When Robin Maher shops for clothes, she doesn’t shuffle through clunky hangers and disorganized piles of shoes. She finds exactly what she needs without setting foot inside a store because people she trusts do all her shopping for her.
And no, it’s not because she’s a 22-year-old bajillionaire with servants who do that sort of thing. (This marketing major is finishing her senior year while working two jobs, thank you very much.)
It’s because she has an Instagram.
When Maher needs an outfit, she looks to the people with clout. Emily Herren is a 24-year-old fashion blogger from Austin, Texas. When she posts a picture of her latest Kendra Scott outfit, her 913,000 followers notice. Krista Horton is beach mom babe who is “getting through life, one filter at a time,” by promoting products for fashion brands like Vici and Coral Reef Swim to her 555,000 followers. Shea Leigh Mills is 22 with 254,000 followers and a home in Nashville, Tennessee.
They post fashion advice and discount codes, which makes shopping a whole lot easier for busy and financially conscious women like Maher.
“That’s the only way I buy clothes now,” Maher said.
And local brands are catching on.
This month, Dunkin’ Donuts hosted two first-of-their-kind influencer events in Omaha and Lincoln to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The company identified people with strong, established brands as influencers and invited to the event, Dunkin’ spokeswoman Shannon Durkin said. On Feb. 9, the donut shop closed the lobby of Lincoln’s 84th and O location to the public so event participants could pose for pictures in front of pink and red backdrops, learn about the store’s new products and mingle with each other.
“These events provide a great networking opportunity for influencers to meet and learn from one another,” Durkin said. “They also provide the opportunity to capture aesthetically pleasing, interactive content for their platforms.”
UNL Marketing professor Abigail Nappier Cherup said influencers are a rising and substantial component of many businesses’ campaign strategies. Typically, influencers are customers who share their (usually positive) thoughts on various products and brands. Their followers see them as legitimate and trustworthy, even if they’ve never met them before.
But if local brands follow in the footsteps of Dunkin’ Donuts, that might change.
“I think it could be effective in Lincoln,” Nappier Cherup said. “We’re a pretty tight knit community. If there are folks who are viewed as trustworthy, they can be effective as an influencer, or as a micro-influencer.”
Micro-influencers, like those identified by Dunkin’ and invited to the two events in Nebraska, might not have as many followers as people like Herron, Horton and Mills, but they have about a 60 percent higher engagement than average Instagram users, Nappier Cherup said. People trust them.
“If it’s someone you actually know verses a celebrity, that sense of trust is heightened,” she said. “You see them going to the Dunkin’ that you might go to. You might have taken the same class as them. That degree of separation is so much smaller.”
Haley Ringenberg is one local influencer who was invited to the Dunkin’ event. Of the approximately 30 other influencers at the event, Ringenberg had only heard of one other influencer. She said it was cool to build a community with other people in Lincoln who are doing what she does.
Ringenberg is a senior at UNL studying fashion design who started building her influencing platform in the past month. She receives a commission from Express when she posts pictures of herself in outfits from the store, but usually, she’s just promoting brands that she genuinely enjoys. She knows some people think influencing is an inauthentic marketing scheme, so she’s careful to not collaborate with every brand that reaches out to her. In fact, she’s usually the one reaching out to brands she wants to work with.
Nappier Cherup said that while influencers like Ringenberg find their footing by reaching out to brands, the Dunkin’ Donuts events are unique because it is “identifying individuals and bringing them together.”
“This might be something that people could really connect to,” she said. “It certainly would be good for small businesses in Lincoln.”