Talent Agency Looks to Expand with New Division Focused on Social-Media Influencers

You may know certain famous influencers – think Kim Kardashian and Selena Gomez – but did you know that local celebrities like that social-media savvy mom down the street or the teen with a huge Instagram following may be a better fit for advertising your company?

Finding these hometown social-media stars and connecting them to businesses in Michigan and beyond is the newest division of Bingham Farms-based Productions Plus-The Talent Shop, which is expanding its offerings to include influencer talent.

It’s a good time for the talent company to expand – it is coming up on its 40th anniversary and wanted to build up its Millennial and Generation Z base, said Hedy Popson, president of Productions Plus-The Talent Shop.

The company is looking for influencers who have one key thing: Active engagement. That is the difference between the average person’s social media and someone who has the power, followers and influence to get new brands in front of people or expand the reach of existing brands to fresh audiences, Popson said.

“Influencer marketing is the new, faster word of mouth,” Popson said. “We’re leveraging our experience in matching brands and talent as we enter this new market.”

Productions Plus-The Talent Shop is actively recruiting influencers, even during the coronavirus. The goal is to find people with a following between 1,000 to up to 1 million people. They can be any age, but about 58% of its influencers are Gen Z or Millennials, two of the most powerful consumer-buying demographics, Popson said.

The key is understanding how influencers work, how people connect to them as individual and how brands can work with influencers to boost name recognition, brand loyalty and connection, Popson said.

Influencer impact
Some background: Productions Plus-The Talent Shop — with additional branches in the Dallas area, Nashville, Orange County, Calif., and New York — has worked with companies across the United States to provide spokespeople and other talent, especially for key events such as auto shows. To date, the company has staffed more than 700 product specialists for 17 global auto brands at nearly 100 auto shows in the United States, Canada and abroad.

Influencer marketing is a $10 billion industry and has become the fastest-growing marketing channel offering 6.5 times higher return-on-investment than traditional marketing campaigns, Popson said. With 81% of purchasing decisions being influenced by friends on social media, influencers are now playing an increasingly vital role in marketing.

Social media has always had power in terms of marketing and advertising for brands, but the pandemic has made this resource even more powerful, Popson said. The company’s staff suggested Productions Plus-The Talent Shop start working with influencers, and after a detailed review, everyone agreed it made sense.

“We’re not competing with the Kardashians – we never try to do that as an agency. This is a good fit with what we do,” Popson said. “When the pandemic started, we began using a phrase of ‘We’ve got this.’ We didn’t want to pivot too far from our business model of connecting people with brands.”

To connect an influencer to a brand, the first task is to find the right person with the right kind of following and connection, Popson explained. Just having a lot of followers isn’t enough anymore – followers have to engage with the influencer and seek out that person’s opinions, brand they like and things they find interesting.

Productions Plus-The Talent Shop takes what Popson calls a “deep dive” into each influencer they work with to see what kind of market they have and social capital. They work together to find out what both sides of the process want and develop a digital-marketing strategy and a social-branding plan. This helps the brand find the right influencer and boosts both parties.

They both want a return on investment – and Productions Plus-The Talent Shop has a researcher on staff who studies each campaign, refines it and analyzes the ROI. Popson said about 81% of purchases are influenced by people we know on social media, and she believes that number is likely to go higher now that people are glued to the screens more.

“If you have $3,000 to spend, you have 30 Instagram posts at $100 per post or one YouTube video at $1,000 and 20 IG posts. That’s huge for a small business,” Popson said.

But no following or influencer can succeed unless they have two main things, Popson said: Credibility and authenticity. You can be pretty and creative, she said, but unless you can get people to trust you and believe in what you’re doing, you won’t have the right connection to an audience and brands won’t respond.