About Ryan Davis
Ryan Davis has been a part of the digital strategy and marketing industry since 2003. He started working for governor Howard Dean when he ran for president and was responsible for updating his blog, posting short-form video content, and organizing Yahoo! Groups and meetups.
In 2018, Ryan met Curtis Hougland, who would later become the co-founder and CEO of People First.
Ryan shares, “We were talking about distrust and how people don’t trust the media. They don’t trust brands. They don’t trust governments, but they do trust each other. They trust their communities and people that share affinities and belong to the same community.”
This realization led Ryan and Curtis to develop the idea that working with real people and amplifying their content could produce fantastic results, leading them to found People First.
What is People First?
People First, formerly Main Street One, is a micro-influencer marketing company focused on brand, cause advocacy, and political campaigns. They help brands meet their customers where they are on different channels, such as Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, through personal stories created by the audience’s peers. People First specializes in micro-influencer recruitment and produced over 19,000 pieces of unique content for progressive organizations in 2019 and 2020 with these creators.
Ryan explains, “One of the things that make us unique as a company is we have a team of digital relational organizers that I’ve built out. On the Obama campaign, we had people actually go into the Internet and recruit very specific people, whether it be on message boards, Instagram, Facebook groups, etc., who are talking about certain issues or products.”
After finding specific people who share the same interests and values as a brand, the People First Team brings the brand and creators together, helping them scale their campaign content through authentic peer messaging.
“The difficulty in scaling [People First] is that it’s a very one-to-one sort of program, so we wanted to have a place where all the creators would live after they worked with us, where they could have access to other campaigns that were looking for folks in their specific geography, demographic groups, etc.”
Recently, the People First team launched the People First Creator Portal to address this issue. They developed a simple platform to streamline their efforts, allowing creators who have already worked with People First to look at other campaigns that need creators with their demographic.
“We wanted to make it really simple. We didn’t want to build a lot of walls where we said you have to have a certain number of followers. You have to be on these platforms. We really want to approach this in an omnichannel way.”
There is no cost for creators to sign up for People First. Ryan shares that the People First team walks creators through the brand campaign process and has a huge emphasis on education.
After signing up, creators receive periodic emails with information about campaigns they are a match for, along with informative blog posts about the latest social media news and creator topics. Creators can browse and apply to any paid campaign, regardless of follower count.
In addition to the informative emails, creators can chat with People First organizers seven days a week about how to create content or ways to get started with different types of content. People First also has their own social media platforms where they highlight their top tips for creators.
“We’re really trying to create more of a community and give back to the creators that we’re working with.”
Efficient Influencer Marketing Through People First’s Portal
Ryan shares, “It’s [the new portal] already been paying off from a business perspective. It’s made it easier for us to source content for quite a few campaigns. It’s definitely created a lot of efficiencies on that side of things. It’s streamlined the payment process. It’s streamlined the content approval process.”
The new portal streamlines the campaign process by allowing creators to upload campaign content to the portal. From there, the client can review and approve the social media content. The portal also eliminates manual tasks by keeping everything in a straightforward interface rather than spread out over email and other platforms.
Working with Macro-Influencers vs. Micro-Influencers
Traditionally, brands have considered working with a macro-influencer ideal. However, working with micro-influencers can be even more effective.
Ryan explains, “Instead of working with five macro creators, work with 50 micro creators in a month. We’ve seen engagement rates be significantly higher, much more positive comments, more relevant to the client than with macro creators whose comments are more like you look great, but people really dig in and have conversations with micro creators.”
For example, People First ran a successful campaign for NASCAR using micro-influencers. The campaign targeted Latinx families in Los Angeles and shared information about an upcoming NASCAR race.
People First sourced 70 different creators, a mix of young creators and families, to create content about the race, then they amplified the content so the desired audience saw it. This campaign was tremendously successful for NASCAR.
“I think it’s the power of the micro-influencers telling those real, authentic stories and on top of the paid media that can amplify them. It’s really a good combo.”
Another successful People First campaign is the Let’s Talk About Vaccines/Vaccinate America campaign, which encouraged Americans from all walks of life to get vaccinated and later boosted. The campaign used a series of creative briefs to help Americans who wanted to “wait and see” about the vaccine get vaccinated now. It featured creators from various geographies and demographics, including healthcare professionals, community members, and community leaders.
The Future of the Creator Marketplace
When asked what is missing in the creator marketplace, Ryan says he wants to see a “focus on pay equity for creators. We pay creators fairly across the board.”
He adds that People First supports pay equity by paying creators solely on following and engagement. The portal doesn’t take any other factors, such as gender or ethnicity, into account.
Ryan hopes that by having a transparent payment system, People First can continue bringing equity to the creator marketplace. The new portal also helps creators get paid in an upfront, timely manner by streamlining payments.
In the future, People First is looking to lean into more channels, like Nextdoor and BeReal. He adds that many brands are hyperfocused on a specific channel, like Instagram or TikTok. However, other platforms like Pinterest and BeReal have many exciting applications and different valuable audiences.
In closing, he shares, “You don’t have to have a lot of followers. You don’t have to have experience as an Instagram model or anything like that. We are looking for real folks. We’re willing to work with you for the first time.”