Zoom with Zipkick: Wharton Business Magazine


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Being a Social Influencer Means … a Road Trip?

Jason Will’s years of experience as a consultant at Accenture and Slalom gave him the knowledge to launch his new travel app Zipkick, but he partnered with a social media influencer, Scott Eddy, for the marketing fuel to power the app’s trajectory.

The two have begun an epic road trip with partners in all spheres of travel and transportation. Their efforts epitomize the new paradigm in which a new company no longer needs to wait around to be recognized by print publications to break news or break down walls. Brands realize that traditional marketing efforts are not leading to the desired level of direct user engagement, and they are reallocating their funding toward digital and social media. Facebook, Periscope, SnapChat and Twitter are the millennials The New York Times.

Market intelligence and consulting firm Strategy Analytics published its latest advertising spend figures in the U.S., estimating total expenditure at nearly $187 billion and digital accounts at $52.8 billion of that. That is nearly $30 billion less than TV ad spending. However, digital remains the fastest growing of any category, increasing at a rate of 13 percent this year and up 2.5 percent versus 2014. TV’s number continues to decline annually; it is down 0.6 percent versus 2014). Print, by the way, is substantially less in third place at 15 percent of total ad spend ($28 billion). Meanwhile, social media ad spending is expected to reach $8.3 billion in 2015, up from $2.1 billion in 2014.

This shift to digital media means an opportunity for social media influencers who are able to create real time engagement with their followers at the fraction of the cost. The queen of the phenomena, Kim Kardashian, has built an empire on this principle.

One negative experience with a brand can catch fire on social media, though, and destroy the best efforts of said brand through TV and print media. This denotes the difference between “audience” and “influence.” Just because you have a large following doesn’t necessarily mean you have influence. The content and audience can determine what catches fire and what is background noise on social media platforms.

In Will’s case, he made the choice to bring Eddy, a social media influencer in the travel industry, on board as his brand ambassador. Eddy has worked with Starwood and Marriot in the hotel industry, as well as with other travel brands in assisting them in creating strong audience engagement on social media platforms. Will recruited Eddy off of Twitter. They immediately connected as they are both believers in the dramatic shift occurring in brand marketing, which leverages an influencer’s existing audience and community online and offline to build a brand’s following.

As Eddy has an audience of 671,000+ Twitter followers and growing, Will believes Eddy has the relevance he needs to share his app, the reach as Eddy’s audience is largely interested in travel and resonance as Eddy shares daily content.

The Zipkick roadtrip team (with Scott Eddy on far left and Jason Will in the driver's seat). Photo credit: Larry Wong.

The Zipkick road trip team (with Scott Eddy far left and Jason Will in the driver’s seat). Photo credit: Larry Wong.

“People follow me on Twitter because sometimes they just want to escape their daily grind of life, they have the opportunity to live my experiences, which for many reasons they might not be able to do,” says Eddy, perhaps echoing the sentiment of many influencers. “But because of their interest and following, when they do have the ability and resources to go to the places I’ve been, they need the tools to make this happen, which is why Will made the decision to leverage my audience to market his app.”

So far it’s worked. Through this engagement, Zipkick has built up over 16,000 followers on Twitter and growing daily, with many travel professionals and travel business reaching out to the company to see how they can be involved in the app. This is prior to the app’s launch, which is scheduled for the last quarter of 2015. (The app will provide personalized, mobile travel search and booking.)

To add some more fuel to their partnership, Will and Eddy are wrapping a KIA Sedona with their new Zipkick logo and driving 6,500 miles in 50 days. For some, that may be more about craziness than about influence, but stay tuned!

This article was first published at Wharton Business Magazine on August 24, 2015

Wharton Editor’s note: A bit of an influencer herself, Lisa Niver has been invited to join Eddy and Will on part of their Zipkick journey. She will spend one week traveling with them across Utah, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore and Minneapolis.


Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. She is the founder of the website WeSaidGoTravel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. Niver is a speaker at the Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Dallas Travel and Adventure Shows for 2023. Her podcast, “Make Your Own Map,” has been watched in more than 11 countries on 4 continents. Niver is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, Inc. Look for her memoir in Fall 2023 from Post Hill Press/Simon and Schuster. You can find Lisa Niver talking travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, Satellite Media Tours, The Jet Set TV and Orbitz travel webisodes as well as her YouTube channel, where her WeSaidGoTravel videos have nearly 2 million views. With more than 150,000 followers across social media, she has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on Twitter and listed on IMDb, and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors and been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She has been a judge for the Gracie Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media, and has run 15 travel competitions on her website, publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty times.   Niver has published more than 2000 articles, in more than three dozen magazines and journals including National Geographic, Wired, Teen Vogue, HuffPost Personal, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, AAA Explorer Magazine, American Airways, Delta Sky, enRoute (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, BuzzFeed, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, USA Today, TODAY, Wharton Magazine, and Yahoo. https://bit.ly/m/lisaniver Awards National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards 2021 Winner: Book Critic: Ms. Magazine “Untamed: Brave Means Living From the Inside Out” 2019 Winner: Soft News Feature for Film/TV: KTLA TV “Oscars Countdown to Gold with Lisa Niver” 2019 Finalist for: Soft News, Business/Music/Tech/Art Southern California Journalism Awards 2022 Finalist: Book Criticism 2021 Winner: Technology Reporting 2021 Finalist: Book Criticism 2020 Winner: Print Magazine Feature: Hemispheres Magazine, “Painter by the Numbers, Rembrandt” 2020 Finalist: Online Journalist of the Year, Activism Journalism, Educational Reporting, Broadcast Lifestyle Feature 2019 Finalist: Broadcast Television Lifestyle Segment for “Ogden Ski Getaway” 2018 Finalist: Science/Technology Reporting, Travel Reporting, Personality Profile 2017 Winner: Print Column “A Journey to Freedom over Three Passovers” Social Media Presence YouTube Channel: We Said Go Travel (1.7 million views) Short form video:TikTok, Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels, YouTube Shorts Twitter: lisaniver (90,000 followers) Instagram: lisaniver (24,000 followers) Pinterest: We Said Go Travel (20,000 followers and over 70,000 monthly views) Facebook: lisa.niver (5,000 followers); We Said Go Travel (3,000 followers) LinkedIn: lisaellenniver (9000 contacts)

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