How Influencer Marketing Affects Purchasing Decisions
Kristen Wiley is the Founder and CEO of tech-startup Statusphere, a multi-million dollar consumer-to-consumer marketing platform that helps digital audiences discover brands they love from people they trust. The idea came after spending years in influencer marketing, both as a brand and an influencer. Kristen noticed some of the common issues that are faced on both sides of the coin and sought to improve the experience. Influencer marketing is expected to grow to 16.4 million USD this year (source: Influencer Marketing) so tune in to see how your brand can successfully hop on board this important marketing channel.
Consumers are no longer attracted to flashy ads. Instead, they want to see the people behind the brand or hear about real-life experiences of collaborating with a brand or using their products. That’s why influencer marketing is so popular these days (and has been for the past decade).
But, as customers’ habits change, they perceive brand ambassadors or macro-influencers as less trustworthy, and they are more likely to trust small or micro-influencers — people from their surroundings — when purchasing.
It’s of the utmost importance for brands of all shapes and sizes and across various industries to focus on the quality and value an influencer could bring to their brand, rather than the number of followers they have.
In this episode of Reverse Engineered, our host Jon Penland welcomes Kristen Wiley, CEO and Founder of Statusphere. Kristen and Jon discuss influencer marketing, how it has changed over the years, the challenges of running a company like Statusphere, and the success of the member-first approach.
- Customers rely on real-life experiences rather than ads when making a purchasing decision. Influencer marketing has grown in the past decade, and brands of all shapes and sizes partner with influencers to expand their customer base. However, trends change, and unlike a few years ago when companies looked for macro-influencers, today, they also focus on people with a smaller follower base. In addition, people are more likely to make a buying decision based on a recommendation by people they trust rather than ads. ”It’s become more normal to post something and tag the brand that you like and you resonate with. […] If you saw a buddy who you are in a running club with post about a pair of running shoes and talk about how great they are versus a professional athlete talk about how great they are, you’re going to believe your buddy more because you know him, you relate to him.”
- Running a business comes with many challenges and unknowns, but put yourself out there and explore. Prior to collaborating with influencers, Kristen had a recipe-themed blog. As she says, it was one of the best decisions she made (thanks to a college professor who suggested it) because it allowed her to learn more about content marketing and marketing in general. The blog also opened many doors to collaborations and helped her sharpen negotiation skills in talking with brands and offering her services. ”I just found it fun, and I just wanted to build that up. And then, I started working with brands on my blog. So it was just a fun passion project. […] I even got to work with brands like Coca-Cola and Hershey’s, and I got to see how those collaborations worked. I got to join some creator networks. So I was seeing it from that side.”
- We don’t exist without our members. Statusphere is, as Kristen describes it, a matchmaking company from a marketing standpoint. The core of the company is to connect content creators with brands. Although they have a customer success team, members are their main focus, and they must provide the best experience for them so that creators can then become trustworthy brand ambassadors. ”One of the fundamental values of our business is that we’re member-first. We want to be people-first overall. If we’re making a product decision, we want to make sure that there’s a benefit to the member, which I felt was a huge gap in the market in terms of other platforms that built everything for the brands and left the members hanging. […] We’re nothing without our members, so we need to make sure we’re bringing them the best value and the best experience possible.”
Today’s Guest: Kristen Wiley, Founder and CEO at Statusphere
Before becoming an entrepreneur, Kristen had a blog and worked for a marketing agency. She is now dedicated to her company, Statusphere, a platform connecting content creators and brands.
- Company: Statusphere
- Where to find Kristen: LinkedIn
What Is Influencer Marketing?
”Influencer marketing is the concept of getting your product or service into the hands of somebody who influences a buying decision. At Statusphere, [we] define an influencer as anyone who can influence a buying decision, which is why we even move more into what we consider consumer-to-consumer.
Almost anyone has some sort of sphere of influence — no matter how many followers you have. Now, the more typical way people view influencer marketing is like the Kim Kardashians of the world with millions upon millions of followers.
[…] I am satisfied when we define it as anybody who has any influencing power whatsoever, and studies show and we’ve found that micro-influencers — people with smaller numbers of followers — have more influence.
So that’s what we focus on, not on the big macros of the world. Influencer marketing spans the whole gamut of what I just talked about, but we focus on that more real person space — real people with real influence.”
People Have More Trust in Influencers Than Ads
“It takes seven touches, on average, to convert a customer from their first time seeing a brand. So a lot can happen in those seven touches. One could be an ad; one could be a creator placement; one could be their best friend telling them; one could be a text message.
The shift in how people are learning about brands has changed. There are also studies showing that a viewpoint or a touchpoint — one of those seven — of a creator or an influencer you respect posting is almost always more heavily weighted than an ad, which makes total sense. You’re going to trust that more than an ad, so it can help shorten that life cycle and mean more.”
The Challenges of Running a Company Such As Statusphere
”Some of the biggest challenges in the very beginning — you have the MVP and then building out that core founding team, essentially. I think it was the first biggest challenge. I was fortunate to find the most amazing founding team.
Our leadership team consists of myself. We have our chief operations officer and the chief technical officer so we can build out a full state-of-the-art platform, which we have today.
Then, after getting those into place, I would say the next big phase was making sure you have product-market fit and figuring out why a customer is leaving. Is it because they’re the wrong persona, or do we need to fix our product?
Now, we’re in growth mode, […] we’re in the recruiting phase, which is a whole different animal.”
Statusphere’s Organizational Structure
”We split up our departments and our teams. We have our team that’s member-facing and [one that is] brand-facing. We have a customer success team on the brand side, and we have a member success team on the member side. And we make sure that we have people that have KPIs attached to both of those things so that we can grow them both at the same time.
On the sales side for the brand side, we have a team looking for new brands and going after them, and they have those KPIs. And then, on the member side, we constantly foster new applications.
We have a waitlist, and we go through it constantly and approve people from it as we have more opportunities to match them. Luckily, when you have a platform that works with influencers, it’s like you get to work with the social butterflies of the world, and we can almost leverage our platform to get more of them.”
[00:00:05] Jon Penland: Hey everyone. My name is Jon Penland and Reverse Engineered is brought to you by Kinsta, a premium managed hosting provider. In today’s episode, I’m speaking with Kristen Wiley, CEO and Founder of Statusphere. Kristen, welcome to Reverse Engineered.
[00:00:18] Kristen Wiley: Thanks so much for having me.
[00:00:23] Jon Penland: All right. Well, Kristen, as we get started, can you just introduce yourself to our audience?
[00:00:25] Kristen Wiley: Yeah. So I’m the Founder and CEO of Statusphere. We are a platform that connects brands and creators, and we specifically scale consumer-to-consumer marketing for brands. So we believe that the future of marketing and the largest marketing channel moving forward is going to actually be utilizing the voices of real consumers to talk to others about your brands. And that is what we’re building a platform around.
[00:00:50] Jon Penland: Yeah. So you kinda got into a little bit there what Statusphere is in the market that you play in. I’d like to ask you to spend just another moment there. I suspect most of our listeners are familiar with influencer marketing, but just in case we have somebody listening to us today who doesn’t know what influencer marketing is, can you give us kind of a quick definition and then how Statusphere fits into that picture?
[00:01:12] Kristen Wiley: Yeah, for sure. And I’m glad you asked that too, because even the term influencer marketing can mean so many different things to so many different people. Also, a little bit more of my background, just so you know where I’m speaking from is, I have been doing influencer marketing, I can now say officially for 10 years.
[00:01:25] My first job was reaching out to mommy bloggers in 2010. So, I’ve seen really the evolution of the space in general, it’s one of the reasons I created Statusphere. But yeah, influencer marketing is the concept of getting your product or service into the hands of somebody who influences a buying decision.
[00:01:43] So, we at Statusphere define an influencer as anyone who can influence a buying decision, which is why we even move more into what we consider consumer to consumer. Because at the end of the day, almost anyone, you know, has some sort of sphere of influence, no matter how many followers you have. Now, the more typical way that people view influencer marketing is, you know, sometimes like the Kim Kardashians of the world that have millions upon millions of followers. I think that’s like the more traditional kind of older school view of it. Nowadays, is that, you know, obviously she has a very large sphere of influence, but I personally and at Statusphere we define it as anybody who has any influencing power whatsoever. And studies show, and we found that like the smaller micro-influencers is what they’re called or people with like smaller actual numbers of followers, actually have more influence. So that’s really what we focus on, not on the big macros of the world. So, influencer marketing spans that whole gamut of what I just talked about, but we really focus on that, you know, more real person space. Real people with real influence.
[00:02:46] Jon Penland: Yeah. So influencer marketing at a high level is about taking somebody who has a sphere of influence connecting them with the brand, and then allowing that consumer-to-consumer, sort of, promotion or visibility to happen. And then Statusphere’s unique take on that is really to kind of focus down on these micro-influencers who are not the Kim Kardashians of the world, have a much smaller sphere of influence, but their influence may well actually be more powerful at the individual level or on a person by person basis. As I was preparing for our conversation, I was doing some research into influencer marketing in general. And I came across a survey from Influencer Marketing hub titled, The State of Influencer Marketing in 2022. The survey found that the expected market size for 2022 is 16.4 billion US dollars. That’s up from 13.8 billion one year before. If you look back at 2016, when they first started doing that survey, the market was estimated at 1.7 billion. So, that’s an increase of almost 10 fold over the last six years. To what do you attribute all of that growth? Why has the influencer marketing market grown the way it has?
[00:04:00] Kristen Wiley: Yeah. So I think there’s about probably like the threefold answer. So you first have just the sheer factor that almost anyone can sphere of influence now. You can create one. So you have things like TikTok, which is allowing even more so than even Instagram previously to allow a more average person to create a pretty meaningful sphere of influence.
[00:04:20] So you have like that piece. So this, the creator economy is just booming. People now want to be creators, people understand, even people who have full-time jobs doing one thing they’ll passionately talk about and influence their friends in, you know, in their passionate areas. If they get really into skincare or if they get really into, you know, cars or, you know, it’s just really kind of changed, where now they actually have channels where they can talk about these things. So you have that happening at a very quick rate and new platforms popping up, like, like TikTok, Instagram’s iterating with Reels, all of that. But then on top of that, you have some like macroeconomic kind of things happening.
[00:04:56] So you have the big players in the space right now in the marketing space, the three biggest places people put their ad spend, or you got Google, you have Facebook and you have Amazon. And at the end of the day, I mean, there’s a lot of regulatory things and pressures happening with all those. On top of that, you have things like the iOS updates that happen to Apple. If you’re not familiar with it, essentially what it did was it took marketers’ ability to track their advertising efforts way down, which essentially means that marketers are now spending more money to reach less people.
[00:05:23] So it’s because all of those costs per acquisition went up so much on those channels, marketers are looking elsewhere and realizing that influencer marketing and using creators is actually one of the best ways that they can spend their money. And they’re really seeing the ROI from that by diversifying their ad spend from these other channels. So I think that those are the main reasons why we’re seeing this happen. It was already happening before that, but then those two kind of large things have really accelerated that.
[00:05:50] Jon Penland: Yeah, I think that’s interesting about the creator piece, because I feel like there’s actually kind of two elements you were hitting on there. One is sort of the proliferation of platforms that make it relatively easy for an average person to develop some sort of a sphere of influence. But I think there’s also nested in that answer also like a shift in terms of how people think about connections, right?
[00:06:18] Which has been going on for a long time, which is this, this move of, you know, moving our connections online. And I do think there’s a sense, and I’m talking about this anecdotally as somebody who’s almost 40 years old, right? So I’m not necessarily the target market for a lot of this activity, but I feel that there is a shift even, even for folks who may be my age, where becoming more engaged in social media, particularly around specific interests, is a thing. Like I find myself more willing to post things like… I’m really into running, and so all of a sudden, I like I have this interest and it’s something I’ve started to post about. I’ve started to post about running and my following is tiny, but it’s there, right? And so I feel like there’s kind of two pieces to that create that shift in the creator market, where there’s a technology piece, but there’s also a cultural shift. Does that bear out in your own experience?
[00:07:13] Kristen Wiley: Yeah, I think that’s a hundred percent true. I also think it’s, it’s become like more normal to post something and tag the brand that you really like and you resonate with, you know, more than more so than you would have five, six years ago. You know, like all the brands are now on there. So it’s kind of like hit this tipping point…
[00:07:30] And it’s funny, you said the running thing. That’s an example I give all the time of like, you know, really talking about, ” Who is influencing your buying decisions?” If you saw buddy of yours, that you are in a running club with, post about a pair of running shoes and talk about how great they are, or versus like an, a professional athlete talk about how great they are, you’re actually gonna believe your buddy more because like, you know him, you relate to him, he’s more like you. And that’s why I think too, we’ve also seen this trend to micro. When I started doing influencer marketing, I used to have to beg brands, like I would show them the data the micros works better, but they like, “We only want 10,000 plus followers only.” And now it’s shifted. Now brands say, “We don’t look the big ones. We actually want the smaller one.” So it’s a big mindset shift, I think, to partly to what you’re saying there.
[00:08:12] Jon Penland: I think it’s funny as, as you say that, like, there’s an example coming to mind. There’s a fellow that I met. A fellow, I’ll just say his first name, Will, who does not have a major following online. And then all of a sudden, about two weeks ago, I saw that he announced that he’s an ambassador for a couple of different brands.
[00:08:28] And I was like, “What in the world?” Like, “Will’s not a professional runner.” Like, “Why is Will, how has Will engaged in these relationships with these brands?” And I think you just answered my question, because it’s something that’s been in the back of my mind like, “How has Will connected with these brands?” But I guess he’s in that he’s now a micro-influencer, is what’s happened there.
[00:08:49] Kristen Wiley: Exactly. And that’s really like, it’s like my dream at Statusphere is creating a place where essentially everyone who has influenced can leverage it to find those brand partnerships and create like win-win relationships on both sides.
[00:08:59] Jon Penland: Yeah. The other thing that you mentioned a moment ago is we were talking about the growth and influencer marketing is some of the pressures within the industry. And I wondered if we could pull back to that for, for just a moment. What do you think is unique about the current moment that is causing influencer marketing to be something that brands should think about right now? What are some of those unique pressures that are making influencer marketing a more advantageous investment than alternatives, perhaps like ad spend?
[00:09:32] Kristen Wiley: Yeah. So, I mean, I don’t know how often you talked to marketers, but right now marketers are, are having, having a moment, essentially, because what happened was they’ve got fed the drug of Facebook ads and they got used to. I pay X dollars for an ad and I get X dollars for a sale, and that’s how I get my return, and that’s how we crank our spend. Well, when this huge update happened to the iOS system, not only even before then the cost was going off with ads, but then this giant update happened, which essentially made the tracking not as good. So just digging in there too, if you’re not familiar with like, you probably noticed on your iPhone now it asks you if you want people to see your data so that marketers can track you.
[00:10:07] And can’t remember the stat, but it’s over half of people are opting out of that. So marketers now have a huge blind spot and blind spot in marketing means wasted money. Because you can’t optimize it as well. So now all these marketers, just their spends are going up so high, they actually can’t even rationalize.
[00:10:32] Some of them have big lose money on Facebook now, like they spend and for every dollar spent they’re losing your 50 cents because of the changes. And the marketers that are doing best are ones that have already prepared and diversified between multiple marketing channels. But one of the biggest marketing channels that helps, I think, mitigate the risk and why we’ve seen somebody go move to it is influencer marketing, and building the relationships with creators and essentially building other marketing channels so you don’t have to rely solely on Facebook ads, Google ads, the ones that were pulling most of the ad spend before.
[00:11:00] Jon Penland: Yeah. Yeah. So it sounds like a lot of this privacy focus changes whether they’re iOS changes or, you know, there’s a lot of privacy focus changes happening that are coming out of the European Union and other parts of the world, California and other places. Sounds like those are really driving, making you know, that buying traffic effectively buying eyeballs via ads is becoming more and more expensive, less and less effective. And so influencer marketing becomes an attractive alternative because the trust is so high and there’s just much more effective or becoming more and more effective relative to these other options.
[00:11:35] Kristen Wiley: It takes essentially seven touches is the average to convert a customer from a their first time seeing a brand to when they actually convert. So we tell our brands that all the time, “Seven touches,” right? So a lot can happen in those seven touches. One could be an ad, one could be a creator placement, one could be their best friend telling them, one could be a text message, you know? And I just think that that also the shift in how people are learning about brands has changed at the same time as this ad spend pieces happened. And there’s also studies showing that a viewpoint or a touch point in that seven of like a creator or like an influencer that you respect posting is almost more heavily weighted than an ad, which makes total sense. You’re going to trust that more than an ad. So it can help shorten that life cycle and mean more.
[00:12:14] Jon Penland: Yeah. So I want to find out about your personal story with influencer marketing as well. So can you tell us a bit about how you first came to be involved in influencer marketing?
[00:12:24] Kristen Wiley: Yeah. So, I actually started a blog when I was in college, and I’ve always loved marketing. I had a professor tell me, he was like, he told the whole class, but I guess I took it to heart. And he said that if, if you wanted to actually learn about marketing, you should start a blog. And you’ll learn more about that than you will in your classes and just start it on anything. So I actually went home that night, started a blog, and I believe that it was the best advice I’ve ever gotten. Um, because I did, I learned how to build a website, learned how to market it. I got really into content marketing because I just found it fun, and I just wanted to build that up. And then I actually started working with brands on my own blog.
[00:13:02] So it was just a fun, passion project. It was like a recipe baking blog that was just for fun. But I got to work with even brands like Coca-Cola and Hershey’s, and I got to see how those collaborations worked. I got to join some creator networks. So I was really seeing it from that side, and then at the same time, I started working at an agency where my job was to do the flip side of it, which was reach out to creators.
[00:13:28] So I started getting on a lot of these platforms as an influencer and as a brand, and that’s where kind of my wheels started spinning to being like… There’s some pain points on both sides that need to be solved, and then I kinda came up with the idea for Statusphere and sat on it for a little while before having the guts to kind of make the jump and do it. But that was where kind of that all started.
[00:13:45] Jon Penland: Yeah. Yeah. I’m curious, you know, way back in college, this marketing professor gives you, which what I agree was fantastic advice, go out there and put yourself out there and trying, you know, grow a website or grow, grow a blog, and you learn more that way. But I’m curious what those first interactions with brands is. As far as you can remember, like, what were those first interactions like? And what I’m, what I’m wondering about is did you go seek out brands? Were you just like reading about marketing in general? And they were like, “Hey, there are things called like brand ambassadors.” Like, how did that happen? How did the idea come to mind, and then how did you start to get involved?
[00:14:23] Kristen Wiley: Yeah. So this was all around 2010 timeframe to kind of give a stamp on it. So, it was such a different landscape back then. So think about it Instagram had just come out. It wasn’t even really a big thing. I was actually built a lot of my following on Facebook or on a Facebook page, so just like laying the landscape. I mean blogging was much bigger than like Instagram, much, much bigger at the time in terms of the creator space. So I created the blog. The first thing that you do when you create a blog, especially if you get really into it, as you start building a community of other bloggers, you start seeing what they’re doing that works, you start talking to them. That’s one of the first places I start, and then I would find these bloggers that were big and I would see like them getting brand collaborations, finding out how they did it, and to kind of like that’s where the whole ball started rolling. So I, in the beginning, the collaborations that I got, I remember like even just getting the first free product in exchange for posting, that was so exciting to me. And then I joined some of the networks, and applied for collaborations. And then I just started cold pitching brands myself, and learned kind of, especially once I learned what the brands were looking for as a brand, it made it pretty easy to like pitch and know what value I brought.
[00:15:28] Jon Penland: Yeah. So, so you, you came into influencer marketing very organically or very naturally, right? You, you have your own blog out there, you are trying to develop that blog over time. You see other bloggers engaged in influencer marketing, so you kind of follow in their footsteps. And then at the same time on a parallel track, you join a marketing agency and you’re seeing that relationship from the other side, where you’re out there trying to find influencers and pair them up and, and, and make the relationship happen from that direction. And this creates the idea of Statusphere in your mind. So at some point you say, “All right, it’s time to hit go on this idea.” When you launch Statusphere, is that just, like you in your apartment, or did you go out and get funding? What did that launch process look like?
[00:16:12] Kristen Wiley: Yeah. So I had the idea for like probably about two years. I had the domain name for a year, like before I started. So I even knew what name I wanted to do and everything. And then when I finally pulled the trigger, essentially, there’s just a tipping point for me that was like, “Okay, if I don’t do this and somebody else does, I’m going to always regret it. So, let’s, let’s just try and see what happens.” So I did it as a side hustle. I still had a full-time job at a marketing agency at the time. And I threw throughout landing page, where essentially it had an application to become a creator or an influencer with Statuspherehere. And we would ship you a box of products in exchange for posting.
[00:16:48] I didn’t have any boxes. I even put a rendering up that looks pretty real. So when I say it was just like, “This is a test. I just want to see if there was a market for this.” ‘Cause I was like, “The only way there’s a market for where my idea comes into play is if the creators will post,” right, “then I can sell it to brands.” So I messaged, DMed it and emailed it to a handful of creators that I followed that didn’t know me personally. And I just said like, “Hey, check out this new network you can join.” I think I DMed it to like, don’t know 5 to 10, and the next morning I had like 12 to 15 applications. And I was like, “Okay, that’s a good sign. They already shared it with their friends.” So I was like this, like, that was the tipping point for me to be like, “All right, I’m going to do this. I’m going to try this out.” So essentially started it, which is some investment of my own, it wasn’t a lot just to get at least the MVP, like very minimum viable product out there. And actually, in the office I’m sitting in right now is where I started out shipping out products to the creators.
[00:17:45] And then over time, as I realized what the market was, realized how to make this scalable and that it could scale, that’s when I decided to go to the venture-backed route, and realized essentially I wanted to make this a venture backable company and essentially make it as big as I could. So that’s where we went and ended upbringing on investors.
[00:18:10] Jon Penland: Yeah. So that first box, you know, you’ve got that first box that’s not even a real box, you just kind of drew it up yourself. What products were in there? Like did you already have brands on board?
[00:18:18] Kristen Wiley: No, I had no, I literally, it was just a teal box on a landing page. Yeah. I said, like, “Join the network and you’ll get a box, pretty teal box with a product and exchange for posting.” And that was, that’s all it started as. I just wanted to know would they apply like my acquisition essentially? Will these creators to join my network?
[00:18:38] Jon Penland: Right. Yeah. Like a proof of concept there. And so then, you know, you’ve got, you know, 12 applications in the first day, is that the point at which you started trying to go out and find brands that were interested in working with you?
[00:18:50] Kristen Wiley: Yeah. So that was when I started, I actually, the very first box I sent, because I worked at an agency, I was able to reach out to a few brands and just get, I didn’t have them pay or anything. I was just like, “I just want some product to ship to these creators to get them posting.” So I sent them all some products, just to prove that they would post, so that then I could show that content to more brands to actually get them to pay for campaigns. So that was how I went from that.
[00:19:12] Jon Penland: Yeah. Yeah. That’s really interesting because one of the things, and I’m going to come back to this in a moment, but one of the things that I was thinking about as I was thinking about Statusphere is you really have two sets of customers, right? Like you’ve got your influencers who you need to attract to want to be part of your network.
[00:19:29] And then you’ve also the brands who you need to attract also want to be part of your network, right? And I’m going to come back to that, but that’s really interesting, the idea that you, you went after the influencer first, created that product, which you could then turn around and offer to the brand. So that’s, that’s, that’s a really interesting dynamic that I want to come back to, but before we do, the other piece that we’ve been talking about is the growth of Statusphere. And I wanted about that. So I know that Statusphere has grown a lot, especially over the last couple of years. As I was doing some research, I think your team has grown from about 10 people to over 50, really just in the last two years or so. So what, what sort of challenges have you faced as you’ve tried to scale up Statusphere from those, you know, very humble beginnings of yourself just kinda trying out a proof of concept to where you’re at today with a team of 50 plus team members?
[00:20:18] Kristen Wiley: Yeah. So every, every stage of, I guess, the life cycle of the business, it comes with completely different challenges. I think the only thing I’ve learned is that the more you learn, the more you feel like you don’t know. So, which I guess I always love that, that comparison, there’s like a chart where it says like, “You know, what you think you know, and what you actually know. And then once you actually know more, you, you realize, like, ‘I don’t know anything.'” So as somebody who started a company, and I feel like other founders probably can relate most of the time they relate to this. It’s just like every stage though, it’s, it’s just incredible, I feel like I learn so much every month, every day almost, but at the same time, then you have all new challenges that like, you just were never even expecting the next day. But it’s also, I think, what, a lot of personalities that are drawn to entrepreneurship. Like I just love problem-solving and figuring out those challenges overall. I would say some of the biggest challenges, like in the very beginning with the, like you have the MVP and then it’s like building your own, you’re your first few team players and building out that core founding team, essentially, I think it was like the first biggest challenge. I was just like so fortunate to find the most amazing founding team. So our leadership team consists of myself, we have an operations, our chief operator operations officer, our chief technical officer. So we could actually build out a full state-of-the-art platform, which we have today.
[00:21:40] So that was like the first big challenge. And then once getting those into place, I would say the next big phase was, you know, really making sure you have product-market fit. So like hearing from your customers, figuring out, like, are we going after the, like, “If this customer is leaving, is it because they’re the wrong persona or is it because we need to fix our product?” And really understanding that piece, what is like the next, biggest stage of the company? And then I would say, “Now we’re in growth mode.” So growth mode has been like a completely different animal. And essentially, I mean, we brought on, I can’t even remember like 15, 20 people last quarter or something. I don’t know, we’re, people hiring all the time.
[00:22:16] I don’t even know what’s happening going from like where you know everybody and we can all fit into one tiny room to like, “Oh my gosh, we, what, what’s her name on the team?” She just started, and I didn’t even get to meet her first, you know? So that challenge is like right now, we’re in like the recruiting challenge, which is a whole other different animal.
[00:22:36] Jon Penland: Yeah, yeah, no, I think you’re absolutely right. When I joined Kinsta, we were a team of about 15, and I, I just joined as an individual contributor, I joined as a support engineer. And, you know, today we’re a team of about 250. And, and yeah, I mean, it’s every step of the way. It’s like, I started to think, well, I recognized there were things I did not know, but I really had no idea how little I knew, right? Like, they’re there, it’s funny, like one of the things that’s coming to me right now, I been at Kinsta for six years now. And I’ve been managing a team of some in some fashion for, I don’t know, most of that time. And, you know, it’s one of those things where as we’re going through some different leadership development stuff and different management training to try and upscale our managers, I’m sitting here going, “I’ve been doing this for like five years and I’m realizing how much I don’t know what I’m doing.” Right? Like, “How much I still have to learn about this thing I’ve been doing for years,” right?
[00:23:30] The second piece there that we were talking about was this sort of balance between having brands as your customers and having influencers as your customers. Statusphere’s in this like unique matchmaker position, as, as I see it between those two different groups. And so thinking about potentially conflicting priorities, or points of view in these two sets of customers, what are some of the challenges that that is posed for Statusphere?
[00:24:02] Kristen Wiley: Yeah, for sure. And, and we, we view it the same way. Like the matchmaking is the core of what we do. We’re kind of, we’re kind of like a dating app actually from like a technology perspective, because we take into account everything the brand is looking for and then everything that creator is looking for. And I think to your point kind of earlier when you were talking about like, I saw the problem on the creator side and started there. That’s actually one of the main, fundamental values of our businesses that we’re member first. So we, we want to be people first overall, but if we’re making a product decision, we want to make sure that there’s a benefit to the member, which was something I felt was a huge gap in the market in terms of other platforms who built everything for the brands. And they kind of let the members like hanging, and that’s how I felt as someone on the platform. So that’s something just like when I’m looking at kind of and having to decide, I guess when you’re saying like splitting your time, we do look at it like we’re nothing without our members, so we need to make sure we’re bringing them the best value and the best experience possible.
[00:24:57] So we try not to jeopardize that or compromise that as, as much as possible with our product decisions. So that’s, that’s one way. And then I think just in terms of the logistical ways that we focus on both sides, is just how we split up our departments and our teams. So we have, you know, our team dedicated that’s member-facing and brand facing. So we have like essential customer success team on the brand side, and we have, you know, a member success team on the member side. And making sure that we have people that have KPIs attached to both of those things that we can grow them both at the same time. And just like, you know, on the sales side for the brand side, we have a team that’s, you know, looking for new brands and, and going after that and they have those KPIs.
[00:25:36] And then on the member side, we want to foster constantly new applications, um, things like that. We do have a waitlist and we have to go through it constantly and approve people from it, as we have more opportunities that match them. Luckily, when you do have a platform that works with influencers, it’s like you get to work with the social butterflies of the world that we can almost leverage our platform to get more of them. So to my point earlier, when I told 10 of them and got 15 applicants, we’ve actually run campaigns on our own platform to get creators talking about Statusphere, to get more creators and it works incredibly well. So that’s one of the core ways that we grow our member side, and then on the brand side, we have a full team for that.
[00:26:15] Jon Penland: That member first approach strikes me as actually also being brand first in a sense, right? Because that member first approach ensures that your influencers are engaged with your platform are excited to be using it, which will translate into them being better ambassadors for the brands that they represent. So it, it strikes me that in having that member first mentality, you really are also taking care of the brands at the same time. Is that, is that how you think about that perspective?
[00:26:53] Kristen Wiley: I think that’s completely correct. So essentially our brands don’t have anything if we don’t have our, our members. So it does serve our brands well. And we’ve had brands reach out to us and say, “You know, I tried to reach out to this creator and they didn’t post about me, but she claimed it through Statusphere.” And it’s like, “Oh, that’s ’cause we worked with her so long and she trusts us.” So it’s, it’s a different experience, and I think that that kind of shows how it ends up benefiting the brand.
[00:27:19] Jon Penland: Kristen, as we start to wrap our conversation to a close, I have a couple of wrap-up questions for you. The first one is, what is a resource you would recommend to our listeners? So this could be blog or a newsletter, or a book, conference… really anything that you think is a go-to resource for you, that our listeners should check out?
[00:27:45] Kristen Wiley: Yeah. And I guess, I don’t know. I guess your listeners are kind of across the board in terms of audience. I would say fellow founders or people running a company, especially a venture-backed one, I recently read a book. It’s by a CEO coach is called like The Great CEO Within. It’s one of the most actionable books I’ve ever read. And it works for anyone in leadership positions looking to grow a company. I think it’s by far one of the best ones there. And then I guess in terms of other resources, I mean, not to plug our own stuff, but if you’re looking for more content, we have the most awesome content team that I’ve ever seen. So our blog joinstatus.com, if you go there and click on our blog, we publish eight-plus pieces of content per month, and it’s always on what’s the best topic that’s happening that month.
[00:28:28] Jon Penland: All right. So the book was The Great CEO Within?
[00:28:28] Kristen Wiley: The Great CEO Within. Correct.
[00:28:29] Jon Penland: The Great CEO Within and then check out the joinstatus.com or the Statusphere blog for, you know… I assume it’s very focused on influencer marketing. I would say marketers, in general, will find a lot about you there.
[00:28:46] Jon Penland: Awesome. Okay. Then just to take us out, where can our listeners go to either connect with you or to learn more about Statusphere?
[00:28:53] Kristen Wiley: Yeah. So I’m a huge fan of LinkedIn, another place with tons of influencers on it, in a different category that people don’t think about, but I’m a huge fan of LinkedIn. I do actually have a newsletter on there that I publish. I put a lot of really great content that I work really hard on with our team and our team works really hard on, so it’s a really great place to follow me there. Um, also I love connecting with people. So if you connected with me and say that you’ve heard with me on, on this podcast, I will definitely accept you. If you need to ask me any questions about marketing, always happy to answer them there. So, find me on LinkedIn, Kristen Wiley, you can find it there. And then you can find us, you know, on all the platforms, as you can probably imagine with Statusphere. So we’re on everything from Instagram, to TikTok, to LinkedIn, you can find all those links on our website at joinstatus.com.
[00:29:36] Jon Penland: All right. Perfect. Kristen, thank you so much for joining me on Reverse Engineered today.
[00:29:41] Kristen Wiley: Thanks so much for having me.
[00:29:43] Jon Penland: And thank you to our listeners. Uh, that’s all for today’s podcast. You can access the episode show notes at kinsta.com/podcast. That’s K I N S T A.com/podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to Reverse Engineered and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or the platform you’re listening on right now. See you next time.