Transcript has been edited for proper use of grammar
*Brackets indicate added words for understanding*
Welcome to Stratezine’s Guide to influencer marketing. My name is Hannah and today we are meeting with Meriah from Scout Social to discuss how they have used micro-influencers in their marketing strategy.
For those who are not aware, we are discussing micro-influencers on the platform Instagram, which is defined as having between 1,000 – 100,000 followers. Let’s get started!
Okay thank you again for joining us today Meriah, I really appreciate it. Why don’t we start off with having you just tell us about your company Scout Social, and your role there?
Absolutely. So Scout Social is a native social media marketing company. We take branded content and turn it into native content, which means content that you wouldn’t think twice about scrolling on your Instagram page for. So think branded memes, think branded posts that appear natural to your normal feed, things like that.
So we have clients all across different lifestyles, cultures, music, entertainment, [and] we make content for them. And then we have an in-house platform that connects us to thousands of influencers and influential pages, where we can activate this client content across, you know, many different platforms and reach millions and millions of followers. This is beneficial for companies because it doesn’t look like an ad.
You know, nowadays everyone is so used to seeing ads, especially on social media. So when something doesn’t appear like an ad, they’re so much more likely to engage with it, and they’re more likely to actually follow through with the action that the client is looking for.
So we provide that service for a range of clients, as well as creating our own media entities. We run influential pages, we run some shows, some different media channels as well. We just basically are an audience building company.
And my particular role is that I do the marketing for Scout Social. So I actually am a lead gen person who gets our clients. I work to develop our website, our company profiles, write our blogs, write our email newsletters, that kind of stuff. I don’t work on the actual campaign side of the social media campaigns, but I promote them and read all the case studies.
So that is our company, and then my specific role there.
Awesome. And how long has your company used social media in their marketing strategy? Was it like right off the bat? Or did it kind of progress to it?
So we are a fully social media marketing company, everything we’ve always done is social media. Our two co-founders are Shep Ogdan and Bailey Grady. They both separately created very famous meme pages, and those meme pages helped them pay their way through college.
And once they finished college, they were put in touch with each other. And someone said, you know, “Why don’t you combine the power of your two pages, and actually make something out of this.” And so, from their two pages, they grew to more pages, and then, you know, more full-time staff has been put on, and then we built this in-house platform.
So I mean, all we do is social all the time, always. And our founders combined have 10 years [of] experience creating social [media] pages. And you know, we’re some of the first forefronts of memes and influencers. So there was never a Scout Social without social media.
And when did you guys start using micro-influencers? And by micro-influencer, I mean, someone who has between about 1,000 – 100,000 followers, who focus on like a specific niche or area. When you guys start using them?
We’ve used both micro and macro-influencers since inception.
Again, we’re the ones who are connecting clients to these influential pages. And so it depends on what the client is looking for. Is the client looking to reach mommy-bloggers to promote a certain vitamin? And if that is true, do they want, you know, the really close-knit communities of micro mommy-bloggers? Or do they want to go to the biggest names on the market? And that’s, you know, budgetarily and also what kind of audience you’re trying to reach.
So we’ve always used both micro and macro-influencers, and often we find with our campaigns starting with micro-influencers and then having just one or two macro jump on to, let’s say, if it’s a TikTok trend, especially, that gives the impression of organic virality.
If these smaller creators are beginning this trend, or beginning to use this certain kind of audio, and then a macro-influencer, “picks it up” that’s a manufactured trend. But using micro-influencers really makes it feel like it’s organic.
So we’ve used them from the inception of our company, and they’re definitely useful for specific and niche audiences.
And you mentioned TikTok, do you use other social media platforms? Or I know, Instagram is probably a big one. But what other ones do you guys use? And do you see more success on one over another?
Yeah well you know, everything is relative. We mostly work on TikTok and Instagram for sure. But we’ve also had some very successful Snapchat campaigns, making lenses and also AR interactive experiences for clients. And we also use YouTube as an amplification tactic. But our bread and butter would definitely be Instagram and TikTok.
It’s very different for different clients. You know, we have music clients who want their song to blow up on TikTok. So obviously we really push on TikTok, and then if we want to pull it further, we amplify on Instagram because of its seamless integration of TikTok to Instagram.
And you know if a client is looking for more followers to give their artists more credibility, we will push on Instagram. But then there’s also more interactive things. If it’s a very well-known artist and it’s a big drop, and the client would like something more interactive, that’s when we could talk about some AR filters on Snapchat, or Instagram stories.
So it’s really dependent on the client’s goals, [and] what audience you’re trying to reach. And you know, of course, the type of content they’re pushing is important, as well as the budget they have for amplification. You know because we could do one of every little piece and it could be wildly successful, or you could just focus on TikTok. So it definitely depends, but we are on, you know, all of these different platforms.
And we’ve talked a bit about success. But how do you measure success when working specifically with a micro influencer?
With all you know marketing, and advertising, you want ROI. And so, if a client is looking for their song to be streamed more, you check streams, you, you know, benchmark streams before your amplifications, on, let’s say, Instagram, and then you benchmark your streams after the two- or four-week campaign.
But also, it’s really important since social media has such clear and defined metrics already built into the systems. People’s likes, shares, comments, DMs, you know, just interactions with the post is also a major indication of success or not, you know? If someone’s getting impressions, and you combine across let’s say, we had 10 micro influencers pushing a song, and that drove 6 million impressions on Instagram, that’s definitely you know, further reach and brand awareness.
And that’s definitely all social media metrics are definitely success driven. But usually, our clients also have an outside action that they would love to see, you know whether that’s their artists, getting more followers on the platform, thats there’s more streams on the audio, that the app gets downloaded, go watch the film, or, you know, we have all kinds of clients.
So definitely the social media metrics are a measure of success, because that’s awareness and exposure. And then the outside action is also another bigger, you know, share of success if we can also tap into that.
And when you are working with a micro influencer, what do you look for? What are some main things that you look for in the influencer themselves, before reaching out to them or replying to work with them?
Yeah! Well of course there’s the you know, basics of followers and average engagements, because it’s pretty easy on social media nowadays, especially as the creator role is getting bigger.
Who actually has a following that cares about what they’re saying, who takes action when they you know, promote something, or when they, you know, give a product review versus someone who’s just bought thousands of followers, and they actually get no engagement. Because while you can have a really pretty follower number, if you don’t actually have an audience of real people, who are really listening or enjoying your content you’re actually not all that valuable to a client.
So that’s definitely the first thing we look for is, do they really have an audience? And that doesn’t even necessarily need to be anything massive, especially when we’re talking about micro influencers, you know, you can have an influencer that’s only five or 10,000 followers, which you know, in the world of creators, doesn’t seem like a lot.
But if those are really active followers, they’re commenting on everything. They’re, you know, participating in every little giveaway, there’s, there’s a lot of activity there and there’s a real sense of community and they feel like they know each other and they know this person, that person actually has a lot of credibility. And that could be way better than somebody who has, let’s say, 100,000 followers, but gets half the amount of comments or half the amount of shares or, you know, mentions. So that’s definitely a big piece of the puzzle is, you know, true engagement, true action with their followers.
And then of course, you know, we work with different partners based on, since we’ve been doing it for so long, we’ve got this, you know, lovely list and this platform of people who we know are brand safe, they are you know, scandal free, they are you know, upstanding, and other brands would like to have their names tied to them. And they’re good to work with, you know, they agree on a price and a kind of content, and they deliver that price and kind of content exactly as asked in the time period.
So a piece of it definitely comes with time, and just the amount of time in the space, the amount of time that we’ve had to develop these relationships where the influencers know, they always bring real deals for them and always pay, you know, perfectly on time. And we know that they post on time, and that they post, you know exactly what the brief says. So it’s a little bit twofold. What do they have? You know, real audience engagement and influence, and whether they’re a good partner to work with for our client and for us. So those are the two biggest factors of if we want to work with them.
You talked a little bit about pay, how do you determine pay? Is it based on follower count? Is it based on engagement? How do you determine what you pay a micro- influencer?
So as with everything in this business, it all varies, and a lot of people will set their own prices. And you know, I think that’s the most valuable way for people to do it because it’s their hard work that we’re paying them for. But also, there has to be the same amount of value exchanged.
So we will often open the conversation, and someone could say, I expect this much for this kind of post, or this much for a story. And from there, if it seems reasonable, we’ll put them on our platform and work from that point on.
If it doesn’t we can negotiate, you know, down or up. Micro-influencers tend to actually be some of the best to work with, because they are not yet managed. A lot of the bigger influencers have agents and managers, and you know, people who keep their brand deals for them, which is, you know, definitely wonderful and definitely a piece of the business. But once you add a middleman into the situation, the price always increases, you know, because that influencer is paying their agent out of the commission. So, the agent is bumping up their prices in order to get them paid, you know, and you totally respect the business. But that’s why micro influencers often are better to work with, because they’re more value for your buck. And you’re dealing directly with them. There’s no communication, potential issues, or misfires on communication.
But pricing, there’s definitely, you know, a piece of it that is follower driven. But largely we like for micro-influencers to set their own prices, I mean, negotiate from there, just whatever it is, you know, equally valuable for the person who is, you know, creating the content for us. And for the amount of, you know, likes, shares, comments and follow throughs that we’re getting from said person.
So everything definitely is very dependent on all those kinds of factors. But we tend to like to have people offer their price first. And we negotiate from there. There’s no cut and dry we will only pay you X amount of money, because every situation is so unique. So that’s typically our process.
When you talk about what the micro-influencers do, you mentioned stories. Is there anything that you specifically require influencers to do? A number of posts, a number of TikToks, things like that?
Yeah well, so every client brief will be very explicit about what we need. And it’ll be dependent on what the client wants.
So let’s take an example of if we have a gaming app and our client wants us to drive downloads of the app. We take gaming micro-influencer pages, you know, gaming TikToks, gaming, you know, potentially even a twitch page if the budget is so big, and it could be, you know, two or three posts over the course of four weeks. And like, “Man, I’m obsessed with this game. I’m having so much fun with it, like have y’all downloaded it yet?”
Having those multiple posts from that, you know, influential page in that community makes it seem more organic and more real for those who follow and, you know, it primes them about, “Oh, what is this?” And then again, reminds them and then they’re like, “Oh, yeah, maybe I wanted to check that out.” One more time. It’s like, “Oh, yeah, okay, I’ll download it.”
But each client brief is different. So you know, there’s always one post whether it is a story post or a feed post, but whether there are multiple depends on the client’s budget and the client’s brief.
So you know, a song on TikTok, maybe a micro-influencer only does one post with it, one trend with it, but the person a user’s viewing and can go to the sound and see all the others who have also done the same trend and, you know, take off from there. But the brief is always super specific of you know whether it is a story post, whether it’s feed posts, whether it’s you know, multiple posts over time.
Sorry, all these answers are basically it just depends on the group.
Yeah, it’s it definitely is different every time and based on, you know what the client needs at the at the time that we’re working with the influencer.
So you are the company that works with a client to get them an influencer. So that’s got to be a little hard. So, what research do you do to kind of like pick the perfect influencer for each client?
So this is another piece where our time in the industry is really our biggest asset. Because we have this in-house platform that we’ve onboarded all these thousands of influencers onto, we have a specialization, to say, you know, we can choose a meme page that targets females that are typically between 20 and 45.
You know, we can get 10 of those in one list. We can be really specific because we’ve had so much experience in the space. And we have people who are full time committed to just influencer relations. So, there are people all, you know, day in day out getting DMs and emails and things from influencers or people who want to be onboarded to our system. We vet them, we can maybe do trial posts with them before we fully onboard. And then once we’ve got them in the system, if a client needs us to activate within, you know, 24 hours, we can contact those people so quickly, and we’ve got a massive list. So we send out 20, you know, feeler emails about 10, activate those 10 a couple hours later.
So it’s definitely a yeah, it’s definitely you know, a size thing and a time in the industry thing. And especially, you know, once an influencer works with you, as a company who gives branded content, and you, you know, hold up your end of the bargain, and they hold up theirs, then our relationship is formed. And you can do those more quick, less, you know, slow and steady activations, because they know you as a company, and you know them as a, as a creator.
So definitely just scale, and that we, you know, focus on this full time. We do all of our campaigns inside the house, they’re the ones who run all these social campaigns. They are talking to influencers day in and day out. They’re talking to clients day in and day out and there is just a running list that will always, that stays really current and just the size and scale of what we have built that really helps with the whole industry.
When you’re vetting a micro-influencer, does that just include like trial posts and the metrics? Or are there other things involved?
Yeah well, it goes back to a little bit what I was talking about earlier of making sure they’re 100 percent brand safe. You know, trying to stay away from anyone who is scandalous, or who is, you know, potentially polarizing, or you know, anything that a brand wouldn’t necessarily want to be connected to. That’s a piece of it.
So we’ve got our influencer relations, people have to keep tabs on our, you know, influencers that we work with and deal with. But then, also the active engagements of the micro-influencers.
We’ve kind of talked about this earlier, whether they have a real community and actual, you know, for lack of a better word ’influence’ over the people that they talk to, or you know, create for. If they’re a community of people who don’t tend to engage, don’t tend to actually, you know, take action from a post, then you could have bots, or you could have a community that isn’t, you know, as strong as you would want for client work.
So it’s those two things that are a little bit less tangible. And, you know, that’s why I always say is kind of like, the human element, of why you need a human to like kind of run this kind of stuff. Of course AI can just pick up the people who have the most followers, but you can’t see that kind of stuff. You can’t see if they have a real community. You can’t see if they get genuine engagement on each post or if action is taken by their followers. So that’s definitely big pieces of the puzzle for us.
I love that. And I just have a couple other questions for you.
The one I was just thinking of was when you’re working with a client, have you ever had a client that didn’t want to work with a certain influencer, that you recommended or had an issue with a couple influencers and didn’t want to work with them? Or things like that, where you needed to get approvals that weren’t going through and had some hard times?
Oh, absolutely, absolutely.
We always get influencer lists approved before we activate campaigns. And there’s plenty of times where clients will say no, especially so you know, we work a lot with meme pages. That’s a big chunk of our business is memed advertisements. And some meme pages have ridiculous names. This is just the culture of memes. You know, if you and then you know, maybe a brand doesn’t want to be on a meme page that is a cuss word, or is something vulgar. The culture is that that isn’t necessarily what it actually means. It’s just a silly name because meme pages are often really silly names. But brands won’t want to be associated and that totally makes sense.
So that’s why we definitely have to get lists approved or not approved. And it’s another piece where scale is so important. You know, if we were an, or like when we were a new company, and we didn’t really have this massive list of thousands of pages, if we had given a list of 20, and a client had said no to 15 of them, we could have been more strapped, we could have been in more of a, of an issue. But since we’ve been around for so long, it’s much easier to say okay, take those 15 scraps and put in another 15.
And just putting it, you know, into context ’we’ve been around for so long,’ we’ve only crossed our, you know, two-year mark, as being Scout Social. So, you know, take this with a grain of salt. Of course, our co-founders have been working in social media for 10 years. But scout social as a full media, you know, house has only really just crossed its two-year mark.
But we needed that groundwork of their credibility as you know, meme page owners and social media space drivers to get our initial partnerships with influential pages. But it just shows how new this whole meme and influencer world is. Because influencer marketing agencies, like influencer budgets have really only been a part of the media world for less than five years. If you really think about it. I mean, Instagram as an app altogether, just celebrated its 10-year anniversary.
Which is crazy.
Right? Right? I know! And so, it seems like it’s been a part of our lives forever, because it really has become an important part of our lives, but, you know, everything is also so new.
So I think it’s, I think it’s really interesting and cool to kind of put context in it. And I always think its kind of funny when we talk from all this experience, which we definitely do have a lot of experience. But we are, you know, still, as normal companies would call it in the early venture stage, you know, just being two years old, we are a little bit more than a startup, but not quite a corporation. You know, so it’s just the world is changing very quickly. And I think it’s super interesting to be on the cutting edge of it.
But sorry, to go off on my little tangent there.
No you’re good! That’s awesome!
Yeah, to go back down. It’s a size and scale thing. And clients often will. And I mean, we make the content as well, we make the memes we make the brief for influencers. And you know, some clients want meme campaigns, but then you make a meme making fun of their product, you know, lightly poking to get people to laugh, that’s kind of what memes are for.
And they’re like, “Wait a minute, what are you doing?” And you’re like, “Okay, okay, so we’re gonna go from this angle,” “We’re gonna go at that angle.”
So there’s content approval, and there’s influencer approval. And it’s all a part of the game, and I mean, it’s all super important, but the size and scale of our company and our network are really our, you know, massive value ads.
Absolutely. And then when, when you’ve been with influencers for two years, that’s pretty fantastic, but what do you wish that you knew that you would pass on other people about working with an influencer? Like with a micro-influencer? What do you wish you knew before working with a micro-influencer?
That’s a good question. Um, I think this has been a major shift of the entire industry. And I do think it’s a good one. I think respecting creators, as business people, as well as, like, a product is really important.
So this has been, you know, as creators have, you know, made a name for themselves that the title creators, you know, only maybe a year old. Influencers are not just, you know, people who will take a pretty picture, and that’s it. People are really starting to see that it’s editing, it’s staging, it’s, you know, business acumen of emails and negotiation.
And I just think that, as this industry grows more, and as more influencers and creators, make their livelihood from this, they’ll be treated more as their own business, their own little, you know, mini-corporation. And I think that’ll only benefit the industry.
So I think, potentially, if earlier on the whole industry, or maybe just Scout Social as a as an entity, could have, you know, really tapped into that and really talked to them as their own little mini businesses. I think that will only continue to help relationships and help them get taken seriously. Because I think a lot of the bigger operations are like older, you know, people who run big media budgets, who maybe don’t totally believe that creators, you know, are as valuable as they’re pressing themselves to be. I think that’ll continue to shift and whoever really respects that, from the beginning, will get the best creators and get the best business because they really do more work than what people think.
And especially now that so many platforms are expected from every creator and so much content. And it’s so unique to each platform and you know, an Instagram photo has to be totally different from a Twitter photo, from a TikTok video from, you know, all this kind of stuff. And so, I think the more respect we give to the creators and the more respect we give to them as their own business entities, the better-quality content they’ll produce for you, and the better the relationship will be with you in the future.
So that’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about, as I’ve you know, worked with the influencer industry and talked with different creators.
I love that. I really, I think that a lot of the time, we sometimes take influencers for granted. I know that’s definitely sometimes an issue. So, I love that response. I think that’s exactly right.
Well Meriah, I really appreciate your time today. Thank you so much for sitting down with me, and just having this conversation about micro-influencers. One last question before you go today, just as a little bit of a shout out to an amazing influencer, who is one of your favorite influencers that you’ve worked with, and why?
One of my favorite influencers that I’ve worked with and why? There’s so many wonderful people on the internet. And it’s so fun to get to tap into all these creative communities. We work a lot with the TikToker Leahlani. She is lovely as a person and is a great creator. Very funny, very sweet. She is one of the first people that we onboarded onto our system and has been a great, a great partner for us for a long time.
So I guess that would be my shout out. But I really appreciate you asking me on and these wonderful questions. It’s definitely fun to talk about the industry especially as it grows.
Absolutely. I can’t wait to see more influencers being able to share their content and their amazing work. It’s really fun being on TikTok and Instagram and seeing a lot of really cool stuff coming out online. So, thank you so much for Meriah from Scout Social. I really appreciate your time.
Thank you everyone for listening today. For those who are interested in more information, you can reference the show notes for today’s episode. Stay tuned next time where we will be sitting down with Brent from Main Gear to discuss their experience with micro-influencers.