usic is a cornerstone of social media platforms. From Spotify’s viral marketing campaigns to trendings audios and artists on TikTok, music on social media has the power to engage with audiences around the world. However, as digital media changes, so do the ways that those audiences interact with musical artists.
No one knows this better than Jen Darmafall, the Associate Director of Influencer Marketing at Warner Records. Warner Records is home to thousands of successful artists, and continues to innovate marketing strategies on new social media platforms to expose their artists to larger audiences.
I sat down with Jen to talk about the current state of influencer marketing and meme culture, and where she believes they’re headed in the future.
[Bailey] Hi Jen! We love to start these interviews with the question: What’s your favorite meme?
[Jen] The guy blinking making the “wtf” face is my favorite meme. I still think of it often in certain situations that leave me wondering “why”? Just never gets old.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing brands trying to reach Gen Z?
I think authenticity is the biggest challenge. Everyone wants to reach Gen Z, but not everyone knows how to appear relatable. When forcing something, it often hinders performance––whether that be via social engagement, or just overall success at connecting a brand with a target audience.
Authenticity helps to provide a sense of trustworthiness, and building that brand trust is very important.
In your opinion, what’s the number one trait that sets Gen Z apart from its predecessors?
Gen Z tend to be more free-thinkers. They’re more open to new and different ideas.
Marketing via the same traditional approaches isn’t the best way to reach a Gen Z audience. They operate differently, speak a different language, like different content, and use different platforms for discovery.
How do you decide whether or not to work with a certain influencer? Is there any one specific trait you look for?
When building out an influencer strategy, I look at a few different metrics. Their engagement is most important to me––even over follower count. Their average views, likes, comments and shares are a bigger priority than how many followers they have. Having x-number of followers is great, but often it can be fluff. If people are not actually engaging with your content, then you’re not influencing your audience the way I sought out for when partnering with you.
I look for influencers that have influence and enjoy engaging with their audience. It’s important to build chatter! If the influencer has a relationship with their audience, they’re more likely to have that influence. It’s also important to look through the sentiment of the comments on influencer posts when gauging potential interest in partnership. Who is their audience? Does it align with who you’re trying to reach?
What do you believe to be the biggest misconception about TikTok influencers? How do you respond to that misconception?
The biggest misconception about TikTok influencers is that forcing a trend via influencers will help you find viral success. TikTok is one of the most powerful resources right now and when done right, brands/influencers can heavily prosper. Creators and users on TikTok understand their individual audiences better than any brand does, so while it’s important for a brand to identify who they are looking to target, it’s just as important to work alongside the creators and not force specific creatives that may not already exist/be trending. You’re competing against a multitude of different brands, sounds, artists and creators on the platform––there’s no time for forcing trends. Authenticity will take you far. Listening to your audience will help you the most on platforms like TikTok.
What advice do you have for other people looking to join the influencer marketing industry?
Never turn down an opportunity to meet someone new. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that this industry is incredibly relationship-based. Grab coffee with an influencer and/or their rep, go out to drinks with someone from a social media platform, attend an industry mixer. The more you can connect with people, the better set-up you are for a role in this field.
How have you seen the influencer marketing industry evolve or change since starting your career?
The influencer marketing industry has absolutely evolved throughout my career. I’ve seen various platforms shift from being heavily prioritized to new platforms coming out and being the new “it” resource. Fans and influencers have each had to adapt to new platforms as the years have passed.
As platform focuses have shifted, so has who the “top” influencer has been. I’ve seen influencers come and go from being the most sought-after influencer. I’ve seen influencer scandals and “cancel culture” shift which influencers are the most idolized. I’ve seen long-form content go from being heavily prioritized to short, 15-second videos being the go-to content that creators and brands focus their attention and marketing spend on.
As time continues, we’ll continue to see this industry evolve.
Where do you see gaps in influencer content or in the industry at large?
The gaps that I mostly see in the influencer industry are in the lack of knowledge of influencer marketing as a whole. Not every campaign is “one size fits all,” meaning no two brands are the same. Just because you found success via a particular activation in the past, doesn’t mean you’ll get as lucky the next time around. Just because a particular influencer helped to drive viral success for your brand in the past, doesn’t mean they’ll have the same success the next go-around.
You have to pay attention to the data––what’s currently working and who is currently working in your field, not just what’s previously worked.
Where do you see the future of Gen Z marketing heading toward? What are the platforms or strategies that you believe will perform well in the future?
To be honest, I think it’s hard to tell. I think platforms like TikTok will continue to be driving forces for some time. Brands across the board are prioritizing it––sports, fashion, music, etc.
I think memes continue to prove their viral capability and how when done right, people love sharing memes across many different platforms. The amount of meme accounts that have large followings on Instagram is impressive to see.
I think Gen Z is so open-minded that the possibilities of where this whole thing will continue to go are endless.