Orlando-based IZEA, the world’s largest online influencer network with more than 550,000 creators in 70 countries, has established its first Canadian office.
The Toronto-based office is led by director of Canadian client partnerships Tiffany Heimpel, herself a former influencer thanks to the 2011 creation of the blog She’s So Savvy, which helps people “live large” in the city on a budget.
“This was five years ago when [influencer marketing] wasn’t a thing, and obviously now it’s a fundamental business,” said Heimpel, whose career also includes stints with NBCUniversal and agencies including Taxi and Ogilvy & Mather. “It wasn’t nearly as structured as it is now.”
IZEA brings together brands and A-list celebrities, bloggers, journalists and social media influencers to create sponsored marketing opportunities. Its U.S.-based influencers include Betty White, Usher and – naturally – Kim Kardashian.
The company employs a team of 10 people – known internally as a “creator ecosystem” – whose role is to identify and recruit new influencers by reading blogs and attending blogger conferences such as BlogPodium.
The company also gets as many as 100 applicants a day who are hoping to monetize their social presence, said Heimpel.
The nine-year-old company claims to have facilitated more than 3.5 million transactions for a range of premium clients including the top five consumer packaged goods firms.
In the U.S., it has worked with brands including Adidas, Bacardi, IKEA, HP, Philips, Crayola and Hershey’s, while its Canadian partners include Weber Grills and Rogers. It also recently signed a deal to complete a program for KFC, with Heimpel saying that other programs are in development.
According to Heimpel, a recent program conducted by IZEA for Weber Grills over-delivered on its total reach – a metric that includes blog posts, social shares and tweets – by approximately 214%. That program featured barbeque-themed posts on blogs including KissMySmoke.com and PreferredMagazine.ca.
Heimpel said the influencer space is “totally in its infancy” in Canada, lagging about three years behind the U.S. However, she said there is increasingly a “sense of urgency” in the space, with marketers devoting a growing share of their marketing budget to influencer-based initiatives.
“[In the past] the verbiage was very much ‘Experimental,’ ‘Test,’ etc., whereas now the conversations I’m having are ‘This is legitimately a part of our business; we know we need to do this, we just don’t know how to do this,’” she said.
The goal for IZEA, she said, is to become a thought leader in the influencer space. The Canadian office, she said, would be able to benefit from the “key learnings” gleaned by the company in its near decade-long existence.
She said the inherent conservatism of the Canadian market would make it difficult to close the gap with more established markets like the U.S., but Canadian marketers are increasingly making it a line item in their marketing budgets.
“They know they need it, they’re just not sure about how to do it,” she said. “How is the question that hasn’t been answered yet, which I think puts us in a fantastic space.”
The immediate goals for IZEA Canada, she said, are to ensure it is top-of-mind among marketers and to ultimately become the market leader.