's probably at four or five right now. Let's say it goes to $20 billion, it would probably then settle back in at between $12 and $15 billion a year. That delta will mean a lot of people will have a hard time making a living.

    You have to understand that markets are predictable and they act in the same way over and over again. If you know that and you're doing really well now, one, save your money, get a financial advisor, invest, understand that if you're an influencer and you're killing it and you're making half a million dollars, congratulations, but what happens if you make $75,000 dollars in three years and you have an apartment that's $8,000 a month. That's a little bit of an issue.

    Think about your future while things are going well. It is much better to do that than to try and fix things once they've gone to shit. My last thing I'll say before we go, I'm already late for an event is, if you haven't done this- I think I've talked about this in the show before, but I will often, with Fohr, I make a list of everything that could significantly negatively impact a business, what I call existential threats, and this isn't a little one, this is terrible. Terrible things happening. My worst nightmare keep me up at night.

    I list those things out and then I write down what I would do to fix it or what I could do now to avoid that even happening. If you do that, you can start to plan for these things because the things that can go wrong probably will go wrong, and if things are going awesome for you now, that is great, but most successful people, that their path to success is full of shit going wrong and failures and terrible times, the business almost close, whatever.

    Make that list of everything that could ruin your business and what you would do to fix it and that can make you feel a little bit better. You realize there is a path out or you might realize, "I have the single point of failure where if this one thing happens, there is nothing I can do to fix it," and if that's the case you need to get really, really serious about changing that. We looked at a business two or three years ago and we realized 60% of our revenue was from one client, and that made me really, really uncomfortable. I said to the team, I said, "I want to get- by the end of this year-- Not the end of the year, I said, in the next 12 months, I want that number to be under 20%."

    We got that number to under 20% and then that client dropped us completely. If I had not done that, if I hadn't said, "What is my point of failure here and what do I need to do to make sure if something changes that I'm okay." If we hadn't done that and we had just gone one business as usual, we maybe would have had to fire a bunch of people. It would have been a total catastrophe. I know that clients, no matter how much they love you, they're always leaving you. I saw this on Mad Men, I was like, "The day you close the client is the day you start losing them."

    That's client services. That happens. You have to think about, "What am I going to do without this client? What am I going to do without Instagram?" Ask yourself that question. If Instagram closes today, do you have a plan? Do you have a plan B? Do you have a way to talk to those followers still or are you fucked? If you're fucked, that's okay because Instagram isn't going anywhere anytime soon, but in a year, in six months, you want to be able to answer that question and say, "That would be bad, I would lose a lot of money, but I wouldn't be ruined."
    Episode #157
    - Pre-launch hype, anti-bullying on Instagram, NYT article
  • I don't think Instagram went far enough, but they have gone farther than other platforms have gone. I think it is a step in the right direction. I think that-- I don't envy these platforms that have to deal with bullying because it just gets wrapped up in this free-speech conversation that is really complex. You can find someone reprehensible, and you cannot agree with what they say, but I think where the platforms struggle is in setting standards of what is okay and what is not.

    Generally, what is not okay is the most vile and the most aggressive comments that nobody would say there's a gray area, too. It takes courage, I think, to step into that gray area. I think Instagram isn't doing that yet. They're not saying, "We're going to go around and start banning people who are bullying or abusive." That's not the practice so far. Again, obviously, Twitter is fucking terrible at this. Twitter just straight up doesn't care, I think, about people getting bullied on their platform. Obviously, they have- this has been a problem for years, and they've literally done nothing to address it.

    I don't think Instagram cares. These features insofar, as I understand them, help to make it so that you don't see the bullying or the comments from certain people, doesn't take the next step of making sure that those people can't post those things. I think, hopefully, that is a natural progression where we can start to get serious about getting bullies, getting predators, getting people using hate speech off of these platforms, but we also have to understand that that is, in some ways, counter to these platforms business goals. They're not really sitting around thinking about, "How can we kick a lot of people off this platform and cause all this drama?"

    Again, is it far enough? No. Is it something? Yes. I think that bullying is also something that's hard to-- Let's step back and look at the reality here, a lot of people that get bullied on these platforms are women, and a lot of the people setting the policy and building the products are men. I don't think a lot of men understand the reality of what it's like to have these trolls gang up on you. I had dinner with Taylor from the Atlantic recently who had one of her tweets put into a men's rights subreddit. You heard me correct. There are Reddits about men's rights.

    Her tweet about air conditioning being sexist, which was just really a joke, and a pretty funny one. That tweet got dropped into one of these forums. When I looked at her tweet 12 hours after she tweeted it, it had 16,000 replies, most of them being like, "Why don't you fucking die? You dumb bitch, why don't you bring a sweater? What's wrong with you? You're just weak." It was just like-- It's crazy. Nobody should make a joke and then have 15,000 of the most vile messages sent to them. Taylor's really outspoken about how little Twitter, specifically, is doing to combat this, but I think part of the issue is that, again, a lot of this hate and vitriol is pointed towards women and the policies are created by and the products are created by men.

    I don't think there's as much care or empathy or personal experience with it. I think the lack of those people actually experiencing these things make it less of a priority. I think if every time-- If the head of Instagram, the guy who runs Instagram, if every time he posted, he had 10,000 people tell him he was a piece of shit and that he should die, I think they would get really serious about bullying really quickly, but they don't, and so they don't. But I will say, again, to all my people at Instagram and Facebook who are watching, I commend you for taking a step in the right direction. It is more than most platforms have done.
    Episode #157
    - Pre-launch hype, anti-bullying on Instagram, NYT article
  • I think one really important is that even if something is embargoed and you can't talk about it until the day it launches, you can still use that product in the weeks leading up to the activation. You could take photos or create content over the week or so leading up to it and then publish all of that on the day of to say, "Hey, I've been using this for a few weeks, here's a couple of examples of how," to actually show your audience that you have truly been using it.

    Also, again, by using that product for a few weeks beforehand, that excitement can be real and authentic. End of the day, posting about something a couple times versus posting about it once, if you are authentically actually excited about a product, that will come across. If it's one post or if it's ten. Now, I think it is easier when you do ten posts to have it feel authentic because you're saying, "I love it" and you're actually using it over and over again, but the most important part is actually being excited and transferring that excitement from yourself to your audience.

    The best salespeople in the world, the way they get done what they do is that if they're excited about a product, they transfer that excitement to somebody else. They get someone else excited about it and then all of a sudden, you're excited about a product and you don't even know why you're excited about it or how that happened, but all of a sudden, you're excited about it. That is what a great salesperson can do. It is called transfer of excitement. That's not really that technical of a term, but it's super important. Again, one post, ten posts, you just have to get into that mindset of being like, "I need to exude excitement and I need to be so excited about this that it transfers."

    Think about a camp counselor and any time you had a camp counselor type figure. Let's say it's eight in the morning and there's a room full of- you're in eighth grade and everyone's asleep and has a little bit of teenage angst and a lot of hormones running through them and nobody's excited about life or anything. This camp counselor comes in and is like, "Hey, everyone, are we excited?" And everyone's like [mumbles]. He is like, "I can't hear you." Those people are kind of lame and, for me, I could never really do that, but then two minutes in, if they continue to drive that and be excited, all of a sudden the crowd starts getting louder, all of a sudden people are excited and they are getting into it.

    Sometimes it's just totally selling that and being like, "I am just committed to this. I am going to commit myself and I'm going to be like, 'I am fucking stoked and I'm going to get you excited.'" That does work. Again, if it's launching and you're embargoed or not-- Yes, there are ways, and there are best practices as far as how you post, when you post to make sure somethings feels authentic, but again, the most important thing is being authentic. We talk about authenticity like it is this thing we're chasing, but authenticity, if you're authentic, is there. It's not often where it's like, "I really love this product and I was so excited about it," and nobody believed that.

    The problem is that you're probably not that excited, and you don't really want to do it, maybe you're doing it for the wrong reasons, you're doing it for the money or something. Or you don't like the brief, or you're having a bad day, whatever it is, so you're not really excited about it. Then you can't transfer that excitement and it doesn't feel authentic. The easiest way to solve that problem is by only doing things that you're really excited about. Only when you start working on projects that you're not really excited about, do you have to really start thinking about, "How can I trick people into thinking I'm excited so that this feels authentic?"

    That is, potentially, the reality of the business. Doesn't have to be. You could turn more down, but for most people, I think, that's a reality that there are projects that they're really excited about and projects that maybe they're a little less excited about, but I think as an industry, we should all be- our North Star should be that this is going to be authentic because I'm going to only work on projects that I'm authentically excited about. If you can't convince your audience that you love something that you really, really love, then you're, honestly, probably not very good at your job. I don't really know what to say about that. Maybe pick another career.
    Episode #157
    - Pre-launch hype, anti-bullying on Instagram, NYT article
  • I think it's important to think about influencers as a new way to execute advertising right? If influencers are just in the marketing channel, a new and exciting marketing channel but a marketing channel. Then think about what industries marketing is relevant for, and that is essentially every industry.

    Now, it's also a new channel, so it's not fully matured. There're definitely are pockets where it is harder to find influencers who are focused on those things. Like for a-- let's think about a company that's very much B2B on an enterprise level and is making wind turbines. Probably not a huge place for influencers there all right? It's probably your audience that you're trying to market to or sell to it's probably not on Instagram.

    What are people going to say about enormous wind turbines on Instagram, but I think companies that get really big where people don't know what they do start to think about advertising as more of a PR thing. They just want to get their name known a little bit and so there are ways for companies that don't necessarily traditionally make sense to get the word out. That might be around some things they're doing with the charity. Maybe they have some kind of fun project that they're working on. Maybe it's a big Gala event that they do and they invite influencers too.

    As a brand, there's not a lot of brands out there that don't want more people knowing what they are. I think that we will see as time progresses and as the space becomes more important and influential. Businesses using influencers-- businesses that understand that there is no consumer side to their business will use influencers to maybe shed light on the corporate good work that they're doing, or some of the other things that they're doing to get some goodwill in the space.

    Get some name recognition out there. To maybe counteract the fact that they're dumping millions of tons of toxic chemicals into rivers every day. That's traditionally how those brands have used advertising. It's to try and-- maybe because they're not in the public's sphere, they want to own that narrative and be able to say, "If anyone knows anything about us, we want it to be this thing that we do.

    Again, this really great charity work we do for corporate good we're doing or some new initiative, or some new little project we're working on, or we did a code brand thing with this other brand that is more consumer-facing" so I think the way you-- to get back to the actual question. I'm going off on tangents a lot today. How do you find out if they're influential in your industry? Well, I think that the easiest way is to probably- if you're not a first mover is to probably see if you're competitors start using them.

    I would say that almost every industry there is something that you're business or brand could do with an influencer to help move the needle on your business and do some good for you. I think it would be a very rare business and I'm sure if I thought about it we could come up with examples but it'll be very rare where it would 100% absolutely never makes sense.

    It depends largely on the messaging and again for those alternative industries, are the ones that are more B2B. I think it's going to be more about very much not product-based but company focused.
    Episode #156
    - Influencer engagement rate, differences, relevance in your industry
  • When I think about the space and I think about, "Let's again, look at someone with 100,000 followers." I think a lot of the industry sees someone with 100,000 followers and says, "That's an influencer." I think that's where a lot of the problems in understanding the space and being effective in the space come from.

    That having 100,000 followers does not mean you are an influencer, it means you have 100,000 followers. The way we think about it is an influencer is somebody who has influence over people. It's somebody that their audience listens to them in some way. Generally, the way we think about it is that there are some expert on a certain-- There's some topic expert, beauty, fashion, travel, cars, gaming, whatever it might be, or it can be lifestyle. They just have a certain lifestyle that they have been able to craft that's really appealing.

    Influencers to us, are people that are talking about brands a lot. They are influencing people's decision making. They are, "I'm following you because I trust your opinion on something and I want to see what you're talking about." Or it can be a lifestyle thing of like, "You have great taste in restaurants and you go out a lot, so I want to follow you because I want to see where you're eating," or, "You always go on amazing vacations and I want to see where you're traveling."

    In our mind, that is an influencer. Then we have people who have an audience and that is just, you have an audience, you have people that are following you. Maybe you're genetically gifted and you're incredibly good-looking. Like it or not, sometimes it's just nice to see really good-looking people pop into your feet every once in a while.

    You have a following but in our mind, you don't have as much of an ability to influence that following because the thing they are interested in is not your point of view in the world, not the restaurants you're going to or the brands that you're going that you work with or the new Beauty hack you came up with or what foundation you're using. They're interested in looking at you, or just in you specifically and not so much in the way you see the world.

    Content creator sits out on the side. It's different than having an audience because it's not a 'you focused feed'. Most content creators are very much behind the lens or they're artists or whatever it might be. The feed is not focused on them necessarily or at all, but rather in the way they see or interpret the world and that is interesting.

    I think that content creators certainly can be influencers. We had Joe Greer speak at our conference. He is a photographer and artist and a content creator. He's not an influencer in my mind but I bought my camera because of him. I bought my film, Leica, from following his account. He, for me, is very influential when he's talking about cameras. He influences the way I shoot, he influences maybe the places I want to go to shoot. I would not call him an influencer.

    To answer the question, I think there is a huge difference between having an audience, being an influencer and being a content creator. I do not think brands generally see the difference but the brands that are good at this and are getting more strategic, are understanding, "When do I need to use a content creator who can create beautiful things for me? When do I need to use an influencer who can tell a really compelling brand story for me? Or, "When do I need to use someone for audience and just get my name in front of people and get a bunch of scale?"

    Again, the lines can blur. There are big celebrities who have a huge influence. Look at the Kardashians. We wouldn't call them influencers, but obviously they're incredibly influential. There are content creators that are influencers. There are influencers who create beautiful content like [unintelligible 00:18:05]. The lines do blur but we definitely see there being lines. I think it's important to understand where you stand because I think it is not currently affecting the price of what you pay for a post that much, I think in the future it will.

    In our opinion, somebody who has an audience versus someone who has influence, you should pay a lot more for the person who has influence over the person who has an audience. That's not the case yet in the industry, we are pushing to make it so. I think that's definitely something that is going to happen, is we're going to start to delineate those two things and say, "Wait, hold on. Just because you have 150,000 followers doesn't mean they give a shit about what your skin care routine is. Why would I pay you the same as a beauty skincare influencer who they're 150,000 followers absolutely care about their skin care routine? They care passionately about that influencer skin care routine."

    That doesn't make sense. I think that will start to change. On the content creator side, I think it's an interesting, what do I want to say? On the content creator side, it blurs two models. If you have 10,000 followers, well, let's look at my friend Aaron. He's only got 2,000 followers. He's a great photographer, he makes his career as a filmmaker and a photographer. He's obviously not being paid for his posts the. He only has 2,000 followers. He's charging day rates. The brand's like when he posts and if had 50,000 followers, he definitely wouldn't be paid again. He wouldn't be paid off of those followers. He's getting paid a day rate. I think most content creators until you get a huge following, it makes a lot more sense to be charging for a day rate and having your following be a kicker. Probably until you get over 300,000 followers, it's when I could start to see the posts on your feed starting to compete with your day rate as far as the amount of money you can make.

    This is predicated on you actually having some talent I might say. A normal up and coming photographer in fashion I think you're looking at 750 to 1500 for day rate. It's pretty fair I think. That's not for editorial. Editorial is $0. There's no money in editorial obviously. As you get better day rates get to $2, or $3 or $5000 a day. Again, it would get hard to make that much money off your Instagram account.

    I think for content creators probably still makes sense to focus on making your money in the more traditional way with day rate, but thinking about your following as a marketing funnel for bringing in new clients. I definitely would post your clients even if they're not paying for it. It's going to make them super happy and it's definitely going to bring in new business and treat that Instagram as your marketing funnel.
    Episode #156
    - Influencer engagement rate, differences, relevance in your industry
  • One, it may not be a big problem in the near future because they are going to start hiding light, so you do whatever the fuck you want. We just live free, baby. Two, let's make sure you don't great engagement. Let's put up the average engagement by tier for the platform.

    These averages are across our 80, 000 influencers. This is where you should be. If you are below that, yes, you do have low engagement. I'm sorry. How should you handle it? One, If it were me, let's say I had 100, 000 followers and at my level, the average engagement was 2% and I had 1%, that's dramatic. That's 100% lower. That's not a small amount. Again, we talked about this in the episode with Patrick and he said he doesn't do this. Patrick, I love you but I think I would if it were me. I would get ahead of it.

    Okay, let me step back. I guess there's two things. If the brand comes to you and they want to work with you, then don't say a thing. I think when I was talking to Patrick and he said that he doesn't bring it out, it's because he is getting reached out to. If someone reaches out to you, you don't have to be, "Super excited to work with you. I do want you to know I have bad engagement." That is not really helpful.

    If you feel like you don't have great engagement and you are not getting brand deals because of that, I think you need to, when you reach out to brands, you need to bring up the engagement right away. I think you need to say, "You are going to look at my account, you are going to see this engagement number, let me explain why that is the way it is." Whatever you do, don't say, "Oh, my God. My engagement was 50% better last week but the algorithm is just fucking killing me," and like, "It's not my fault. I don't know what's going on."

    How many people will just tell me all the time when I defend the algorithm, that in the last month, Instagram has cut their engagement into half? Again, for somebody working in the industry, when I hear that I'm just like, "I shut off." I have no interest in hearing anything else you have to say because again, the algorithm is not predatory. It's not going after you. It is true that your content may not be very interesting to your audience anymore.

    They may not be engaging with it and that not engaging with it compounds itself. That's the difficulty with poor engagement is that it trends downward. The worse your engagement gets, the worse your reach gets because the algorithm isn't serving that content to your followers and it just keeps sliding down and down and down. Then it's really hard to correct that path because Instagram is no longer serving your content to your audience, so it's difficult to bring them back in and get them to engage.

    Now, I think even if you have bad engagement and I will actually answer the question eventually. Even if you have poor engagement, I think what I would probably do is I would focus not on just doing the same thing over and over again, but trying to get a big winner. I usually get four, 350 to 600 likes on a photo, let's say. I don't have very good engagement. Sometimes I'll get 1,000 to 1,200.

    I would probably focus on, and when I get that, my reach is usually-- My average reach is let's say 6,000. I have 24,000 followers. My average reach is around 6,000. When I do the 1,000, 1,200, 1,500 likes, I do like between 10 and 13,000 in reach. In that instance when I have these photos that really take off, my reach doubles. In the short term, I would focus on those big winners and I wouldn't focus as much honestly on consistency or things like that.

    I would just step back and say, "How can I get a big winner? If I get two or three of those in a row, do I start to retrain the algorithm? A bunch of people have now liked these posts. Is my stuff showing up more?" I think you need to figure out a way to break out of that thing that is holding you back. Again, there is this frustration that is like, "Yes, the content that I usually posted and would get all this engagement, isn't getting the engagement anymore."

    What frustrates me is that influencers' reaction to that is to just post more of that content that isn't getting good engagement. Listen to the performance, try and find those winners to try and claw yourself out of that hole because that hole just gets deeper and deeper and deeper if your engagement is sliding. That's that. I would try and get ahead of it. If I had 100K and I had poor engagement and I was reaching out to a brand, I would discount my rates because my engagement wasn't as good.

    I think I would discount my rates by how much I thought my engagement was down, because engagement does follow reach. Smart marketers now, people that know what they are doing, if your engagement is under a percentage point, let's say, and they know it's half as what it should be. They also know that unless Instagram is working much different for you than most people, that you're reaching half as many people as the people at your similar following level.

    In what world would I pay you the same that I'm going to pay someone else knowing that if I work with that another person with better engagement and thus better reach, that my money is going to go twice as far? Just think about it yourself. If you were going to a restaurant and there were two cheeseburgers. One of them costs $15 and one of them cost $30 and they were the same exact cheeseburger, which one would you get?

    Of course, you would get the $15 one every time. If your engagement is bad and your reach is bad and you're not adjusting your pricing, that is what it looks like. It looks like you're walking and trying to sell me a $30 cheeseburger when I see the cheeseburger on the menu is $15. It's never going to work for you.

    I think you'd have to discount your rates and you have to get ahead of that and say totally, "Just want you to know, I've been struggling a little bit with engagement. I'm doing a bunch of things right now. It seems to be turning it around but in the short term, I'm going to give you a discount because I know I'm not reaching as many people as I should be right now."

    That's a very honest conversation. It's a difficult one to have but I think that if you're not getting work because of your engagement, you have to meet it head-on. I think I've said before to go back and watch Eight mile, that last rap battle scene with Eminem where he he says every insult that the guy's about to say about him, and then the guy doesn't have anything to say all. It's like, "Do that," but just for pitching yourself as an influencer.

    If there's anything that you feel I could get them to say no, then just address it, because when you address it, you get to craft the narrative. It's so frustrating to us. We just heard from a client, we really wanted to work with that we lost a deal. It's $180,000 deal. That's sucks for us. The brand told us why we lost it. It was frustrating because they just misunderstood our offering.

    The reason they said that they weren't going to work with us was absolutely not a valid reason not to work with us. They never mentioned it. In that case, our inability to frame what they saw as a weakness lost us the deal. If you don't talk about your bad engagement, they're going to make up their own story about it, which is probably a lot worse than the truth of it. It behooves you to get ahead of it
    Episode #156
    - Influencer engagement rate, differences, relevance in your industry
  • One, I do think that and I've talked about it before that captions have gotten really lazy. I think that influencers have gotten really good at storytelling through imagery and really, really bad about storytelling through their captions.

    If you're working on a sponsored post from a brand and it is a product that you normally wouldn't talk about, so let's say you're a beauty influencer and you're going to talk about a credit card or you're a fashion influencer and you're going to talk about beauty for the first time, I think your audience expects you to explain why the fuck you're talking to them about this.

    I think you have to give them context and help them understand why it is you're talking to them about this, you have to tell a story so that you can humanize it and get an emotional connection because especially when you talk about something that is outside of the normal sphere of things that you talk about, your influence doesn't follow you to that thing.

    If I trust you to tell me what foundation to wear, I don't trust you to tell me what credit card I should be using. I don't necessarily trust you to tell me what restaurant I should go to in LA, and I don't necessarily trust you to tell me what deodorant you wear.
    It doesn't mean that I can't trust you on those things, I definitely can, I think you have to work harder, and I think you have to tell a story about why this is important to you.

    That is one thing of just thinking about is this something I'd normally talk about? If not, make sure you're weaving it into a bigger story. For a lot of influencers, the story is just that they really love the product, and that's totally fine. I love my deodorant. I take Adderall because I'm all over the fucking place and I'm one of those people that Adderall makes me sweat randomly sometimes, not every day I take it, but sometimes, and so I use Dri, what's it called? It's like D-R-I something.

    It's this over-the-counter but prescription strength deodorant. I fucking love this stuff. I would tell somebody that if you take Adderall and it makes you sweat, use this stuff. I've tried 10 deodorants, this one works really well. That's an authentic real story, but I need to give the context and say that, "I take Adderall, it made me sweat. I searched for a deodorant that worked and couldn't find any until this one." Without that story, I'm just a dude who usually talks about cycling, and influencers, and takes pictures of New York, and all of a sudden, I'm saying, "Use this deodorant," and you're like, "What the fuck are you talking about?

    Why should I pay attention to that?" You need to tell a story in that case, but also, sometimes the story can just be like, "I love this thing." I think what a lot of influencers miss out on is if that's your story, if you're working and partnering with a brand and your story is that you love that product, and as a follower, I only see that product two or three times, then instantly I'm like, "You're a liar. I don't believe you" because if you really love something, then you talk about it all the time or at least you see it all the time. We'll put up a little graphic here of how I think storytelling could be taken care of better with influencers' posts.

    Basically, what I'm talking about is in post one, you introduce the partnership, say why you're doing it, tell a story, create some context. If it is something like a skin care, if it's something that you're testing out and you know you're going to use for a while, setting that up and saying, "I'm super excited to partner and I've always wanted to try this," whatever it might be, and then you want to, over the next two or three weeks or whatever, however long the campaign is, in your stories, you want to pretty consistently mention it or at least have it shown.

    This is something that Erica Fox from Retro Flame does really well is that she will, before a sponsored post, in her stories, you'll start to see a product show up, and she doesn't tag it or anything, so then when she does the post, she'll be like, "Hey, I don't know if you all have noticed in my stories that I've been using this thing. I'm super excited to partner with them," but then throughout the time the campaign is happening, you just see it fairly often. Again, not always tagged, sometimes tagged, it starts to legitimize and lend authenticity to that story that she really likes this product.

    She actually loves it, she is using it and if she's not tagging the brand, I'm also feeling like she's using it and not being paid in that post. She's not even tagging the brand, so the brand is not even going to see that. She's just doing it because she likes it. For me, it lends so much authenticity to things that she's doing, and then you follow it up at the end with another post that closes things out for the time being. Again, if it is something where you're like, "I've used this for the last two weeks, it's been amazing".

    If you're me and it's deodorant, let's say, and you're like, "I've never used this" and it's like, "I used this for the last two weeks, it was incredible. Absolutely the best thing I've ever used, blah, blah blah. It cut down on my Adderall sweats," whatever. How we started talking about the Adderall sweats in the show, I don't know, but it's an unscripted show and sometimes we go off the rails.

    Even if you are not being paid to do that, even if you're not being paid to consistently cover and talk about the brand in between the two posts that you're going to do or even if you're not paid for a second post, I think for the longevity of your accounts as an influencer, I do think you need to think about covering and talking about the brand more. If the story you're telling is, "I love this product, it's really, really great" because I don't think you can tell that story and only have the product shot once or twice and think that you're fooling your audience.

    They know what you're doing which is either you're just being lazy with your writing and you don't have anything else to say about the product so you're saying, "I love it" and/or then I think you don't actually love the product, you're just being paid for it. Stories can help you avoid that. There are other things to say about a product other than, "I love it," and you can tell those things in an authentic way that people believe, but just take some time and be really, again, be explicit about it before you do a post. Maybe write down a couple of concepts and send it to the brand and say, "Here's three concepts I was thinking about, which one do you prefer?"

    That stuff doesn't happen much with influencers and I promise you if you do it, you're going to look great, they're going to keep coming back for you, they're going to keep wanting to work with you, and you will say, " James was right," and I am.
    Episode #155
    - The Importance of Stories and Storytelling
  • As an influencer, you have stories that you tell and the story that you tell. Those are two different things. Let me explain how that works. The stories you tell is every day, what are you doing that day, where do you like to eat, what do you like to wear, what are you thinking about, what do you care about, what are you laughing about, what are you watching, whatever. The story you tell is what is your, again, this is kind of an icky word and people don't talk about personal branding as much as they used to, but what is your brand and what is the story that that brand is telling?

    It's not something that you have to be explicit about to your audience, but I do think that if you haven't gone through this process recently as an influencer, I would do it. I would sit with a notebook and I would write down, what do you think the story you're telling is? How do you think your audience would perceive what makes you interesting or special or different or entertaining or educational? What is that story? Is it the story of a young mother who is also working and living in New York City? Is it the story of a photographer who is going around the world, shooting all these incredible people and all these incredible places and it's this escapism thing?

    Is it like our good friend Jamie, her story of essentially a woman who has moved to Provence in the 1860s, and wears lace, and takes photos of herself all day, and just lives this incredible fairytale life full of castles, and pressed flowers, and fresh baguettes? If you think about the influencers that you really connect with-- Let me just step back. If you're saying, "I don't want to do that and I don't think that's important," I would think about your three favorite influencers and then do that for them, write down what their story is. I bet in two or three sentences, very quickly, you can tell me exactly what they're all about, what their thing is, and summarize that really quickly.

    If you can't do that for yourself, it's because I think you're not being explicit enough about tailoring that story and committing yourself to it because especially now that the space has gotten more and more crowded, I think it is that much more important as an influencer to have a very clear idea about what you do and do not do and be very explicit about the story you're telling. Again, when I say you need to be explicit, you need to understand the story you're telling, your audience shouldn't feel like they're getting a story told to them, it should just feel natural. Every post you do should totally make sense and it should fit into that larger story, but they should never think that you're telling them a story.

    We touched on this a little bit last week of why I think that viral proposal went off the rails was because people figured out that they were being told a story, and then they felt really stupid, and they felt taken advantage of, and they lashed out. People were totally complicit and they were totally on board when they thought this was a journey that they were all going on together, and this was happening in real-time, and it felt really exciting. The second they realized that it was a manufactured story that was being told to them, they turned on it like that.

    I think that's a very interesting thing to think about, so be explicit about it, but don't let your audience know that you're just telling them a story. Look, I'm not saying you have to make up some new brand or story for yourself. Ideally, you're living this interesting life that people are connecting with. I think it is about discipline and putting up guardrails and saying, "This is who I am and this is what I talk about" so that people can come to know what to expect from you. If they can know what to expect from you and you deliver on that, then that's how you build trust, and love, and emotional connection, and all of those things.
    Episode #155
    - The Importance of Stories and Storytelling
  • That is a valid question to ask. It's something that has stuck with me that's just like an old truism that facts don't convince people, stories do. People do not change their mind when presented with the facts, you need only look at the political parties in the US and what's happening right now in American politics to understand that facts are meaningless in changing someone's mind, and the only thing that matters is a good story. That has been true throughout all of human history, stories absolutely have shaped this entire world be it from religious stories and religious texts and just how important those are.

    Stories about a country's place in the world, a story that they may be told themselves. If we look at the great battle, the great civil rights and civil liberties battles of the last a hundred years, the biggest steps have been taken when stories were being told that could not be ignored. I think first if you can understand how important a story is in changing someone's mind and if changing someone's mind is influencing them in a lot of ways, then it is essential for you, as an influencer, to know how to use storytelling as a tool to be able to burrow your message into the brains of your audience. That is why stories are so important, but why is it that they work so well?

    I think three core things to remember to think about when you think about stories is one, they provide context. If you are talking about something without context, your audience gets confused. Let's just talk about, in this case, let's talk about a sponsored post, and you're doing a post for a brand, the story that you tell about how you came into contact with the brand, the way you found out about it, your experience in using it, that story gives your audience context of what is this, and essentially, what is it doing for me, and when do I use it? What that story can do when it gives context is tell you who is it for, when do I use it, what does it do?

    Those three things are really important. Sure, you could rattle those off in just a list and say, "Here's what it does, here's who it's for, and here's when you use it," but that isn't super compelling, so the story can tell all of those things that you need to communicate when you're telling a new idea, but can do it in a way that's entertaining and someone doesn't necessarily know that they're being informed of something. They don't feel like they're being preached at or lectured to, but they're just listening to a story but all the while they're getting those three points.

    The next is that they humanize the message. Increasingly, as influencers, we're doing more brand messaging. We need those messages and we need your posts to feel human. We need your audience to be able to put a face to it and understand the human side of what this thing is and why you should care. The best posts about travel, the best travel influencers in my mind aren't the people who take these ridiculous, amazing landscape photos, it's the people that humanize those places, that tells stories that show me a side of that country, that city, that neighborhood that I couldn't get from a landscape photo. It's the human side of the message that really pulls us in.

    One of my favorite Instagram followers that I've talked about is this woman Sophie Roberts. We'll have Tim put up a link to her account, but she is a writer for Condé Nast Traveler. She goes into these ridiculous places and she just pulls out these human stories. She could zoom out and take this amazing landscape. She spends a lot of time in Siberia, she could have these amazing photos of that, but instead, it's a photo of somebody sitting in their hut in the Siberian tundra feeding them a lamb stew and she's talking about that. For me, that humanization, that makes the story real and it makes it so much more impactful and so much more memorable.

    That's what you want, you want your stories to be remembered and retold. To do that, you need to humanize it in a way that goes into the last point, which is they create an emotional connection. Your audience wants to connect to you, they want to feel like they are your friend, they want to feel like they know you, and to do that, you have to humanize yourself and open yourself up to creating that connection with the audience, and stories help your audience get to know you, they provide context about you, and they humanize the life that you're living and allow for that emotional connection.

    Those are the three buckets, I think, of why storytelling is so important, why I think without it, it would be very, very difficult to create compelling content on the Internet.
    Episode #155
    - The Importance of Stories and Storytelling
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