Influencer Marketing: 5 Questions with TrendPie Founder Victor Ricci

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Bloggers, Instagrammers, Snapchatters and YouTube stars are taking over turf from celebrity influencers.

Bloomberg reports that $255 million is spent on influencer marketing every month, and this spend is set to grow to a $5B to $10B market.

TrendPie is a start-up offering social media campaigns and promotion to help connect users with clients’ apps and services. brandchannel sat down with TrendPie Founder Victor Ricci, whose journey began the summer after his senior year of high school, after posting a six second “life hack” video to his Vine account, @QuickLifeHacks, using a water bottle to separate the white and yolk of an egg. From that surprising start, Ricci transitioned from social media stardom to launch TrendPie in April 2015 to connect brands to his network of non-celebrity online influencers. The key to his business model is right in the name, TrendPie, “Everyone can get a piece of the influencer marketing pie.”

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What was the inspiration for that hack, and what followed?

I don’t like eggs—so I was playing around with a water bottle hack and made the video, and my mom said, “You should put that on your Twitter account”. I resisted and said nobody is going to care, that’s a stupid idea. But eventually I did and it went viral.

My Vine account grew every day after that, reaching more than 1.4 million followers and becoming one of the most followed accounts worldwide.

Companies started offering me $3,000 – $5,000 to feature their products, mostly gaming and app companies—smaller ones—younger and more progressive with their ads than the big guys. Apps that were already promoting on Vine like Game of War and Westbound, appealing to a millennial audience and looking to increase their bottom dollar with any means necessary.

It’s a big change to move from social media stardom to go-between for brands and influencers. What was your motivation?

It was definitely a conscious change. I stopped enjoying being in front of the camera, stopped enjoying being an influencer. I didn’t like the image or the mentality or the lifestyle behind it. So one day I just stopped posting Vines. I had posted 196 Vines in about one and half years, posting every day, then every couple of days and then weekly. I just lost interest.

But I saw the value of it and knew I had the connections, and I’m passionate about social media and understand it pretty well along with apps—so I figured why not do something I’m passionate about and leverage everything learned up to this point?

You’ve said of TrendPie’s strategy, “I think of it kind of as the Wal-Mart approach. We charge less, but we do it everyday.” Please elaborate.

I figured, what these brands are paying me, there’s no way they’re making $3,000 – $5,000 on what I post, they’re not breaking even—probably even losing money, and the deals were inconsistent.

So I figured, instead of charging $5,000, we’ll charge 10% of that, $500, but we’ll do a post every single day. The brands will have more exposure for the same amount—they’ll make money—and have more money to spend in the long run.

I contacted a few of my influencer friends and pitched them the idea, and they all said “Yes, when do we start?”. I got a call from Joshua Anton wanting me to promote his Drunk Mode app on my Vine channel, which stops you from doing dumb things when you’re out drinking like blocking numbers so you can’t call your ex-girlfriend or your professor or your mother. It helps you find your friends and lets them know you’ve gotten home after a night out.

So we set up our first campaign for $2,000, and I rallied as many influencers as I could. Next day—the app was trending on the App Store. Josh was happy and booked another campaign, then 10 more and eventually we broke even. It validated what we were doing, and now Josh is a minority partner in TrendPie.

Social influencers have turned legacy celebrity marketing on its head—a paradigm shift from a Kim Kardashian getting $500,000 a post. Who are your network of influencers and what’s their profile?

The definition of celebrity has changed. Influencers are now celebrities in their own right. People with hundreds of thousands if not millions of followers are now celebrities just because they post videos of themselves putting on make-up. There’s something about that I’m just inherently against. But I was there and I understand it 100%. They’re playing the game. Some are more genuine than others—some not talented, while others are extremely talented—and over time, the ones with talent separate from the pack.

Gen Z’ers see these people on social media and they respect them, so they emulate them and want to follow the positive characteristics they see. They see someone massively popular on social media and follow them, and feel like they could be like that person. “I could get there.” It’s the American Dream in itself. People mimic the style, the colors, the imagery, and it gives many kids an identity and something to look up to, confidence to go outside their comfort zone.

Looking ahead, will social media influencers replace celebrities, or will there always be both? And how will TrendPie change to meet them?

Both. There’s always going to be a high-end car like a Ferrari and people who buy them. But our model is disruptive—kind of like Tesla making the electric car for everyone.

An expenditure of $2000 with us gets you 2 million impressions—that’s a guaranteed minimum, but we’ve seen 4.5 million impressions from that spend since people just keep sharing and promoting our campaigns which are typically one day pushes—trending the next day, then a few days off—then repeat. In one campaign we pushed 50 million impressions in 24 hours.

We want to take TrendPie into other social media, including movie and television show trailers and sees Snapchat as a big opportunity since they don’t currently have support for influencers. We recently renovated our office space in Rhode Island, we’re setting up an internship, and hiring a sales team.

Oh and PS—Thanks Mom!


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