Toronto-based communications agency Shine has launched a new initiative to connect brands with a new breed of online celebrity who speaks to an audience that is less easily swayed by traditional advertising.

The new initiative known as “Shine Influencers” aims to connect brands with compelling lifestyle, fashion, moms, health, food and travel influencers who are well-known through their presence on blogs, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and other online channels. Brands are being forced to take these online channels more seriously as consumers spend more time online and increasingly block out traditional advertising.

Shine Influencers essentially acts as an intermediary that manages the relationship between brands and online talent, according to Shine Influencers co-founder Jess Hunichen. “We come in as talent managers – we’re managing these relationships from start to finish.”

Shine Influencers currently represents more than a dozen influencers such as Anabela Piersol, Alyssa Garrison, and Lauren McPhillips, who might not be household names, but who connect with thousands of devotees through their blog posts and social media streams.

Plus, their relatability – since they’re not exactly mainstream celebrities – helps audiences trust them, which isn’t always easy to do with traditional media.

This makes it important for firms like Shine Influencers to tread a fine line so that sponsored content and product placements don’t ruin the reputation their influencer talent has worked hard to build up for years.

“With influencers, we want to work with people who want to maintain their authenticity and keep their genuine voice,” said Hunichen. “As an agency, we want to protect the brand they’ve built and make sure that we’re connecting them with brands who have a very natural fit between them.”

And if the shoe doesn’t fit, Shine’s influencers are free to turn down brands.

Hunichen also mentions that social influencers charge different rates, which are typically based around the size of their social influence as well as the type and scope of work a brand wants them to do. “For instance, the client might want them to post one Instagram shot, or perhaps they may want them to do a live Twitter chat or write a full blog post,” she said, noting that each would command a different fee.

“There are no hard and fast rules on what it can cost – but what I will say is that compared to what you pay for an ad in a newspaper, it’s a fraction of the cost of that and something that is a lot more measurable.”

Influencers could be an especially appealing way to connect with younger audiences. A study from 2013 (PDF) found that Canadian youth spent nearly as much time watching digital screens as they did watching TV. And there’s increasingly a preference for video, given that YouTube was the top social sharing site among Canadian youth, outranking Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

In comparing YouTube to TV, Hunichen noted that YouTube has the advantage that it’s more measurable. For instance, it’s extremely easy to know the number of times a video has been viewed, and judge the reaction based on comments and likes. And this information helps brands and advertisers judge the return on investment.

But online influence doesn’t only mean connecting big brands and Internet celebrities – it can also help communicate with a specific niche.

Online services like Klout attempt to determine influence based on metrics like posts and followers, but Hunichen noted that an individual’s influence isn’t always determined so mathematically and those who aren’t necessarily famous might have influence with smaller, more specific audiences.

“A trusted advocate is not necessarily the Instagrammer with the highest number of followers,” she said. “Sometimes [the most influential person] has 5,000 followers thoroughly engaged followers – and they can reach a niche in an authentic way.”

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