As the internet pulls audiences in all sorts of directions, and brands risk losing touch of their market, Motion Sickness Studio and Latch Digital have responded by creating The Social Club, a platform which aims to create meaningful connections between brands and influencers - and it's not as exclusive as you think.
Founded late last year, The Social Club aims to be the solution to the “really heavy process” of leveraging social influencers according to general manager Justin Clark, who says trawling through social media and negotiating contracts takes a lot of time, so the idea of a place where influencers and brands can connect themselves was born.
“The need for the platform was to create something so both the influencer and brands could have something to easily create campaigns and enter the market.”
He describes The Social Club website as a “two-way market place” where influencers can login to view the brands and brands can login to view influencers. Both build a profile about themselves and have the opportunity to reach out with proposals for those they want to work with.
It is also working with a number of PR and creative agencies to assist with the influencer element of campaigns.
While working on the website, The Social Club has been tracking down influencers and have over 400 registrations (by influencers) so far.
Clark says it has taken a "New Zealand approach to it", with influencers being anyone who has at least 1,000 followers on an account across the major channels, YouTube, Snapcaht, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
“It’s pretty low by international standards as what could be termed an ‘influencer’, but given the market here we thought that would be a good cut off.”
The influencers, to date, have a social media following ranging in number from 1,000 to 1.4 million, with 85 percent of the influencers being New Zealand-based.
Ninety percent of the influencers fit into the 18 to 35 age bracket.
The willing brands are mostly nationwide with a couple based solely in Auckland or Wellington. Thirty eight have pre-registered with fashion, food and beverage, lifestyle and entertainment products represented the most.
Clark says the focus has been on getting brands on board that the influencers will enjoy working with.
He couldn't name the brands as "In general brands don't like publicising that they are engaging in 'influencer marketing', even though it's a pretty mainstream practice now" and he says influencers feel the same.
The strongest content types are athlete/fitness, lifestyle, parent, food and fashion with females making up the "slight" majority of influencers. Instagram is the most prominent platform, followed by Snapchat and Facebook.
Clark says each platform has its benefits, with Snapchat being the most successful for engaging a younger audience and Facebook offering the greatest opportunities with its clickable links. Instagram is also strong while Twitter is the weakest as its followers “mean the least” Clark says.
One of the influencers is Marty Hehewerth, host on The Edge and Smash!, and Clark describes his 6837 Instagram followers as “typical” of those who have registered so far. With such a reach, Hehewerth was already frequently receiving product from PR firms and brands directly.
Clark hopes more potential influencers will see the opportunity The Social Club can provide because as membership numbers grow, so too does the authenticity and effectiveness of the campaigns.
“We figure if we can get enough influencers on this site and enough brands, it means that influencers can work with the brands that they are passionate about and brands can find the influencers who are genuinely passionate about them.”
He says The Social Club wants to avoid having to work influencers into any brand that doesn’t fit them perfectly.
One example he gives is Ronald McDonald House. He says the charity was a natural fit for The Social Club because it too is about creating a sense of community and its message matched what influencers wanted to share.
“One of the big things that we had from the registrations coming through is that people want to share positive messages, so we are looking at working a lot with cool social enterprises and non profits in New Zealand.”
The Social Club is also looking to work with overseas brands wanting to enter the New Zealand market. Clark says many aren’t comfortable rolling a campaign out across New Zealand because they don’t know the market place and its influencers.
By creating a place where some of New Zealand’s biggest influencers can be found, The Social Club wants to solve that problem.
Brands have really made the most of influencers in recent times. Think Kiwibank with the 'KB Series' featuring funny girl Jamie Curry (who's also worked with Netflix, NZ Golf and others), Clemenger's content arm Flare partnering with comedian Jimi Jackson for its 'Legends' campaign in conjunction with Eastern Bay of Plenty Road Safety and beauty vlogger Shannon Harris, aka 'Shaanxo' who makes a fulltime living as a YouTube partner and in 2014 was whisked away by Contiki to participate in its YouTube vlogger roadtrip.