In this captivating article, Liam Hurd, the co-founder of RQ Media, shares the agency’s remarkable evolution and insights into the influencer marketing realm. From its inception during lockdown boredom to its impactful collaborations with renowned brands, RQ Media’s story reflects the Gen Z spirit of adaptability and innovation. Liam’s candid observations provide a unique glimpse into their authentic approach, strategic insights, and vision for the future of influencer marketing.
Can you please introduce yourself and give us a brief overview of RQ Media?
Liam Hurd, the co-founder of RQ Media, established the agency in 2021 at just 16 years old, during the lockdown. “Me and Eric (another co-founder of RQ Media) were a bit bored in lockdown,” Liam recalls, explaining their motivation.
Their familiarity with social media and influencer management led them to launch a business that offers a personal touch. “There was a gap for younger talent… a more personalized approach to management,” Liam notes.
Despite initial doubts due to their age, Liam asserts, “We’ve flipped that on its head.” RQ Media leverages its deep understanding of digital platforms and behaviors. Their team, mostly aged 18-22, fuels innovation with “new ideas… fresh perspectives,” as Liam emphasizes.
In two years, RQ Media has thrived, collaborating with brands and creators. Their offerings span influencer marketing, brand partnerships, social media management, events, and PR. This Gen Z agency is a testament to youthful creativity and adaptability, echoing the spirit of its time
Could you share the story behind why you decided to focus mainly on TikTok and the unique approach you’ve brought to brand partnerships?
Liam’s conviction in TikTok’s impact is evident: “TikTok is the most revolutionary social media platform we’ve ever seen.” It’s reshaped content dynamics, inspiring features like Instagram Reels. TikTok’s influence extends to YouTube’s Shorts and Create Fund, sparking innovation in the industry.
Describing TikTok as an all-in-one platform, Liam underscores its versatility, empowering creators with diverse tools. In China, TikTok’s advanced shop program even facilitates house purchases, signifying its immense potential.
RQ Media’s approach to TikTok partnerships is rooted in authenticity: “TikTok is so real compared to other platforms.” Genuine content fosters trust and bolsters sales, as Liam explains.
TikTok’s role as a search engine for Gen Z doesn’t escape Liam’s notice, with 65% using it for information. Despite controversies, TikTok’s future excites him. RQ Media thrives on adaptability, positioning itself to lead in the ever-evolving social media landscape.
Working with renowned brands like Puma, JD Sports, Shein, and Fashion Nova showcases your agency’s prowess. How do you ensure that your influencer campaigns on TikTok resonate effectively with such diverse audiences and authentically represent each brand’s identity?
Liam reveals their approach to crafting impactful campaigns for brands like Puma, JD Sports, Shein, and Fashion Nova. From one-off collaborations to enduring partnerships, their strategy centers on fostering connections between creators and brands.
“Building a bond with creators is key,” Liam emphasizes, underlining the significance of authenticity. They stressed the importance of brand decks, briefs that encapsulate a brand’s essence. Aligning values is vital, such as matching body-positive creators with inclusive brands like Shein.
Authenticity is non-negotiable; forced content is discernible. Liam advises creators to engage with products firsthand, fostering genuine endorsements. The agency’s exclusive roster is growing, echoing a trend where brands opt for handpicked creators who share their vision.
Liam’s agency is more than a collaboration; it’s a partnership where creators aren’t just talents but integral team members. Their vision underscores the evolving landscape of influencer marketing.
Your partnership with TikTok to enhance TikTok Live Services and TikTok Shop is intriguing. Can you elaborate on how RQ Media’s collaboration with TikTok has contributed to the growth of these services and your innovative strategies to maximize their potential?
RQ Media’s partnership with TikTok has powered TikTok Live Services and TikTok Shop. According to Liam, “TikTok shop is the e-commerce platform on TikTok.” They work closely with a smaller team of about 20 influencers assigned by TikTok. Instead of charging creators, RQ Media gains commission from TikTok for products sold. This setup provides a direct line for issue resolution and brand deal collaborations.
Regarding TikTok Live, RQ Media’s emphasis lies here, developing both the UK and US sides. They aim to transform small creators into consistent live streamers, aligning with TikTok’s growth strategy. Their relationship with TikTok fosters communication and strategy. “The opportunities really are limitless,” Liam says, with a focus on sustainable income.
In the dynamic realm of influencer marketing, trends evolve rapidly. Could you shed light on the key trends you’ve observed, particularly on TikTok, and how RQ Media adapts its strategies to stay ahead in this ever-changing landscape?
In the realm of influencer marketing, TikTok drives rapid trends. Liam highlights the ever-changing nature of this space. UGC content, particularly from smaller nano creators, is on the rise. These creators, with everyday jobs, connect authentically by showcasing products in real-life settings.
Authenticity is crucial, as Laim suggests, “It’s a lot easier to feel connected to someone when you’ve discovered them small.” In contrast, forced or scripted ads erode trust. Genuine engagement is a strong trend, where creators talk to their audience naturally and solve problems.
Data-driven approaches are the way forward, as Liam notes, “Being specific and data-driven is where the agency market is going.” Adapting to new features and technology, like AI, is vital.
Staying relevant requires continuous evolution, as Liam warns, “Do I adapt too soon and maybe fail? Do I adapt not soon enough?” Ultimately, creating genuine value and maintaining authenticity is key in influencer marketing’s dynamic landscape.
TikTok’s algorithm is renowned for its content amplification capabilities. Could you share insights into your content optimization strategies that leverage this algorithm to achieve maximum reach and engagement?
Utilizing TikTok’s algorithm to achieve maximum reach and engagement involves a blend of strategies, as outlined by Liam:
- Analyzing Creator’s Videos: According to Liam, “It’s basically just looking at your creator’s videos. What does, well, what doesn’t, why is this done?” By scrutinizing high-performing and lower-engagement videos, you can identify patterns and understand your audience’s preferences.
- Quality and Quantity: Liam emphasizes, “Content is key on TikTok. It really is king. If you are posting ten pieces a day of content… that strategy where you just keep posting on TikTok… They absolutely lap it up.” Consistently posting high-quality, short videos showcases your dedication to the platform.
- Audience Interaction: Engaging your audience directly is crucial. Liam suggests, “We have people message their fans… on Instagram, it’s a great place to go, right? Here’s a Q&A box. Ask me any questions. Here are some content ideas. What do you guys think?” This fosters a sense of community and generates content ideas.
- Diversification: “Any big creator on TikTok should be looking to diversify,” Liam advises. Using various platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and others can broaden your audience and income streams.
- Content Alignment: While it’s important to create content you enjoy, “Listen to your audience,” Liam stresses. Aligning your content with your audience’s preferences ensures your content resonates with them.
- Experimentation: Liam recommends avoiding monotony. “You can’t do the same thing over and over and over… people get bored very fast on TikTok.” Experimenting with different content styles keeps your audience engaged.
- Authenticity and Connection: “Make your content engaging… creating a strong connection with your audience,” Liam points out. Establishing a genuine connection ensures your content remains memorable.
- Analyzing Engagement: Liam challenges creators to remember the last few videos they watched on TikTok. “Memorable content” stands out and creates a lasting impact.
- Adapting and Learning: “Learning from your past mistakes,” according to Liam, is essential. Adapting your content based on engagement and response is key to improvement.
- Balancing Creativity and Audience Preferences: “You want to be memorable… engaging content that aligns with their preferences boosts your chances of success,” Liam highlights.
- Be Memorable: With the abundance of content on TikTok, Liam suggests crafting videos that leave a lasting impression.
By incorporating these insights and strategies from Liam, creators can effectively leverage TikTok’s algorithm for maximum reach, engagement, and overall success on the platform.
As we approach the latter part of the year, what are your predictions for the future of influencer marketing on TikTok? Are there emerging trends that brands should keep a keen eye on?
Looking ahead to the future of influencer marketing on TikTok, Liam emphasizes the importance of authenticity and values, stating, “Be authentic. Be real. Talk about your values.” He underscores the value of meaningful partnerships, noting that when brands establish a connection with creators through calls, it leads to more positive reviews and successful content.
Liam also predicts a data-driven future, remarking that “the future is going towards more data-driven” approaches, leveraging AI for enhanced strategies. He highlights the delicate balance between creativity and science, describing marketing as “a science… an art to be practiced,” and stresses the need for adaptability and evolution to meet creators’ and customers’ diverse needs.
Liam anticipates TikTok’s continued growth, especially with the rise of TikTok shops and creators leveraging the platform. He sees healthy competition as a driving force for improvement within the social media landscape, sparking innovation and better user experiences.
Regarding the ever-connected world, he suggests that building connections and communicating brand values are pivotal, as “we have never been more connected as a world,” and leveraging these connections is essential.
Lastly, Liam underscores the significance of consistency in influencer marketing. He notes that “consistency is the biggest driver,” emphasizing the necessity to consistently deliver quality content even when motivation may vary. By combining these insights, Liam crafts a vision for influencer marketing’s future that revolves around authenticity, adaptability, communication, and consistent effort.
The creator economy has witnessed significant growth. Can you share with us your views on the current state of it?
Liam is exhilarated by its current state: “It’s never been more exciting.” He sees a surge in brands and creators, describing the growth as huge. Brands like Mr. Beast Burger and MrBeast Chocolate showcase this shift. Not only big names like KSI and Mr. Beast but smaller creators working with agencies are also making innovative platforms, like FanFit.
Liam believes creators are diversifying into fitness and beyond by telling us, “Fitness is being taken over by creators.” Celebrities like Mark Wahlberg and Chris Evans launching fitness apps highlight this trend. Yet, authenticity matters more than overt sales. “Being a creator authentically…enjoying making videos” resonates better than constant selling.
Regarding agencies, Liam sees their growing role but criticizes exploitative practices: “Agencies that charge extortion amounts…ridiculous.” He emphasizes the importance of ethical practices and creators’ rights to switch agencies for better service.
Liam envisions a future where creators launch their own brands and collaborate effectively: “Creators have the audience; why not use it to solve problems?” He sees competition, morality, and teamwork shaping the creator economy. He believes creators’ audiences hold immense potential for both creators and brands.
Collaborations between brands and influencers can sometimes encounter challenges, such as reconciling creative freedom with brand guidelines. How does RQ Media navigate these challenges to ensure a harmonious and effective collaboration?
At RQ Media, the delicate balance between creative freedom and brand guidelines thrives on transparent communication. According to Liam, “We’ve got two customers: the brand that we answer to, but we’ve also got the creators.” Compromises emerge during conflicts, such as payment disputes: “Maybe a creator wants 10,000 for a person. A brand only wants to pay 8,000.”
Liam’s approach underscores candid communication. He avoids evasion, stating, “Tiptoeing around problems won’t solve them. Honest communication is key.” He openly shares both positive and negative news, as seen when a campaign falls through: “This brand’s fell through… I was being honest, and it was a shock to me.”
Liam actively shapes collaborative guidelines, proposing, “Guidelines could be more flexible. Give influencers extra creative freedom. A trial period is essential, perhaps a week to test the product.” Respecting creators’ boundaries, he notes, “Some creators might see me romantically. I don’t, but it’s like a relationship.”
Liam’s involvement transcends work; he provides personal support to creators: “I donated directly to a friend. It wasn’t agent-manager dynamics. I was just there.” This bond nurtures collaboration, with Liam affirming, “Openness, clear communication, and problem-solving are paramount.”
What changes or developments would you like to witness in the influencer marketing industry, both in terms of practices and the broader perception of influencer collaborations?
Influencer and agency representative Liam envisions a more unified influencer marketing landscape, emphasizing cooperation between agencies for mutual growth. “Drop the walls. See where we can work together,” Liam asserts, advocating a collaborative approach to address industry challenges.
For Liam, transparent communication is key. “It’s all about knowing what people want and answering those needs,” he emphasizes, highlighting the significance of anticipating and meeting audience expectations proactively.
Liam sees influencer-agency relationships as partnerships, stating, “Your creators are part of your residency. This should be part of your identity.” He values honesty in communication and aims to fulfill collaborations over mere transactions.
Liam’s vision centers on enhanced collaboration, proactive problem-solving, and authenticity. By fostering unity and transparent partnerships, he hopes to reshape the influencer marketing industry positively.
Lastly, we’re intrigued to know what lies ahead for RQ Media’s collaboration with TikTok. Are there any exciting upcoming projects or initiatives that you’re eager to share with the world?
Liam excitedly reveals the agency’s partnership with TikTok Live, marking their entry into the realm of live streaming. Liam’s proactive approach is evident as he shares, “We’ll be joining TikTok Live,” acknowledging the initial adoption challenges and adjustments. He expresses gratitude for TikTok’s exceptional support, acknowledging their platform expertise, and underscores the agency’s commitment to innovation and growth.
RQ Media’s move aligns with the evolving industry dynamics of streaming platforms. Liam notes, “Platforms like Twitch, Mixer, and Kik are booming in the US,” highlighting TikTok’s potential role. Liam envisions a promising future for the agency’s exclusive roster and collaborative opportunities, eagerly looking forward to problem-solving within creator communities.
Liam’s optimism shines through as he reflects on his journey and the agency’s trajectory. He concludes, “I never thought I’d be working with these brands or creators… It’ll be interesting to see where the future holds.”