Meet a New Flock of Local Influencers: An Interview with Emily Steele of Hummingbirds

Meet a New Flock of Local Influencers: An Interview with Emily Steele of Hummingbirds

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Meltwater recently reported on “influencer fatigue” and asserted that only 3 percent of consumers are still swayed by the opinions of celebrities. But we all know that word-of-mouth marketing and targeted social media with the help of local influencers can still be highly effective tactics.

Emily Steele on local influencers

A new breed (or should we say flock*) of influencers has entered the marketing scene. We recently sat down with Emily Steele, the CEO and Co-Founder of Hummingbirds. This venture-backed SaaS company helps MULO (multi-location) and other brands find and work with hyper-local content creators (called Hummingbirds, of course!).

She believes that authentic and everyday local shoppers can be big brands’ secret weapons in generating awareness, credibility, and ultimately revenue for a wide range of businesses.

What’s the most common mistake MULO brands make in working with influencers?

Your primary goal may be to drive sales at a physical location. So, you must understand if your local influencers can influence local buying behavior.
Influencers today are often influential in a particular category. But just because someone has 12,000 Insta followers, they may not care about your shoe store. The followers could care more about the recipes that the influencer was posting. Don’t be swayed just by follower counts. Someone with a mere 500 followers in a city in which you want to drive behavior may be a far better fit for your brand.

How do Hummingbirds actually drive traffic and sales for MULO brands?

These social media enthusiasts are local champions who love trying new things. The people they influence are the same consumers they bump into at the grocery store or neighborhood block party. So, they are deeply trusted and aren’t even considered “influencers.” They are just regular everyday people.
For example, a MULO med spa wanted to drive awareness and sales in multiple cities. Hummingbirds were given a complimentary service (which they had to disclose). They produced genuine content about their experiences. Some became paying clients, and they reached thousands of local residents, some of whom tried the spa.
Regional grocery chains have also seen success via Hummingbirds. Fareway has 130 locations, and they can now easily create campaigns in multiple cities without having to find their own advocates on a local level. Fareway’s Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications McClane Gill says, “Hummingbirds have the freedom to show their friends and family a genuine shopping experience. We’ve already seen ‘brand champions’ emerge from our campaigns.”
Fareway offered $50 gift cards to consumers who shopped at their locations and shared their experiences.  So, the model still allows for “spiffs” as incentives.

How do your clients get started?

We at Hummingbirds have already done the heavy lifting because we built the software and communities. When expanding to new cities, we look through Instagram to see who’s active, what they talk about, and how many people engage with their content. Campaigns can be launched within minutes, and we offer packages.

What are your expansion plans?

We are currently active in the Midwest, including Cincinnati, Columbus, Grand Rapids, Des Moines, Iowa City/Cedar Rapids, Kansas City, Lincoln, Madison, Milwaukee, Omaha, Quad Cities, St. Louis, and Twin Cities. We plan to expand into 45 mid-sized cities by the end of 2024. Our team is growing rapidly, and we’re scaling our technology and raising capital to meet demand.  We think we have a model that leverages the power of influencer marketing and mass reach without sacrificing credibility.
Thank you, Emily Steele for your perspectives on the future of local influencers!
*A flock of hummingbirds is actually called a bouquet, a charm, a glittering, a hover, a shimmer, or a tune. Who knew?
Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in, the New York Times and Forbes.
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