Influencers, Brands and Snapchat

The two day Northside Innovation Festival is a tremendous deluge of overlapping panels that takes place in a bunch of great venues including the Wythe Hotel, The Brooklyn Brewery and Kinfolk 94. And all within three minutes of my office. So perfect!

I sat in on a slew of panels – inevitably of course curating my own story by my inclusions and omissions. Here are some things I learned.


Influencer backlash

It’s all changing again as brands are coming to believe that they have been dumping “big silver suitcases of cash” on vloggers et al who have large followings. Now they’re questioning its effectiveness; and who actually are these followers anyway? So some are moving beyond the obsession with the “vanity metrics” of unique views, likes and follows and are drilling down into what good these have been doing them.

Micro-influencers and micro-communities

There is much talk of micro-influencers as the focus shifts to building relationships with smaller, more niche, more enthusiastic groups – in micro-categories. Each member of these micro-communities could be an authentic and valuable influencer in themselves. These can each have a committed and regular fan base following them and though their group may not be enormous it is valuable and responsive. Each brand will have to do the work to find its own micro-communities – this could even be someone’s private email list.

Brands and superfans

So modern brands will find themselves zooming in on say a hundred superfans – then give them the special VIP treatment – even a special area in the online store where they can be given the opportunity to test new products, be a beta group for the next fashion line and become a part of the community that helps to shape and then roots for the brand. Brand building is like building a web from authentic true relationships. This takes longer but the relationships will be deeper and ultimately more productive. Keep these passionate superfans happy, and don’t scale too fast, you’ll lose them and this will hurt you in the long run.

Instagram vs Snapchat

The Instagram/YouTube/SnapChat stars/influencers are all thinking very carefully about what content should be on which platform. Instagram: it’s so good for images of course – but the posts have become more polished, and to many eyes less authentic. (“If I hear the word authentic one more time I think I will throw up” says investor @sorayadarabi)

Nowadays for authenticity it’s Snapchat that wins. Also Snapchat for engagement. Investors say they are far less interested in sheer numbers (those vanity metrics again) as they question the value of so many possibly purchased names – but Snapchat forces engagement. If you watch a post you are certainly engaged – as opposed to when you’re skimming Instagram images.

But don’t walk away from Instagram: to improve Instagram engagement you should add a bunch of text that tells a story and helps understanding of the image. Text heavy images are clearly seen to get better engagement.

Some more factoids: did you know that 40% of US teens are on Kik? That this demo uses messaging apps more than it uses social media? Did you know that 100 million users/month spend 100 minutes or more a day on Twitch?


Yes In Real Life encounters and experiences are becoming very important to online brand personalities – just as bands do love gigs to build their loyal fan base so do the YouTube stars. An analog world encounter is far more likely to create a committed and loyal ambassador than a fleeting click on Like. And engagement, commitment, loyalty and ambassadorship are where it’s at. That is what brands need from them and let’s face it – these stars are making themselves available at a hefty price. This is a media buy after all.

Look out for part two of what I learned at the Northside Innovation Festival, following soon.

Here are the smart people who spoke, and whose ideas are woven through these notes

Sarah Holoubek, Luminary Labs

Ernest Ng, Salesforce

Alexandra Cavoulacos, The Muse

Marcela Sapone, Alfred

Albert Lee, NEA VC

Erin Griffith. Fortune

Jeremy Levine, Bessemer Venture Partners

Ana Andjelic, Havas LuxHub

Colin Nagy, recently of Barbarian Group

Avery Booker, Enflux

Lacey Norton, Kit and Ace,

Maud Pasturaud, Spring

Peter Olsen, IDEO

Soraya Dorabi, Zady and angel investor

Hayley Barna, First Round and Birchbox

Piers Fawkes, Scott Lachut, Adriana Krasniasky,Michelle Hum, PSFK

Michael Horn, Huge

Justin Bolognino, META

Jesse McDougall, C+ICRAVE

Kristin Maverick, Rent the Runway

George Alan, The New Stand

Mark Rosen, Artsy

Taylor Newby, Met Museum

Susi Kenna, FITZ & CO