Less is More: Working with Microinfluencers

In recent years, influencer campaigns have become an extremely important component of integrated marketing plans, especially for consumer-facing products or services. While earned media is a great way to get your company’s message in front of a key audiences, influencer marketing has risen as a critical channel for most communications programs, as it helps get brand stories in front of new, targeted audiences that match key demographics. 


However, you need to be thoughtful about how you engage influencers for communications objectives. It’s not enough to pick a handful of influencers with six-figure follower counts and call it a day. When identifying the right influencers to engage with, it turns out that bigger is not always better – Brands have increasingly made the shift to working with microinfluencers, as opposed to traditional influencer channels with massive follower counts. 


So what is a microinfluencer? 

While there’s no exact definition for what constitutes a microinfluencer, they’re colloquially known in the industry as an online personality or influencer with a follower count roughly between ten thousand and a hundred thousand followers


For a long time, the common approach to working with influencers was simple: the more followers, the better. But engagement and impact figures actually show the opposite. Typically, posts see the highest engagement (likes and comments on posts) when an influencer has around ten thousand followers. Engagement rates typically drop off just after that


While there are a few reasons why this might be the case, the primary theory is that an audience typically feels more like a tight-knit community when influencers have smaller follower counts, so individuals are more likely to engage in comments. 


The trend towards micro influence is incredibly valuable for marketers and PR professionals. The average cost to be featured in a microinfluencer’s post is 180 dollars, compared to the average 250 thousand dollars it costs for a feature on a macroinfluencer’s social media. Not only is the cost lower, microinfluencers typically have hyper-specific audiences, ones who belong to specific demographics, or who are passionate about specific industries, which make them effective partners for the right campaign.


When determining which influencers to work with for a specific campaign, narrow in on which audience you’d like to connect with, who will be particularly receptive to the brand story you’re telling. Who is the best influencer to engage with this audience and tell this story?


What tools can help? 

There are a number of tools out there to help PR and marketing folks find the right influencer to tell their stories. Whether you’re looking to reach an enterprise audience, consumers, or a specific professional demographic, there’s a platform out there that can help track down and engage with the key influencers in a given space. 


However, as helpful as influencer trackers and tools like Traackr and Insight Pool can be, tools are just the first step in the engagement process. Just as PR teams develop relationships with reporters, communications professionals should be sure to maintain strong relationships with social media influencers so the partnership feels less transactional, and more genuine. 


Interested in learning more?

Just like earned and owned channels, influencer campaigns can have a massive impact on sales and revenue when executed thoughtfully and strategically. If you’re interested in up-leveling your brand message with the help of influencers, and need help getting started, reach out. We’d love to learn more about how we can help tell your story.  

Reflecting on Taste of Potrero 2019

This year, Highwire had the opportunity to team up with Taste of Potrero — a yearly charitable fundraiser for SF’s Daniel Webster Elementary School in Potrero Hill. The annual event brings together the hottest bars and restaurants in San Francisco for a night of unlimited bites and sips. The best part — one hundred percent of the proceeds benefit Daniel Webster Elementary.

This year was Taste of Potrero’s 9th annual event, but where did it all begin? Once on the verge of closure by the school district, parents in the Potrero Hill community fought hard not only to save the school, but later organized the first Taste of Potrero event to help raise much-needed funds. Since 2011, Taste of Potrero has raised over $760,000 for Daniel Webster Elementary, providing money for classroom supplies, computer instruction, arts enrichment programs, extra staff and literacy professionals for Daniel Webster students. This year alone, we sold out of general admission and VIP tickets and Taste of Potrero was able to raise over $140,000 for the school.

The event rangles some of SF’s best restaurants — like The Slanted Door, Uma Casa, ALX by Alexander’s Steakhouse, August 1 Five, Nopa, School Night, The Commissary, 25 Lusk and Starbelly — who all donate their food, drinks, time, and talents to make the night a success. Did we mention that this event is all you can eat (and drink)? 

Our small but mighty Taste of Potrero team at Highwire has led PR efforts for the event for the past two years. This year, we were able to secure a segment on CBS Bay Area Focus for Starbelly, one of Taste of Potrero’s generous contributors. Head Chef Adam Timney whipped up his signature Taste of Potrero dish — asparagus, ham, black garlic and basil. 

We already can’t wait for next year’s 10-year anniversary event, which we hear is going to be bigger and better than ever before. For now, we’ll be reminiscing in our food comas.

Want to learn more about Taste of Potrero? Check out their website at www.tasteofpotrero.com.

Photos 1-4 courtesy of Nader Khouri.

Three Mistakes You’re Making with Holiday Gift Guide Pitching

Summer is here and most are packing bathing suits for summer getaways. But for consumer PR pros, July means one thing: time to start pitching gift guides. That’s right — it’s Christmas in July. However, when it comes to gift guide pitching, there are three common mistakes that result in coal under the tree (and unhappy clients):

Mistake 1: Starting Late (And Quitting Too Soon)

Though we’re still wearing sandals, long lead pitching for holiday gift guides starts in the July/August timeframe. Continue pitching long lead throughout the fall and pick up short lead outreach in September. Most importantly, keep pitching throughout the rest of the year. There are plenty of last-minute gift guides in December, plus your product can be featured in New Year, New You roundups in January.

Mistake 2: Forgetting the Basics

Try multiple angles for each product. This is a great opportunity to create relationships with reporters outside your friendly list. For example, if your product is inexpensive, try pitching deals and steals editors for 50 under $50 roundups. When you reach out to media, make sure to give them everything and the kitchen sink upfront. Include links to product, images and sample offers in your initial outreach. Reporters don’t want to have to ask for follow up; it’s our job to make their lives as easy as possible so we can land ink.

Mistake 3: Not Measuring the Results

All your work is for naught if you don’t measure the results. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to directly tie PR efforts to sales results by using UTM codes or Google Analytics. Don’t just use the data to measure this year’s result; use it to strategize for next year, too. Did any of your placements drive an especially high amount of traffic? Consider paid options in that publication for next year. Any hits that didn’t move the needle? Move that publication down on your hit list for 2019.

Trying to avoid these mistakes? Start pitching early, try multiple angles, and have trackings in place to measure the results. Looking for more ideas on how you can uplevel your gift guide pitching? Get in touch with Highwire consumer team at hi@highwirepr.com.

How Bots, Voice Recognition & AI Are Changing the Consumer Tech Landscape

Last week’s CB Insights Innovation Summit focused on how chatbots, voice recognition and the future of AI are changing the tech landscape for consumers today.

Last week’s CB Insights Innovation Summit focused on how chatbots, voice recognition and the future of AI are changing the tech landscape for consumers today.

Last week’s CB Insights Innovation Summit focused on how chatbots, voice recognition and the future of AI are changing the tech landscape for consumers today. CNBC’s Ari Levy interviewed Arthur Johnson (VP Corporate Development and Global Partnerships at Twilio) and Jeremy Liew (Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners)  about how interfaces of the future are changing the ways both consumers and companies interact. Check out some of our key takeaways from the livestream.

You’ve Got to Bring Bots More to Life

At a high level, there are two main types of bots: bots that operate independently with completely automated responses and bots that operate through a messaging platform such as Facebook Messenger. And they aren’t exactly new. Bots have been used for over 10 years in customer service operations. But both Johnson and Liew agreed that in order for companies to build the next generation of successful bots, they must use personalization and a limited domain to compete in the crowded U.S. app landscape.

“There are some interactions that are better suited for bot technology today than others,” said Twilio’s Johnson. “When you have limited domain, controlled environments and customer service interactions, these are better suited for bots. The more complicated interactions may not be suited for bot technology yet, but there is still a lot of promise in this area.”

Bigger companies like IBM, Facebook and Google will have a leg up on AI innovations, but smaller companies can tap into this technology and benefit as well. Multiple industries such as retail, food and healthcare will benefit from the major potential that exists in chatbots technology. For example, if customers can access bots from their favorite stores through social media sites, it will make customer service easier for both customers and retailers.

“In China, we saw WeChat was so successful because the web and apps were kinda crappy as alternative,” said Liew from Lightspeed Venture Partners. “Here in the West, the web and apps are pretty good for most use cases. The way a user is interacting with a customer service rep was better than it was there before. To drive chat, you have to get better.”

Keep an Eye on Voice Recognition

Recently, a lot of companies have tried to make money building AI communication products. Since AI models are difficult to build and train, this task has proven challenging. The panelists noted that Amazon’s Alexa [used to reference Alexa-driven products such as the Amazon Echo] and Google Home are currently leaders in the space. These devices, however, aren’t pocket-friendly. To compensate, developers are making cellphone apps that work with these products.

“These are new modalities that are open to you and these can generate new use cases,” said Liew. “For instance, being able to call an Uber from my Alexa app isn’t a new use case, it’s a new channel of behavior for existing companies.”

Liew mentioned that voice recognition could be the next best platform because you don’t have to use your hands to interact with Alexa or Google Home. Even individuals who have difficulty using apps and web browsers or those that are unable to read and write could benefit. The possibilities are endless.

“It’s eerily scary how natural [communicating with Alexa] is,” said Johnson. “I can talk fast, I can talk slow or even with an accent, but it’s accurate. That’s the secret sauce. I wanted it to remember my preferences and being able to tie all these preferences and different interfaces together will be a special experience.”

Future Concerns Around Security & Usability

Neither Liew nor Johnson mentioned how these devices will be protected from hacking. If an Alexa is connected to multiple devices and gets hacked, what will happen? Will you still be able to use your Nest thermostat and operate your IoT connected garage door opener? Even with the capabilities of connected devices, an attack could cause private information to be leaked.

Usability will also be a major factor for consumers. Neither the Alexa or the Google Home has a screen, which may turn-off some buyers. IoT connected devices also are not cheap. Consumers will also have to decide whether or not there they see value from paying more for a connected device even if it does make their lives easier.

These platforms are the foundation of the future. Voice recognition will influence the way all types of people use artificial intelligence to make everyday tasks easier. As bots become more mainstream, more companies will try to capitalize on the quickly crowding market.

Companies will need to develop unique bots that provide value for customers and avenues for smaller companies to tap into the technology. We’re excited to see how consumers will benefit from these advancements in upcoming years. 

From Internet Porn to Online Shopping: What Top Journalists are Saying About VR

The future of virtual reality looks bright, but it’s still unclear

Imagine being front row at New York  Fashion Week as Tom Ford  debuts its latest spring line without worrying about the hassles associated with travel, cost or crowds. In fact, you’re sitting front row to the catwalk with the runway spanning the length of your living room.

But how?

Virtual reality is slowly entering the world, connecting people  in ways that we thought were only possible in movies — and it’s much more than gaming. Interestingly, it has been leveraged to tackle (and sometimes spur) dialogue on issues like racial and sexual discrimination. 

For example, Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab is using virtual reality for diversity training scenarios. The research has caught the attention of companies including the NFL, who is looking to the technology as way to train the league on understanding bias through custom-built diversity sessions.

But Stanford is just one example of how VR is slowing becoming adopted outside of gaming. The technology is  trickling into our everyday lives as the future of music videos, sporting events and even “vacations.”

In order to uncover what the future really holds for this seemingly fledgling technology, Highwire spoke with reporters Daniel Terdiman at Fast Company, Kurt Wagner at Recode and Marco della Cava at USA Today. What follows are insights from these insiders on where virtual reality is headed and the potential hotbed verticals emerging VR companies should avoid.

Q: What VR companies are on your radar?

Wagner: Beyond the obvious big players, like Oculus, HTC Vive and Google VR — Felix & Paul Studios, Penrose Studios, Lucid Sight, Inc., Vivid Vision.

della Cava: I’ve done a few stories about content companies like Penrose Studios, Jaunt — just keeping tabs on where the content’s going because the tech is sophisticated and will continue to get more sophisticated, more streamlined and less expensive.

Q: Are there any trends in virtual reality you expect to be big by 2017? In the next five years?

Wagner: I think shopping in VR could be relevant in the next five years—taking a tour of a home or a car from your living room. Also, I imagine VR porn will be big.

della Cava: I would say mobile is the thing to keep an eye on. Who can figure out just how good VR and AR can be on the smartphone? That’s something we all own right now, and if someone can find a way to give even a halfway-decent VR experience through the smartphone, that’s going to be powerful because we already own it. It really promises the short burst of a VR experience.

Q: What problems lie ahead for virtual reality companies?

Terdiman: The biggest problem is consumer adoption. Consumers must understand that not only is VR cool, but that there is a lot for them to do with it. Right now, there’s a big wow factor, but then people often wonder, “What’s next?” Until people get past that hang-up, there will not be mass adoption of hardware that is necessary for mass consumption of software.

Wagner: VR is a pretty individual activity. You put on the headset and really have to keep to yourself. I imagine it will be tough to get people on board with the idea when it truly requires total separation from the real world in order to enjoy VR. At least when you use your phone, you can still pay attention (kind of) to the people and things going on around you.

della Cava: It’s going to be a timing thing. There’s tremendous potential but I’m just not sure where it’s going to go now. There may an experimental period for the next five years, but it’s exciting especially in the enterprise space where you can see a lot more practical applications, especially with AR. Imagine getting instructions remotely on fixing an engine. That’s more real right now.

Q: In what sectors do you see virtual reality serving the most purpose?

Terdiman: I think it will be great for social experiences and for entertainment. People will be able to use VR to preview travel they might want to do. They’ll be able to learn things they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Ultimately, though, I see it as a major entertainment medium, both for games and for music, sports and scripted stories.

Wagner: I think it’ll be important for mental health reasons—folks who have depression or anxiety or a fear. I could see it really making an impact there.

della Cava: It’s got strong potential—if it’s rolled out the right way—for sports and entertainment. That’s the way VR could trump AR, because you really want to commit fully to that experience.

Want to keep up with the latest trends in virtual reality? Follow us on Twitter @HighwirePR.

Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at Fast Company covering emerging technology. Follow him on Twitter @GreeterDan.

Kurt Wagner is a social media reporter at Recode. Follow him on Twitter @KurtWagner8.

Marco della Cava is a technology and culture reporter at USA Today. Follow him on Twitter @MarcodellaCava.