Want your brand to blow up on Instagram, but don’t have enough followers to make a splash with a post? Can’t find the time to reach out to every influencer to spread your message? Corbett Drummey, co-founder of Popular Pays, will bring these influencers to you.
Founded in 2013, the Chicago-based Popular Pays seeks to simplify grassroots marketing campaigns. The app offers a digital platform to help you reach more than 25,000 Instagram influencers for social media marketing campaigns. They’ve worked with everyone from small startups to large corporations, including delivery service Postmates, shaving company Harry’s, and athletic wear giant Nike.
A self-described “wannabe dropout,” Drummey believes in the importance of real voices over slick ads. The WeWork River North member talked with us about the company’s unglamorous beginnings, new trends in advertising, and creating his own digital marketplace.
WeWork: What inspired you to start Popular Pays?
Drummey: It wasn’t so glamorous. The idea was conceived at a party. My co-founder was drunk at the time, and he said, “We should throw a party you can’t get into if you don’t have enough followers.” And that’s how it started. I was always working on a side project, and I picked my roommate and eventual co-founder because he wanted to work on side projects, and had the same work ethic and desire to build something. We had a bunch of ideas, and this one took our fancy. It was the easiest to execute, and it got a lot of initial traction.
WeWork: What does your app do better than anyone else’s?
Drummey: Before we came into the scene, a brand would reach out to individual influencers through Instagram comments, direct messages, and email. Our platform has access to over 25,000 influencers, and so our business model is not just dramatically scalable, but cheaper.
When brands reach out to influencers, they know that they’re wanted, so these influencers will charge high prices. But when a brand lists on our platform, they know the Instagrammers are competing for it, so the application drives the prices down. Brands who have reached out to certain influencers and paid $5,000 per post ended up seeing them on our platform for less than half of that, at around $2,000 per post. No other platform even comes close.
WeWork: What was your initial vision for your company, and how has it changed?
Drummey: The mission now is to connect a brand to the right influencer on the right network: a marketplace for advertising. Early on, we recognized not only the power of a post, but also the power of a conversation from a person. The real breakthrough, and what helped our company grow, was the realization that if we help this marketplace grow, it could truly scale that word-of-mouth effect. We always recognized the power of a real person speaking over a brand, but we didn’t know how to scale it until we settled on the marketplace idea.
WeWork: What do you like to do outside of work? What do you do for fun?Drummey: Travel, run, read. I try to read more now because the people I look up to read a lot. I heard from Ron Conway that all the entrepreneurs that he invests in, which he has the most respect for—Zuck from Facebook, Sergey from Google, Ben from Pinterest—he noticed they all have an intense focus on their product and that they all read a lot. That was inspiring, so I’ve been reading more.
WeWork: Do you have any role models?
Drummey: Elon Musk [CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors]. There’s no other shining figure of someone who not only is this stellar entrepreneur who did it four times over with different companies (and sometimes in parallel, which I think is crazy), but I think the coolest part is he’s very intentional about what he’s building. He’s building things that he thinks are good for everyone, which is a lofty, audacious goal. It may be cliché, but it’s certainly true for me: I look up to him for that.
Photo credit: Lauren Kallen