How brands can tap social media celebrities

Zoe Sugg, social media influencer.
Zoe Sugg, social media influencer.

At SXSW, panelists from Buzzfeed, Toyota and Rosewood Creative debated the influence of social media celebrities

AUSTIN —Brands should give the influencers they work with creative freedom, instead of viewing them as "billboards," according to Amir Mohamadzadeh, co-founder, Rosewood Creative.

Speaking on a panel at SXSW today about "social media celebrities," Mohamadzadeh said the reason why brand and influencer relationships are flourishing is because influencers offer brands something celebrities can’t: true interaction with their communities around an expertise.

"They are real people with a real connection to their audiences," he said. "They are able to connect emotionally with their audiences, which brands really love."

Brands should realize, therefore, that influencers "truly understand their audiences so giving them some form of creative freedom is valuable," he said.

Lisa Materazzo, corporate manager, media strategy and digital engagement, Toyota, said that one of the traps marketers fall into when working with social media influencers is only looking at the reach they offer. "Scale is obviously a piece of the equation, but you don’t want this exclusive of all other factors. It's not just about the size but the composition of the audience," she said.

Materazzo offered the audience her advice on working with influencers, warning that because influencer marketing is "a new addition to the toolbox," the fundamentals of marketing still apply. "The same questions you would ask for a piece of traditional marketing applies to influencers," she said.

"Your greatest opportunity for success is when you can integrate an influencer into a robust social media plan, rather than making the influencer the entire social media strategy of a brand."

"You should ask, where does the influencer fit with my overall social media strategy and if you can’t answer that, you need to take a step back," she said.

Jonathan Perelman, VP of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, had a different take on what it means to be an influencer in the social media age. Buzzfeed, he explained, views everyone as influencers. "We aim to produce content that has an emotional impact, so much so that people want to put their names behind it."

"Our view is to leverage the power of everybody, their networks and their friends, and when you do that you see great results," he said.

Perelman discussed recent Buzzed triumphs, including >The Dress and its video with President Obama. He said that Buzzfeed always experiments and it is key to see mistakes made along the way as learnings.

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