Companies using social media 'influencers' to grow startups, small businesses

Posted at 4:12 PM, Oct 24, 2019

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- We all know advertising on Facebook and Instagram is big business — and getting even bigger .

Companies across Cleveland and Northeast Ohio are taking advantage of social media stars to grow their startups, and you may be surprised at how well it works.

WEWS Homa Bash previously showed how "influencers" are creating successful and lucrative careers . Now, we wanted to take a look at the flip side -- the companies and businesses paying them to sell their goods.

Rebecca Gordon owns Stella & Shay Beauty Bar in Lakewood and Westlake.

Charlie Denk runs Stir Studio Kitchen in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood.

Their brands and businesses are worlds apart, but one thing the two have in common is how much social media — Instagram and Facebook — has helped grow their startup businesses.

“I think if I’ve learned anything, it’s how crazy powerful the social media world is,” Denk said. “This world of social media influencing and advertising in general, it’s real.”

Denk said more than half of the people coming to their cooking classes and events come after seeing their social media presence.

Gordon said she estimates 60 to 70% of their clientele comes from social media, while the rest is word of mouth.

Both use social media influencers to expand their reach — local folks with big followings.

“For me, when a company might come to me and say ‘Oh, do you want to advertise in this printed book for $250?’ I don’t get anything really back from that and we’ve tried it,” Gordon said. “So now we just have been using Instagram and that’s where we see most of our customers coming from.”

Gordon said they pick specific influencers and have a specific goal in mind — services or discounts in exchange for a social media shout-out.

“You as a business, you need to decide what you’re trying to get out it,” Gordon said. “Are you trying to gain more clients, are you trying to gain more followers on Instagram, more brand awareness?”

Denk breaks it down like this — after being tagged in an influencer post, Stir Studio Kitchen will typically see their follower count jump by 100 people in about 12 hours.

“If we can convert even 10 of those people into paying customers, then that’s real tangible results,” Denk said.

But hop on over to Nano Brew in Ohio City, a fixture on W. 25th Street for years, and they have their own strategy.

Owner Sam McNulty, who’s been in the restaurant business for more than 24 years, said he relies more on his staff to spread his brand awareness than social media stars.

“We welcome influencers for sure, but I would say we don’t really play the game quite as much as a lot of folks do in this industry,” McNulty said.

Caroline Allan works with businesses and influencers over at the ad agency Fahlgren-Mortine .

Before you see a social media star post that pretty photo, Allan said there is a ton of back-end research that goes into making sure the company and the person are the right fit.

“It’s so important to make sure you’re aligning yourself with someone who is an authentic representation of your brand and making sure they’re talking to the audience you are trying to reach,” Allan said.

So what happens if Instagram and Facebook get rid of the “like” count that so many see as currency?

You would be able to see them on your posts, but others wouldn’t.

A spokesperson for the company sent News 5 the following statement:

“We are currently running a test that removes the total number of likes on photos and videos in Feed, Permalink pages, and Profile. You can still see your likes by tapping on the liker list, but others will not be able to see how many likes your post has received. We are testing this because we want your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get. The test is still in progress so we have no other updates to share at this time.

We hope that by making the number of likes private, people will be able to focus more on the photos and videos posted in Feed, and that this will ultimately drive deeper engagement. We do understand that the number of likes is important for many creators, and while this test is in exploratory stages, we are thinking through ways for creators to communicate value to their partners.”

The test is currently running in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. The spokesperson said there is no timeline for if, or when, it may be implemented in the United States.

This story was originally published by Homa Bash at WEWS.