Shay Mitchell and the Evolving Power of Social Influence

Data shows more brands are turning to micro influencers

Shay Mitchell
Shay Mitchell talked about her influencer philosophy at Challenger Brands 2020. Sean T. Smith for Adweek

Key Insights:

Change is the only constant, which is especially true in the world of influencer marketing.

With more than 24 million followers on Instagram alone, actor Shay Mitchell, known for her roles in the series Pretty Little Liars and You, is a bona fide influencer. For example, after giving birth to her first child late last year, Mitchell partnered with Procter & Gamble’s Pampers to help push the diaper brand’s new “Share the Love” campaign.

Yet, as the founder and chief brand officer of Béis, a travel brand that debuted in October 2018, Mitchell takes a different approach to marketing on social media.

“We don’t pay to play; that’s something I just won’t do,” said Mitchell, in conversation with Adweek’s departments editor Ko Im at our annual Challenger Brands Summit in New York.

“Anytime you see somebody posting with our luggage or travel accessories, it’s truly because they love it and are using it,” Mitchell added, noting that she and her team always knew they didn’t want to hire people to promote their products through a post.

In a large way, Mitchell’s business strategy for Béis touches on the bigger trend away from traditional influencers—such as Mitchell herself.

According to data from influencer marketing platform CreatorIQ, the number of brands using micro influencers in campaigns is growing. In 2016, for instance, brands used three micro influencers (defined as people with under 100,00 social media followers) for every one mega influencer (over 1 million followers). In 2019, however, brands employed 10 micro influencers for each mega influencer.

Additional figures from CreatorIQ show that people with smaller, more intimate followings tend to generate higher engagement rates on platforms such as Instagram and YouTube than those with larger followings, which can lead to higher conversion rates.

“We’ve seen an inverse relationship between follower count and the propensity to move product,” said Aleksandra Chojnacka, senior director of partnerships and global strategy at ShopStyle Collective, a content monetization platform that partners with influencers and content creators to help drive sales for retailers.

“We typically just focus on micro influencers,” Chojnacka added. In 2019, ShopStyle Collective saw a 30% year-over-year boost in the number of micro influencers who joined its platform.

Part of the reason behind the rise in micro influencers is their ability to connect with niche markets, said Tim Sovay, COO of CreatorIQ.

“When selecting micro influencers, a marketer is better able to predict who is more likely to drive sales versus brand awareness,” Sovay explained. “Because their communities are usually formed around a single passion, their calls to action are usually clearer. By contrast, a larger creator often has a more distributed audience that makes targeting a challenge.”

When asked about her own approach to collaborating with brands as an influencer, Mitchell said she only works with those whose products she uses.

“I want to build long-lasting relationships with each person that I work with, so it’s not a flash in a pan,” she said. “For me, and I think my fans really do know, everything I put out there is genuine. It’s really authentic to who I am.”

As for Béis, Mitchell said social media is an excellent tool for polling people about their preferred fabrics and colors, and getting general feedback from fans and customers.

“I love to use it as a way to communicate with them,” Mitchell said.

@hiebertpaul Paul Hiebert is a CPG reporter at Adweek, where he focuses on data-driven stories that help illustrate changes in consumer behavior and sentiment.