Agnes Kozera on small budgets and big results

The FameBit founder offers her view From The Big Chair on the mutually beneficial relationship between smaller brands and indie creators.
June 16, 2016

There’s a lot of pride in being able to say you discovered an artist, movie or book before it became cool.

For Agnes Kozera, that’s what FameBit is all about.

Famebit, founded by Kozera in 2014, is an online network that focuses on identifying and showcasing emerging creators who have the talent, but not necessarily the audience reach to attract big MCNs or brands for sponsorship opportunities.

“There really is such quality being put out by lower and mid-range influencers,” Kozera told StreamDaily in a recent interview.

Famebit arose from what Kozera saw as a previously untapped space for brands to scout and work with this group of YouTubers.

It’s not to be confused with an MCN, however. While MCNs work at identifying and scouting emerging creators and maintain an image of exclusivity, FameBit is open to the masses. Any creator can join for free, and it’s the brands that bring in revenue for both the creators and the company at large when deals are brokered.

Those brands are usually smaller companies, including those might still be in the start-up stage or hosting their e-commerce operations through third-party services such as Shopify (FameBit recently partnered with Shopify, enabling its partnered creators to set up their own Shopify stores). The sweet spot is found among brands that recognize the importance of social media marketing, but don’t have the deep pockets of leading digital companies like Marriott and Red Bull.

“There are MCNs that brands can go to and work with bigger stars, but that required bigger brand budgets. (For smaller budgets) there were no opportunities to work with creators, beyond just browsing YouTube for hours and happening upon someone,” she said.

Over the past two years, the Santa Monica-based company has signed 40,000 creators from all platforms.

StreamDaily caught up with Kozera to chat about why small brands have brought her company big value, what big challenges brands face in the digital video space and what the view is like from the company’s big chair.

You’ve often used the term “self-service” to describe FameBit — can you get a little deeper into what you mean by that?

What I mean is actually brands being able to do the monetary transactions on their own. And in the same regard, creators sign up on their own. So one party can send a proposal to work with the other. Creators can check out brands and what they’re doing, then send proposals to brands they’re interested in. So all of this is brands setting their own terms, setting their own prices. The creators also have a lot more control, too. Of all the brands that have used us to connect with a creator, we have a 96% content approval rate, which goes to show that when you give the right tools to brands and creators to work collaboratively, magic can happen.

Aside from approvals, what are some tangible success stories FameBit has seen?

A smaller start-up, Satin Lined Caps, was opening up a Shopify store and before starting to use FameBit, they indicated that they tried everything to get their product out there. Nothing really worked, but after hiring even just one influencer, they sold out their inventory in just one week. So again, this is an example of a  brand that might not have a big budget. Another example is BooHoo, a U.K.-based clothing brand. They were looking to expand to the U.S. market. They hired influencers at scale, and because they focus on very organic styles of marketing like social media posts and and lookbooks, they were able to see a (four times return on investment) from just a few videos.

How have you witnessed the online video scene change in the last five years?

There’s obviously an emphasis on being multi-platform and, in terms of sheer volume, there’s just more videos on those platforms. Brands understand that you can’t just be on one platform, and content can’t be the same from one platform to another. They’re learning how to do it right, they’re learning how to do it themselves, so overall we’re witnessing a lot of savvy from brands, and that means we get to see our thesis play out. Brands want the tools to do it themselves. Because creators are so savvy and doing it themselves, they’re able to do it without an agent.

Besides just finding and connecting with influencers, what are some of the biggest challenges for brands right now?

There is a lot of data out there, there’s a lot of numbers. But it still just really scratches the surface. There are a lot of very valuable things that cannot be quantified, like how well you’re building your brand or how does your message resonate with viewers.

Earlier this year, FameBit expanded to be more friendly to multi-platform creators. What are some platforms you’re really watching?

As much as things are very multi-platform, the platform brands and creators are most excited about is definitely still YouTube, then Instagram and followed by Twitter. Brands and creators are using them all very differently, but what’s important to note is that they’re all using them at the same time, and we’re going to see that continuously as others continue to grow. The whole reason we expanded is because our YouTubers already had other presences. Some might like Instagram because it’s more editorial, or some might like a chance to offer more of a comment or a joke on something like Twitter.

But as brands become better at navigating the marketplace, do you ever worry about running yourselves out of business?

The first big factor is security. You can do things yourself, but as far as transactions go, you do want someone in there to help ensure that if something falls through, if communication ever gets broken down, the money always gets moved to the right party. So we hold the money in escrow during transactions for that reason. Lots of creators have been burned in the past by not getting paid for the work they do. And, again, it’s the filtering and searching capabilities. You can always try and find creators manually, but because it’s our mission to be data-driven, it’s easy to say,  “Okay, I’m looking for an influencer that’s big in this space and has this many followers and is on this platform” and use those filters to connect with someone.

What keeps you awake at night?

I’m excited with the space and where it’s going. I’m excited that brands are learning that you can’t measure everything on your own, that there’s so much more to success than just view count, and there’s so much more value to branded content than just seeing initial ROI. As far as the challenge of what’s keeping me up at night, it’s the fact that every other day there’s a new platform that calls themselves a new influencer-marketing platform, and the perception that the market is getting saturated when it’s obviously not.

What’s the view like from the big chair?

I do continue to be very involved on every level of the business. We’re a really collaborative team, so my day-to-day actually ends up shifting all the time. There’s the really minute levels of business, interacting with the team on all levels to ensure that we’re all in sync and everything, and then of course there’s the more big-picture things like trying to look at new platforms, new creators, what big challenges brands are facing now. So, my view from my big chair really changes from day to day, but that’s why I like it.

Missed a Q&A? Check out more From the Big Chair sessions here. 


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