Investing in hummingbirds

Posted on March 9, 2023 at 7:39 AM by Martin Walker

In the context of social media marketing, the term “influencer” didn’t appear in English dictionaries until the year 2019. But the concept of influencer marketing has been around almost as long as, well, hummingbirds! Humans evolved to form words somewhere between 50,000 and 2 million years ago, and word-of-mouth marketing likely started a few seconds later.

Fast forward to the mid 20-teens, and influencer marketing rose to prominence with the explosion of social media. And being an influencer can be big business. Very big. As a subset of advertising, influencer marketing accounted for $15 billion in expenditures in 2021, and is expected to grow another 44% by 2030. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, Kylie Jenner earns nearly $1.8 million per sponsored social media post, only to be outdone by Cristiano Ronaldo, who earns over $2 million per sponsored post. Those high-profile influencers can be amazing promoters for the biggest brands, but, for the tens of millions of small businesses in the United States, they are far out of reach.

Meanwhile, hummingbirds founders Emily Steele and Charise Flynn were working hard to help businesses grow and succeed. In her 10+ years of SMB marketing, Emily saw the transition from traditional to digital marketing firsthand. She began using hyper-local influencers as an alternative marketing strategy to help her clients create brand awareness and grow revenue. In the process, Emily was personally sharing all of her favorite local brands on her personal social media accounts. She was amazed at the incredible word-of-mouth it was generating for local businesses. The value was clear, but the small business owners, responsible for every aspect of their business, rarely had the time or expertise to find the right influencers to help promote their products and services in their local market.

Enter hummingbirds.

Steele developed a platform and two-sided network, connecting small businesses with hyper-local influencers in their communities. “There’s no better way to build buzz than through real people amplifying your brand to their trusted network of peers,” said Steele. With options ranging from DIY to full-service managed campaign strategies, hummingbirds can match the expertise and needs of a wide variety of business owners. “There’s no other form of advertising that can create the type of loyalty and longevity that people-powered marketing can.  When locals have an incredible experience with your brand, not only can they become lifelong customers, but they can also be your best referral, “adds Liz Keehner, Senior Associate with Next Level Ventures.

One of the things that distinguishes hummingbirds from its competitors is the authentic, hyper-local content that is created by their content creators called “hummingbirds”. “Hummingbirds aren’t national influencers seeking to be famous or earn a living from being an ‘influencer’. Instead, they are people like you and me who have local, trusted, networks of friends and followers and like to use their voice to create impact,” said Flynn.

The timing for hummingbirds to capitalize on the opportunity couldn’t be better. Next Level Ventures was thrilled to participate in hummingbirds’ recent funding round. “I believe Emily and Charise are the right team to execute on the vision,” says Keehner. With the prevalence of social media and the growing trend of shopping local, hummingbirds is poised to help small businesses connect with local customers like never before.