Influencers are about to get a new revenue stream.
ContentExchange by Style Coaltion, a digital photo agency that launches today, will license thousands of images generated by bloggers and influencers for brands in need of “Instagrammable” content. Founder and chief executive officer Yuli Ziv said the platform helps users find relevant images to populate their social media and digital channels.
“Smaller brands can no longer afford many of the influencers, and bigger brands just simply need more and more content for all their social channels and their web site. There is that pressure to have a lot of content,” said Ziv during an interview in her office in West SoHo in Manhattan.
An early player in the social media scene, she founded Style Coalition in 2008. (Ziv maintained she was responsible for creating the #NYFW hashtag, and to prove it, she whipped out a screenshot from Twitter showing the very first time the hashtag was used.) The firm, a digital agency specializing in influencer marketing and native advertising, has worked with clients from Chanel and Marc Jacobs to Guess and Make Up For Ever.
“Premium custom content becomes expensive; it’s a lot to produce and there’s no alternative,” Ziv continued.
Keeping up online takes a lot of time, effort and money, and many companies don’t have the bandwidth to produce creative at the speed today’s digital universe demands. That is where ContentExchange comes in.
Ziv called the platform a more immediate — and accessible — way to tap into content for brands of all sizes. Today, where influencers can command thousands of dollars for one sponsored post, a licensed image for under $300 seems like a steal.
She outlined possible scenarios in which a brand might choose to license an image on the platform. Companies could be looking for content for their own social channels — organic or paid — that feature a broad or specific trend — “skinny jeans” or “red lipstick,” for example — and then link to their own products; looking to feature an influencer and their likeness in their ad campaign, marketing materials or site, but don’t want to — or can’t — invest resources in custom content; looking to license authentic “Instagrammable” photos that feature their own products, or simply seeking to post lifestyle imagery on their digital channels that looks more “authentic” than generic stock photos.
For content creators, who get a 75 percent cut of any image licensed, the service could be a lucrative new source of monetizing their personal brands. At launch, 10,000 images from 25 influencers with followers ranging from 200,000 to 2.3 million will be available. A sliding scale pricing structure takes several elements into account: U.S. or global usage, duration of the license (one month to three years), as well as what the brand intends to use the image for. Upon selecting a photo, there is a dropdown with different use cases that include paid social media promotion, web site, digital advertising, print, retail and outdoor. Pricing starts at $299 but can go up to several thousand dollars if a big retailer uses an influencer’s likeness in a sizable advertising campaign, Ziv said.
A description from the influencer’s original social media post is pulled for each image on the platform to help with initial tagging and hashtags. Ziv said a combination of auto-categorizing and human review helps with building galleries, properly tagging and making sure any sponsored content is filtered. Jessica Wang of NotJessFashion, Jessica Harlow and Grace Atwood of The Stripe are a few of the influencers participating in ContentExchange thus far.
Ziv’s rationale for building a hub of influencer “stock photos” was twofold. First, she said, it will help influencers monetize the editorial content they’re producing anyway, but in a way that doesn’t clog their stream with branded promotions and sponsored posts. For brands, Content Exchange provides brands with an arsenal of blogger content they never would have otherwise been able to access.
“Nothing happens to those images beyond that one post. Some is sponsored, but the rest is editorial content that is not monetized or perhaps maybe just affiliate marketing,” Ziv said of existing posts that live on influencers’ social channels. She added that influencers have the right of approval if they don’t wish to align with a brand that wants to buy their content.
ContentExchange divides photos into two categories — lifestyle images that don’t have the likeness of the influencer and content where the influencer is part of the image. Lifestyle content spans home decor, food, travel, beauty and fashion from a product perspective and the latter is largely fashion and beauty-centric featuring the influencer.
For Ziv, this venture is her way of innovating in the influencer marketing space.
“It’s not just sending a product to an influencer and hoping for a mention. It can work in select cases, but if you’re looking for something sustainable it has to have a creative idea beyond it. There has to be some sort of strategy. How does it fit in the bigger brand message?”