Today is International Women’s Day, and the theme this year is #BalanceforBetter as a balanced world is a better world. We wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate the roles women play in the influencer marketing industry, which is, let’s not forget, a relatively new one. Recent research reveals that gender disparity in the workplace is holding women back from achieving their full potential – but not these eight hard-working women.
Talking Influence sat down with the women leading the way in the space to find out their story of how they got to where they are today, their thoughts on working in the influencer industry, and how it has all changed since they first began.
Maddie Raedts, co-founder and CCO of IMA
I think (and it may be obvious) that in order to get to the ‘top’ you need to work really hard. Trial and error, fall and get up again, learn by doing. That’s really what I believe in. At IMA, we like to say that we always ‘make it happen’, no matter what. The IMA executive team are all women, and 90% of our staff are female. According to Axxon, men are twice as likely to be the CEO or MD in marketing, so we’re proud of the fact that we’re a female-led business, making waves in this young industry.
As for industry changes, in the beginning, when pitching to corporate clients, you could tell that we weren’t always taken too seriously when we entered a room. It was up to us to show our expertise and usually, as soon as we began to talk, they were convinced. Today, I don’t really experience that anymore.
We definitely need more women in CEO and management positions in influencer marketing. My advice to any women thinking of starting their own agency or taking the next step in their career, is that you should just do it. So often we have ideas that never come to fruition because of fear or self doubt, so try not to overthink things. Today, on International Women’s Day, we should be thinking about how we, as leaders, can champion the next generation of influencer marketers so that we create a diversified, equal industry.
Beca Alexander, founder of Socialyte
I’ve been in the influencer marketing space since the very beginning; almost an entire decade, which has given me the knowledge to continue evolving as changes occur. In order to excel as we move into the future, I believe that you must understand the past. As the industry expands, my personal relationships have given Socialyte the opportunity to continue pushing forward using the insider information I’ve been able to gather from others that have helped shape the ecosystem.
The influencer marketing industry is mostly female-driven. It materialised as women began to embrace and utilise social media; specifically, the content creators who chose to put their life out there to the public. I was in the right place at the right time and possessed a knowledge base that uniquely qualified me to guide these influential personalities. I launched Socialyte after my other female friends gained attention as bloggers and asked for my assistance to create media kits and negotiate their inbound opportunities. Socialyte would truly not exist without them.
As a leader in the influencer marketing space, one of my greatest joys has been helping both men and women launch their careers and watching them evolve into successful entrepreneurs. As a woman, I feel that I’m more empathetic to the experiences our talents have gone through in their personal lives that have affected their content and has made them think about what to share with their audiences, helping guide those decisions along the way.
To be completely transparent, almost everything has changed since I started out. My vision for the company, the ecosystem, how talent gains influence, the way we work with talent and brands, the legality, strategy, etc., all these elements have changed drastically year over year. Nothing has remained the same – which is one of the best parts of working in this industry. It enforces us to consistently evolve and innovate.
Evy Wilkins, VP of marketing, Traackr
I started working with Traackr in 2012. Influencer marketing as we know it was just getting started and many organisations truly struggled to grasp the practice and how to get started. I remember writing our original Guide to Influencer Marketing, which was a collection of use cases to help answer the biggest questions of the day. Flash forward to 2019 and influencer marketing continues to evolve at a faster pace. The investments have skyrocketed and every CMO is thinking about influencer marketing and what it means for their organisation. It’s an exciting time to be in this industry and playing a part in driving marketing forward.
I’ve found that working in the marketing technology industry has been empowering. There’s a benefit to marketing to marketers in that, in addition to your job, you are also a subject matter expert. I also have the privilege of working alongside fantastic men and women who all strive to create a collaborative environment where we can all succeed. For the vast majority of my career, it was fairly normal to be the only woman at the table. Earlier this year at our leadership meeting, I realised we had a 50/50 gender split, which was an exciting moment!
If there is one reason I am where I am today, it’s because I sought out and embraced adventure even when I was afraid the job was out of my league. At some point, I learned to acknowledge the fear but refuse to let it hold me back. What makes a career exciting is constantly pushing yourself.
Lina Yancheva, head of Germany & US campaign, Takumi
When I started working at Takumi, Influencer marketing was a young, exciting and growing industry that I was very interested in and I was very motivated to professionalise my experience in this area. I fully immersed myself within the industry and gained a lot of expertise. As my experience developed, my solution-orientated approach allowed me to progress to the position of head of campaign – Germany and US. Today, I am very happy to be responsible for my own team and to be able to motivate my colleagues in Berlin and New York.
What I like most about influencer marketing is that it gives people the opportunity to turn their hobby and creativity into a profession. I also enjoy that the industry is very dynamic. Every day you face new challenges and are forced to think outside the box. Sometimes it’s hard to find the golden middle and balance between clients and influencers, but this is also what makes it exciting.
The budgets are much bigger now than they used to be when I first started out and clients are very interested in shifting marketing investments and investing more in influencer marketing. Even pharmaceutical companies or companies like Deutsche Bahn, that have traditions in mainstream marketing strategies, have started using Instagram to promote their new products.
In 2019 having high-quality Instagram content is more important than ever and even micro influencers are very invested in trying to make their feeds look as professional as possible. This allows them to make Instagram a big source of income and for some, it’s even a full-time career. In that connection, influencer marketing is also becoming more complex in terms of compensation and rewards.
Jenny Tsai, CEO and founder of Wearisma
Throughout my career, innovation has always been at the forefront of my mind. Whilst leading international digital strategy at Hearst, I spotted a gap in the market with regards to how global brands were working with social media influencers. I founded Wearisma with the vision of making influencer marketing intuitive – as Wearisma is driven just as much by human intuition as it is powered by AI analytics.
As for the industry itself, I am constantly enriched by its evolution, especially its ability to drive change in the world. Ostensibly, the influencer marketing landscape has evolved considerably since Wearisma first launched over four years ago now. We have witnessed the shift from celebrity-focused partnerships, to the rise of the micro-influencer, through to industry insiders.
2018 also leveled the playing field when it comes to establishing clear-cut parameters of transparency. With social media platforms tightening the reins on disingenuous likes and inflated follower counts, and the ASA cracking down on inauthentic advertisements, authenticity has become a staple for the success of any influencer partnership. The renaissance of trust blooming across the industry is impressive and I am excited to see just how much the industry will transform in the coming years.
Viv Yau, co-founder of Bee Influence
I used to work in traditional advertising in Manchester as an account manager before I started working with influencers. Whilst it developed me into being a strategic thinker, I saw an opportunity for a lot of my clients to do something with influencers, but it was so new and unheard of five years ago that it was a hard sell back then, even internally. I then moved to London to work at social talent management agency Gleam Futures, where I managed top digital-first creators. It taught me a lot about involving influencers in the creative process. I then moved back to my hometown in Manchester and spotted an opportunity to deliver truly expert influencer marketing services to brands and agencies’ right on their doorstep, which is when I co-founded Bee Influence with my business partner, Mark Dandy.
So much has changed since I started out – no longer is it just about macro influencers, but the power of smaller creators making real waves in influencer campaigns. What I love about our industry is that it’s constantly changing, with new influencers, platforms, trends, and guidelines. The media tends to only report the horror stories about influencer marketing, so there is still an education needed from leaders in our industry so that wider audiences can perceive and judge the industry on an even keel. But in my eyes, it’s the most progressive digital industry – especially in terms of it being predominantly female dominated.
Jennifer Quigley-Jones, founder of Digital Voices
I founded Digital Voices just under two years ago, with £500 of my savings, after leaving my job at YouTube. The past year has seen us grow quite rapidly after we chose to specialise in building YouTube creator campaigns for brands – challenging the dominance of Instagram influencer marketing.
Since starting out, the industry has professionalised a lot, which is an utter blessing for Digital Voices as clients want to balance creative and data-driven campaigns, rather than bluster.
It’s surprising how few agencies are run by women in the influencer marketing world, especially considering that female influencers tend to be more commercially successful. This year, I want to find more mentor and advisor figures – both male and female – as I believe in learning other people’s experiences and perspectives.
Ariane Lambropoulos, MD at Model Village
Curious by nature, I have always wanted to learn about new digital trends, new brand goals, new ways to consume and new ways to buy. My previous roles at network agencies immersed me in all of that, which ultimately brought me here as MD of Model Village in France. It is this thirst for learning and understanding that has enabled me to reach the ‘top’.
I love this era of rapid and constant change that is upon us, and that I work in an industry where my curiosity and a desire to keep pushing the envelope can be so richly rewarded by brands and agencies that want to go on that journey too. I also love that the marketing industry is so committed to advancing the careers of women.
Since I first started out, from a technical point of view, digital has changed everything that we do and has enabled new sectors like influencer marketing to thrive. From a structural point of view, it’s great to see more women occupying the very top roles, and whilst initiatives like the gender pay gap shows there is still work to be done before we achieve complete parity, the desire to really address it is tangible.