Startup Stories: Influencer Marketing

Startup Stories: Influencer Marketing (w/ Saral)

Social media and social technologies have changed rapidly in the past few years, and trends became even harder to track and predict with the rise and fall of Coronavirus (Covid-19). Businesses and promoters alike are perpetually scrambling to better understand social media marketing and get out in front of the hottest trends. By the time they do, it's often the case that a new trend takes the spotlight. So, how can small businesses leverage social media to drive traffic to their storefronts? With so much already on their plates, where can they find a more cost effective solution than social media ads.

I spoke with, Yash Chavan, the startup founder of a company called Saral, and he feels that the future of social media marketing is almost entirely determined by individual, social influencers. Continue reading for insights on how a shift from paid social media advertising to social influencer partnerships can take your business into the future.

I started this company specifically [because] it philosophically aligned with my marketing ethos of word-of-mouth being supreme.

How did your career path lead you to start a company focused on influencer marketing? I'd like to better understand your story and how you came up with the idea for Saral.

I was a growth consultant for startups and have been part of the journey from early traction to millions in revenue as part of my work. I ran influencer programs and scaled to over 300 creators. This exposed me to all the problems and friction points in the space as I did all the work in the trenches. So I decided to solve the problems myself. Another reason why I started this company specifically was that it philosophically aligned with my marketing ethos of word-of-mouth being supreme.

That's interesting! Word-of-mouth has taken on new meaning with the rise of social media. In a less literal sense, do you consider influencer marketing with non-verbal media like instagram or twitter to be word of mouth? Is influencer marketing the modern version of word-of-mouth marketing?

I think influencer marketing is word-of-mouth marketing on steroids. People live parasocial lives with creators online; they trust them as much as they'd trust a colleague or a friend (depending on the creator). Influencer marketing is simply brands leveraging trust to get their message out there. It is not invasive like ads are. I also think the word "influencer" is bastardized a bit to mean social media personalities. I have a broader definition of influencer - it can be anyone with influence over your buyer. Eventually Saral will enable all avenues of digital influence such as newsletters, podcasts, blogs, etc. (not just social media creators, although we start there).

That's a good point and I agree that 'influencer' is very much a blanket term. We often start IG collaborations with influencers to promote Therr app and get the word out. What do you see as the emerging trends in the space? What are the biggest pain points for the influencer?

IG is a good first place to start, good choice there.

First, pay per post campaigns will go down: I think huge brands have corrupted the space a bit by throwing money at creators and creating this culture of paying to post. I think this still reeks of advertising and isn't true influencer marketing. Smaller brands try to replicate the same methods and end up losing money. I think more brands will realize the importance of working with the right creators instead of just paying the big ones.

Second, creators with skin in the game - In my experience, all the good creators with perfect brand fit ask for long-term deals or even equity deals. Creators with equity in brands will become more and more common, it's also a way for influencers to create true long term wealth for themselves as opposed to just generating cashflow through their audience.

As for influencer pains, even influencers hate doing pay per post deals, they hate being treated as "Ad placements". They're humans at the end of the day, so brands must lead with forming relationships with creators first. Creators LOVE hearing stuff around brand/mission alignment and how our products will actually benefit their audience. It means the space is plagued by brands just using them for clout. Slowing changing.

Thanks Yash, these are great insights. One more question to wrap up. If you could add one great feature to social media, what would it be? Is there something in particular that you think could improve the brand/influencer relationship?

Any social media that helps creators simply create in the moment and make money off of it will be great. Another important thing to do is eliminate middlemen (agencies, managers) and facilitate seamless relationships between brands and creators. Brands end up not working with creators as their prices are inflated to account for their agency's cut. This causes a loss for both parties whereas it could've been a win-win if there was no middleman. This can improve the brand-influencer relationship (they literally make more money together as a consequence).

Saral enables small to medium sized, direct-to-customer brands to grow their revenue by making influencer marketing effortless, so they can stop wasting money on FB ads and grow profitably.

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