Fifty years ago, the most trusted business was the local butcher. He knew you, knew your family, and would cut your crown roast a little thicker at Christmas time for no extra charge. The butcher’s sales were limited to the number of meat eaters in town and the number of hours in a day (unsurprisingly, spending 14 minutes chit-chatting with Mrs. Johnson about forequarter cuts is not conducive to new customer acquisition).
Thirty years ago, something changed. We moved out to the suburbs, started shopping at big box stores, and began venerating colossal brands like General Motors, Procter and Gamble, and Goldman Sachs. Bigger. Badder. More global. That was the name of the game. “Too Big To Fail” they said; but fail we did.
Then just a decade ago, the hipster movement began. Led by our skinny-jean-wearing brethren, we started to question the corporate, institutional world around us. We started to (re)value simplicity, locality, and quality. Fueled by the financial collapse of 2008, what was once counterculture became a mainstay.
Today, we don’t blink when offered hand cured jerky, organic pima cotton T’s, or single-pour coffee flown in from Kenya. This new age is a confluence of the two that came before it – a tech fueled fusion of the butcher’s attentiveness with Goldman Sachs’ scale.
Thanks to the internet’s ubiquity, companies today can feel small while acting big. The butcher who reached 200 people can now reach 200 million in his weekly vlog, “We Meat Again.”
So why am I telling you this?
I run an Influencer Marketing Agency called H. We create together in small groups to generate meaningful content for brands we actually love. We started 6 months ago as a tight knit group of friends who were passionate about making content. As we’ve grown, I have come to face the time-honored predicament: mass (scale) OR class (quality). But why not both?
At H, we believe in scaling the unscalable, that is, infusing authenticity and care into each campaign, each shoot, and each community event we host. This assures that the content we create and the branded posts we do on behalf of our clients retain their integrity. In an age dominated by #DetoxTea, we represent a more “nutritious”, community centric approach.
The results speak for themselves: Our influencers have an average 11% engagement despite having over 20 million collective followers, and we have increased the sales of clients as much as 20% (Brevard Watch Co), and increased the engagement on their Instagram posts by over 126% (We Heart It).
Lessons we’ve learned that you can apply
Content marketing is a lot like being a guest at a dinner party. Your host sets the terms and usually, by surrounding him or herself with like-minded friends, more or less curates the topic(s) of discussion.
If you hope to be invited back, you can’t assert your controversial political views onto a group keen on discussing whether brown rice is really that much healthier than white rice.
In other words, don’t interrupt people’s “conversations” (aka. feeds) to tactlessly ram your product down their throats.
Instead, follow these five tenets:
1. Make great content.
In the quest for the almighty like, many brands forget that #ContentIsKing. Create tasteful images and video that actually adds value to someone’s feed. When in doubt, post unto others as you would like to be posted.
2. Subtlety is your friend.
Surprise! Your product doesn’t need to be front and center! Just ask yourself “If I didn’t work for a watch brand, would I want to look at big photos of watches?”
Incorporate your product into lifestyle images that tap into the yearnings of your target consumer. For example, an escapist getaway down the California Coastline with one ‘watched’ hand on the steering wheel.
None of this:
3. Big Audience ≠ Engaged Audience.
Far too many brands focus on the amount of followers they have as opposed to their “engaged audience”. In the engagement equation (read: likes / followers) the numerator is a far better indicator of a successful campaign (or page more generally) than the denominator.
4. IRL is IN, real life.
As we spend more time on our phones, time together in physical space is all the more powerful. Get people together and create a real community around your brand. In person impressions are more impactful than any others, and guess what, every attendee will be Insta-storying the sh*t out of your event earning you valuable earned media.
Pro-tip: Offer a prize to the best photo with your product at your event that uses a hashtag. Track the posts, and give away a prize (~$250) in exchange for dozens of free posts.
5. Galvanize, don’t Bribe.
If you are going to pay for “influencers,” find real advocates of your brand and double down on them. NEVER pay for someone that doesn’t already like (or use) your product and who’s vibe doesn’t align to yours. The more overlap that exists between your brand and that of the influencer, the higher the engagement on your branded content will be.
We’ve decided to eat our own cooking
We have spent the past six months slowly building a passionate base of creators (over 200 of them) and partnering with 20 brands that we felt matched our vibe. This month, we wanted to turn up the volume, and prove, resoundingly, that the “butcher model” still has chops.
Starting on 11/11, we gave 20 teams of influencers (185 total) a #reasontoroam. The teams traveled far and wide (to 5 countries and 16 states) to create content – not for a lipgloss or a shoe but for H. In other words, we used our own Collective to market our own Collective.
So far (and we have 6 remaining trips leaving next week), the trips have generated 1200+ tags with over 20MM impressions worldwide. Our Instagram (which has a 13% engagement, way higher than other creative agencies) has grown a staggering 13,000 followers (20% increase) in just two weeks.
Watch the the content continue to pour in by visiting #reasontoroam on Instagram or by going to our website.
And keep creating great content! Be the butcher.
A note from The Hustle: Every morning at 9am Pacific, we send an email with the top news stories in business and tech. It's kind of like if your friend read the internet all day then told you the important stuff in a fun, easy to understand way. Join the club and impress your coworkers with how smart you are.