Is influencing the new business model?

By Kristi Alexandra

It didn’t seem so long ago that I watched Julia Roberts taking notes over a fancy, catered lunch in an upscale restaurant in New York City, then glibly sign the bill off to a publication. For those born post-1997, this exact scene opened the rom-com My Best Friend’s Wedding, in which she played a love-lorn restaurant critic bound to destroy her best male pal’s upcoming nuptials.

But hold up – it’s not the sticky love triangle that had me enthralled as a 10-year-old girl. I wondered: “How do I become an effortlessly glamourous writer for a national publication who dines in exchange for my words?”

By the time I graduated university with a journalism degree in 2012, “all-expenses-paid critic” was no longer a job title on offer at magazines and newspapers. Gone were the days of such bougie career paths.

And yet, there are still van-dwelling, high-life living bloggers who are seemingly invited to all the important soirees, who are suddenly sent a pair of jeans or a gilded toothbrush or a juice cleanse kit and paste it across their Instagram and Facebook pages. Living life appears to be a job in itself. How do they do it?

Enter the age of the influencer.

Influencing is the new business model

Vancouver-based marketing/tech start-up Shop and saw the opportunity for innovation in the social media market, and started connecting brands with influencers. The market is more than 85 per cent female based. They are a social marketplace where influencers can leverage their social following to experience products from brands, and brands in turn get reviews and content created by real people.

“Shop and Shout is a marketplace where influencers are able to use their social prowess and get products and services sent to them for free, or they get to experience them, and in exchange they promise to give the brand a ‘shout out,'” explains Shop and Shout co-founder Vinod Varma.

The company, complete with built-in social listening for brands, gives local businesses an advantageous and cost-effective way to market and manage their social media.

“It’s really expensive to do Facebook ads, and to get high-level, top tier influencers. We’re trying to find that sweet spot where it’s tough to do, but it’s also really effective,” he tells Loose Lips.

But in a world of #livingauthentic, is it really authentic? Varma knows it is.

“The whole premise of why we built this is that we find advertising today typically has been dehumanized,” he says. “It’s not really authentic – it looks fake –  it’s not something that we’re a fan of. Not everyone can afford an endorsement from massive celebrities and it’s not believable to a certain point. When you get in touch with an influencer like Renaldo [Lopes], you know those Nike’s he’s wearing isn’t really from an authentic experience.”

Shop and Shout, rather than looking for celebrity status, is looking for the everyday influencer – someone who would give an honest review without getting paid to fluff it up.

“We have a completely honest platform for negative reviews,” Varma promises. “We do say in every email that if you have any concerns about ‘I can’t do my shout out on time or I’m not really happy with this,’ we want the chance to make it right, but we don’t put any restrictions on the post. It’s full transparency – we don’t tell them that it needs to be positive, and we don’t give them any instructions at all. Just the required coupon code or hashtags.”

So are you the next influential #girlboss?

Ninety per cent of Shop and Shout’s influencer base is female, aged 18 to 38. Their followings range from as low as 800 and go up to more than 15,000. So how do you make your personal brand your #girlboss business?

Shop and Shout gave us the scoop.

  • Log into Shop and Shout with Facebook. Connect your Twitter and Instagram accounts, and Shop and Shout verifies your social reach.
  • Log into the Marketplace and scope out anything that you’re interested in. Remember to indicate your interests in your profile so items can be curated to you.
  • Add your items to the cart and authorize your credit card. Your credit card is not charged if you have the appropriate amount of followers (ie. A $60 lunch at Original Joe’s is free if you have 2,500 Instagram followers).
  • You have x amount of time to make a post using the set hashtags and links. If you don’t post, you’ll get charged the value of the product.

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Kristi Alexandra is an unabashed wino and wannabe musician. Her talents include drinking an entire bottle of cabernet sauvignon, singing in the bathtub, and falling asleep.