The Social Club was founded at the end of 2015 by two Kiwi advertising expats that had come home: Georgia McGillivray (25) and Justin Clark (26).
The website works as a two-way online marketplace where brands can connect with social media influencers to collaborate on advertising campaigns.
The club boasts over 1,000 influencers within its community working with over 120 New Zealand brands, including Les Mills, Ecoya and I Love Ugly.
The process is as follows: both brands and influencers who use The Social Club create an online profile describing themselves. They can then search for the ideal candidate or company they want to represent and be matched up according to their values.
Think Tinder, but for influencers and brands looking to advertise.
“Our marketplace is two-way, so the influencers can see all of the brands on there and register their interest with brands they want to work with,” McGillivray explains.
“That’s been really cool, as when we go to do a campaign for those brands, we usually have a little army of fans that are on there already.”
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New Zealand 'Mummy' blogger Melissa Jack's post for The Social Club's Exotic Foods campaign.
Travel and lifestyle blogger Yemira's post for The Social Club's UE Boom campaign.
Worldwide, influencer marketing’s popularity has skyrocketed.
According to Mediakix, 60 percent of marketers will increase their influencer marketing budgets in 2017, while 80 percent of marketers find influencer marketing to be more effective than other types of marketing.
Both McGillivray and Clark worked on overseas influencer campaigns in the US and Australia before founding The Social Club and say those markets are years ahead of New Zealand.
“The digital budgets over there [in Australia] are increasing, and influencer marketing spend within that digital budget has gone up to about 30 percent,” McGillivray says.
“In New Zealand it’s on a campaign-by-campaign basis. The innovative early adopters are getting involved, but there are no standards about how much budget should be put into influencer marketing.”
She says the biggest users of influencer marketing in New Zealand tend to be FMCG, tourism and fashion companies and charities.
So, how big is influencer marketing in New Zealand, really?
According to Clark and McGillivray, in-demand influencers are doing incredibly well for themselves, considering how small the market is.
They are paid anywhere between $50 and $50,000 depending on the size of their audience, their engagement rate and what’s required from the campaign.
Clark says the pay is usually locked in beforehand and based off the average engagement rate of the influencer’s social media posts.
Kiwi sports players have been incredibly popular picks with companies, while reality TV celebrities are also doing well for themselves, Clark says.
The star of The Bachelor season one, Art Green, and his girlfriend Matilda Rice are particularly popular.
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But it’s not just household-name celebrities being used.
Seeing as New Zealand is such a small nation, an ‘influencer’ is defined by The Social Club as anyone with a following of 1,000 or more people.
Clark says this is because micro-influencers have very localised followings, while macro-influencers (think Kiwi makeup artist Shaaanxo, who has over one million followers on Instagram) might only have 10 percent of their following based in New Zealand.
McGillivray says this has meant people with smaller, more niche followings are getting a lot of play, too.
“The country’s so small we only have a handful of macro-influencers, and they’re being used by brands on repeat, so micro-influencers are a lot more organic.”
With influencer marketing being such a fast-moving space, there have, unsurprisingly, been a few snags pop up along the way.
One of the key issues up for debate is how sponsored posts need to be marked, such as the use of the hashtag #ad or #sponsored.
There aren’t clear-cut rules around this in New Zealand yet, so McGillivray and Clark say they’re waiting to see what rules and regulations the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) will bring into effect.
“Whichever way the dust settles, we will follow the rules and make sure our platform follows them. When they do set these guidelines, it needs to be set across the board,” Clark says.
“We’ve had some chats with the ASA and if the messaging is really controlled that’s possibly advertising and needs to be disclosed. Brands in anti-aging, alcohol and diet pills are risky areas where companies need to be really careful with their messages.”
Another issue is inconsistencies in expectations from both brands and influencers, who are figuring out how it works as they go along.
McGillivray says from the influencer side, there have been a few problems around professionalism and managing time and content well, while from the brand side, companies are needing to learn new ways of approving content and having less control over the final product.
But she says due to the murkiness of the rules and processes surrounding influencer marketing, it’s understandable.
“We can’t blame anyone for being like that on either side – influencer or brand,” Clark says.
“Standards have to be set before we have any expectations of people.”
As for where influencer marketing is heading, McGillivray says it’s not going away anytime soon.
“The channels will change - Snapchat’s rising and some of the other platforms will become less relevant, and then with new generations there will be other new platforms coming into play,” she says.
Instagram and Facebook are the biggest channels for influencer marketing, but time will tell whether they will continue to be the most popular.
As for The Social Club’s future, McGillivray says in 2017, the company will look to scale global and take on some of the bigger markets overseas.
“We’ve tested the market here in New Zealand and we’ve built the platform in a very New Zealand way by working out where the pain points are and where to overcome them, now we’re ready to take it overseas and disrupt the market.”