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4 Mistakes to Avoid when Identifying Influencers for Your Brand

With brands such as General Mills spending up to a third of their digital budget on influencer marketing, it’s clear that businesses are seeing a positive ROI on their influencer campaigns. Collaborating with an influencer can improve brand awareness, grow social media following, increase website traffic, and lead to more conversions. Not to mention the high-quality content that can be repurposed in various marketing material.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? It should be. Unfortunately, if influencer marketing is done incorrectly, you could be flushing money down the toilet.
It all starts with influencer identification. Too many brands are starting down the wrong path, making it harder to recover and see those strong KPIs. Learn from the fumbles of other marketers and avoid these four mistakes to yield higher success rates in your influencer campaigns.
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1) Overlooking the demographics of an influencer’s audience
While it’s important that any influencer you work with could be an authentic customer and brand advocate (more on that later), it’s even more important that you take an influencer’s audience into consideration. Before going any further, take a moment to understand who your target audience is.
Are you hoping to reach millennial males in Los Angeles? If that is the case, you shouldn’t be working with a 23-year-old male living in Los Angeles if their following is 97% female and mostly aged 40+. While there would still be some perks of this collaboration (likely some high-quality content that could be repurposed on social media or email marketing), you’d be missing out on the opportunity to gain new loyal customers.
Most influencers will be able to provide audience demographics in a media kit or during the negotiation process. There are also influencer databases and tools (i.e. Upfluence, Traackr, or Klear) which provide insight into an influencer’s audience.
2) Putting too much weight on number of followers and not enough on engagement
In the early days of influencer marketing, brands assumed that any influencer with a large reach would be a good person to collaborate with. Rates were solely based upon follower count and other important metrics such as engagement rate were not considered. Luckily, most marketers have realized that size doesn’t always matter the most. It’s about quality over quantity.
Before contacting an influencer, take note of how engaged their audience is. Would this influencer’s following be likely to take action based on their recommendations? These types of considerations can typically be determined by a simple engagement rate calculation.
To calculate engagement, take the average number of interactions with an influencer’s content (likes and comments on an Instagram post, for example) and divide it by the number of followers or subscribers. Although these numbers change frequently, the average engagement rate on Instagram in 2018 was a 2.70%.
3) Forcing a collaboration with an influencer who is clearly not a fan of the brand
As previously stated, marketers should be targeting influencers who already have a positive sentiment towards their brand. Begin the research process by identifying content creators with influence who are organically mentioning your product or services. The most successful influencer collaborations are authentic.
Even if an influencer is not already promoting the brand, you can tell if they are authentically excited to promote your product or if they’re only in it for the money. During the negotiation process, if any red flags arise such as a lack of excitement or a negative sentiment and approach to the collaboration, it’s time to slowly back away.
Consider your influencer identification to be similar to the hiring process. You want this to be an exciting opportunity for both sides and do not want to hire someone who will not thrive in the environment.
4) Targeting influencers whose feed is oversaturated with sponsored content
A major perk of influencer marketing and reason for success is that influencers are able to get around the ad-blocker mentality that is so prevalent in today’s society. When an influencer is truly influential, they have built organic relationships with their followers. As an influencer, there is a fine balance of organically sharing passions and experiences and filtering in sponsored posts for brands.
Even if the sponsored posts are for products or services that an influencer truly loves and uses, no audience wants to feel that they are constantly being sold to. For this reason, it is important to manually review an influencer’s content to ensure that there is a mixture of sponsored posts and traditional content.
When brands make the mistake of working with an influencer who is constantly promoting someone or something, the audience is tuned out and ROI will drop.
Heading towards success
There are many missteps along the way that could lead you astray and cause your influencer campaign to fall apart. By avoiding these common influencer identification mistakes, you’ll be starting down the right path. Set yourself up for success by identifying the best influencers for your brand from the start.

Should Brands Be Authentic or Aspirational on Instagram?

What’s more important in what we post on Instagram: authenticity or perfection?
Most of us would probably answer the former without thinking twice. Of course, it’s better to just be yourself, right?
The “just be yourself” credo feels natural to extend beyond personal accounts to consumer brands, too. After all, the push to humanize companies and commodify our own personalities has made the two increasingly difficult to distinguish between.
But we’ve found that the answer isn’t quite so simple.
For starters, there’s no clear-cut definition of what authenticity actually means for your brand’s Instagram presence. And to complicate things further, examples of brands achieving success on Instagram can be found on both ends of the authenticity-perfection spectrum. So, if you’re deciding which is best for your brand’s Instagram presence…the debate remains.

Do you opt for less-polished images and conversational captions that your customers can instantly relate to?
Or do you strive to create an aspirational feed that will have your customers fantasizing about what they could become with your product?

Let’s explore the case for each type of brand account.
What does it mean for brands to be authentic on Instagram, anyway?
The question of what makes an authentic Instagram presence is hard to answer.
Some brands (like General Electric) have taken to sharing behind-the-scenes photos of their company, while others, like Aerie and ModCloth, have pledged to not share photoshopped images.

However, it’s not clear whether this is enough for these brands to be considered “authentic” on social media.
Most definitions of the term say that to be authentic is to be true to your personality or spirit, not necessarily true to objective reality.
By that definition, a company with a larger-than-life brand, like Walt Disney World, should post fantasy-driven, perfected images. If the Walt Disney World Instagram account was full of candid snapshots of long lines, tired toddlers, or sweating parents, that would be less authentic to the famous Disney spirit than their imaginative feed of fireworks and attractions.
On the other hand, for many, a lack of authenticity is indicated by a sense that what a brand is posting is probably not what you’d see with your own eyes, without filters or professional editing.
So, for the sake of clarity in this article, let’s say that an “authentic” Instagram presence is one that doesn’t rely heavily on professionally styled, photographed, and edited images.
Your brand’s Instagram: the case for authenticity
A whopping 86% of consumers say that a brand’s authenticity is important when they decide what to buy. With half of all Instagram users following brand accounts, it’s likely that a brand’s Instagram presence factors into how authentic the brand is perceived as being.
Plus, if Instagram influencers are a trend to rely on, they represent a growing movement away from the jaw-dropping, perfected images that originally gave Influencers, well, their influence.
Especially those with younger followers, many Influencers have adopted a rawer presence, deliberately posting images that are not only unedited but show them in an imperfect light.
Such accounts, like fashion influencers Reese Blutstein and Courtney Trop, don’t break from their version of authenticity even when partnering with high-end brands. In fact, they often draw attention to the flaws in their shots: In one post, Trop captions a photo featuring a Louis Vuitton bag, “My dream bag but it’s cut off in this pic so I’ll have to take another.”
Also, consider the immense popularity of the relatively new Instagram Stories feature, which was launched mid-2016. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom told Vox that the move sprung from their insights that users were backing off Instagram due to “feeling the pressure of sharing really amazing photos.” Stories were meant to give users (and brands) a place to share more off-the-cuff images of their uncurated life.
Clearly, it’s worked. Today, over 500 million people engage with Instagram Stories daily.
These trends point to a major opportunity for brands to connect with their customers through an Instagram presence that feels more authentic and less styled.
Your brand’s Instagram: the case for the perfect aesthetic
Despite the hype about authenticity, a look at the most popular Instagram accounts tells a different story.
Accounts that cater to the fantasy of a fairytale life, complete with stunning images of perfectly styled models or professionally lit lifestyle photos, have followings that dwarf the accounts mentioned above.
Accounts like that of fashion mogul Chiara Ferragni boast photos of a jet-setting life (with never a hair out of place) and tens of millions of followers.

The same can be said of the Kardashian sisters’ accounts, which have some of the highest follower counts in the world. Brands who have paid partnerships with Kim Kardashian reportedly pay over $500,000 for a single Instagram post. For that amount, their ROI must be much higher, suggesting that a large number of consumers are indeed excited to buy from a brand that promotes perfection.
Even with the addition of the lower-pressure Instagram Stories feature, many people still feel the pressure to be perfect on social media, particularly Instagram. Highlighting the widespread desire to be perceived as perfect, a recent study links Instagram use frequency to negative feelings about one’s self-worth or physical appearance.
However, brands offering a fantasy of perfection on Instagram can capitalize on a powerful buying motive: wanting to have (or at least be perceived as having) a better, more glamorous lifestyle.
Successful brands with an authentic Instagram presence
There are dozens of brands that have tapped into the authenticity movement on Instagram and created a devoted community around their product.
With two million followers on Instagram and a valuation of $1.2 billion, Glossier is the quintessential example of a brand that has leveraged a down-to-earth Instagram presence to skyrocket the success of their company.

Their photos, while high-quality, aren’t overly styled. Sometimes, photos of their products seem like the ones you could take in your own bathroom. The makeup company is also known for re-posting photos that customers share. And because their product is natural-looking makeup, this choice makes sense.
In another example, men’s casual wear brand Chubbies uses Instagram to post exclusively humorous images.

Often, the photos take the form of funny memes poking fun at their brand. With a customer base of people who don’t like to take themselves too seriously, this type of Instagram branding works well. They currently have about 450K followers.
Successful brands with a perfect-aesthetic Instagram presence
By contrast, some of Instagram’s coolest brands are doing the opposite, going for a polished and defined feed.
Direct-to-consumer luggage and travel brand Away is a company that disrupted the travel industry with their curated Instagram presence. Their luggage, while generally less expensive than other luxury travel brands, nevertheless promises customers a globe-trotting lifestyle. Their Instagram feed is a long stream of aspirational images of travel through business class and enviable locations. With 400K followers and counting, their strategy seems to be working.

Similarly, LNA, a clothing brand based in Los Angeles, posts images of their picture-perfect, California-cool models against immaculate backgrounds or posing in hillside pools. The account has one of the highest reported engagement rates of any brand.

Takeaway: Be true to the brand you’ve created
There is an opportunity for brands with the call for more Instagram authenticity. A lot of consumers are tiring of the super-perfect world projected by marketers and advertisers… especially when it comes to seeing that content amid photos of our friends.
And Instagram users, in particular, seem to be suffering from perfection-weariness. These consumers are craving brand content that doesn’t try to impress them with dazzling photos. Instead, they want images that reveal what your product looks like in real life.
On the flipside, brands that are sticking with the aspirational aesthetic are doing remarkably well. It turns out that just because authenticity has become a buzzword doesn’t mean that the tried-and-true “perfect shot” Instagram feeds have lost their appeal. After all, achieving a perceived higher status or esteem is one of the age-old buying motives that almost every consumer has.
However, looking at how different brands have been successful with both types of approaches on Instagram, we can pinpoint one clear kernel of advice: Be true to the brand you’ve created.
If your brand is built on humour or if your customer-base prizes realness above all, then aim to be authentic on Instagram. But if your brand serves up luxury products, you’re probably better off sticking with your perfect aesthetic.
What do you think? When it comes to Instagram for brands, what’s more important: authenticity or perfection?

Legendary Actor James Garner Dies At 86 (Video)

Actor James Garner, best known for his roles in multiple TV series and his Oscar-nominated performance in “Murphy’s Romance” has died. He was 86.
According to Los Angeles police, Garner died of natural causes. TMZ reports the actor was found dead when an ambulance arrived at his Los Angeles home Saturday evening around 8p.m.
Garner appeared in over 50 films over his six-decade career, but he was best known for his roles in two TV series.
As a nomadic cardsharp in the 1950s show “Maverick” and as a wrongly convicted private investigator in “The Rockford Files” during the 1970s.
Garner appeared in more recent films such as 2004’s “The Notebook” where he played an older version of Ryan Gosling’s character.
The Oklahoma native’s death evoked strong reactions online from actor/comedian Norm Macdonald recalling a poker game he once lost to the star.
And “Parks and Recreation” star Jim O’Heir remembered him as a “gracious man.”
A writer at The New York Times described him a “genuine star but as an actor something of a paradox: a lantern-jawed, brawny athlete whose physical appeal was both enhanced and undercut by a disarming wit.”
In an interview, Garner cited legendary actors Spencer Tracy and Henry Fonda as two inspirations for his unique on-camera personality.
“I don’t ever remember catching Spencer Tracey acting. You know everything he did seemed so natural to me. And of course I learned a little technique and professionalism from Henry Fonda.”
Garner is survived by his wife, daughter, stepdaughter and stepson.

Spinning, Middle Finger-Waving Dodgers Fan Is The Perfect Thing

GIF: Gutsy Dodgers fan does rotating double middle finger salute to Angels fans in Anaheim pic.twitter.com/9LZM659hRk— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) September 10, 2015Anyone who is actually from Los Angeles, like real Los Angeles, knows that the Angels and everything associated with them are the worst.Seriously, how can you call yourself the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? Those are two different cities. And don't give me that "Los Angeles metropolitan area" bulls**t. If you type "Anaheim" into Google, it says "Anaheim is a city outside Los Angeles." If you plug "Angel Stadium of Anaheim" and "Los Angeles, CA" into Google Maps, it says they're nearly an hour away from one another. Like they're two different places. End of debate.That all goes to say that spinning, middle finger-waving Dodgers fan (viewable above) is the perfect symbol for so many things. He personifies defiance and he personifies Los Angeles — real Los Angeles. He personifies fearlessness and he personifies pride. He personifies delicious carne asada paired with a chilled Corona Extra, the official meal of LA. He would personify Yasiel Puig but Puig is a human too, so that doesn't really work. Anyway, you get the idea. Cheers to you spinning, middle finger-waving Dodgers fan.The Angels beats the Dodgers, 3-2, on Wednesday at what will now be known as the middle-finger game.Also on HuffPost:– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Fall Movie Preview: Fukunaga, Netflix Set out for New Worlds

NEW YORK—Cary Fukunaga’s first feature film, “Sin Nombre”— which translates to “Nameless,” was a Spanish-language drama about Honduran immigrants. His latest, “Beasts of No Nation,” is a brutal story about a boy drafted into a West African rebel army.
Don’t be fooled by the exotic filmography. Fukunaga grew up in Oakland, California, in what he calls a traditional middle-class family, first planning to be a professional snowboarder.
FILE – In this Feb. 7, 2015 file photo, Cary Fukunaga arrives the 67th Annual DGA Awards in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
“I’ve never really been drawn to telling stories that are immediate reflections of my life,” says Fukunaga, who also helmed an acclaimed adaption of “Jane Eyre.” ”I’ve always looked out: outside of my culture, outside of my time, even, as places of inspiration. I always used to daydream as a kid about living in different time periods and different places.”
“Beasts of No Nation,” which stars Idris Elba as the militant commandant, is also taking the traditional movie release to a new realm. When it opens in select theaters Oct. 16, it will also debut on Netflix. It’s the first in Netflix’s coming slate of original narrative films, which include Adam Sandler comedies, Brad Pitt’s Gen. Stanley McChrystal satire and a “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” sequel.
This photo provided by Netflix shows, Abraham Attah, left, as Agu, and Idris Elba, as Commandant, in the Netflix original film, “Beasts of No Nation,” directed by Cary Fukunaga. (Netflix via AP)
But Netflix’s first step is a savagely serious one in “Beasts of No Nation,” a thrillingly cinematic but grimly horrific portrait of war seen through a child’s eyes. It’s playing on the fall film festival circuit and Netflix will give it an awards season push.
That makes “Beasts of No Nation” arguably the most prominent film yet to puncture the traditional theatrical window.
It also marks Fukunaga’s first project since directing the whole of season one of HBO’s “True Detective,” which won him an Emmy and widespread recognition for his atmospheric direction and moments of one-take bravado. (The less successful season two, he says, he hasn’t even seen: “I’m very much aware of the critiques of the show, but I never even got to see the scripts.”)
But the ultra-bleak “True Detective,” he chuckles, is “far lighter” than “Beasts of No Nation.” The film was always going to be a more art-house proposition, so Netflix (which purchased the film for about $12 million) almost surely means a much wider audience. The choice, Fukunaga says, wasn’t easy, but the lure of Netflix’s 65 million subscribers worldwide won him over.
MORE:Why Films About Films Keep Winning Best Picture
“I want people to see this film,” he says, adding that he hopes many still see it in theaters. “To do a traditional theatrical release, a platform release, we might get a few thousand people to see this film. Tens of thousands if we were really lucky.”
Fukunaga, 39, has wanted to make a movie about child soldiers for years. His application to film school to New York University included his plans for it, and he traveled to Sierra Leone in 2003. But it was the 2005 debut novel by Uzodinma Iweala, on which the movie is based, that made everything click for the writer-director.
He filmed “Beasts of No Nation” in Ghana. His 14-year-old star, Abraham Attah, was a street vendor without prior acting experience. For the intrepid Fukunaga, “Beasts of No Nation” is about using cinema to connect far-apart worlds.
“It’s when you start seeing people for people and not just as a news headline, it changes your interest,” says Fukunaga. “The reason for storytelling is to create empathy, to create connections with people around the fire, with people from far-away places that you wouldn’t normally think you have anything in common with and yet you actually, absolutely do.”

4 Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Detroit’s Rebuild

In the 1980s, Detroit was at the peak of its suffering. Ongoing racial tension, political corruption, violent crime, and economic turmoil left the once-proud city in shambles.
Today, however, Detroit is a brand-new place with a brand-new identity — and entrepreneurs can learn a whole lot from studying how the city went about rebuilding itself.
When you think about it, revitalizing a city is a lot like launching a startup. First off, Detroit was tight on money — something every entrepreneur can relate to — and banks were hesitant to involve themselves with the city. Just like startups that have difficulty finding investors, Detroit needed to find a way to display that it was stable and worth investing in.
Like startups struggle with existing expenses long into their lifespans, Detroit’s legacy costs were hindering its growth. Despite all of the challenges, the city elected to prioritize innovation and expansion as the solution.
For startups trying to break out, nothing is more important than the ability to innovate.
Innovating a New Identity
For a long time, Detroit suffered from “little brother syndrome” while measuring itself next to powerhouses like Manhattan and Los Angeles. But once the city embraced the fact that it was not those cities and established its own unique characteristics — both negative and positive — it was able to take major strides toward defining its true identity.
Part of this process involved finding positivity in the city’s most negative characteristics. For example, even though much of the city was impoverished, Detroit used this trait to rebrand itself as a gritty survivor town full of hardworking people who know what it means to have nothing and work toward a better life. Also, the city’s population was dwindling, but Detroit owned this fact by embracing the deep roots of the families who still lived there. These Detroit lifers take incredible pride in their hometown and want to make it a better place for future generations.
It took a lot of creativity to transform a beaten-down area into a vibrant city. Isn’t this the same basic premise most startups are founded on? Entrepreneurs identify an area that needs to be rebuilt, and through creativity, they seek to improve it and achieve big results.
What You Can Learn From Detroit
Like Rome, Detroit wasn’t (re)built in a day. Instead, it focused on the little things and improved one neighborhood at a time. Eventually, the culmination of these efforts resulted in an entirely revamped city.
You can emulate Detroit’s success in your startup by sticking to these four strategies:
1. Think Locally: Detroit went down to street level and said, “How can we make this street better before moving on to the next one?” Entrepreneurs like to think about all of the global change they’re going to make, but starting local and keeping your focus small will make big results happen sooner.
2. Seek Diversity: In Detroit, people of all kinds make up the city’s identity and are helping turn things around. In your startup, you can’t gather a group of identical individuals and expect them to have a far-reaching impact. If you want your business to transform the world, bring in people of different genders, nationalities, socioeconomic statuses, and races to take advantage of what these unique viewpoints have to offer.
3. Fire the Rotten Eggs: Detroit’s most recent rotten egg was sentenced to a 28-year prison sentence, and since then, the city has improved at a record pace. Startups need to evaluate employees carefully. Hanging onto bad ones will only cause you to miss the opportunity to hire the right ones. It takes strong leadership skills to make hard decisions, but if you want to succeed, you must learn how to maximize your staff.
4. Befriend Billionaires: Detroit has a handful of lovely, generous billionaires who are playing major roles in the city’s rebuild. Entrepreneurs don’t necessarily need to buddy up with billionaires, but receiving backing from wealthy individuals can be a game changer. These are people who have the financial security to be able to see beyond immediate ROI and look at the bigger picture.
Getting your startup off the ground takes grit — and so did bringing Detroit back from the brink. Follow the example set by one of America’s most iconic cities, and you will set yourself up for long-term success while readying your business to face the challenges and pitfalls that come with it.
Image Credit: Flickr/Bryan Debus