Social media marketing agency Bigeye’s podcast features Kristen Wiley, CEO of Statusphere, with practical advice for successful influencer marketing campaigns.
IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Social media marketing agency Bigeye’s podcast features Kristen Wiley, CEO of Statusphere. We discuss influencer marketing and the importance of authenticity in our present moment. Kristen shares tips for developing impactful influencer strategies and reflects on what she has learned during her experience as an agency employee, startup founder, and in-demand industry commentator. Kristen also offers great advice for students and graduates on landing agency jobs.
Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Research company eMarketer recently published a report on US social media usage, which underlines the extent to which consumers flocked to social platforms during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in March and April. This provided a boost to established platforms like Facebook and Instagram, as well as the newest social entertainment platform, TikTok. As we’ve discussed in recent episodes of this podcast, time spent within home media surge during the lockdowns. And in fact, all of the major social platforms reported strong increases in engagement during the period. eMarketer estimates that this year, US adults will spend, on average, 82 minutes per day on social networks, which is up from 76 minutes in its previous estimates. Social media influencers have had to navigate the lockdowns too of course. In some categories like travel, influencers were presented with significant logistical challenges, but for others, the posts continued. Prior to the pandemic, research published by the Harvard Business Review suggested that influencer marketing had become the best way to reach beauty consumers – proving more effective than celebrity endorsements and traditional brand advertising. In a study of 520 women, 62 percent said they followed beauty influencers on social media and 67% said they sought information about products from influencers before purchasing them. Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube topped the list of most visited social media platforms on a daily basis. To discuss the evolution of influencer marketing and the impact of COVID-19, we’re joined in the studio today by Kristen Wiley, an award-winning marketer, startup founder, and speaker. Since graduating with a degree in advertising and public relations from the University of Central Florida in 2014, Kristen has become a leader in the fast-paced world of digital marketing. Today, Kristen is the CEO of Statusphere, an innovative influencer marketing agency. She’s also a regular speaker and expert on topics including digital marketing, influencer marketing, social media, and fundraising. Among her many honors, Kristen is an Orlando Business Journal “40 under 40” honoree, recipient of the Ad Council’s “Champion for Good” award, and has been featured on CNBC as well as in the pages of the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Business Journal. Having experience as both a chief marketing officer and a blogger herself, Kristen has a unique perspective – since she knows what it’s like to be on both sides of the influencer marketing equation. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Kristen!
Kristen Wiley: Thanks so much for having me.
Adrian Tennant: Kristen, in that biography, I condensed your experience into just a few seconds. When did you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in marketing?
Kristen Wiley: Yeah, so it’s kind of funny. Although it’s probably not what most children want to grow up to be when they’re little, I actually always want to be in marketing. I thought advertisements were actually super cool on TV. I would watch TV just for the ads and I would even make ads myself. So I knew I always wanted to go into marketing, but of course, when I was little social media, it wasn’t even a thing. Uh, so that evolved over time. But I knew from when I went into college that I wanted to go into advertising and marketing.
Adrian Tennant: You attended UCF and started your career working in agencies here in Orlando. What were the most valuable lessons you learned about agency life during that period?
Kristen Wiley: Yeah. That’s a great question. When you graduate, I feel like you think you know, everything and you get a job. And I think the things they don’t teach you in school is really just engaging with the clients themselves and understanding where they’re coming from. And sometimes when you’re working, it’s just so much more about people than it is even sometimes the marketing goal or pieces like that. So I worked in sales at the agency and then I also worked in strategy. Uh, so that gave me a lot of time to actually interact with the clients and I think that experience is so important, especially in starting a company, because if you can’t build those relationships with clients, you’re just not going to get anywhere.
Adrian Tennant: Right. So in 2016, you founded Statusphere with a mission of matching consumer brands with influencers. So first, what’s your definition of an influencer?
Kristen Wiley: Yeah, my definition of an influencer is anyone who influences a buying decision. I actually quite often talk about how specifically influencer marketing, everyone views it as online, but it’s really just word of mouth marketing in the new age. So, social networks have allowed real people to build audiences and actually, influence outside their sphere of just who they can talk to. So it’s been very interesting to see how platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, allow you to go outside of just your little sphere of influence, where it used to be big movie stars that could do that before social media was a thing.
Adrian Tennant: Kristen, what insights sparked the idea that ultimately became Statusphere?
Kristen Wiley: Yeah. So actually when I was in college, I had a professor who told me the best thing that I could do, to actually learn about marketing in general, was to start a blog. He said, “You’d learn way more than anything you’ll learn in my class,” is what he said. His name was Jim Hobart. He’s actually pretty popular in the Orlando community. He’s a photographer, but he was an adjunct professor at the time. He told our whole class that, and that night I went home and I started a blog. And he was so right. I always say that’s like one of the best career advice I’ve ever gotten. So I started this blog, had no idea what I was doing. I had to learn how to build a website. I had to learn SEO. I had to learn, you know, photography, really content. If you look at my first blogs, they were just horrific. But I did learn so much and that was actually what even spurred me to get my agency jobs. All of my jobs where they saw my blog and they were like, “We don’t even care about your GPA. You did that? We’re hiring you.” So I always give him a major, thank you for that, that piece of advice. So I did have that experience. And then when I started working at different agencies, I always got thrown into doing influencer marketing because I was the only one that had experience with it. So they were like, “Oh, you’re young, but no one else on our team has really influenced a marketing experience.” This is 2011, 2012. “But our brands are asking for it. So can you help us?” So I was in this unique position where I was given a budget, I got to test out other influencer marketing platforms. I was on them as an influencer and as a brand. And that’s where I started seeing all these holes where I was like, “There just has to be a better way.” On the influencer side, I was a food blogger and I would get pitched mattress companies and really strange things that had nothing to do with my blog. And I was like, “this is a waste of my time. And why is it this way?” And then on the brand side, I was sifting through hundreds, if not thousands of influencers trying to find the right one. And I was like, “There just has to be a better way where we can match the two.” And that’s where the idea was born.
Adrian Tennant: Prior to founding Statusphere, had you any interest or experience in entrepreneurship?
Kristen Wiley: I had interest in entrepreneurship, but I didn’t think that I would become an entrepreneur. Looking back when I was younger, I was one of those people who did always have a side hustle where I sold like really random things door to door. I’ve sold everything from bows to purses. I used to buy stuff from Marshall’s and resell them on eBay. So I used to always do those types of weird entrepreneurial things to make extra money. But I never thought I was going to start a company. So that being said, I started working at one of the agencies locally, and one of their verticals was startups. So I worked in sales and I started interacting with lots of startup founders and that’s when I started, I think realizing in the back of my head, “this is something I think I could do.” Like I started meeting other female founders, and seeing them do it. And I was like,””well, you know, I’ve had this idea for a while. Maybe I should try it.” So…
Adrian Tennant: Hmm. So from idea, to establishing Statusphere – what did that look like?
Kristen Wiley: Yes. So I had the idea for Statusphere for a while before starting in, I bought the URL actually like two years probably, or a year and a half before ever launching anything. I think that’s a story that a lot of entrepreneurs talk about, ’cause it just takes so much effort to actually make the jump. ‘Cause you know, you’re so nervous, like, “Is this what I should be doing? I have a great job.” I actually loved my current job at the agency. So it made it even harder. Like, “Why would I do this?” But the way that it looked I actually had told my boss at the agency about it and he was very supportive, which I think is also unheard of. And I thank him a lot for being so supportive because that was a big thing that pushed me. Like, “He thinks it’s a good idea. Maybe I should try this.” And I did on the side. And the way I started was I reached out to a bunch of influencers with a simple landing page that was the first subscription box for influencers. It was a really ugly landing page with a form on it where you could apply. And I just messaged it to 10 influencers that I personally followed that didn’t know me personally. And I woke up the next day and had 12 applications and I was like, “Well maybe this is something, this is a good idea.”
Adrian Tennant: Today, what kinds of brands does Statusphere serve?
Kristen Wiley: So Statusphere serves a variety of different industries. We are a network of all-female micro-influencers, so we serve any brands that are looking to reach that audience. So that could be everything from beauty, which is, as you mentioned in the intro, is a big category for us. But we also work with things like publishers, nonprofits, consumer packaged goods companies, ice cream companies, we’ve even worked with restaurants before as well. So it’s very interesting how we can activate our micro-influencers on many levels. So it’s not just always posting on Instagram, it could be attending an event or it could be, you know, writing a review. So the way our platform is positioned can actually activate these micro-influencers that are very valuable and have great voices and insights to do a multitude of things.
Adrian Tennant: So you mentioned the word “micro-influencer.” What other types of influencers are there?
Kristen Wiley: Yeah, so you have your celebrity types. So “macro” per se, there’s like the Kim Kardashians of the world, which are, you know, huge millions and millions of followers. They cost I’ve heard like six figures for one tweet, you know, from some of those people. And then you have your kind of mid-tier that are still pretty macro. So think of your YouTubers that have like a million followers or even 500,000 or your Instagrammers that around that category. The way we define micro-influencer is anyone that’s between like 3,000 to 25,000 followers on Instagram. It does vary from network to network, but you can see that it’s not your ones with a hundred thousand plus followers. And the reason that we target those is because in my experience, I worked with different influencers of different levels and we found that the micros actually have a higher engagement rate than those that are over a hundred thousand followers, which makes sense, because they can have a more one-to-one communication with their audience. They also tend to have more niche audiences. So let’s say you wanted to reach out to a vegan influencer who only has 5,000 followers. Those are very active 5,000 – a lot of them are probably vegan as well. So it just from a targeting perspective also makes more sense. And you can get more content and more bang for your buck in general, by getting a bunch of micro-influencers posting versus maybe just one or two macro-influencers.
Adrian Tennant: Kristen, could you explain how your system connects brands with influencers?
Kristen Wiley: The way it works on the matchmaking side is brands come to us. They tell us the type of influencer they’re looking to target. So they’ll say, “I want an influencer who is between the ages of 24 and 35 has kids and is in the Northwest.” Then they go to the next section of our process and they actually swipe on influencers in our network. I say swipe, it is actually kind of Tinder-esque, so we can get to know what their aesthetic that they’re looking for is. Do they like bright poppy colors? Do they like more muted colors? So we can actually understand more of what the brand’s looking for. And then on the final step, we take all that data and we match them to all the influencers in our network that match that criteria. So those influencers see the opportunity and can opt into it to participate in the campaign. On the influencer side too, they fill out a profile with over a hundred data points, so we can make sure if she is a vegan influencer, we’re not showing her beef jerky, or if you are a food blogger, you’re not seeing a mattress company like I used to see.
Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.
Erik McGrew: I’m Erik McGrew, Designer at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising and design professionals. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. By conducting our own research, we’re able to capture consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused, creative-driven insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email email@example.com. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.
Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Kristin Wiley, CEO of Statusphere about influencer marketing. In what ways, Kristen, is Statusphere different from other influencer marketing organizations?
Kristen Wiley: When I was at the agency and got to try a lot of the other types of influencer marketing platforms, they typically fall into three categories. You have what I call the databases or the Yellow Pages of influencer marketing. It’s just a giant database where you type in “beauty influencer,” and it pulls up a hundred thousand of them and you have to sift through them. Then you have your CRMs for influencer marketing, which are similar to a CRM for sales, where you put your influencers that you’re dealing with in there, but you still have to source them, but you move them through the funnel. You negotiate with them. All of these platforms have lots of value but then the third type of platform is more of an agency model where sometimes they’ll use those platforms, but they’ll have a person that handles it for you. So they’ll do the whole process. We are different in the fact that we have the full end-to-end process, so we feel like an agency model on the outside, but we are a scalable platform on the inside. So if a brand wants 10 influencers posting per month, it’s the same amount of work for us internally as 500 or a thousand influencers posting.
Adrian Tennant: So what are some of the similarities and between Statusphere and a regular advertising or marketing agency?
Kristen Wiley: Yeah, so we actually work with a lot of advertising and marketing agencies, ’cause all we do and all we focus on is just influencer marketing campaigns. That’s it. We don’t do branding and we don’t do copywriting, uh, we don’t do any of those things. So we actually partner with a ton of agencies that may be focused on just public relations and they want to scale up an influencer campaign for a brand.
Adrian Tennant: Right. So white label?
Kristen Wiley: Essentially. Yes. Some of them white labels, some of them almost view us as an ad buy. They’ll actually tell their clients, “Look, we are going to spend this much of your budget with Statusphere.” Kind of like you say, “We’re going to spend this much with Google.”
Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Yeah. Makes sense. Since March we’ve been under various degrees of lockdown due to COVID-19 and with more people at home, social media usage surged. The country is now reopening. But to what extent was Statusphere’s clients – and the influencers you work with – impacted by the pandemic?
Kristen Wiley: Yes. I mean like everybody else, we were just trying to figure out how it was going to affect us because it is so unprecedented and there’s so few people that have gone through anything like this, much less during the age of social media. So our whole team was just kind of sitting back, waiting to see what was going to happen. What we found is actually the engagement rates of our influencers increased ,during the lockdown, which makes sense because more people were inside and looking for things to do that they could do socially distance wise. Now on the influencer side, we worked a lot with them to educate them that they could still post content, but they needed to make sure they weren’t posting old photos of them traveling and trying to pass them off as real or something like that. It all comes back to authenticity. And we saw our influencers that really embraced the fact that they were going through the same thing as so many of their followers and talking about that, which is what micro-influencers are great at doing is just being relatable. That’s why I think the engagement rate went up so much because everyone’s going through the same thing and we could all relate together.
Adrian Tennant: What platforms or tools have you been using to work with your team remotely?
Kristen Wiley: We use Google Hangouts the most, just, it was easy. That’s what we used to use. So we just kept using it. And we do a morning call each morning just to touch base and start the day. And then we know everyone’s online and we use it for chit-chat not necessarily for business purposes all the time. We let everyone kind of just talk about their day. From an organization perspective, we’ve used something called Monday.com for actually organizing projects. We used that before, but I feel like being remote, you have to be even more organized, ’cause everyone’s moving around and doing different things. And then we have a few on our own internal platform that we have built that has a lot of great tools for us to be able to see what’s going on and build on together.
Adrian Tennant: Now have you, or your clients, or influencers, changed working practices that you think might stick and after we all get back to whatever normal is going to be?
Kristen Wiley: I was expecting productivity to possibly go down. I think actually, because everyone was stuck inside productivity almost stayed the same or went up. And it’s almost like I’m telling team members, “Okay. You probably should check out sometimes, you know?” But I think it’s just making sure and checking on everyone’s mental health and pieces like that has just been really important. Things that I think will stic is allowing people to work from home and be a little bit more flexible more often, which I’ve heard a lot of people talk about. But we actually do have some remote team members. We have a team member in the Philippines and we have a team member in California in L.A. and this remote working has actually brought our whole team closer together because our team didn’t talk to them that much. And now that everything’s remote, it’s very cool to see the relationships being built between those team members that never used to talk before. So I think that that’s something we’d like to continue, even if we come back to the office or when we come back.
Adrian Tennant: The death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25th has sparked an international wave of protests and demonstrations calling for an end to racism. Companies and brands have been facing the difficult question of how to address this highly sensitive issue. On Tuesday, June 2nd, major broadcasters music streaming services, as well as many celebrities and regular individuals expressed their solidarity with protests against the killing of George Floyd by using the hashtag Blackout Tuesday, which spread rapidly on social media. As of today, more than 970 protests have been held across all 50 States. Kristen, beyond sympathizing, what do you think brands with a strong social media presence should do?
Kristen Wiley: Yes. So that’s a really great question. And I know that these past two weeks have just been hard for everybody and understanding what we can do to support on a personal level, but then what the responsibility is for a company to do on a corporate level. And I think it’s amazing that businesses are being held responsible as if they were people. I think that that lends itself into a lot of other different conversations and issues that arise. But I do think overall it’s kind of time for that to happen. I mean, some brands have an incredible audience. They’re pretty much influencers in themselves. And something that we’ve talked about as a team and with our influencers and learning from our influencers as well, is just the responsibility that influencers and people with a wide reach have on social issues. And I think it has been so interesting to see people, calling brands out that have these huge audiences, if they’re not using it for good in the situation. And I think that we’re going to continue seeing trends heading that direction. And I personally do believe that brands should not stay silent and they do have a right to kind of tell their audience where they stand. Now, that being said, I can’t imagine these large companies putting together these statements ’cause they also don’t want to write a statement that, you know, they assume represents everyone in their company. It just adds all of these layers. And even as a small company ourselves, it allowed us to have a lot of hard conversations that needed to happen, which I think is the goal of the movement overall. So I guess to answer your question, I do think that companies should be held responsible and should speak and use their influence for good in situations like this.
Adrian Tennant: Does this moment feel like a significant turning point in some way?
Kristen Wiley: Yes. I think this has been an incredible turning point and I hope that it continues. And it does seem different than some of the other situations we have gone through, just seeing, I mean, waking up on that Tuesday and opening our Instagram to the feed and it was completely – it was the blackout Tuesday. Now I know there was also controversy around that and how it went around it, but the fact that it did reach so many people and there are so many people having conversations on and offline, I think is what we’re really going to see from this movement and hopefully it continues past it. And it seems like it will. You know, you view a company as if you want to make sure that they’re doing right by not only the products they produce, but the people they work with, and all the way around. So I think it is an interesting time for consumers to have those conversations with the brands and hold them accountable. And I think we’re going to see a resurgence and have a lot of smaller brands that get that and get that those conversations need to happen. And I think the larger brands are the ones that are learning or having to have a crash course in this, because I don’t think they’ve had to do that in the past.
Adrian Tennant: Now you’re part of Generation Y – a Millennial – and an expert speaker and presenter on the topic of marketing to Millennials. Do you think your generation feels more strongly perhaps than any other cohort that companies have an obligation to support movements that focus on social injustices?
Kristen Wiley: I do think that our generation does care a lot about social injustices and just cause-oriented marketing in general. But I will also say the next generation coming up might be even more so. And they’re doing some amazing things and I’m seeing so many talented people and in the Gen Z cohort. And it’s just so impressive and cool to see who’s coming up after us and, and the changes that they’re making as well. I do think as a whole, younger people do love having a cause associated with it. And I think also other generations are coming around to that as well. And, and, and learning as they’re getting more on social media and it’s not just a Millennial thing anymore to be on social media – it’s an everyone thing.
Adrian Tennant: Now looking to the future, how do you want to see Statusphere develop over the next two to three years?
Kristen Wiley: Yeah. I mean, we want to be the go-to place for brands to get the word out.
Adrian Tennant: You’ve already achieved a lot before your 30th birthday. What are your personal growth goals for the next decade?
Kristen Wiley: That’s a really good question. I don’t even really know where to start, because if you would have asked me that in my early twenties, I still would have no idea I’d be here right now. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is just embracing things that are outside of your comfort zone always seems to excel me to a whole other place that I never thought I would be. So saying “yes” to things that maybe you’re not great at now, but learning it and moving forward. So that’s just kind of how I try to live right now. “Is this possible? Am I saying no to this just because I’m concerned that I’ll fail? Or should I say yes to this and just try? What’s the worst that happens if I fail?” So I try to switch, swap it a little bit. I really don’t know what’s next. And I’m just going to, I think just consistently working is the way to go right now. But right now I’m very happy with the team that we have and I love working with Statusphere.
Adrian Tennant: What advice would you give to recent graduates seeking to secure their first position in advertising or marketing?
Kristen Wiley: I would tell them, and I do tell them when I meet them, to grow their network as big as they can. Because I think unlike other industries, although your GPA and what you scored in school is important if you’re going to be a doctor or lawyer, marketing and advertising and public relations is all about building relationships, which is kinda what we talked about right at the beginning of this. And I, if anything, I wish I would have just built more relationships in college and right after and not been so scared to reach out. And starting a company has forced me to just reach out and message people. I would have never dreamed of messaging and you’d just be so shocked to see how many actually respond. So I always tell people that are recent grads, “Just meet as many people as you can and use that opportunity of you just graduating as a reason to reach out to your dream people you’d love to talk to.”
Adrian Tennant: Hmm. I think it’s great advice. Kristen, if listeners would like to learn more about working with Statusphere, where can they find you?
Kristen Wiley: They can find us at joinstatus.com. You can find information to become an influencer, or if you’re interested in advertising as a brand through Statusphere, you can find us there. We’re also @statusphere on Instagram, which is probably our most active platform, as well as TikTok @Statusphere. We’ve been trying to put more content out there as well, so we would love to have you follow us.
Adrian Tennant: Of course, we’ll include a link to that on our website too. Kristen, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.
Kristen Wiley: Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Kristin Wiley, founder and CEO of Statusphere. You can find a transcript of our conversation along with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyegency.com under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” To ensure you don’t miss an episode, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, stay safe. Goodbye.