Using Influencer Marketing for Positive Change: A Conversation With Lyft

Using Influencer Marketing for Positive Change: A Conversation With Lyft

Lyft, the massive rideshare company operating in over 600 cities in the United States alone, has taken advantage of growing technology to creatively fill a pretty significant need in the lives of their customers: transportation.


But you probably already know this.


What you may not know is that Lyft also owns most of the major bike shares across the country. 


And beyond that, the company is heavily focused on campaigns for food equity, voting access and job access programs.


These values - accessibility, equity, etc. - drive the company’s brand, and not just behind the scenes, where they’ve been working hard to treat employees well during the current COVID-19 crisis and long before, too.


Lyft is putting in the work to make sure anyone who hears the name “Lyft” hears more than just “rideshare company.” One way they’re generating that brand awareness? Influencers.

I recently sat down with Lyft ’s director of influencer marketing, Bette Ann Schlossberg, to discuss how she balances meaningful campaigns with passionate, authentic influencers to create social change.


1. Social Impact Marketing


Lyft is a mission-driven company, aiming to make a genuine difference through their work. As such, social impact is a key component of the entire company’s marketing strategy - which includes influencer marketing. 


Just take a look at their LyftUp campaign - the rideshare company partnered with LeBron James and his empowerment company, Uninterrupted, to provide bikeshare opportunities for communities. As a rideshare company, Lyft focused on a problem that they are specifically outfitted to help solve: reliable transportation for everyone.


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“Everybody should have access, no matter who you are, to reliable, affordable transportation,” says Schlossberg. “So Within LyftUp, we have a range of programs.” 


These programs include giving people access to not only transportation but also groceries, voting and even jobs. More recently, the company has even extended its offering to free e-scooter trips for health care workers that are combating COVID-19. The coronavirus pandemic has hit the company hard, but Lyft continues to find opportunities to help reinforce its brand, and fill its niche.


This type of marketing is not particularly easy to pull off, but Lyft utilizes a top-down approach that actually impacts people. The main commercial for the campaign includes a voiceover from superstar LeBron James with kids riding bikes across the city.


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What you may not learn from the commercial, itself, is that Lyft also utilized significant influencer marketing to capture the biggest audience possible.


“We had an unboxing experience where about 25 of our nearest and dearest influencers received boxes of swag,” Schlossberg explains. “We've already seen incredible media pickup from this. We expect this to be one of our biggest, most successful influencer campaigns.” 


2. Tiered Influencer Marketing


In their commercial, Lyft leveraged what Schlossberg calls a “tiered” approach. Instead of just partnering with one celebrity influencer - LeBron James - they also partnered with other influencers such as professional BMX bicyclist Nigel Sylvester, who's a content creator on YouTube and Instagram, and the creative director of the video.

This is a key strategy for Lyft in their influencer marketing efforts: not just partnering with celebrity and mega influencers - great strategies, of course - but using a “tiered” approach. From huge stars to micro-influencers, Lyft creates a top-down approach that’s proven very effective for their brand.


“We work with micro-influencers; we work with mid-tier or macro-influencers; we work with big celebrities,” Schlossberg says. “We also do influencer events and co-marketing events in the entertainment space”


In Lyft’s marketing mind, influencer marketing happens both digitally and in real life. This multi-faceted approach enables them to engage with audiences in a genuine way - and that authenticity is the very thing that drives successful marketing campaigns.


3. Finding Passionate Influencers


To continue this tiered approach, Schlossberg sought out micro-influencers, who are still churning out content for this campaign right now. They asked these micro-influencers to tell a story of how a bike changed their life.


“We’ve gotten such amazing stories that have come out on social, like a local New Yorker who immigrated [here], and used a bike in order to get to school and get a job,” Schlossberg says.

The reason this works so well is that Lyft actively went after influencers who they believed would be passionate and authentic about the project. This is not as hard as you’d think, Schlossberg says, because most influencers want to have a deeper impact - they want to play a bigger role.


Giving influencers this opportunity is important, Schlossberg notes, “because then they just feel more invested, and you’re going to get more out of them.”


Most people want their jobs to mean something, and influencers are no different. When people believe they are making a positive impact, they’re more invested.


This is also true of an influencer’s audience. An audience can always tell if an influencer is being sincere, and they’re more dedicated to influencers that are.


“When we look at influencers, we really evaluate them based on their content, who they are, their passions,” Schlossberg says. “We need to make sure that the message they are getting across can really relate to the message that we would like them to share with their audiences.”


4. Building Lasting Partnerships


To build effective influencer campaigns which showcase your brand’s authenticity and social impact, you need long-term relationships. With influencers, you’re not just buying a billboard, you’re creating a connection, and the more you nurture that connection, the better the content will become.


“When we work with influencers, we hope it’s not just a one-and-done opportunity. We want to build long-lasting relationships,” Schlossberg explains. “From my time at Google when I built our micro-influencer communities, to today [at Lyft], a lot of those influencers are still with me, and we still work together.”


Another bonus of having that long-term connection? You can utilize that connection as they grow their influencer career, further amplifying your reach and deepening the authenticity of your campaign.


“I’ve seen influencers that I have connections with grow and develop [into] much bigger influencers,” she says. “Identifying these culture creators, these Mavericks in their various verticals, is the key to success for influencer marketing.”


With the wealth of knowledge at their fingertips, consumers now want to support companies who do more than just get the job done. Increasingly, they also want the businesses that they deal with to align with their values, and to associate with brands that are making a social impact. These audiences are also more connected than ever with issues of social justice and environmental consciousness, and joining them in supporting these causes goes a long way.


Lyft faces its biggest challenge to date right now, with the COVID-19 lockdowns decimating their businesses, but by continuing to align with community benefits, and working to build their brand throughout, they'll likely be well-placed to come out of the crisis in a strong position.