Des Moines’ Micro-Influencers Creating Buzz Around Town

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The digital age is changing how businesses advertise their product but a local Des Moines start-up company says it has the remedy to bring in more local support to small businesses.

Entrepreneurs Whitney Warne and Emily Steele founded Brand Launch in 2017 with the purpose of bringing more attention to locally owned companies. By way of doing that, they hire what they call "hummingbirds" to help get the job done.

"What I love about a hummingbird is that it's this tiny little creature that flits about and sucks the nectar out of every single flower it encounters and that is really the spirit of our hummingbirds. They go around and take what's best from our community and sharing it and showing it off," says Brand Launch co-founder, Whitney Warne.

The company has hired about 100 "hummingbirds" to help promote businesses via social media platforms like Instagram. They are not influencers in the traditional sense, with tens of thousands of followers. They are considered micro-influencers; ordinary people highlighting ordinary things happening in their own backyards.

"I like to consider myself as the ultimate Iowa tourist. You can find interesting things three blocks, three miles or three hundred miles away in Iowa," says Don McDowell, a hummingbird.

The concept is simple. If you have an Instagram, Brand Launch will hire you and pair you with a business or event that needs a promotional boost. The hummingbirds then post about their experience online, their network of friends see it, ultimately creating a buzz for the business.

"Really our neighbors are the ones we run into at the grocery store asking where should to go out to eat this weekend and sharing their latest experience. Our neighbors definitely influence what we do on a day to day," says Brand Launch co-founder, Emily Steele. She says the concept is working. The owner of Body, Skin, Soul in West Des Moines has been working to grow her skincare business for the last six years. Angela Carter did away with traditional advertising and looked to the hummingbirds for help.

"The hummingbird project brought in more than 30 new clients for us which was amazing and it did it in a way that was really truly authentic that really matched with our business," she says. Carter says the added social media presence helped her to better understand what customers were most interested in experiencing.

"This was tangible proof that this is what people want to see, want to hear about. these are the services that they want," she explains.

The overall goal is to continue to showcase Des Moines, even for those who already live here, helping to build the community one experience at a time.

"I always encourage people to go down a different street, go to a different part of town you haven`t been in in a while, look around, drive around find a new coffee shop, whatever it might be and you`ll be surprised and then be willing to share about that because I feel like if you are investing in your community your community will invest in you," says McDowell.

Brand Launch says it is looking to grow and diversify the number of hummingbirds in the coming year. To find out more, click here.

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