Lena Syed is a 21-year-old student from Springfield currently attending George Washington University in Washington, DC. When she’s back home, Syed creates content for her Tik Tok account @LenaSyed, which features businesses in Ohio and the Dayton area.
“In May 2020, I came home from school because of the pandemic and at first I was like, ‘Ugh, I’m stuck in Ohio,'” she said. “I started looking for things to do in the area and found things that I had no idea existed. So, I started sharing those things on Tik Tok and people really liked that.
With a subscriber count of 124,700 and over 2.7 million likes, Syed has worked with around 50 companies so far, releasing marketed content for his growing audience in exchange for products, and eventually silver.
“At the time, I was noticing that a lot of my favorite businesses were struggling (due to COVID-19), so I wondered if there was a way for me to help out,” she said. declared. “Pretty soon companies started contacting me and I was able to get paid for the promotions.”
Syed’s videos feature museums, “hidden gems” and behind-the-scenes looks at restaurants and cafes, with messages reminding Ohioans “you don’t have to leave Ohio to spend a good time”.
Influencer marketing is a hybrid of old and new marketing tools used by individuals, or “influencers”, who have spent time building their own brand, cultivating an audience, and demonstrating credibility in an industry. or a specific topic.
There has been a 465% increase in searches for the phrase “influencer marketing” since 2016, according to Influencer Marketing Hub, and 67% of brands are using Instagram for influencer marketing. Although the overall goal of each individual influencer varies, the majority of these social media marketers use similar online habits in order to gain a substantial and engaged following.
Many local residents are still in the early stages of building a large following. For Dayton native Dane Shipp, influencer marketing has provided an effective way to promote his work as a private, ephemeral chef.
Known as @ChefDaneFly on Instagram, Shipp has over 9,000 followers. He said social media has helped him gain popularity in the food industry, keeping longtime and potential customers informed about his menu and where they can find it.
“I change my menu every time I cook, so I’m constantly posting on Instagram,” he said. “It’s an important part of what I do.”
Shipp said his social media presence was sometimes demanding, but he considered it a crucial part of his success.
“I don’t really like having to do it because it takes me so long, but that’s how people know what’s going on with me,” he said.
A unique aspect of influencer marketing compared to traditional advertising is the idea that followers get a glimpse into the influencer’s life. In the same way that reality television is a guilty pleasure for many, this aspect of exclusivity, coupled with the element of entertainment provided by social media, leads to influencers having celebrity status.
For this reason, Shipp said he prefers creating and posting content himself rather than employing a social media manager. “I show you what I’m doing in real time instead of someone posting just for me, so you get a first-person view,” he said.
Darion Lewis, another Dayton-area chef, uses Instagram in the same way to promote his business and brand. Lewis owns and operates More Than A Apron LLC and goes by @ChefLewis on Instagram. With over 4,000 followers, Lewis said a big part of influencer marketing success is personality.
“I grew quite quickly because of my personality, so it’s not just my food,” he said.
Collaborating with other businesses, reposting customers’ photos and videos of his food, and following various local accounts helps grow the audience, Lewis said.
“Following accounts for police departments, mayors and things like that can bring more attention to my work, and connecting with other people and reposting things on social media helps get my name out there,” did he declare. “Also, if small businesses pull together, we can all come out on top.”
For Dayton resident Sabrina Cox, influencer marketing is less about advertising a specific product or service and more about promoting the collective success of the Dayton community.
Cox, 34, is the Director of Community and Events for Tender Mercy and Sueno. She also owns a shop called Haus of Sequins. “It’s more of a mini lifestyle brand,” she said. “I sell vintage and reworked items and lots of handmade stuff, all resourced in an anti-fast fashion way.”
Cox has two Instagram accounts – a personal account @GemCitySabrina, with 2,545 followers, and a business account @HausOfSequins, with 1,235 followers. Similar to Lewis, Cox’s approach to social media is to be as authentic as possible. “Before, I felt like I had to post often to stay relevant, but now I’ve gotten to a point where I just want things to be authentic,” she said.
An important aspect of her approach to influencer marketing is supporting local brands, sharing content to promote the businesses and services she uses, as well as tagging them in her bio. Cox said she occasionally makes money from these collaborations, but mostly wants to see her community thrive.
“If there’s a new business in Dayton, or a business that’s been around for a while, I want people to support it,” she said. “I’m thinking about how I can use this for the greater good to support the city I love.”