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Forget about Hollywood stars—these days, many companies are going after social media celebrities for advertising campaigns. The rise of platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest and Vine have birthed influencers with major followings and corporations want to cash in on their popularity. Niche, a New York start-up, spotted this trend fast and after launching nine months ago, is connecting some of social media's top stars with big corporations for advertising deals.
Niche offers a database where social media influencers can create a profile that aggregates their content across all platforms, like a LinkedIn for YouTubers. Niche provides engagement and analytics numbers for 15 social networks so its clients can fully understand each personality's digital footprint. They serve as a liaison for companies looking for the perfect social media personality to represent their brand.
Niche's ranking of top social media celebs.
Rather than surfing social media sites in an attempt to find influencers with impressive followings, the Niche team has built an algorithm which determines how influential social media celebs are. Niche does the research for big companies and signs the social media stars, so there's no back-and-forth. So far, the company has worked with the likes of Gap, American Eagle, the NFL, Proctor & Gamble, Home Depot, and Warner Bros.
Niche was founded Rob Fishman and Darren Lachtman. Fishman was one of the Huffington Post's first employees, running the publication's social media presence through the AOL acquisition and bridging partnerships with platforms like Twitter and Facebook back when social media was still new. Lachtman launched a YouTube channel with Bedrocket, Google's largest partner on YouTube for web content. Two Niche employees, Cody Johns and Roby Ayala, are also Vine celebs: Johns has more than 1 million Vine followers and Ayala has over 2.5 million.
"Even with large, old brands, there's finally a moment of recognition that what audiences used to see on TV, they are now seeing on Instagram," Fishman told Racked. "These companies know ways to buy campaigns through TV and print but ways to buy through new channels are not yet established. We saw that the traditional media properties didn't matter, the individuals do."
Instagram personality Marte Marie Forsberg's campaign for Gap Kids.
Fishman sees the company less as an agency and more like a digital networking platform for social media personalities. Anyone can open a profile on the site, but Niche only looks at top influencers to sign with companies.
"We're a soup-to-nuts solution of working with the new generation. We build a digital resume for these creators. We're the only place giving them cross-form analytics where they can see demographics for all their audiences," he said. "Niche is a seamless way to work with campaigns. Brands now know that they want to spend money to get exposure on Vine and Instagram, but they don't know how. They come to us and we help them with campaigns. Instead of spending hours on Instagram, we find that guy in Portland who is perfect for their brand."
It was only a matter of time before big companies started folding social media personalities into their marketing tactics, as shoppers today trust real people over corporate campaigns. As Racked reported last week, in the beauty category, vloggers are more influential on YouTube than the very companies they represent. The new advertising path is clear.
"The beauty of this is that we have hundreds of people to match creators with brands, whether the company is looking for a mom in England, a casual photographer in Thailand, or a homemaker in the Midwest," Fishman said.
Often content created by social media celebrities just looks like bizarre product placement, but it usually garners the exposure companies are looking for. Thomas Sanders, a Vine star with over three million followers, posted a goofy Vine for American Eagle involving a t-shirt that has been viewed over 80,000 times and reblogged over 30,000 times. Marte Marie Forsberg, a Norwegian photographer with almost 200,000 followers on Instagram, worked on a campaign for Gap Kids, the photos of which enjoyed over 7,000 likes. For Robert De Niro's 2013 film The Family, Relativity Media hired Vine star Ry Doon through Niche to joke around on the red carpet, and those Vines probably got more views than the movie itself.
Niche's team consists of 15 staffers—most of them engineers working on the algorithms to determine social media's digital impact—and the company is quickly expanding. It has raised $2.5 million in funding from investors, and its New York office recently expanded to San Francisco.
The cost for Niche's services varies. Fishman said brands could work with four scrappy Instagrammers to profile products pretty cheaply; a top Vine star might charge something like $10,000 a post. The average campaign signed through Niche costs around $50,000 but many go well into the six figures. The company takes a cut from each partnership, which has proven to be successful: they've made over $1.5 million in revenue since launching.
"Brands spend hundreds of millions of dollars on ads, and more of them are moving to the social space. Those budgets will soon be up for grabs and we are positioning ourselves to inherit that," Fishman said.
· Niche [Official site]
· Clicks, Likes, Cash: How YouTube Beauty Stars Threw the Industry for a Loop [Racked]
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