April 7, 2020: Lyft partners with influencers for social good; Quibi makes its debut; YouTube builds ‘Shorts’ to compete with TikTok; Hollywood talent agencies look to sign with influencers
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
Deep Dive: How Lyft Partners with Influencers for Social Good
Lyft wants everyone to know it’s more than just a rideshare company — it’s a mission-driven company, aiming to solve a global problem: providing reliable transportation for everyone. One way it’s doing that? Partnering with influencers to create social change.
In a recent interview with Bette Ann Sclossberg, Lyft’s director of influencer marketing, discussed the company’s various social good initiatives: from its LyftUp campaign in partnership with Lebron James and his empowerment company; Uninterrupted, to provide bikeshare opportunities for communities; and it’s more recent programs, like offering free e-scooter trips for healthcare workers that are on the frontlines of COVID-19.
How does Lyft involve influencers in its approach?
The brand takes a tiered approach, diversifying its influencer marketing mix to include mega-, macro- and micro-influencers and activating each persona differently throughout a campaign initiative. Take, for instance, the brand’s LyftUp campaign — instead of just partnering with one mega-influencer (Lebron James) to star in the spot, they also partnered with other influencers, like professional BMX bicyclist Nigel Sylvester, who’s a content creator on YouTube and Instagram and the creative director of the video.
What about long-term partnerships?
For a mission-driven brand like Lyft, who strives to highlight its social good initiatives, authenticity is that much more important. As such, not only is finding passionate influencers who actually want to make a deeper impact important, but also securing long-term partnerships with these individuals.
What’s Lyft saying?
“When we work with influencers, we hope it’s not just a one-and-done opportunity. We want to build long-lasting relationships. From my time at Google when I built our micro-influencer communities, to today [at Lyft], a lot of those influencers are still with me, and we still work together.” — Bette Ann Sclossberg, Director of Influencer Marketing at Lyft
In Lyft’s marketing mind, influencer marketing happens both digitally and in real life. This multi-faceted approach enables them to engage with audiences in a genuine way, and that authenticity is the very thing that drives successful marketing campaigns. This type of marketing is not particularly easy to pull off, but Lyft uses a community approach that actually impacts people — starting with Lebron James.
Lyft’s approach, to genuinely and authentically connect with people, does not go unnoticed, especially during times of crisis. Brands have an opportunity to take a page out of Lyft’s playbook and partner with influencers to do social good — and there’s no time like the present to start.
Quibi Makes its Much-Anticipated Debut
Quibi, the short-form streaming service with no shortage of Hollywood talent has officially made its much-anticipated debut — and during a global pandemic.
WTF is Quibi?
The platform, founded by Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and former HP CEO Meg Whitman, stands for “quick bites” and is built on the premise of shorter content segments (10 min or less) designed for small screens (your phone). One of the unique aspects to Quibi is that it has created what it calls “turnstile” videos, so that the viewer can rotate the phone from vertical to horizontal and it plays in full screen in either direction.
What makes Quibi different?
High quality, celebrity-level content — and lots of it (at least, for now), Quibi had planned on releasing three hours of new content weekly, as part of a bid to make watching Quibi part of a daily routine. In its first year, this was supposed to amount to more than 175 original shows and over 8,500 episodes — no word on if this has changed given the current circumstances.
As the battle for short-form attention heats up, Quibi isn’t necessarily in direct competition with streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ and HBO, but instead with social media platforms that are currently capturing consumers’ on-the-go attention. Even Katzenber himself has said, “[Quibi] is competing against free.”
How is Quibi’s launch affected by COVID-19?
This wasn’t exactly the launch Katzenberg and Whitman had planned for Quibi. In addition to the technical troubles it had on launch day, the streamer had prepared to show off its programming at SXSW, host a red carpet event premiere in LA, and launch major marketing campaigns around live sporting events, like March Madness — all of which had been canceled as a result of COVID-19.
Now, the company has shifted marketing dollars to digital, with ads running on competing streaming platforms like Hulu and Roku, as well as social platforms like Instagram and TiKTok. As well, this week, Quibi’s celebrity stars will host Instagram Live videos where they talk about their shows and the platform with one another, part of an effort to capitalize on Quibi’s considerable star power to get the word out.
With the majority of the global population being advised to shelter in place and maintain social distance, will Quibi, the platform that has been built for viewing on-the-go, still be able to gain viewership and capture market share? On the one hand, there is still the need for the kind of entertainment Quibi is offering. People are still looking for quick breaks (i.e., mental breaks from work), and that type of behavior hasn’t disappeared altogether. This, paired with the fact that streaming entertainment has hit an all-time high could make a perfect recipe for Quibi’s success.
However, from a launch and content production standpoint, Quibi, like most other entertainment studios, could be faced with difficulties for the foreseeable future,since filming is at a complete standstill. While Quibi has produced enough programming to make it through Thanksgiving, there’s no telling when filming will be able to resume, placing the platform at risk of eventually running out of new content. As well, when there’s already so much free content from, arguably equally talented creators on social media platforms, will consumers be willing to pay Netflix-subscription prices for content from “celeb” creators?
Too soon to tell — but we’re watching, literally. Here’s what we’re watching on Quibi: Chrissy’s Court, Survive, Most Dangerous Game and Flipped.
Not Unrelated: The Battle of Short-Form Attention Intensifies as YouTube Launches Shorts to Compete with TikTok
YouTube is rumored to be working on a TikTok-like feature, called ‘Shorts’, which would essentially facilitate the same mechanics as TikTok within the YouTube app.
What do we know about ‘Shorts’?
Not much, at the moment. However, according to The Information, Shorts will live inside the YouTube app, will feature a feed of TikTok-style content and will take advantage of YouTube’s catalog of licensed music, which will be available to be used as soundtracks by users. It’s said that YouTube is aiming to release this feature by the end of the year.
The new YouTube feature could raise a serious threat against TikTok, which has already amassed almost 2 billion downloads globally. If YouTube does move forward with Shorts, it has a lot of the pieces in place to directly rival and potentially even one-up TikTok.
From a sheer numbers perspective, YouTube has a much larger user base, with over 2 billion people using the app each month, compared to TikTok’s estimated 300 million MAU outside of China. As well, since the offering will be directly tied to YouTube, it could encourage more engagement from brands and creators who are already familiar with the ins and outs of YouTube’s platform.
One of the biggest benefits YouTube has going is that YouTube has significantly more advanced monetization systems in place for creators, like newly launched channel memberships, merch partners, and super stickers. TikTok, on the other hand, doesn’t currently have any creator monetization offerings that can rival creators’ earning potentials on YouTube, which as seen with the death of Vine, can lead to a platform’s demise. It’s likely that we will begin to see TikTok expedite its monetization efforts, especially given how much traction we’ve seen the app get in recent weeks.
The Fame Landscape is Shifting
Top Hollywood talent agencies have realigned their businesses to focus on a new generation of talent: influencers.
Take Addison Easterling, a 19-year-old TikTok star with more than 30.6 million followers who had never shot an acting reel or auditioned for a big role. However, after finding success on TikTok, which she joined last summer, top talent agents in LA started reaching out. In December, she moved from Louisiana to LA and signed with William Morris Endeavor, a major Hollywood talent agency.
What are talent agencies saying?
“It used to be, I want to get famous on YouTube or Vine, so I can have a career in traditional entertainment. Now, this is a career.” – Greg Goodfried, co-head of digital talent at United Talent Agency
The entertainment industry is changing. For those in entertainment, typically signing with an elite talent agency serves as somewhat of a status symbol but the fame landscape is shifting. While many Gen Z stars don’t need the help of talent agencies to get opportunities ( they are so adept at growing their audience organically), signing with a talent agency still does offer a “flex” as Parker Pannell, a 16-year-old TikToker put it. As well, talent is no longer coming from ‘traditional places’ and as Jad Deyeh, co-head of digital at WME says, “the younger generation creates, self-broadcasts and shares it with the world. They don’t wait to get their audition shot and wait for someone to discover them.”
This shift, largely driven by TikTok, has leveled the playing field for brands and creators. Five years ago, a social media influencer never would have appeared on a spot on traditional TV. Now, we’re seeing countless TikTok celebrities not only being featured in these spots, but appearing next to mainstream celebrities and brands at major events (think: Charli D’Amelio and Sabra at last year’s SuperBowl).
“As digital creators, our strongest skill set is being creative and nimble. I’ve seen so many people develop new features on social media or create content on new platforms like TikTok. Even if the main driver is boredom, everyone’s being forced to create in new ways which could lead to something lasting beyond this pandemic. There will always be a need for creativity.” — Chrissy Rutherford, fashion writer and influencer
We repeat, there will always be a need for creativity. ‘Traditional’ social media creators and beyond — we’re seeing this with the creation of homemade face masks to keep frontline workers safe despite the shortage of legitimate medical supplies; musicians doing live performances on Instagram Live and other streaming platforms to lift people’s spirits; comedians telling new jokes on Instagram Live to raise money for comedy club staff; the explosion of pandemic-themed memes; a spike in super creative TikTok videos being created.
As with any crisis, there is equal potential for bad as there is good. Let’s all take this time to exercise creativity, both inside and outside of the constraints of the digital world, to come together and help those who need it most.