Influencers Among Us: Marketing Your Small Business Like a Kardashian


My 23-year-old daughter Claudia is a fashion model in New York City. And I’d appreciate it if you’d follow her on Instagram, because she has bills to pay.

Modeling sounds glamorous and exciting. Sometimes it even is. Mostly, though, Claudia is hustling from shoot to shoot, swapping out pumps for sneakers to run from the subway platform to the next job, sometimes seven days a week.

And as all of that is happening, she has to be sure she keeps up on her Instagram.

Most of us use social media to, you know, socialize. But in the world of modeling, having a strong Instagram or Twitter presence with a robust group of followers can mean the difference between securing a $10,000 shoot with Tiffany’s this weekend, or waiting tables again.

When Nike, Macy’s, or Saint Laurent are considering who will model their products, they’re looking at more than just the model. They’re also looking at how much influence they have. Clearly, someone with tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of followers is going to have an impact on what those followers choose to purchase.

Welcome to “The Age of Influencers”. Or even “Ultra Influencers“, as is the case with celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Beyonce, Serena Williams, Ariana Grande, Gigi Hadid, and others. With 136 million followers on Instagram, Kim K leads the pack. Designer Tommy Hilfiger notes, “Every time she wears, posts or talks about a fashion brand, there is an immediate and significant increase in both awareness and sales.” A single picture of her on her Instagram, decked out from head to toe in monogrammed Fendi, caused a 16% increase in worldwide sales of the brand in the following month. Searches for oversized hoodies increased 130% year over year after singer Ariana Grande began to show a penchant for them in her music videos and Instagram.

This all seems a long ways off from your local Maine business. You could care less about whether or not you keep up with the Kardashians—you need to sell more cars, bring in new patients, fill the seats in your restaurant, or convince people to bank with you. Here in Maine, our influencers aren’t necessarily movie stars– they are newscasters, radio hosts, musicians, and politicians.

Take radio, for instance. As an entertainment media, its personalities are effective influencers. In general, they’re providing listeners with fun content. They’re personable and relatable. The audience (many of whom follow them on social media) regard them as people they know and trust. When these local influencers say, “I tried this product. It worked and I liked it,” it has a notably powerful effect on the audience.

And it’s not enough to simply read copy from a cue card. When the person behind the microphone starts telling a personal story or presents a fun contest that engages the audience and seamlessly weaves in the product, it’s a huge win all the way around:

  • The radio station just aired a commercial that stood out, and didn’t sound like every other commercial.
  • The advertiser has just experienced positive “word of mouth”– on a grand scale.
  • The audience has learned about a product without feeling like they were “pitched”.

So how do you apply all of this to what YOU do? First, find an influencer who is well-matched and genuinely interested in your product. Then, help them to become familiar with and excited about what you’re selling. And this final part is important: trust the talent. Let them present your product (on-air or online) in their own words, in a way that they know will compel their particular audience to respond.

Whatever your feelings are about Kim Kardashian, athletic footwear, or New York Fashion Week, there is no denying this: we are all living, following, and marketing in the Age of Influencers.

Who is leading the crowd toward YOUR brand?