On today’s episode, Kunle is joined by Cody Wittick, Co-Founder of Kynship, a California-based influencer agency with the goal of serving and connecting D2C brands with influencers and content creators around the world.
At the tail end of 2020, Taylor Lagace, Cody’s partner and a Co-Founder of Kynship, brought us into the world of Influencer Marketing and how it was a complex ecosystem with wanna-be influencers and unengaged or fake followers. Alongside those negative intricacies, many brands have cracked the code of influencer marketing and skyrocketed their growth. In 2021, he again sat with Kunle to discuss the changes in the influencer market, and that it is no longer the elephant in the room as it used to be.
It’s 2022 and it’s Cody Wittick’s turn to sit down with Kunle and share Kynship’s philosophies on seeding and the intricacies of influencer marketing post-pandemic. The Creator Economy is reaching new heights with social media as a platform for growth. Kynship is using the growing platform and matching brands with influencers and content creators that align with their products.
Before you jump into the pool of influencers, listen to what Cody has to say about the different tiers of influencers in order for your brand to understand what fits your needs and ad spend. He also emphasizes how influencer marketing is just like any other marketing tool while adding human-to-human interactions in a digital age.
Cody discloses Kynship’s philosophies on seeding and mass seeding especially when it comes to high-ticket items as well as how they work with the principle of giving and not asking. He also dives into the principle of repurposing content across platforms and how the unboxing experience can be a way to convey a brand’s story without a creative brief. This episode is truly something to be excited about especially when a brand is looking at the possibility of using influencer marketing to grow their brand.
Here is a summary of some of the most important points made:
On today’s interview, Kunle and Cody discuss:
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In this episode, we’re going to be talking about influencer marketing, specifically micro-influencers. It’s a great episode you do not want to miss.
Welcome to the 2x eCommerce podcast show. This is a show dedicated to rapid growth in online retail. We tell stories. We go through tactics. We dissect strategies in eCommerce growth stories. We get experts. We get founders. We get SaaS reps who know a thing or two about eCommerce because they crunch a lot of data from their eCommerce clients.
The ethos of the show is to get growth and get you growing. We give you one thing to test in this podcast. You take away that one thing, test over the next 30 days, and hopefully, if that delivers growth, that’s fine. If it doesn’t, you learn fast. You test fast, you learn fast, and you move on. You learn. Learn, learn, learn. This is what this show is all about. It’s about growth.
Without further ado, the episode you’re about to read about. It’s an interview I had with Cody Wittick from Kynship. If you’re a regular of this podcast, I’ve interviewed Taylor Lagace from the same company called Kynship. They’re an influencer marketing company based in California but they serve the entire world.
I quizzed him about internet marketing. It’s a simple thing. We talk about their philosophy and its intricacies. I asked him some interesting questions when he talked about the fact that they want to seed so many influences like 500. I’m talking about what if you’re selling a high-ticket item like a sauna or something, hypothetically speaking. How does it influence the seeding work? We get into some intricacies and the things you guys want to hear or some questions you guys want to ask rather.
We get into the nitty-gritty of platforms, how to approach influencers, and how to build out long-term influencer marketing. Every 2 months or every 3 months, you’re always in a campaign with that cadence where you have reserved some stock for influencers on how that could be a growth methodology. He is of the opinion that influencer marketing is as important as performance. I agree with him in that sense.
Influencer marketing is important and that’s why I brought Cody to help refresh your knowledge on what you should be doing from influencer marketing especially if you’re doing this in-house rather than, with an agency, and what you should be quizzing your agency about. If you’re using an influencer agency or an influencer consultant, what are they doing? What exactly are they doing in regards to your strategy and checking in to know what to do from a best practices standpoint, particularly when you’re not getting the macro influences or the celebrities. What do you do with micro-influencers?
That’s what this episode is. There are nano-influencers and micro-influencers. That’s what this episode is all about. If you want to get abreast on the topic of influencer marketing or you’re thinking about launching an influencer marketing campaign, this episode is for you. Without further ado, learn from Cody Wittick. Cheers.
Cody, welcome to the 2x eCommerce podcast.
Thanks for having me, Kunle.
Kynship is a friend of this podcast. When it comes to speaking to an influencer marketing strategy we often get your opinion, particularly for Taylor, your partner. He’s been on the podcast twice and he was at the Virtual Commerce Excel Conference in 2021. He dropped some bombs on there and some really good structure on how to go about an influencer marketing strategy with no strings attached in the sense that there’s nothing he was hiding. He was like, “This is our formula. Either copy and paste it or work with us, if you don’t have the capacity.” I found that open. Welcome. We’re happy to have you on.
It’s a surprise you even want me on here for as much as Taylor’s been on here. I’m on deck so it was time to have the other partner on.
It’s the pressure of Twitter. You’re also everywhere on Twitter. You give those threads. Sometimes thousands of people engage with some of your tweets. There is certainly something to be had there. Let’s jump right into your thoughts on influencer marketing. Before we even jump into influencer marketing, let’s get your thoughts and your feelings on the state of eCommerce. We’re in 2022. We’re recording this at the tail end of June 2022. People will be reading this episode in July of 2022. What are your thoughts on the state of eCommerce now?
I might be in the minority, but I’m pretty bullish on it. I’m excited about eCommerce. I’m excited about all these changes that have happened. Maybe going back to iOS 14 and 15, and all these different things that have made us all better marketers. It’s the phrase, “Pressure creates diamonds.” Everything that’s going on with the US economy as well and people’s fears about recession. Even if that is the case, the strong will rise. I’m excited about eCommerce in general. We’re probably seeing a massive swing back to wholesale, retail, and stuff like that coming out of COVID. Eventually, everything will shift back and probably where we were before COVID where it was kind of a mix of both. It’s overall excitement.
These strong diamonds and diamond brands, what do you think their fundamentals are at this point in time? It’s brands that you think will thrive after whatever happens in the next few months, whether it’s 10 months or 12 months? What do you think they will be doing now to ensure that they’re not surviving but thriving?
When it comes to influencer marketing or in general?
In general, the formula. We’ll jump into influencer marketing after that. It’s a question that I’ve been asking lots of guests. It’s the first question due to the numbers I’ve seen personally. Some eCommerce businesses, I hope survive, and others they’re doing fairly well. They’re in different verticals. Where I’m seeing a lot of activity is mature consumer brands so three-year plus consumer brands that are still doing their thing.
When I mean consumer brands, I mean fast-moving consumer brands and consumer packaged goods brands because most of them are staples. I’m not seeing the recession affect them that much but if you’re selling stationery or bikes, consumers seem to be giving it 2nd thoughts, 4th thoughts, or 5th thoughts before they purchase. There’s certainly suppressed demand. I don’t know how long these brands are going to hold up. It’s something I think about a lot and I like to ask experts who come on the show to give me their temperature, their gauge.
Certainly, high-ticket items are going to be more of a guess these days or more of a question mark but brands need to be thinking ten years out instead of maybe a year out. Maybe that should affect their churn rate and what’s their survival plan whether it be layoffs, getting rid of software that’s unneeded, or subscriptions and stuff like that.
What are the bare bones that we need to survive to maintain business because those are going to be something that could be potentially serious for eCommerce? Especially if you have a high ticket like a bike or these luxury items that not everybody needs. We’re not talking about food delivery. Those are kind of some of my thoughts.
We’re in survival mode for sure. I’m looking forward to Amazon’s results in Q2. Q1 was -3% in the online retail operations. It’d be interesting to see if there’s an uplift there because that signals further down the chain for sure like Amazon or all of them. It’s good to know your thoughts and I like the reference to survival. We’re in survival mode now and after that, we’d left for us to thrive. Let’s talk about influencer marketing.
In fact, there’s a synonym to it which is the Creator Economy. What is the landscape? What should people know? It’s not just for those people living under the rock, it’s for eCommerce leaders or eCommerce operators reading. In your opinion, what are the first principle concepts should they be aware of when navigating the influencer marketing space?
The first thing I would say is, before you start investing in influencer marketing, make sure you have the resources behind it to make it successful. It’s no different. People will begin to think and still have in their heads that influencer marketing is this kind of silo channel that’s a flip of a switch and you get success or, “All I have to do is pay this influencer $20,000 and I’m going to get $40,000 grand back.”
They don’t view it as every other marketing channel. First of all, it’s way more human than going into your Facebook dashboard. You have these human-to-human interactions that are a lot more complex than creating a Klaviyo campaign. That’s one. Let’s be realistic about what you’re investing in and it’s no different than you trying Facebook Ads and saying it didn’t work for two weeks. You can’t flip on Facebook Ads and expect it to work in that short amount of time but people think it’s different with influencer marketing. It’s not, “I can pay an influencer and expect to see all the sales,” and then they throw the baby out with the bathwater. That’s the first thing that we need to switch in our brains.
This is a viable marketing channel that brands are spending serious dollars and that’s not even necessarily reflective of smart dollars brands are making this a part of their marketing mix in a serious way. That means that there’s a need to be resources behind that so employees or overseas contractors are dedicated to it at a minimum. Where I’m going with this is that people fractionally hire for influence marketing traditionally but it doesn’t work because you’re getting fractional returns. My point in all this is it’s a serious marketing channel. You need to invest serious resources if you are serious about getting a return on this channel.
What’s the typical time duration for an influencer marketing campaign?
That can be as short as one day, depending on your philosophy of influence marketing. What I said about paying one influencer to post one time, that technically could be a campaign. I’d say what’s average across the industry is probably a month campaign. If you use a vast array of influencers, for us, that’s similar, we identify and reach out to 500 influencers on a month-to-month basis and that’s generally a 4 to 5-week time period. In terms of judging the channel itself and what’s reasonable to expect? That’s right along with any other marketing channels. It’s giving it 3 to 6 months to see if it’s a viable channel for you and depending on your budget and how much you can invest.
Speaking to influencers you mentioned that one influencer campaign typically rides on that $20,000 or $200,000 check to that influencer is a gamble. We know that. There are no guarantees but you guys take a slightly different approach which is with micro-influencers. Before we jump into your approach, do you want to break down the kinds of influences that are typically available to brands? We jump into your preferred influencer type and how you approach it
There are different tiers of influencers. If you google Tiers of Influencer, you’re going to get 25 different definitions so I don’t entirely know how helpful this will be. The difference here is there’s nano. That’s generally accepted as the 1,000 to 5,000 follower account. You have micros. The way that we define it is 5,000 to 150,000. That’s a huge range. Most people would say that at most, it’s probably $25,000 or under. It’s mid-tier and then it goes up to macro. That’s probably safely someone above 500,000 followers or 1 million followers and then you have your celebrity type. There are five-ish different tiers of people that people usually throw influencers into certain buckets and those are generally the buckets that people throw them in.
From your unique POV, what’s the sweet spot in this spectrum?
Right from the jump, I would never work with a macro, a huge name, a celebrity, or someone with massive amounts of followers, hundreds of thousands of followers. If you’re a brand starting out in influencer marketing, please steer clear of macro influencers. Not that they’re bad, not that they’re bad people, not that sometimes it can’t work but you can waste a lot of money testing. It’s almost trying to nail certain US stocks in day trading. It’s probably even worse. You’re throwing money at a wall and hoping that it sticks. Whereas with micro-influencers and using a variety of micro-influencers, you have much more of a diversified portfolio at less spend.
This goes into not even judging on an organic performance basis but viewing them as great content creators and that’s some of the reasons that we do recommend working with micros. Our definition is between 5,000 to 150,000 following. In that pool of people, they generally have better organic numbers and engagement. They’re easier to get a hold of which is super important and you’re also not dealing with the agents of the world that want to get in there and spike up their rates so they can cover their fees or things of that nature.
Generally speaking, they have built their following off of the content that they’re conditioned to continually produce rather than, “I was in this movie, and here are all my followers.” They’ve built it over time. They’ve invested a lot of it. This might very well be their full-time job so you get all that more intentionality around the content that they make.
Do you want to speak about how you approach them? Do you slide into their DMs? Do you email them? What kind of response rates are to be expected? How many do you target per campaign?
I don’t know how entirely helpful we are but the advantage of using us as an agency is the scale on which we can work. It’s identifying and reaching out to 500 influencers. That identification alone for brand reading, 500 might take you six months to a year to identify people without all the tools, software, and stuff like that. That’s kind of one.
Two, practically what this looks like is yes, reaching out through DMs and email. The way that we would recommend going about doing that if you’ve heard previous podcasts is much no strings attached. We want to reach out by being relationship-oriented first. We want to build these relationships on giving, not asking. Practically, it’s like, “Kunle, we think you’re a great brand fit. We’d love to send you the product. No strings attached. Meaning there are no strings attached back to me that you have to do anything. This is truly a free gift.”
The numbers work in your favor, the greater that you can do this because not everyone is going to opt-in. Not everyone is going to post for free without you even asking things that we come to expect. Over time, you have a genuine pool of people that authentically love you. The whole philosophy of seeding is that the seed is a gift that you hope to blossom into a long-term relationship and that seed is the product that you can get into their hands that you hope turns into something long-term.
Every brand reading right now wants a consistent pool of people that genuinely loves them and posts about them time and time again to their audiences but the system that they go about doing that to produce that outcome is a bunch of one-off posts. It’s transactional and it leads to a one-off drug. You constantly have to be finding new people to get this little high of a boost of follower count, likes or engagement, and stuff like that. Whereas with seating, you’re getting the product in their hands and the cream rises to the top if you will. The people reveal themselves to be true brain advocates. How do they do that? This shows by the posts that they will end up posting for free.
You asked about the numbers breakdown. Out of every 10 that you average, you want to see 2 people opt-in to receive the product. They say, “Yes. I’d love to receive the gift.” Out of everybody that you send the product to you want to see at least 30% who post for free. With that 30 people, that’s 6 people getting the product and that’s 2 people posting for free. On a greater scale that you can do that, the more and more that you do that the more pool of people that you grow that by. I dumped a lot on you
It makes sense. It’s a numbers game so it’s 2%. From my math, it’s a 20% conversion rate, 2 out to 10 that we eventually post.
20% opt-in. 30% post rate.
How does this vary when you’re selling high-ticket items? That, in itself, the cost of goods for a $1,000-plus product would be potentially higher than an $80 product where your cogs are probably $20. How do you manage that with price points? Most brands won’t be able to mass seed if AOV is typically high for the brand. What approach would you take? Would you take a slightly bigger influencer? Would you come out of the micro pool? Would you still use micro pools, be happy with the numbers and scale down the number of seeds?
So much of it would be a test. One, from the jump, I would say, yes, the principle of seeding still remains. You have to be even more particular in emphasizing the identification process that goes into these influencers. You have to be particular. That’s true across the board. You don’t want to be sending out products to people that don’t fit your brand but if you have high cogs, you’re selling saunas, for example, or extremely high cogs and stuff like that, you need to be particular about the influencers that you do reach out to and ultimately send the product. The scale on which you can do it is not as high but the principle still remains of seeding.
I would also compare it to what you would normally pay an influencer, if you went to them and said, “I want you to post one time on your feed.” More than likely, it’s going to be way more than the cogs of your product. Going to even a bigger tier, which is something that you suggested, I would definitely open that up. If you have a higher price point, it’s probably more than likely that some of these influencers would take it and potentially end up posting.
The reason that we stay in that micro tier is that it is much more likely that they do end up posting for free. When we reach out for content rights to repurpose this content it’s much more likely a low fee or for free as well versus someone with a bigger name. Those are some of the things to think about when you have high cogs.
You also mentioned earlier, the fact that you don’t want this to be a one-off transaction in the sense that you want this influencer, of their own will, to post multiple times but you’re a brand, without spamming their audience. How do you make that switch from a user’s product and the post once to them posting continuously? Do you then follow up with other freebies? What’s the natural process like to get them to be absolute fans? Does it then convert to something transactional where there’s the cadence in their posts to remind the audience that you exist?
To be clear, I’m not anti-pay or anti-contract influencers, by the way. There’s a proper way to start with them and that’s through seeding. Quickly, after seeding, there can be an extreme amount of motivation for them to consistently post to their audiences such as an affiliate program, motivating them by a commission that they can make off the back end of their posts. That’s one and testing their content within paid media and seeing their performance there. You can get creative by paying them a percentage of revenue or profit and things like that.
The nurture process is the same way that you build a relationship with any other human. There’s an initial first date. There’s an initial meeting and then if both parties are interested in continuing that relationship, there’s a hand holding from there. That can often look like an affiliate program, a monthly UGC contract, having them be a part of your ambassadors on your website, and things like that. That’s all based on mutual interest.
How does influencer marketing feed into other aspects of your marketing mix such as performance? How are you seeing your best-in-class clients utilize or leverage the assets from their relationships with influencers to improve all the bits of their marketing?
It’s all about content creation. It’s a great content pipeline to supplement your paid media efforts. That’s primary. That’s what we’re doing on behalf of our clients seeing the content either posted on TikTok or Instagram repurpose within ads. That would be our recommendation there. The more content that you can generate from influencers, the more that you can get rights to the content to be able to repurpose. Repurpose content where your other marketing channels are working like paid search, YouTube, or email campaigns.
We’ve heard a lot from our clients on how UGC is effective with an email campaign so ask for rights to be able to repurpose it there if it’s landing pages on your website that lead to a lot of conversions. Ask for rights to be able to repurpose there. Where are you seeing scale? Where are you seeing conversions? Where’s content effective to lead to those conversions and put it there?
Most of the time, what we see is that’s within Facebook, Instagram ads, and TikTok now more and more but if you, the brand, are thinking, “I don’t run ads but I see incredible conversions on my Amazon landing page,” put it there. That’s how you got to think about it because influencers as a distribution channel only are tied to the algorithms and performance. Versus you as the brand having a lot of different marketing channels that you can repurpose this content and you’re much more in control of the return than the social algorithms on organic.
Speak into channels. To eCommerce operators reading, where should they be doing most of the recruitment? Which of the platforms looks more creative? Is it YouTube? Is it Instagram? Is it TikTok? I know there’s a lot of platform overlap and audience overlap. TikTok-ers are likely to have an Instagram account or YouTubers are more likely to have all three accounts. Where’s your forecast on Kynship, Cody?
All three. Instagram and TikTok in terms of seeing the most amount of content that does get produced and from our seeding efforts but they all have YouTube channels as well. They might not be a YouTuber in the sense that they have 500,000 subs but they have a YouTube channel where there’s evidence of great video content creation ability and things like that.
The thing that’s more seeding is you’re not going to see YouTubers or huge YouTubers throw up a video on their YouTube channel because they treat it like a TV network but it’s effective to create relationships with YouTubers by getting the product into their hands because that leads to cheaper deals in the future. If it was our brand, I’d be focusing on those three for sure. YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.
As obvious as it may be, I’m so bullish on YouTube. The numbers speak for itself on YouTube in the sense that we have a child, and he watches YouTube. My dad who’s over 70 sends me YouTube clips. The demographic of YouTube touches every single demographic. It’s the way it is. It follows us throughout our lifetime and it’s the most powerful platform out there but I’m biased.
I’m bullish on YouTube as well.
It’s interesting stuff, particularly on the three platforms. How do you serve track performance? For me, it’s control. What I’m thinking of now is control. With an influencer marketing campaign, the “traditional” if you’re not an agile brand, you’re an incumbent brand with a corporation, you’re typically going to give the influences your acute brief.
Typically, you give them a brief, “This is how you do it.” “This is how you don’t,” with the seeding where it’s a gift and you’re not nudging them to pause, you’re saying, “Have this. Let me send you free stuff. Let me know what you think.” You don’t even need to ask them what they think. Typically, you’re leaning on reciprocity. With that lack of control, how do you ensure quality posts put out there that align with your messaging, the utility, your benefits, and your brand?
If you’re worried about the quality of what you’re going to get back, you’re picking the wrong influencers. I’ll say that right from the jump. You need to be, particularly in assessing the video content creation ability of these influencers and be completely 100% confident in the quality of their content. In the scenario that I put a product into their hands, and they end up posting about it, I’m going to be proud that they represent my brand and that they can speak to my product.
Where I see the question going is kind of, “I got that but how do I know they’re going to talk about my brand specifically or my product in a specific way that I want them to?” I would say, “They’re the ones creating the content all day. Let’s lean on them. Let’s lean on how they best know how to post to their audience.”
There are some ways that you can control the content that you do get back and one is your unboxing experience. This is where you can give language to your product and brand and give the language to how they can speak about you without saying, “When you post say these three things.” The card insert that goes into the unboxing experience, everything that goes into that experience and how are you giving them language to speak about you that shows product differentiators and things like that. Those are one of the major ways that you can give them a creative brief without giving them one.
You’re essentially putting aside a set of SKUs and also giving them a set of instructions or notches in the insert so you create something specifically. You create extra physical material literature that speaks to them like, “Welcome. Influencer Lizzie. Thank you for trialing this. You’ll like this feature or that feature. Why not try this? It’d be great to hear what you think,” then you leave it at that.
It could be your standard packaging too. At the same time, most brands are putting a little bit of material into their packaging about the brand story or how they got started, where the product idea came from, or things like that. All that stuff is super helpful and provides inspiration for the influencer to talk about you in an effective way.
That’s about it. That’s a detailed overview of influencer marketing from your strategy and in terms of the mass seeding approach. Are there any other critical points you think the audience should be aware of with the mass seeding approach to influencer outreach?
We touched on them all. I would definitely repurpose this content on Facebook. If you do get rights to it and repurpose it where it’s working, we would recommend Facebook.
Cody, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the 2x eCommerce Podcast. For readers who want to find out more, they can head over to Kynship.co. Cody, where do you most hang out? It’s Twitter.
Shoot me a DM there.
Your handle is @Cody_Wittick on Twitter. It’s an absolute pleasure having you. Thank you.
Thank you, Kunle.