The business of influence is professionalizing. Content creators are signing to major talent agencies. In February, SAG-AFTRA, the largest union in the entertainment industry, expanded coverage to people who make sponsored content. And now, a new service wants to make it easier for creators to apply to work with brands, and for companies to hire them.
“We’ve created a simple way for brands to create what is essentially a careers page for influencers,” said James Nord, 36, who is the founder and chief executive of Fohr. “It allows people to apply, pull in data from their social platforms and gives brands an easy way to recruit, analyze and work with influencers.”
More than 50 brands, including Dyson, Costco, American Eagle, Lilly Pulitzer and Sephora, are using Fohr’s Ambassador Management Platform (AMP) to scout talent. These companies pay Fohr to set up custom careers-style pages for them, where online creators can apply to work with brands.
“At American Eagle, influencer marketing is arguably the most important thing we do,” said Craig Brommers, the company’s chief marketing officer. “We have a young demo, 15 to 25 years old. Social media is their oxygen and even more so during the pandemic.”
Small creators often negotiate brand partnerships through personal connections or direct messages on platforms like Instagram. Mr. Brommers said that American Eagle is inundated with direct messages on social media from people looking to work with them; AMP, which asks users to answer questions about their content style and interests, has helped the company better identify people who are passionate about American Eagle and have a following.
“From our side what we’re trying to do is seek out authentic relationships as opposed to pay-to-play,” Mr. Brommers said.
Mr. Nord said he hopes AMP can make it easier for any creator to land a partnership, regardless of their background or connections. “The industry now is way too dependent on relationships,” he said. “You get jobs because you know somebody who works for a brand. That’s not a fair way to organize the industry. By brands starting these pages and having centralized places for influencers to apply, it’s going to make it a lot more fair for anyone with a following to raise their hand and say I want to work with you.”
Content creators are craving this sort of standardization. Yinon Horwitz, a 35-year-old social media creator in Miami, said that he spent hours earlier in his career hunting down people on LinkedIn and pitching himself to the wrong companies because there was no clear place where he could see what they were looking for. “In the beginning it was hard to understand who was the right person in the brand, business or agency to connect with and build a relationship with,” he said.
“I think formalizing this is a great idea because it allows both sides, the creator and the brand, to be able to compare apples to apples,” he said. “By reading forms and better understanding the brand and what they’re looking for, sometimes we’ve understood it’s not the best fit.”
In recent years, several business-to-business tools have sought to help companies source and partner with influencers. In 2017 and 2018, there was an explosion of influencer marketing platforms, where brands could source influencers for one-off deals. However, because of the unregulated nature of the business, some who used those platforms were left without payment.
Eleni McCready, the senior director of brand media and community development at Lilly Pulitzer, said she views AMP as a step toward further professionalizing the industry and leveling the playing field.
“It’s taking things off the social networks and really legitimizing it and saying, ‘Here’s a business tool for brands to use to attract new talent,’” she said. “The beauty of people being able to apply is there are incredible content creators that we might never see or it might get buried in the DMs if you don’t look for a couple days.”
Mr. Nord hopes that as more companies leverage AMP hiring in the industry will become more streamlined and clear. “Our hope is that influencers are going to start demanding brands have this space and will start to be a thing brands need,” said Mr. Nord. “I don’t see a world where a couple years from now every brand doesn’t have a tab where people can apply to work with them.”