Beca Alexander is the ultimate influence peddler — she was an influencer before the term was commonplace. Alexander started blogging during her last semester in college, which lead to an editor role at FashionIndie.com. Noticing the need to put brands and influencers together, she founded Socialyte.
Since launching in 2012, Socialyte, which customizes influencer digital marketing programs, has notched more than 4,000 influencer-led marketing campaigns. Recently, Alexander has seen a 30 percent spike in beauty campaign requests. Forty percent of Socialyte’s business is in beauty — in particular skin care, makeup and fragrances. With her team, she has helped foster the careers of top talent including Marianna Hewitt, Marcel Floruss and Adam Gallagher. Socialtye has overseen programs for Giorgio Armani Beauty, L’Oréal and Ralph Lauren.
Here, she talks about what metrics Socialyte uses to classify influencers, why beauty companies might want to look beyond beauty specific content providers and the reasons she thinks male influencers should be on companies’ radar.
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WWD: How does Socialyte define different levels of influencers?
Beca Alexander: We consider a micro-influencer anyone who has about 20,000 to 100,000 followers. That is something that, to us, is specific to New York and Los Angeles, versus micro-influencers outside of the major cities. For example, if a brand was looking in smaller cities, like Cleveland or Atlanta, there wouldn’t be as many influencers who have large followings, so we’d be looking at micro-influencers who have 5,000 or 10,000 followers. The midtier, to us, is anyone with 100,000 to one million and then anything above one million is a celebrity-level influencer. This isn’t a celebrity in the traditional sense, but a content provider that has more than a million followers that works in a specific way where a brand has to adhere to that influencer’s specific style and the way they work with them.
WWD: Is it still thought that micro-influencers have higher engagement? What are industry payments versus reach?
B.A.: It is true that they have higher engagement because they reach a smaller audience. Because of that, it is more likely they [followers] actually see the content versus an influencer that has two million followers — two million people aren’t seeing that content. The smaller you are, the more engagement you have.
Micro-influencers range in payment and a lot still accept gifts of products and posts for between $50 and $1,000. Many base their worth on what they’ve been paid by other brands. Celebrities get starting [fees] of $10,000 for a single Instagram.
WWD: What’s right, what can be improved and what changes are we going to see in influencer marketing?
B.A.: I think there are misconceptions in the space. To us, an influencer isn’t just anyone who has a following on a social platform. There are various types of content creators. If you take a celebrity like Kim Kardashian or Lady Gaga, they have a following because they are a celebrity. Are they influencers? Yes, because they have a following, but they are not the type we consider an influencer.
Then there are those who post half-naked photos or people with six-packs. They are usually followed by the opposite sex and not necessarily those who can create engaging content on behalf of products. They are the content creators who are often attractive and stylish and know how to use a camera. These are the reality TV stars of social platforms. A lot of them can get an audience engaged from liking and commenting on a post to converting people to want to buy what they are endorsing. Those people are the ones we care about and can move the needle on purchase decision or purchase intent. People assume that everyone who has a following is an influencer that should matter to a brand. But to us, it matters what the brand is looking to promote and what the strategy is. We look at the return on investment and what is right for the brand.
WWD: How important is beauty in your business?
B.A.: Beauty is a huge piece of our business. Brands have gravitated toward beauty-specific influencers, but we often feel that is not the best approach. If you are a beauty brand working with a beauty influencer that posts about a different beauty brand every day, how are you going to get your share of voice? We advise a brand that it makes sense to work with an influencer that has never talked about beauty before. When they do mention a beauty product, their audience will pay more attention.
WWD: What about the issue of fake followers?
B.A.: You can buy followers, but it is harder to buy engagement. We have a metric that is a ratio of sponsored to non-sponsored and we use two different platforms to assess whether or not an influencer has fake followers. However, it is hard to quantify since there are also inactive followers who don’t create or engage. We look at the past two years to see where there were spikes in follower growth and what are those spikes attributed to. Sometimes it could be a ‘loop’ giveaway (where content providers encourage their followers to add others). If we see a spike of 5,000, we try to figure out why. It could be that Kim Kardashian or Chanel mentioned them. If they did just buy followers, we can tell and we won’t work with them.
WWD: Why are male influencers an untapped marketing bonanza?
B.A.: There are a lot of male influencers eager to work with brands. They like to branch out because there are only so many pair of jeans you can talk about. Men are really into the health and wellness and beauty business. They are posting about hair and grooming items and have a lot of traction. Men also seem to have a higher conversion [rate] than women.