Influencing the Influencers
by Jacob Kamhis
This article appeared in the July-Sept. 2014 issue of Pacific Edge Magazine. Visit the publication here.
At the age of eight, Toby Tamaye showed off his G.I. Joe and Transformer toys to pals and convinced them to watch the shows his beloved characters were in. Twenty-two years later, he uses social media to promote something else—resorts, malls, airlines and events. As if this were not enough, he does this in English, Japanese, Korean and Chinese. As a kid, Tamaye organized birthday parties for a dozen buddies. Now, the number of attendees at the events he promotes can reach 28,000 through the help of Facebook, Instagram and Yelp, which he describes as “the three Goliaths of Hawai‘i.” After graduating in business from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Tamaye zeroed in on tourism. His virtual office employs eight and the game is still influence, but in a different way.
“I don’t pass out business cards anymore. I add Facebook friends,” Tamaye says. “That’s the way you do networking in Hawai‘i today.” He finds that food and wine events are best for making new connections in social media. “It’s you, your time and Wi-Fi,” Tamaye explains. “Once you gain enough followers to become relevant, you make your clients relevant.”
First, let’s touch on a few social media terms that are part of Tamaye’s vernacular. According to Tamaye, social media “watchers” absorb the information, but they do not usually post original content or they don’t often share or repost. The more important group for Tamaye is the “influencers.” These people post, are widely read and routinely followed.
AT Marketing manages 20 Facebook pages and a dozen Instagram accounts for clients including The Modern Honolulu hotel, Royal Hawaiian Center, Hy’s Steakhouse and Four Seasons Hualalai resort on the Big Island. He works both sides of the pond, including the West Coast and Asia. Messages not only circumnavigate the islands, but are also read in Los Angeles and Tokyo in addition to other major tourism markets. “We’re in communication to influence the influencers,” he says about his marketing company.
Tamaye observes that Facebook remains the best tool for consumers and businesses. It is the sweet spot for people aged 30 to 50. On the other hand, Instagram is booming for the younger generations. Meanwhile, Yelp offers a way for consumers to voice their opinions about a business, event or product. But for Tamaye, Yelp has a drawback—you can’t control what people will write in their post. “You don’t even know who the Yelpers are,” Tamaye says, “but it’s unbelievable how big and influential Yelp is in Hawai‘i.”
“I don’t pass out business cards anymore.
I add Facebook friends.
That’s the way you do
networking in Hawai‘i today.”
Tamaye has made event marketing the company’s main revenue generator. News media can be invited to the opening of a new business, additional office or start up of an organization. Messages can be posted for a fashion show or an exclusive gathering. AT Marketing’s promotions include the Waikiki Spam Jam, which takes place in early May. The annual event closes Kalakaua Avenue through Waikiki to make way for food booths, entertainment and a large crowd. Influencers sample the food, take photos and tweet or post. Tamaye calls it the “most social media talked-about event in Hawai‘i—and it’s free marketing.”
While social media has its promotional benefits, Tamaye doesn’t discount traditional advertising in print or on television. For instance, if he were to promote retirement homes for seniors, he would go through the traditional media route. For example, in the last five years, many in the travel industry relied on newspapers to get the message out to island residents who wanted to travel to Japan, Las Vegas and Australia. These ads attracted age 65-and-over travelers. To attract younger travelers, social media had to be used. “If someone posts a picture of having a drink on a beach at sunset, that’s big,” he explains.
The promotional challenge facing local businesses today is how to mix traditional and social media. The advantage of social media is better control of the message and better use of time and costs, he says. The publication of press releases is never guaranteed in traditional media and advertising costs can mount. But some markets require the latter.
Still, it all depends on the target market and how each group prefers to receive the message. With social media, the marketer enrolls other influencers to help get the word out. “The individual who is posting the message has the power,” he says. Successful social media marketing requires passion. Tamaye suggests that if you are too busy, consider finding someone to help. Tamaye says business owners shouldn’t fear pumping out messages consistently, though they first need to research what a particular target market wants.
“The main thing is be influential with social media,” he says. “Keep pushing.”