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Features - Marketing

Social media influencers are shaping the way consumers feel about brands.

September 13, 2019

Social media influencers have the power to propel a brand, product, design, service or lifestyle into a realm of superstardom. People with millions of followers or subscribers on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, or their own blog, for instance, share likes and dislikes, what they’re eating and drinking, the exercises they’re performing, the clothes they’re wearing and the hobbies they’re enjoying. Their fans are consumers, and those buyers trust what they’re hearing from influencers.

“Social media influencers have become our true media. People regard them as friends,” says Katie Dubow, creative director at Garden Media Group.

According to marketing firm Pixlee, “a social media influencer is a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach.” Credibility and authenticity are the keywords to take home from this definition. If the influencer’s post or video is not authentic and it seems like a sales pitch, the consumer (those sometimes millions of followers) will move on to the next post, photo or video.

Influencers create original, engaging content that is in line with their own brand (rather than following a template advertising style provided by a brand), says Christina Newberry, who wrote “The Complete Guide to Influencer Marketing” for Hootsuite. “For this reason, it’s critical to work only with social media influencers whose creative vision aligns with your own,” she adds.

Newberry suggests considering the three Rs of influence before you reach out to a potential social media influencer:

Relevance: The influencer is sharing content and has an audience relevant to your business and industry.

Reach: The number of people you could potentially reach through the influencer’s follower base will bring value to your business.

Resonance: The potential level of engagement the influencer can create with an audience that’s relevant to your brand. Bigger isn’t always better. A huge follower count is meaningless if those followers aren’t interested in your business’ offerings. And a smaller follower count can be very powerful if it’s a niche area and the potential influencer has a dedicated and engaged following.

Celebrities started the influencer movement, but now it’s dominated by people who’ve gained the trust of their followers by being likeable, knowledgeable and approachable. The green industry may get better traction by using “micro-influencers,” those with 5,000-25,000 followers.

How does it work? Brands and products pay influencers to make Instagram posts or YouTube videos, for example. Prices range from a few hundred dollars per post to a quarter of a million (think: Kim Kardashian).

Tara Johnson with CPC Strategy, a retail-focused digital marketing agency, says that influencer pricing may vary greatly. Prices are based on a number of factors, including: the number of followers and fans the influencer has; the amount of engagement their posts generally garner; the number of posts you want and the type of post; and the amount of effort needed from the influencer.

An influencer will often identify when a post is an ad. You’ll see the hashtags #ad or #sponsored before a string of relatable hashtags. The Federal Trade Commission requires sponsorship disclosure.

Green-industry influencers

There are some influencers out there touting the benefits of plants, both indoor and outdoor. They’re helping consumers learn more about planting and landscape design and introducing followers to plant-related products like fertilizers, containers and lighting systems. There seems to be more folks posting about edibles than ornamentals, but there are plenty of posts out there regarding flowers, shrubs and trees.

Homestead Brooklyn ( was created by Summer Rayne Oakes (her real name). She’s an environmental scientist and entomologist who started collecting houseplants for her New York apartment. She blogs, posts and creates videos about gardening indoors and outdoors, low-waste to zero-waste living, cooking healthy meals and travel. On Instagram (@homesteadbrooklyn) she has more than 67,000 followers, about 12,000 followers on Twitter (@sroakes), and more than 66,000 subscribers on YouTube (Summer Rayne Oakes).

Her “Pilea peperomioides Care & Propagation” video has garnered almost 53,000 views. And I really appreciate the fact that she tours production nurseries and shows her followers what it takes to get a plant to market.

If you look her up on Twitter and don’t quite understand her sexy profile picture, well, she’s also a model. For those who like a little more detail than the standard tweet, her blog is worth bookmarking.

Kevin Espiritu of Epic Gardening ( hosts a podcast, writes a blog, has a YouTube channel and an active Twitter page. He says his goal is to “help 10 million people around the world learn how to grow plants.” He puts a lot of focus on food crops, but he’s also providing info on houseplants and some ornamentals.

Maria Failla hosts Bloom & Grow Radio (, a podcast for people with plant questions. And we know that consumers have a lot of questions and the majority know very little about plants, what to do with them or how to care for them. Failla is based in New York City and calls herself a “former succulent killer turned crazy plant lady with a passion to help you love plants as much as I do (or at least help you not kill them).” Her disclaimer on her website is golden and no doubt resonates with followers. “I am learning with my listeners. I have no degree in plant science. I was a succulent killer 6 months ago. But I’m curious, have no shame and am not afraid to ask questions.” Failla interviews experts on her podcast who help her, and her followers, gain insight into plant care. For instance, she interviewed Leslie Halleck of Halleck Horticultural (and frequent GIE Media contributor) about artificial lighting for indoor plants.

Dubow says Failla also connects with followers by hosting plant swaps in the city.

“Social media influencers are ideal if you’re launching a new product or want to drive attention to a plant. Costa Farms has used influencers to raise the tide of houseplants,” Dubow says. “People are looking for ‘IRL’ or in-real-life experiences, and influencers can provide that.”

The author is editor of sister publication Nursery Management magazine.