Ike Edeani is an SF-based architect-turned creative director-turned photographer. He had always loved photography, and when a new app called Instagram started going viral in Silicon Valley, he used it as an excuse to rededicate himself to the medium.
A couple years later, he has 250,000+ followers and works as a photographer full time. Every time he takes a shot on Instagram, thousands of people comment or like it.
Ike isn’t Ashton Kutcher, but in his corner of the internet-powered world, he might as well be.
Ike is part of a new species of influencers who have built a presence on a particular creative platform and who carry with them their own built-in audience to whatever content they create.
As your brand begins to think about how to rise above the noise at SXSW, there may be no more important type of person with whom to get involved.
Andy Warhol famously said that everyone has their 15 minutes of fame. In today’s world, a more accurate version of the sentiment might be that everyone has their 15 followers.
When we think of influencers, tastemakers, and cultural creators, we tend to think of movie stars, athletes, and TV personalities. In the pre-internet era, influence and fame were relatively binary: you either had them or you didn’t. In other words, you either had an audience or you didn’t.
In the internet era, the tools to grow and engage with an audience have become democratized, and “fame” and “influence” have not only seen their barriers to entry lowered, but have become a spectrum rather than a binary. Almost everyone has some set of people they influence, and the tools to manage and make the most of that influence.
The impact of traditional influencers like celebrities has not diminished in this new world. Indeed, many celebrities have actually used social media to increase the base level of cultural influence that the media for which they became famous in the first place would have otherwise afforded them.
But there is something new happening.
To some extent, everyone at SXSW is an influencer. The people who attend the event – whether officially or unofficially – are early adopters and creative or technical professionals that help shape online attitudes and, consequently, drive offline behavior.
Within the masses, however, there is a different category who are not just normal influential early adopters, nor celebrities of the traditional mode, but who possess an outsized, deeply engaged audience within a particular medium.
For brands, the channels these amplifiers represent are incredibly valuable, not just for the volume of eyeballs to which they open access, but for the deep authenticity of their origins. The people who follow Ike on Instagram, or Hermione Way on Socialcam, or others like them on Vine, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, etc do so because they genuinely appreciate the content those people are creating.
Put differently, if one of these amplifiers chose to push a brand, their audience is more likely to trust that recommendation than they might if they were hearing about it through a different channel.
While brands are starting to explore relationships with this category of amplifiers, these relationships are in their infancy. They can be incredibly powerful allies, and we expect to see some of the savviest brands at SXSW connect with amplifiers to make their events and activations go much further than they otherwise would.