Social-media influencers can be a marketing gold mine when used correctly. Their reach is enormous, but more important, their audiences listen to what they have to say. Uwheels, a company founded by Dan Fleyshman, used social influencers to generate $1.2 million in sales as well as a half dozen retail and distribution deals in just the first month of the company’s existence.
This is the marketing strategy that is still used today, and the company has still not spent a single dollar on traditional advertising and marketing, apart from the hard cost of the actual units and the shipping cost to send them to celebrities and influencers.
Fleyshman is no stranger to success. At just 23 years old he was the youngest CEO of a publicly traded company and then went on to found a popular energy drink and online poker room. Currently, in addition to Uwheels, he runs First Slice Media, which operates the popular lifestyle and entertainment website FirstSlice.
I wanted to pick Fleyshman’s brain and dive into how he was able to leverage social-media influencers and celebrities to build Uwheels into what it is today -- one of the leading personal hover-board brands on the market. Uwheels isn’t the only player in this space. In fact, it’s saturated, with new brands popping up all the time. Even with a constant influx of new competitors in the space, Uwheels has remained the industry leader -- here is how it achieved that position and continues to stay on the top, all without spending a single dollar on advertising.
1. Exchange product for promotion.
Not every brand is going to be lucky enough to be able to have the likes of Lil Wayne, Amber Rose, Jamie Foxx, Snoop Dogg and professional athletes post pictures of their products without a hefty fee. But Uwheels was able to get major stars and influencers to post on Instagram and tag the Uwheels Instagram profile in the post in exchange for free product.
The same influencers that posted for Uwheels in exchange for product are the same ones that Fleyshman pays four to five figures per post to promote teeth whitening, weight-loss tea and mobile apps. The product has such a "cool factor" that a tremendous number of influencers were more than happy to post images simply for free product.
A photo posted by Amber Rose (@amberrose) on Aug 12, 2015 at 8:14pm PDT
2. Focus on building the brand to stand out among the competition.
Uwheels knew social media was going to be its entire marketing blueprint before it launched. The company focused on branding from the start, highlighting the features that set it apart, such as built-in Bluetooth speakers and an affordable price point.
When a celebrity with millions of followers posts, it drives instant sales. While that is great, it’s the branding that is the most valuable part of the equation. Uwheels received a large number of new followers every time an influencer posted, and this also resulted in a lot of these new followers tagging their friends. Because they were introduced to the brand via a celebrity or influencer, there was instant credibility established from the start, eliminating the traditional pitfalls a brand has to overcome when utilizing traditional marketing and advertising channels.
3. Identify the right influencers.
Uwheels doesn’t focus solely on follower count when it identifies influencers for its marketing program. Instead, the company focuses on identifying influencers with a highly engaging following that are the right kind of followers. For example, Uwheels gifted product to the Wasserman Sports Agency to pass on to a client who is a professional skateboarder that has approximately 185,000 followers.
While that particular influencer didn’t have millions of followers, he did have extremely engaged followers that also happened to be the exact market that would be interested in a hover board. So, what is the right engagement rate to look for? Fleyshman likes to identify influencers that have an engagement rate greater than 3 percent per post. He finds this to produce much better results than an influencer with millions of followers and an engagement rate of less than 1 percent.
4. Build valuable brand partnerships.
Establishing relationships with other brands that align with the market Uwheels is after has also been a strategy that has paid off. For example, Uwheels gifted Pink Dolphin, an exclusive clothing line, with a half dozen hover boards that the company then used as giveaways for customers and social-media followers.
That particular campaign was a success since Pink Dolphin’s customer base was paying a premium for high-quality and exclusive clothing. They are the same target market that is more likely to be interested in and able to afford the $699 Uwheels product.
Social-media and celebrity influencers are an extremely powerful marketing combination. Do you have any experience with influencer marketing or is it something you plan to experiment with in the future? Let us know in the comments section below.