What is Hashtag Communications and what do you do?
David: We are like a modern-day PR company. Companies like Google, Manulife, Best Buy, Sony, Bell, Huawei, you name it, they corporate brand and they call us.
We act like an in-house consultancy for these brands and we help these brands execute their influencer marketing campaigns. So that’s everything from what are they going to do – so that’s the strategy – all the way to calling the influencers, working on creative with them, sending them their legal contracts.
Really taking them from point A to Z when it comes to even the distribution and the wrap-up reports at the very end.
Tell me how you set up the company and why?
David: Funny enough the story is I went to the government in 2008, 2009 and I had this idea to call a company Hashtag Communications because I was starting a little social media company. And I remember I registered it and got the name because people quite often ask “How did you get the name?”
So I went out many years ago – about 10 years ago. I remember I called my mom and I said, “Mom, you know I’ve registered a business called Hashtag Communications.”
She was like, “What is this? Some sort of pot smoking company? Some hash company?” She couldn’t quite understand it.
I explained it was a hashtag. It makes things popular.
Now I’m so grateful that I got it.
The reason why I started the company was because I was actually making YouTube videos before I started this company and I was starting to do brand deals and I noticed that a lot of advertisers didn’t really know how to communicate with creators. Didn’t really know how to talk about content to them and there was a little bit of a gap so I realized that was a gap that needed to be filled.
So that’s where Hashtag Communications really fits into the marketplace today.
There’s a lot of talk about influencers in social media. How do you define what an influencer is and who is an influencer?
David: An influencer I would describe as someone just like you and me except they choose to document either a certain part of their life or a certain type of content. It could be beauty. It could be veganism.
Whatever topic it is, they have amassed a following in that niche. That’s what I consider an influencer. It’s somebody who is influential over a group of people online.
How have influencers transformed modern marketing?
David: This is where I can plug my TEDx talk. That was the entire topic.
There are probably 10 things that I would point out but one of the main things is that really these influencers have become the distribution and the gatekeepers. Back in the day, there were film execs, TV execs, and they were really controlling the message.
Now it’s really everyday people who are transforming the message, especially when it comes to consumer goods, because people want to buy something from an influencer who they trust rather than something that has been contrived and put in front of our faces.
It’s the fact that they now have the ability to control the messaging.
What are some of the key trends you’re seeing in social media?
David: Rather than trends, I think it’s just like a movement. I do see that influencers are starting to understand their worth. That’s something when it comes to brand deals – understanding that they actually can get paid for what they do. It’s becoming a much more solidified industry.
I’m also seeing that influencers are more mindful of the stuff they put out there and trying to be inclusive and I think trying to put up more positive content as of late, because we’ve seen a lot of scandals happen in the last couple of years.
We’re actually entering a wave of more positive content on the platforms. Also, maybe being a little bit more authentic with their content.
I’m starting to see a lot of influencers who used to do full-on photo shoots all the time now put out content that’s a little bit more stripped down. So they might shoot it just with their iPhone and I think they’re trying to be a little bit more vulnerable and open and honest in their content rather than so manipulated.
– Mario Toneguzzi