If you’ve ever stumbled into the social media niche #homesteading, you’ll be familiar with the millions of pastoral photos from people around the world dedicated to self-sufficiency. If you’re not, a quick search and you’ll be immersed in images and videos of DIY gardens, freshly-picked fruits and vegetables, flower arrangements, livestock, tractors, and more.
This is the corner of social media that BEN’s Chief of Influencer Integration Jake Maughan has a personal interest in.
“That’s the dream someday,” Jake says, “To have my own homestead and to be able to have some cows, sheep and pigs and let the kids run free on the farm.”
In the meantime, being tuned into this homesteading niche benefits his work in influencer marketing at BEN because it gives him an appreciation for authentic content. His job is to help forge partnerships between brands and creators that create this meaningful content—and drive value for not just brands and creators, but also audiences. We caught up with Jake to hear more about BEN’s history driving the norms of this industry, how audience preferences are evolving, and what kind of content he predicts will be king in the future.
How did you get started in the world of influencer marketing?
I actually did not intend on getting into content or marketing or even influencer. I was an accounting manager when I got a call from BEN’s founder and CEO, Ricky. Shortly after that, I came on full-time as his VP of finance.
After just a few months, I started to take on more responsibilities and it progressed from there. Today, I’m helping manage all of the influencer execution teams. To be honest, when Ricky hired me, I wasn’t on social media. But I’m ambitious and I’ve turned influencer marketing into my passion.
That seems like a perfect fit for this industry, which is changing on a daily basis.
If there’s one constant in this industry, it’s change. When I started in 2013, influencer marketing was still very much the wild, wild west. One of our biggest jobs was to convince brands that they should be in this space. At the time, lots of people viewed the space as, ‘that’s just some kid in mom’s basement playing games.’ When they saw the impact the creators had, it became a big deal.
What’s an example of a creator-brand partnership that you worked on in BEN’s early days that speaks to BEN’s role as an architect of influencer marketing?
In 2013 we were working with Turkish Airlines. They had done an ad featuring Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi called ‘the selfie-off.’ In the ad, Messi and Kobe are competing on who can take the most creative and credible selfie and flying to different locations to do that. Turkish Airlines engaged with us to boost reach and views on that commercial on YouTube.
Our vision was to get up to a thousand influencers to engage in this ad. Even now, that is very ambitious—back then, it was unheard of. But we did it, through our impeccable processes and deep influencer relationships, we had nearly a thousand influencers on standby. I remember sitting at my computer and as soon as the ad went live on YouTube, hitting up all these influencers, like go, go, go. Publish your content. We got over 800 influencers to engage with this ad within the first 24 or 48 hours. That was a really fun integration that still, after all these years, stands the test of time.
Even this ad is clearly well beyond the kid-playing-games-in-mom’s-basement—and it seems like most brands are aware of the reach and impact that’s possible. What is your team at BEN keeping an eye on to help brands and creators seize the next frontier in the industry?
Ricky talks about the decentralization of content a lot. We’ve seen Hulu, Disney+, Netflix, Peacock, all of these. But now we’re seeing a lot of smaller platforms coming out for niche audiences. There’s a homesteader creator named Justin Rhodes who has created what he calls Abundance Plus. And it’s his own little Disney+ for homesteading, where he is contracted with a lot of creators to develop content: life on the farm, life on the homestead, how to do it and why to do it. They’re getting a lot of subscribers signing up.
Are you going to join and contribute to this platform when you become a homesteader?
That’s the plan! We had chicken’s eggs in an incubator this last week and they actually just started to hatch this morning. I’ve got two of 12 that are already hatched. So we’ve got the content. We just haven’t started putting it online yet.
The proliferation of niche content poses a formidable challenge for brands—how does BEN ensure brands can tap into it effectively?
We need AI. So I first heard about a program called CoComelon in my living room with my three-year-old. CoComelon is just a little animation of a family. Parents turn it on and the kids watch it over and over again. It’s now one of the most subscribed-to channels on YouTube.
But if you’re CoComelon, or YouTube for that matter, you want to know: who’s watching our content? I haven’t seen the backend data behind this, but I guarantee you it’s going to say something between 28 and 45 year old women or men—because it’s kids watching on mom and dad’s account. The AI will be able to recognize the trends in that data, and be able to say, no, it’s not your 28 to 45 year old men and women, it’s kids that are watching that content. We need AI to be able to interpret this kind of data at scale.
What’s the next trend that has you thinking, this is going to be huge. Everybody should be aware that this is coming?
One of the things that we’re going to see more of is audiences wanting more intimacy with influencers. Audiences don’t want to just see pre-filmed content. I think they’re going to want to talk to creators, want to hear from them, want to be able to ask them questions, they’re going to want them to be vulnerable. One of the reasons that I think Clubhouse was successful at first, is you can actually engage with an influencer in real time. Creating a video and posting it will always be there. But I think that the live, raw, authentic content is going to become king.