The Men of Influencer Marketing: Parker York Smith

This is part one of an ongoing series where we will come to know more about the men of influencer marketing. 

It’s not often you find an industry where women have a commanding position over men. At Find Your Influence (FYI), we have more than 100,000 influencers who have opted in to our network to be discovered by brands around the world. Taking a closer look at the FYI network, 84 percent are female. That leaves 16 percent of the network led by men.

Who are these men? What makes them so successful? How have they built their personal brands?

This is part one of an ongoing series where we will come to know more about the men of influencer marketing.

On Monday, September 24, I spoke with Parker York Smith, a fashion and lifestyle influencer known as The LookSmith. What follows is our conversation:

Hey Parker! Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get started as an influencer?

“I started out a little over three years ago, it was like mid-2015. I was living in Los Angeles. My now wife, then girlfriend, saw me struggling trying to become an actor. I wasn’t enjoying it that much. She knew that I had gone to school for journalism and that I loved fashion. She suggested that I start taking photos of my outfits and putting them on the internet with my thought process about why I put it together the way I did. I had always been a style person even when it wasn’t my career. I started a website, went on to Instagram and started posting photos. There were a few people who were doing it already but not a good amount. My wife had met someone who was doing it full time who inspired her to even realize it was a career path. She encouraged me to start doing it and I did and little by little it turned into something. I’m fortunate being in Los Angeles because there are a lot of brands. It felt easy to me when I started to partner with some smaller brands early on and develop their content catalogue while also allowing me the opportunity to learn the ropes of fashion branding and the content creation side which is what I’ve grown to love. From three years ago to now it’s been a steady grind of lots of content, lots of partnerships, lots of ups and downs with social media. It’s provided me with incredible opportunities that I will always love and appreciate. I’m willing to admit that it can be a bit of a grind at times. I got my foot in the door at the right time when it wasn’t something that was super saturated.”

Tell me about the platforms you use today. Do you focus on just one platform or multiple?

“I originally started with Instagram and a website, cooperatively. I wanted to write a blog because I enjoy writing – my background and my degree is in journalism. Instagram became so essential and it was such an easy opportunity to showcase the visual side of everything. About a year ago, I started doing video because it really allows me to share my personality and my knowledge and hopefully inspire people to start to take themselves more seriously in terms of their style and confidence. I’ve been really loving video and am realizing that is where I want to end up in the future.”

Do you have any plans to expand across other social platforms?

“I have a Twitter page that I love but it’s just a way for me to push content from other channels. It’s really there as another outlet but not really a focus. I love shoes and Twitter is where I do a lot of research about upcoming releases or collaborations. Snapchat is on my phone but I don’t really use it. With the introduction of Instagram stories it made more sense for me to create videos where my audience already was as opposed to cultivating an entirely new audience.”

Tell me a little about your followers.

“My followers are 80 percent male. Mainly 24-34. Mostly American but a big chunk in London too. I’m starting to build a decent audience in other parts of the world too, thanks to YouTube, which is really exciting. Guys like me who enjoy style but aren’t trying to be wearing the most crisp suit and tie everyday. It’s more about expressing yourself through different style genres.”

Having followers is great but engagement is what really matters. How do your followers engage with you?

“As it relates to engagement, my biggest focus is to have a group of truly engaged, highly interested followers. It doesn’t have to be a gigantic number but engagement is important, I want my content seen because it makes it more exciting for me to create more when I know that it’s out there being seen by the most people. At the same time, I’m a strong believer in interacting with my followers. I answer all of my DM’s about my content or questions related to style in general. One of my favorite things is that I’ll have guys send me photos of them getting ready and they’ll show two different types of shoes with their outfit and ask me which one works better. It’s so cool to be able to have that direct connection with someone who may be thousands of miles away. I’m definitely more focused on being available, being approachable and being someone who people feel comfortable reaching out to, knowing that I’m going to provide solid, honest feedback. I’m not about making people feel that fashion is unattainable or that I’m living some lavish lifestyle that is out of their reach.”

Now let’s talk campaigns. What are some of your favorite brands that you’ve worked with?

“I have an ongoing partnership with a brand called Greats, a Brooklyn-based sneaker company that is one of my favorite brands in general. They are awesome. I love what they do. I love their product. Their whole business model is great. They give me and my wife the freedom to really create some amazing content for them. We work together on a lot of stuff which is fun.”

Is there a brand you aspire to work with?

“In thinking about a brand that I would aspire to work with, as someone who loves sneakers, I would love to be able to collaborate with a shoe brand either on an existing product line or get involved from the ground up in the design process. I don’t look at it like, ‘I need to work with this brand,’ or ‘I need to work with that brand,’ it’s more of trying to be excited about the brands I am working with. Helping them while also being true to my brand and my values.”

What inspires you?

“The thing that inspires me most is being able to have an honest impact on people. Whether that’s giving them on idea on what they can be wearing or giving them more confidence to try a new hairstyle, whatever it is, I’ve been where they are before. Having an impact and helping people be the best version of themselves is what inspires me more than anything.”

Let’s talk about your peers, other male fashion influencers. Help me understand the relationship you have with them.

“Within the male fashion influencer space, it’s a pretty collaborative scene.  It’s not competitive, in my experience. Because I feel strongly that I want to provide as much value as possible, if it’s realistic to think someone else is going to provide more value for a specific style or brand, so be it. I would obviously love to get every job and work with everybody but that’s just not realistic. I don’t feel competitive but instead I feel inspired because many of the other influencers are just killing it. Many of them produce content that I follow that inspire me and give me ideas to tweak my content. I choose to look at it as a much more a motivational factor and to be excited for these guys and their success.  There have been opportunities where brands have come to other influencers and say ‘We actually need three more guys, can you recommend anyone?’ and because we have good relationships and they trust my ability, they offer my name to the brand. I’ve gotten several jobs because of this. I like to be up front and honest with my peers that we’re all in this together. This isn’t something we need to be fighting against one another.”

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Fasten Your Seat Belt: Influencer Marketing Will Dominate Ad Budgets by 2020

“Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign. If you haven’t already done so, please return to your seat and fasten your seat belt.” 

For those of us working in digital marketing, it’s time we consider buckling up too.Since 2013, influencer marketing has hit the runway with many of the top brands in the U.S. relying on this marketing tactic to create word-of-mouth awareness around hundreds of thousands of products and services.

Welcome to IMS flight 2020 

In 2013, I managed an influencer marketing program for a publicly traded company in Arizona. Back then, most advertising budgets were newly focused on display advertising while influencer marketing was new and unproven. My colleague, Cristine Vieira, and I had some early success with influencer marketing campaigns, primarily with bloggers, and wanted to scale by leveraging technology. Unfortunately, we couldn’t identify an existing technology to meet our needs. So, we decided to build our own.

We launched Find Your Influence in 2013 and were quickly able to create a network of influencers who were looking to connect with brands appealing directly to their followers. Today our influencer platform includes a community of influencers exceeding 100,000, an attractive quality to some of the largest household brands.

Over the past five years, we’ve been fortunate to be a part of the takeoff of successful influencer marketing solutions (IMS). However, this industry has not yet reached its cruising altitude. What’s coming in the next two years will, however, allow brands to scale and reach greater heights. 

In 2017, ChiefMarketer.comcited a study by ANA and PQ Media showing that brand spending on influencer marketing is expected to reach $101 billion by 2020, a 25 percent increase over 2016. While advertising budgets themselves aren’t growing, the influx of dollars toward influencer marketing will be shifting from traditional media advertising: television, radio and print to influencer-driven campaigns. 

It’s also interesting to note how advertisers are responding to this relatively new tactic. According to findings from a 2018 survey by the Association of National Advertisers, “Advertisers love influencer marketing.” The report further explains “…a full 75 percent of their companies currently employ the discipline and 43 percent are planning to increase spending over the course of the next 12 months.” Seeing this type of growth already planned proves that we are on the edge of something special. 

Your life vest is located under your seat  

As brands begin investing more dollars into this marketing channel, the influencer community will begin to look like the TSA line at an international airport – – countless people trying to make their way through the process. The number of influencers available to brands has not reached its full potential either. Everyday there are hundreds of fresh voices trying to become the newest large-scale influencers.  

Influencer reach is the first-class ticket for a brand. Everyone thinks that being an influencer is an easy gig, when in reality, it’s really quite hard. These influencers must focus a significant amount of time on establishing their brand, keeping up with relevant content and building a follower base. As far as engagement, they either have it or they don’t. 

I’m often asked what brands are really looking for from influencer marketing. The answer is simple: brands today are trying to target the 12-35 age range. They can do this through many advertising channels, but most efficiently through influencer marketing. Influencers will be getting younger as brands demand to reach these younger audiences. 

With the shift in ad dollars leaning more heavily on influencer marketing, how do you know if your brand is ready for influencer marketing? Start with these five questions. 

  • What is the level of brand awareness for your product or service? 
  • Are you reaching your target audience four or five times with the same campaign? 
  • Which marketing channels are underperforming for your brand? 
  • Are you ready to amplify your message across social media? 
  • With a low cost to entry, isn’t word-of-mouth advertising (influencer marketing) worth beta testing to start? 

Please take a few moments to locate your nearest exit

A recent Forbes piece opened with, “Influencer marketing is having a moment right now.” Sure, you could call it a moment. However, it could be more aptly described by flight control that influencer marketing has been cleared for takeoff.  

A recent report by Forrester, “New Tech: Influencer Marketing Solutions, Q3 2018” looked closely at 34 influencer marketing solutions, yet noted that there are nearly 100 vendors in the space.  A market so large can’t thrive but will begin to consolidate in a similar fashion to how digital technology solutions have consolidated over the last decade. Display advertising was the perfect example of there being 100 different companies and over time, they all began consolidating and becoming larger media companies together.  

Consolidation is the next destination on the IMS journey when you look at the global financing history. CB Insights shows funding peaked in 2015 with 45 deals netting $169 million. While the number of individual deals peaked in 2016, funding has continued to decline year over year, proving success with those solutions that continue to meet the needs of large brands. 

Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight

If we look to 2020 as the point we reach cruising altitude with greater demand and a larger community of influencers, we will then shift our focus to the horizon. To avoid turbulence for your brand or to avoid getting lost in the inevitable jet stream of your competitors, request a demo of the Find Your Influence platform today. 

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