Industry Experts Share Their POVs on the Power of Influencers

Over the next few days, it would be lucrative to collect a dollar every time you heard the word “influencer” in presentations, at cocktail parties and on the VidCon show floor.

Influencers is the term du jour to represent the new breed of stars that spring forth from YouTube and other social media platforms. Their virtual, digital fame can lead to a legion of fans that in turn lead to brand marketing and even film/TV opportunities.

Given the inexperience most newly minted social stars have in dealing with marketers and big media companies, savvied middlemen have emerged to ensure those who supply influence and those who need influence come together in a clean, well-lit environment.

To gain insight into the role of influencers and how they work with brands and other third parties, we asked a number of leaders in the talent management space to share their opinions on some key questions.

Our respondents are:

Grant Deken, Grapevine
David Kierzkowski, Famebit
Mark Turner, Abrams Artists Agency
Vince Juarez, Ayzenberg/ION
Alec Shankman, Abrams Artists Agency.
Kimberley Bond, Grapevine

How do you identify video personalities that have the innate ability to become influencers?

Juarez: “Identifying video personalities with influencer potential requires a combination of art and science and involves a deep dive into both the content and the ‘personality of the personality.’”

Kierzkowski: “Ultimately, influence on YouTube is not defined by the largest audience but rather (by) the most authentic audience. Content quality is also important — someone who is influential is eloquent, entertaining and engaging. Hence, regardless of size of subscribers, the most influential YouTubers are ones that have a high level of engagement and trust with their audience.”

Turner: “If you have to push a client to put out content, they are definitely not an ‘innate’ influencer. They should be able to see a trend in the industry (or at least see it after we discuss it) and instinctively decide to put out their own content.”

What is the one thing you teach or mentor these influencers to maintain their credibility?

Bond: “As much as we love our network taking on sponsorships, we constantly remind our influencers to keep a balanced filming schedule between organic and sponsored content. We want our network to have a long-term, sustainable career on YouTube, so we stress how important it is to balance your brand deals.”

Shankman: “We encourage our clients across all verticals and platforms to maintain authenticity at all costs, to continually improve their entertainment and production value, to strive to inform and/or educate viewers to add value to their day, and to ensure a regular consistency of content publishing. We also help our clients to maintain consistency across the entire scope of their brand — that is crucial as we help them build the publishing, licensing, traditional-media, merchandising and other components of their brand.”

Juarez: “It might sound cliché, but it really is about maintaining authenticity and all the things this encompasses — ‘keeping it real.’ ‘not selling-out,’ ‘being true to your personal brand,’ ‘avoiding over-saturation.’

How do you match influencers with brands/clients?

Shankman: “We have an ongoing, daily dialogue with a wide variety of brands, ad agencies and PR firms about their digital initiatives. As each campaign comes together, we help pair them with our clients who fit their needs. We also work proactively with our clients to find out which brands they love, and we’ll often pitch brands on campaigns that are entirely devised by our clients and us. That has worked quite well on many occasions.”

Deken: “Our goal is to get the match-up between a brand and creator right every time. We start by qualifying every brand and creator on our platform. From there, our recommendation engine helps creators find brands they match highly for based on past experience, content categories, targeting and more. Of course, creators can browse our entire catalog of campaigns as well, and new ones are added daily.”

What metrics do you use to measure influence?

Kierzkowski: “We look at combination of factors including the number of subscribers, view-to-subscriber ratio and other subjective factors, such as production quality and relevancy of content to the brand. It’s important to note that certain influencers are more influential in certain aspects than others. For instance, a musician is more influential to a guitar company than to a snack box.”

Turner: “For me, at the moment, it’s primarily the number of YouTube subscribers and the complementing video views the influencer has. Beyond that, the number of followers on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine, Snapchat and, now, newer companies and platforms like Periscope. All of these are taken into account. Influence is based on the number of followers, how many views — and also who is sharing and reposting the influencer’s content.”

Where are the untapped opportunities for influencers?

Deken: “I think there is a growing opportunity for savvy creators to build their own websites independently of social channels. These can serve as their homebase, open up new content formats for them, and serve as a launch pad for things like product lines, original and exclusive content, and more.”

Kierzkowski: “An area that we feel is being underserved is in original programming. A lot of talent first get into YouTube hoping to land a show or get famous, but, for the most part, such opportunities have been available (only) to the largest MCN talent. Our goal is to change this and open up original programming to influencers of all sizes in the same way that we have done with sponsorship opportunities. We are doing this right now with our first digital web series FilterFreeTV — an uncensored talk show that explores some of the most difficult issues millennials grapple with. Not shying away from controversial topics like sexting, virginity and suicide, the show gives fans behind the scenes access to the type of discussions that usually go on among friends behind closed doors.”

Turner: “At Abrams Artists Agency, we’re focusing heavily on a 360-degree approach, leaving no ‘untapped’ opportunities for our influencer clients, based on their talents and goals. We pursue opportunities across hosting, acting, commercials, voice-overs, print, spokesperson opportunities, writing and licensing.”

Juarez: “There seems to be a constant influx of new, emerging or re-emerging social content platform opportunities for influencers. A few that come to mind are Azubu, Veoh, Flickr, Vimeo, Vube and Vessel.”