Yesterday, Julius hosted two Influence Live panels, featuring New York City and Los Angeles influencers and executives and at the forefront of the industry. In New York, we spoke to Skyler Bouchard and Kien Quan, a prolific foodie and a talented photographer respectively, as well as Juliette Leavey of Deutsch Agency. In Los Angeles, we featured Kyle Hjelmeseth of God & Beauty, Jana Shaps of Lucky Break PR, and Olivia Kragen of Four Seasons Resorts Lanai. 

The New York event was hosted by our Business Development Manager, Anton Capria. With more than a few years under his belt in the industry, Anton’s eye for trends and talent is unparalleled. His line of questioning ranged from the types of request an influencer fields to the adoption of new forms of content like IGTV and long-form video content. The event was held in the event space at the Deutsch Agency.

The LA event focused more on the brand perspective, led by our Director of Business Development in LA, Karin Swanson. Karin's long tenure of tech focused sales experience turned this panel's aperture towards FTC compliance, budget negotiations, and the bot following epidemic. This event was held at Festoon LA.

Both events were filled with brilliant and insightful quotes, buttressed by the inimitable understanding each panelist brought with them. Check out some highlights and photos below:


NEW YORK

The theme of the panel was that influencers are often given a lot of flexibility by brands to create as they see fit, but communication between the influencer and the brand is vital to proper execution. As Kien put it, "They tend to give a lot of creative liberty, they trust influencers to use the platform...it's always been the same ask but they want us to adapt." Skyler echoed the idea, saying, "Communicate with the brand and make sure you're on the same page before running a campaign...it's all communication." Juliette, offering the perspective of an agency, reiterated how essential it was for a brand's needs to be fully fleshed out and espoused.

To both Kien and Skyler, Instagram was the king of content, but both reiterated that Facebook was an excellent source of viral sharing power as well. When asked where a brand should focus its money, Kien insisted that while Instagram was great for its flexibility and consistency, Facebook can propel a video to viral heights through shares and likes. Skyler agreed, adding that YouTube was good only for long-form content, and its success depended on the type of content — YouTube is better for beauty than it is for food and beverage content.

When asked about Instagram, and specifically IGTV, Skyler had a lot to say given her position in the field. "I produce IGTV content the same way I produce high quality YouTube or Facebook content, and crop it for the platform." Though the feature is still new, Skyler remarked how excited brands were to use it, and how eager they were to hear pitches for it. Though she acknowledged that IGTV was still new and yet to utilize the full extent of Instagram's discover algorithm, the potential is there for it to take off. Kien offered a similar but nuanced view, noting, "IGTV is not good for attracting new users but good for adding new content for users already invested in your brand."

From left to right: Juliette Leavey, Kien Quan, Skyler Bouchard.

The conversation wrapped up with a discussion on how to nurture creativity and ensure a campaign is successful, looping back to the importance for two-way communication. Kien insisted, "When brands are super strict [about a campaign], it can feel disingenuous. You're hiring an influencer but losing their magic. They built an empire on something, let them use it." 


LOS ANGELES

The panel in Los Angeles featured marketers, rather than influencers, who presented on a host of topics in the field ranging from negotiating contracts to GDPR regulations. The night opened with a conversation about authenticity as it relates to FTC regulations. All three presenters reiterated the importance and necessity for them, citing fines and the health of the industry as caveats.

However, there is an education process for both clients and influencers, as Kyle Hjelmeseth elucidated. "Some of our clients don’t want to work with someone who uses #ad or #sponsor...so there is definitely an education process." As Olivia Kragen followed up, “Anyone who has ever said they don’t feel comfortable putting #ad or #sponsor in their content we have had to say sorry we can’t work with them.” 

From left to right: Jana Shaps, Olivia Kragen, Kyle Hjelmeseth.

As this led into a conversation about the necessity of authenticity, the question of brand affinity as opposed to brand sponsorship cropped up. That is, what the optics are of an influencer declaring their affinity for a brand, even going so far to specifically denote that it is not a sponsorship. As Hjelmeseth described it, "It helps to lay the groundwork that they are trying to be authentic, that they do have real lives, there’s no money behind it." Kragen remarked that despite the noise generated on social media, especially by posts of this type, “if it's from somebody that really resonates with you, you’re going to remember the post.”

Any discussion of authenticity on social media naturally leads itself to the epidemic of bots, a topic on which all three marketers had both opinions and firsthand experiences. As Jana Shaps shared, she knew of brands who, "purchased 7000 followers, all of which appeared over a weekend. It’s prevalent in brand culture, but influencers are a brand too." She decried the practice, but acknowledged the frequency with which it occurs. She went on to say that the signs are clear and obvious when someone purchases followers, and Kragen reiterated the importance of checking an influencers audience and demographics. Despite routine purges by Instagram and Twitter, Hjelmeseth is not convinced there will be legitimate change on any platforms:  "I don’t think Instagram will ever purge the community of bots...because if they were going to it would detrimentally affect their number of users to their investors."

Before a brief Q&A session, the panel wrapped up on the topic of payments and contracts, as many in the crowd were curious what the guarantees and guidelines include. Hjelmeseth detailed the process of searching for and vetting influencers as a manager, while Shaps discussed her specific negotiation strategies and contract specifications. Kragen discussed the importance of flexibility and communication, echoing what we heard in the New York panel. She reinforced how effective it can be to "trust your influencer to do what you need." 

And perhaps there was no better way to round out a night full of insight on two coasts: influencers, agencies, and brands all seem to agree on this point. An influencer is hired for the creativity that vaulted them to their position; communicating needs and letting creativity flow as a two-way street has the potential to create authentic and memorable advertising experiences that go well beyond the means of traditional methods. That six people on two coasts can share the same experiences and opinions is more than just fuel to the fire: influencer marketing's success relies on the capacities of the people on both sides of the exchange.

Coverage and photography provided by Stephen Elliott, Karin Swanson, and Anton Capria. Special thanks to those in attendance as well as the speakers. Be sure to to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn for more influencer marketing news, analysis, and content.