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The latest news on Influencers from Business Insider
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    jon levy

    Having a strong social network is especially important in New York City, where who you know is crucial to your success.

    Among the city's most skilled networkers are titans of finance and advertising, whose stature and wealth can create connections that lead to powerful outcomes.

    Jon Levy may not be a Wall Street billionaire, but over the past five years he's hosted more than 400 influential people from around the world at networking events in his home.

    Don't mistake him for just a socialite who loves lavish cocktail parties. Levy is a networking entrepreneur.

    Twice a month, he holds his "Influencers" dinners. He invites 12 influential people — Nobel laureates, Olympic athletes, hip-hop icons — to make dinner together. They spend the first part of the night talking about anything but their jobs. After the meal, about 50 more people, many of them former dinner guests, arrive for the Salon, a night centered around presentations in Levy's living room. Not all Salon guests are celebrities in their fields, but everyone has either an unusual job or an unusually strong network.

    It's like condensing a TED conference into one intimate night, says Regina Spektor, the Grammy-nominated musician.

    At the Influencers dinner and Salon I attended in December, Bill Nye the Science Guy gave a presentation about his new book on evolution, "Undeniable." Break-dancing pioneer Crazy Legs got on the floor and busted out moves. Beatboxing legend, and former member of the Roots, Rahzel ended the night's events by getting Levy to rap along to the classic "La Di Da Di" with Crazy Legs as his hype-man and Levy's sister, singer Batsheva "Ms. Bodega" Levy, on vocals.

    "I'm offering a novel experience with no expectation that anybody does anything for me," Levy says.

    In a city full of boring networking events, Levy has managed to create something uniquely enjoyable and valuable to his Influencers at his sprawling Upper West Side apartment, which his parents passed on to him.

    Says Nye, "He's trying to change the world with this remarkable living space he inherited. What's not to love?"

    bill nye presentation

    Levy grew up in the apartment as the son of eccentric artists: his father, Benjamin, a painter and sculptor, and his mother, Hanna, a composer and conductor. Their successful careers provided them with the means for both a large Manhattan home and an eclectic group of friends to invite to it. They would throw big buffet-style dinner parties for 40 people and invite jazz musicians to play.

    "I grew up around it," Levy says. "I just had no appreciation for it at the time. I was 7 years old and wanted to play Nintendo."

    Despite the lasting impression the dinners left on him, Levy says that his parents — who now live in an artists' colony in Israel — had nothing to do with the creation of the Influencers concept.

    That inspiration came from a Landmark Education seminar on personal success. Levy says he left thinking about this quote: "The fundamental element that defines the quality of your life is the people you surround yourself with and the conversations you have with them."

    So in 2009, Levy, whose background is in marketing and includes a six-year stint as a life coach, began inviting interesting people to his apartment to meet one another over dinner.

    "In the early days, I was doing 20 to 30 hours a week on this stuff," Levy says. "And while my friends were going out, I was doing designing, planning, organizing, and research on people."

    When the award-winning magician Marco Tempest was a guest, he asked Levy if there was a way to take his Influencers concept further, and Levy achieved this with the Salon, each of which has a loosely interpreted theme.

    On the night I attended, the theme was "Evolution: The challenges that make us, our culture, and our species better." Nye spoke about the scientific theory of evolution; Crazy Legs walked us through the evolution of break dancing.

    Of course, Levy had to get people to come in the first place. He says there were three elements that persuaded high-profile executives, celebrities, academics, and the like to visit a low-profile New Yorker's apartment on a Saturday night.

    Most important, Levy says, is that he drew from a diverse audience that mostly had no applicable use to his business. When he asked a top jazz musician to perform one night, for example, he was looking for a way to enrich his network, rather than finding a way to nab a lucrative deal.

    jon levy bill nye"When you're connecting with people just to connect with them and to bring them together, it's obvious that there's no angle," he adds.

    He made sure to tell everybody he met about the Influencers concept that he was developing — "sometimes before I even discussed my own job."

    And finally, he asked everyone about the most interesting people in their networks, and then invited them.

    "I'd always have something to invite people to, and I'd always have one or two scheduled so that there was always an opportunity to be connected with people," he adds.

    The level of people Levy is able to attract keeps going up, he says, since each high-profile guest he acquires builds his reputation as someone offering a unique experience with no strings attached.

    Economist Nouriel Roubini, who met Levy three months ago, says his favorite aspect of Levy's events are that they break the tendency for New York professionals to socialize only within their industry.

    "New York City can be so tribalized or balkanized," Roubini says, "so Jon is very good at bridging these usually unrelated urban tribes who are interesting in their own way when they mix with other ones."

    New Yorker contributor and author Maria Konnikova likes how Levy tells his dinner guests to avoid talking about their professions until they're revealed at the end of the meal. It's a tendency he encourages his Salon guests to adopt, so that he can build a network based primarily on personal connections.

    "At the Salon, you're just enjoying the evening and figuring out which people you actually like, regardless of whether they can be helpful to you," Konnikova says. "It's a nice feeling to know that a conversation is based on pure interest and not any sort of strategic calculation. In the 'real' world, that can be a difficult phenomenon to recreate. I think this way, it's more conducive to connections that, eventually, go deeper: You will help each other professionally, sure, but you know that you genuinely like each other personally, too. That makes a big difference."

    Jordan Harbinger received an invitation from Levy to the Influencers after Harbinger interviewed him on his lifestyle podcast, "The Art of Charm." Harbinger has interviewed hundreds of networking experts for his talk show. He says the strength of the Influencers is that — borrowing a term from Wharton professor and fellow Influencers guest Adam Grant— "it's a system that benefits givers and weeds out non-givers naturally."

    In Grant's terminology, givers are those who generously share their network with others. Tactful givers only spend time and effort on those who treat them respectfully, and have clout that can be useful for reputation building or developing strong connections down the line.

    If someone attends Levy's Salon and doesn't find the performances appealing or the variety of guests useful, then it's in Levy's favor for them not to stay in the community. Harbinger says it's smart that Levy doesn't share many details with those he invites about who will be attending an event, since the average busy professional is conditioned to weigh opportunity cost, and may be wary of something different from what they're used to.

    Harbinger and Konnikova agree that building a network outside of your industry can have long-term benefits that may not be apparent at first.

    rahzel"I think it's the referral network — you need only a few good connections at first, and good people know other good people. Once you have enough critical mass, the momentum builds on itself," Konnikova says.

    Levy says that even though he's got a streamlined system in place and has outsourced his email invitations to an assistant, he still spends a minimum of 10 hours each week on the Influencers, scheduling dinners and Salons months in advance.

    He says that since he pays for each of the dinners out of pocket, he technically runs them at a loss, but "running this has paid dividends that are disproportionate to the cost and effort."

    "One of my core statements is: A network is strongest when the connections between its members are great. I don't want everybody connected through me. I want everybody connected to me and each other," he says.

    Levy's career and the Influencers are becoming increasingly intertwined. Since early last year, he's worked as a private marketing consultant for brands in the retail, hospitality, automotive, and tech industries, and the stronger his network the more big brands will be interested in working with him.

    Over the past year, he's been finding ways to incorporate product sponsorships into his Salons. When asked how he'll keep them from becoming pure advertisements, he says that he makes their involvement clear and only works with brands he's personally excited about.

    crazy legsFor example, the first experiment he did was with the karaoke-machine company Singtrix for an Influencers community holiday party in late 2013. The night was a hit with his guests, and some journalists in attendance gave Singtrix some coverage.

    Besides any pragmatic benefits from being the center of a diverse and influential network, Levy says that bringing people together is what he's most passionate about.

    "The things I create are on a social level. And so for me to see that I've brought two people together that then create something, it makes me feel like I've had an impact, I have value," he says. "I get to look back and say, 'Oh, my God. I connected these people and then this new company was formed.' I take a lot of pride in that."

    According to Nye, Levy is right on the money. Through him, Nye says, "I've met five people that may change my life. Not bad."

    Levy says he became fascinated with studying behavior as a "really geeky" and introverted eighth-grader. One day at school, a new seating arrangement was announced. Students picked their seats, but no one wanted to sit next to him. It's a story that Levy says he doesn't want to dramatically overemphasize, but it's something that put him on a path to dedicating himself to having hundreds of influential friends.

    "I would definitely say I became very heavily interested in understanding how people connect and then becoming really good at it," he says.

    When he hosts an event, he bounces from guest to guest with energy to make sure things go according to schedule. He makes sure to pause to take photos, start conversations between people he thinks should connect, and join in a toast.

    His favorite moment the night I attended?

    "Are you kidding? Standing there with Rahzel and Crazy Legs singing 'La Di Da Di' and then my sister jumping in for all the women's parts," he says. "That was freakin' insanity! How do you even make sense of that? You have to understand: I'm a Jewish kid from the Upper West Side. I went to Hebrew day school. I have no right to be participating in that!

    "The big joke I always say is that, one day, I hope to accomplish something worthy of an invite to my own dinner."

    Here's a video of Rahzel giving a beatbox demo in Levy's living room:

     

    All photographs and video courtesy of Rick Smolan, Influencers member, CEO of Against All Odds Productions, and author of "Inside Tracks: Robyn Davidson's Solo Journey Across the Outback."

    SEE ALSO: The Terrible Networking Mistake That Almost Everyone Makes

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Big Captiv8

    We're in the "age of the influencer," according to serial entrepreneur Krishna Subramanian.

    After dropping out of med school in the mid-2000s, Subramanian cofounded and sold three companies: Burrp!, BlueLithium, and Mobclix — the second two, both ad networks, netting $300 million and upwards of $50 million respectively. 

    Today, he and a dream-team of former cofounders and employees are tackling a different side of the advertising business. 

    As ad dollars gush into digital (it will account for nearly half of all entertainment and media revenue by 2018), more brands see the upside of partnering with "influencers"— the Snapchat, Vine, and YouTube stars of the world — to make their messages more appealing to younger audiences.

    That means getting their message out on social media streams that young people hang out on in ways that feel natural: More than 25 million people watched Snapchat's "Snowpocalypse" Story this winter — that's a larger audience than the 21 million watching NBC's Sunday Night Football. 

    Captiv8

    That's why Subramanian, along with Moblix cofounders, Sunil Verma and Vishal Gurbuxani, and former BlueLithium sales leads Siddhi Sairya and Taz Patel, launched Captiv8. The platform aims to streamline influencer marketing communication and analytics, making it easier for advertisers to tap into a new pool of talent, influencers to make money, and both sides to track the effects of posts and campaigns.

    Zach_King_PhotoFor example, a brand like Kellog could send a Vine star — like Zach King— a private message on Captiv8's platform outlining the kind of campaign it's looking for, complete will requirements and pricing.

    If King accepted the offer, he could then submit the designated content through the site. Subramanian says Captiv8 has over 200 influencers on board so far.

    Some influencers are already getting tremendous pay-outs —between $20,000 to $50,000 for a single 6 to 15 second post — and Subramanian expects Captiv8 to help generate those scenarios more often. 

    There are technically two platforms: the software-as-a-service analytics side, for which Captiv8 will charge a membership fee based on several different account tiers, from basic to enterprise — and the marketplace, where Captiv8 will take a cut of all successful media buys. 

    The SAAS portion caters to individual influencers and agencies that manage multiple influencers, and brands seeking to find new talent. For example, Influencers have access to data about where their audience comes from and can shoot messages to followers they've lost with easy, Captiv8-created templates. For advertisers, the platform provides data about campaign reach and its patent-pending pricing algorithm suggests payscales for various influencers based on their popularity and reach. 

    Captiv8

    "Brands are spending real dollars [on these apps]— these are not test budgets," Subramanian tells Business Insider via email. "Platforms are driving million dollar campaigns directly and influencers are making six figures a month — the rise of the Influencer is happening in 2015."

    The team started building Captiv8 in January, but the platform just launched last week. 

    SEE ALSO: These artists are making thousands of dollars — and their livings — off of Tumblr

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    jon levy

    At one of Jon Levy's house parties you could find yourself, as we recently did, making fajitas with Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Regina Spektor and leading snake venom expert Zoltan Takacs before watching live presentations from Bill Nye the Science Guy and break-dancing pioneer Richard "Crazy Legs" Colón.

    Levy may not be a Wall Street billionaire or hotshot advertising executive, but over the past five years, he's built the "Influencers," a network of over 400 interesting and impressive people that includes everyone from Nobel laureates to Olympic athletes.

    Twice a month, Levy holds private dinner parties and TED Talk-like "Salons" in the sprawling New York City apartment he inherited from his parents, who are successful artists now living in Israel. As an independent marketing consultant specializing in consumer behavior, a diverse, strong network is beneficial to his career. But beyond that, Levy has a genuine passion for connecting influential people from different fields and seeing what these relationships yield.

    We asked Levy to share some of the tactics he used to go from a low-profile New Yorker to the leader of a growing network of power players. Here are his top networking tips.

    SEE ALSO: Brilliant management advice from LinkedIn's billionaire founder

    1. Appreciate that the most influential people operate on a different level.

    A seminar on personal success several years ago inspired Levy to start a network that became the Influencers. He says he left thinking about this quote: "The fundamental element that defines the quality of your life is the people you surround yourself with and the conversations you have with them."

    If you want to surround yourself with executives and successful entrepreneurs, you first need to understand and respect that the lives of high-demand people are fundamentally different from even most chronically busy people, Levy says. Their schedules are likely filled with travel plans and meetings, with scarce free time dedicated to family.

    "Everybody's coming to them for answers. Everybody's asking them the same questions millions of times. You can begin to think about, 'OK, what is something different that I could provide this person that would make it worth their time to speak with me or meet with me?'" Levy says.



    2. Add value without expecting anything.

    On that note, you should be thinking of how you can add value to a potential connection without expecting anything in return, at least immediately. Levy is a proponent of Wharton professor, bestselling author, and Influencers member Adam Grant's theory on "givers," those who seek out opportunities to help people they respect and appreciate.

    "If you're a giver, then you build quality relationships, and with those relationships you're exposed to opportunity over the long term,"Grant told Business Insider last year. "You actually increase your own luck so far as you contribute things to other people.



    3. Create memories.

    Rahzel, former member of The Roots and beatboxing legend, joined the Influencers over a year ago and says that he's amazed by Levy's memory. "Jon can pinpoint people and the places and exact time he met them," he says.

    Levy says he's boosted his memory with a simple trick. "For the most part our memory is visual, and it works based on novelty for something to really stick out," he says. "If there's somebody I meet that I really want to connect with, I try to create a moment that's memorable and that can serve as tradition."

    This can mean sharing a special toast or asking a question that will elicit a unique response. For example, Levy met a Tinder exec recently and asked her about the first thing most people ask her. She said men who use the dating app often nervously ask if Tinder employees can read guys' messages to other users. "Now I'll never forget her!" he says.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    putin obama

    Maybe the following is familiar: You arrive at a networking cocktail hour in hopes of meeting some cool people relevant to your career. You grab a drink and stand off to the corner, scanning the room but recognize no one.

    After a few moments of sipping your drink, you decide to introduce yourself to the guy next to you and you each take turns talking about your jobs. One of you says you're heading to the bathroom and soon you're back by yourself in the corner.

    You'll never be able to completely avoid awkward social situations, but you can definitely start reducing them by adopting some new techniques.

    Influencers founder Jon Levy was able to overcome a natural tendency toward being shy to becoming the head of an eclectic network of professionals that includes Nobel laureates, Grammy-winning musicians, and Olympic medalists. He runs TED Talk-like "salons" and dinner parties at his Manhattan apartment with the intention of connection interesting people who otherwise never would have met.

    Here are some of Levy's top tips for building better relationships by avoiding cringe-worthy moments.

    SEE ALSO: A master networker shares his top 20 networking tips

    Have something to talk about other than your job.

    Most people just aren't interesting in the way they communicate, Levy says. It's why he has his dinner guests spend the majority of the evening refraining from discussing any aspect of their occupation. He encourages Salon guests to do the same, so that they can get to know each other personally.

    When you meet someone new, skip the mindless back and forth about going through your CV or talking about the weather, and start a real conversation you'd have with a friend. If that prospect makes you nervous, have a topic ready to start talking about, Levy says.

    "I always have a story of something I've been doing recently or a book that I've been reading," he says.



    Create a unique memory with your new acquaintance.

    Even those with terrible emotional intelligence can tell when someone has forgotten who they are, despite speaking with them several times. And while that may have happened to you, you've probably been guilty of it as well.

    Rahzel, former member of The Roots and beatboxing legend, is a member of Levy's Influencers group and says that Levy's memory has consistently impressed him.

    Levy says that he doesn't have any special gift, but rather deliberately creates situations that will help him remember names and faces. "For the most part our memory is visual, and it works based on novelty for something to really stick out," he says. "If there's somebody I meet that I really want to connect with, I try to create a moment that's memorable and that can serve as tradition."

    Maybe that means taking a shot of tequila with your new acquaintance, or sending a selfie to someone you discover to be a mutual friend.



    Tell a story that is clear and compelling.

    Don't get caught up in tangents that cause the other person's eyes to glaze over and stop listening to you.

    When you tell a story, make sure it has a clear point and a punch line, whether it's a takeaway or a joke. The best way to be memorable is through good storytelling.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    awkward handshake

    You're at a networking event and having a meaningful, natural conversation with someone you just met, but you notice the arrival of someone you need to speak with.

    You have a limited window to grab the new arrival's attention, but you don't want to offend the person you're already talking to, potentially ruining the connection and awkwardly avoiding the person for the rest of the night.

    Jon Levy has spent the past six years building his Influencers network of more than 400 interesting and highly accomplished professionals — including Nobel laureates, Grammy-winning musicians, and Olympic medalists — who gather periodically for events at Levy's Manhattan apartment, but even he struggled with ending a conversation for a long time.

    "I used to be absolutely awful, really awkward, at ending conversations," Levy told Business Insider, before laughing. "The last moments of a conversation will define how people remember you, so you want to get really good at a solid ending."

    You don't want people to question the authenticity of the enjoyable conversation they just had with you after you abruptly leave as soon as a friend catches your eye, for example.

    The first step to leaving on a high note is waiting for a lull in the conversation, when your topic has run its course.

    Give an indication that you need to be excused for something else or are happy with how the conversation went. Tell the person it was a pleasure speaking with him or her and you'll make sure to follow up on certain points. This works for phone conversations as well.

    If you're talking in person, always take an extra beat to make eye contact with the person with whom you've finished speaking so it doesn't seem as if you're running away, Levy said.

    The conversation will end naturally, and both sides will leave feeling satisfied.

    SEE ALSO: A master networker shares his top 20 networking tips

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    tim cook

    In an episode of "The 4-Hour Workweek," author Tim Ferriss' podcast, Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen's creative partner behind hits like "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express," told Ferriss that he's become aware of how important it is to confidently reach out to people you admire.

    Goldberg acknowledged that he's in an advantageous position to make professional connections now that he's established a successful career, but he mentioned how a connection who now works at Funny or Die once approached him on the street and turned that conversation into a regular correspondence that works in both of their favor.

    "Sometimes people just drop their guards and agree to s--- they shouldn't," Goldberg said, half-jokingly.

    One of the best ways to initiate a conversation with someone you admire — whether they're in your industry or someone with an interesting career — is through a cold email.

    We've gathered our favorite tips on crafting emails that the busiest people will reply to, from Ferriss, Influencers founder and behavioral expert Jon Levy, and behavioral-finance author Ramit Sethi.

    SEE ALSO: A master networker shares his top-20 networking tips

    Determine who you would like to reach out to.

    Aim high, but be realistic.

    In a 2014 podcast interview with Sethi, Ferriss suggested finding someone who may be famous but is currently out of the limelight, since their inbox — or their assistant's inbox — is likely less flooded with media requests.

    He said that, for example, if you're a competitive swimmer looking for advice, you may not be able to reach Michael Phelps, but you have a shot at connecting with a less well-known Olympic medalist.



    Entice them with your subject lines.

    If you're being referred by someone in their inner circle, mention their name in the subject. Levy likes the subject line "Quick Question." It signals to the reader that they can open the email and remain on a path to a cleaner inbox by deciding quickly whether they will respond or not.



    Craft a clear, concise message.

    Sethi said the best format to follow is introduce yourself, reach a commonality, and then ask a question. Whether you do this in a single line or short paragraph depends on the recipient.

    You'll want to have them take a look at your message and be able to give an adequate response, even if it takes them 30 seconds on their smartphone. When Levy emails a high-demand person like a celebrity, he keeps his email down to one sentence that cuts out any trace of filler.

    If he emails an executive, who makes decisions based on available information, he'll limit his message to three to five sentences and include some links they can click if they'd like to learn more about him and his organization.

    Sethi and Ferriss also said that the most important thing to remember is to be respectful of the power dynamic between you and your recipient. Don't resent them for their saturated schedule, and be grateful if their reply is even a few words long.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    jon levy bill nye

    Most people just aren't interesting in the way they communicate, marketing consultant Jon Levy told Business Insider.

    Over the past six years, Levy has built the Influencers, a network of more than 400 interesting and impressive people that includes everyone from Nobel laureates to Olympic athletes.

    Twice a month, Levy holds private dinner parties and TED Talk-like salons in the sprawling New York City apartment his parents passed on to him.

    Even though Levy himself isn't a recognizable celebrity, he's able to consistently meet people at the top of their fields and leave a lasting impression.

    A key differentiating factor: He refrains from the boring, direct way people often begin talking about themselves. He doesn't lead with a job.

    "When people ask me what I do, I try to be a little elusive just to create some interest. So I tell people I spend most of my life trying to convince people to cook me dinner," he said, laughing.

    Levy may have an interesting life, but launching into an explanation about his career and how he began hosting networking dinners, in the way most people do when they introduce themselves, would likely come across more as burdensome than intriguing. The benefit of his tongue-in-cheek introduction, then, "is that it sounds so different and then it's much easier to connect."

    And if someone doesn't directly ask what you do, you may be best off delaying the job-talk for as long as possible. Levy has his dinner guests spend the majority of the evening refraining from discussing any aspect of their occupation, and encourages salon guests to do the same, so that they can first get to know each other personally.

    New Yorker contributor and "The Confidence Game" author Maria Konnikova found this endearing when she attended one of Levy's dinners and salons. "At the salon, you're just enjoying the evening and figuring out which people you actually like, regardless of whether they can be helpful to you,"she said.

    SEE ALSO: A master networker shares his top 20 networking tips

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    jon levy

    Rahzel, beat-boxing pioneer and former member of The Roots, told Business Insider that he's consistently amazed by the way his friend Jon Levy remembers meeting the hundreds of people he's connected with through his networking group, the Influencers.

    "Jon can pinpoint people and the places and exact time he met them," Rahzel said.

    Levy is a marketing consultant who has spent the past six years building a network of over 400 interesting and impressive people ranging from Nobel laureates to Olympic athletes.

    Twice a month, Levy holds private dinner parties and TED Talk-like salons in the sprawling New York City apartment he inherited from his parents.

    When we shared Rahzel's comment with Levy, he laughed and said that he wishes he remembered people due to an innate brilliance rather than a simple technique he's adopted.

    "For the most part, our memory is visual, and it works based on novelty for something to really stick out," Levy said. "If there's somebody I meet that I really want to connect with, I try to create a moment that's memorable and that can serve as tradition."

    So rather than walk up to people and ask how their day is going and who they work for, Levy will approach in an unforgettable way. This may entail arriving with a bottle of liquor to take a shot, or introducing them to another impressive person they would enjoy speaking to.

    You can also make introductory conversations unforgettable by simply asking an interesting question that, in the rote conversations common at networking events, no one else thought to ask.

    For example, Levy told the story of how he met an executive from the dating app Tinder and asked her, "What's the first question people ask you when they find out you work at Tinder?" She laughed and said men often nervously ask her if Tinder employees have access to users' personal messages to each other, with the unsaid understanding that they'd be mortified if that were the case. "Now I'll never forget her!" Levy said.

    In all instances, Levy makes a mental note of where and when he first met someone, and can draw on that experience the next few times he sees that person. That way, he can avoid awkward re-introductions by instantly triggering the visual memory in both parties, and giving them a story to begin their next conversation with.

    SEE ALSO: A master networker shares his top 20 networking tips

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    jon levy

    Over the past six years, marketing consultant Jon Levy has built a network of over 400 interesting and impressive people ranging from Nobel laureates to Olympic athletes.

    Twice a month, Levy holds private dinner parties and TED Talk-like salons in the sprawling New York City apartment he inherited from his parents.

    He's not a celebrity or power broker, but he's built these connections through mastering the art of networking.

    And as he told Business Insider, he thinks his approach became especially effective after he read Wharton professor Adam Grant's 2013 book "Give and Take"— Levy then used the techniques Grant prescribes to build a relationship with Grant himself.

    Levy's basic approach is essentially: Develop a diverse network of "givers."

    By Grant's definition, a "giver" is someone who adds value to another person without expecting anything in return, therefore avoiding the strictly transactional relationships that often define professional networks.

    "If you're a giver, then you build quality relationships, and with those relationships you're exposed to opportunity over the long term,"Grant told Business Insider. "You actually increase your own luck so far as you contribute things to other people."

    Thought of in another way, throw out the notion of networking as exchanging business cards after small talk and instead see it as befriending people who may one day help you out in your career, and who you'd also be happy to help.

    As Levy explained, prioritize someone's personality over their perceived usefulness. This will allow you to venture outside of your industry's bubble and meet some genuinely interesting people.

    "It's adding diversity to your network that truly helps it," Levy said. "The reason is, every time you add an additional person that's in your industry, you're not expanding your network very much because you all probably know the same people."

    SEE ALSO: A master networker shares his top 20 networking tips

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    iJustine sponsored content

    Social media advertising has become a new norm.

    Celebrities like Kylie Jenner can make their livings by posting endorsements for different products on their personal Instagram accounts. 

    Now, the Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on the practice, saying it misleads customers, according to Bloomberg. 

    "We’ve been interested in deceptive endorsements for decades and this is a new way in which they are appearing," Michael Ostheimer, a deputy in the FTC's Ad Practices Division, said to Bloomberg. "We believe consumers put stock in endorsements and we want to make sure they are not being deceived"

    The central complaint the FTC has is that a lot of these endorsements do not clearly indicate that they are paid sponsored content, and they come off as though they are genuine, unpaid posts. 

    Being an Instagram star can be a lucrative business: fitness guru Ross Dickerson, who has over a million followers, recently told Forbes that he makes $650 on a "slow day." 

    The FTC wants clear disclosures. 

    "If consumers don’t read the words, then there is no effective disclosure," Ostheimer said to Bloomberg. "If you have seven other hashtags at the end of a tweet and it’s mixed up with all these other things, it’s easy for consumers to skip over that. The real test is, did consumers read it and comprehend it?"

    Rich Kids of Instagram 5952

    The FTC has guidelines that dictate what works and what doesn't fly on social media.

    "If you write about how much you like something you bought on your own and you’re not being rewarded, you don’t have to worry," the FTC writes on its website. "However, if you’re doing it as part of a sponsored campaign or you’re being compensated – for example, getting a discount on a future purchase or being entered into a sweepstakes for a significant prize– then a disclosure is appropriate." 

    Influencer marketing isn't likely to go away, though, because it communicates to millennials in an effective way.

    "It's a conversation that they can have almost nonstop through the day, every day, over the course of 365 days a year," Edward East, CEO of influencer-marketing company Billion Dollar Boy, said in an interview with Business Insider earlier this summer.

    SEE ALSO: These before-and-after photos show why a 25-year-old trainer has a fitness app with more revenue than Under Armour's fitness app

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: How a fitness guru with almost a million Instagram followers works out


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    jon levy

    Jon Levy is constantly putting himself into uncomfortable situations, from something as simple as asking a celebrity he never met before to join his "Influencers" group or running with the bulls in Spain.

    Levy founded the Influencers six years ago as a way to establish a TED Talk-type of environment within the sprawling Manhattan apartment he inherited. He said that he's now hosted around 900 people at either his Influencer dinners or salons, and through sponsor partnerships he's made a business out of it.

    He's collected the networking and goal-setting insights he's learned through his group as well as his extensive world travels in his book "The 2 AM Principle."

    One idea that underlies his approach to life is the idea of "optimal anxiety." As he wrote, "If your heart rate doesn't increase, then the challenge is too easy. If you want to live an interesting life, you should accept challenges you don't know how to complete."

    He pointed to early 20th century research from the psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson, which suggests that there is an ideal amount of stimulation the body can feel to perform at its best.

    This was later expanded upon by many other researchers, including the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who coined the term "flow," a state of stimulation that allows for peak performance — this is the feeling often associated with professional athletes.

    In "The 2 AM Principle," Levy said this approach should be extended to social situations, as well.

    He advocates for embracing the adrenaline surge that comes with nerves, rather than running from it. As Stanford professor Kelly McGonigal explained in her popular TED Talk from 2013, "How to Make Stress Your Friend," stress (or nervous energy) is not inherently bad; your increased heart rate is meant to prepare your body for action, and it only becomes negative when our conscious mind associates it with preparing for danger leading to failure.

    "It is all about finding that happy medium of your state of optimal anxiety, that place just outside your comfort zone where things are fun and exciting but not crippling," Levy wrote.

     

    SEE ALSO: A master networker explains how to single out the most interesting people at any event

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Navy SEALs explain how a leader's ego can destroy a team


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    Christian Delgrosso Blackpills

    After successfully establishing himself as a social media star, 23-year-old Canadian Christian Delgrosso wants to conquer streaming television.

    Delgrosso has built his fame as a part of a group of social media stars that includes Logan Paul, King Bach and Cameron Dallas, with whom he starred in the Netflix documentary series "Chasing Cameron."

    He is known among his 22 million social media followers for his exaggerated facial expressions and wacky comedy.

    Delgrosso is currently filming a series for the upcoming streaming platform Blackpills. The mobile-specific entertainment platform was created out of a partnership between French telecoms entrepreneur Xavier Niel and Daniel Marhely, the founder of music streaming service Deezer. A Blackpills representative said the platform would be launching around March.

    The mobile streaming service has kept a low profile but it looks like it will soon set its targets on the United States as one of its main markets. It acquired a series that premiered at the American film festival Sundance and signed up Zoe Cassavettes, director and daughter of actor John Cassavettes, to direct a series. French director Luc Besson will also be creating a series for the platform. In October it released one of its first shows about US President Donald Trump, You Got Trumped, on YouTube and Facebook. Logan Paul, who often appears in social media videos with Delgrosso, is also working on a series for Blackpills. Both of their shows are being co-produced by Paolo Moreno's Influencer Studios, which manages a network of the top social media influencers.

    Business Insider caught up with Delgrosso over the phone as he was on the set of a show he is currently shooting for the platform. His character in the show has to live with his mom who comes back from the dead and discovers modern society.

    SEE ALSO: Tough Mudder is generating $100 million in revenue and is about to launch a TV show — here's how it began

    "It's currently called 'MOOOM' but they're changing the title," Delgrosso explained. At 8 a.m. he was still in bed, having shot scenes for the show the day before. "I've been pushing for 'Paranormom'."

    Delgrosso has a busy schedule. Aside from his "MOOOM" shoot, Delgrosso is also working on another series that's currently in pre-production, which may also find its way onto the streaming service. And he is preparing a feature film that will start production in May.

    These are not his first large-scale productions, either: he previously starred in the iTunes exclusive teen comedy "Mono," as well as the Maker Studios mockumentary "Internet Famous."

    Delgrosso doesn't limit himself just to acting. He's also working with the writers of his show to help improve the script and even gets asked for his input on the streaming platform itself.

    "I'm getting to collaborate with some really, really heavy hitters on the business side and they're going to be investing a lot of money which is going to get this thing off the ground," he said.



    Speaking to Delgrosso, you feel he has the drive to be seen as an entrepreneur rather than just a goofy social media star.

    "I feel like I've naturally been an entrepreneur since I was young. I was buying and flipping iPhones and other ridiculous stuff when I was young," he explained with a laugh. "So I've been very hands-on and interested in directly working with a lot of the business opportunities that come my way."

    Delgrosso said he made seven figures in 2016 and so far in 2017 he's brought in over $500,000 in revenue.

    "There's tons and tons of stuff coming through, so this year is going to be more lucrative, my most lucrative year so far," Delgrosso said.

    Creating branded content to target the younger audiences to whom social media influencers appeal is one of the main ways that influencers monetize their content.

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    Delgrosso has followed the same pattern. He has previously worked with brands including Microsoft, Coca Cola, and McDonald's — one of his sponsored Vines for Amazon, from 2015, got 4.9 million views.



    Delgrosso is part of a group of the top social influencers who left Vine a year before the October 2016 announcement that the Twitter-owned 6-second video app was shutting down. According to Mic.com, the group of influencers were asking Vine for up to $1.2 million a year to produce 12 pieces of content a month, which would help keep users coming back to the platform. Vine declined.

    "Vine didn't care about its creators at all. So all of the big Viners, we all collectively left," he said. It wasn't just about money: Delgrosso had wanted a closer relationship with the Vine team and the possibility to have an active say in developments and updates to it.

    Along with many other influencers, Delgrosso lived in a Los Angeles building at the crossroads of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. Since Vine shut down, many of the group have moved out as they look to bigger platforms and longform content.

    A 40-minute long YouTube compilation of Delgrosso's Vines has racked up nearly 10 million views:

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    "When I started out on social media, I gained 10 million followers in my first year. I became way more in tune with tech than I wanted to and it became a big interest of mine," Delgrosso said.

    It's not just about filming videos anymore for Delgrosso, his growing interest in technology is evident when he explains how he's looking forward to virtual reality and everything he could do with it creatively.

    That interest has been channelled into a new job. One of Delgrosso's latest activities has been working as a consultant for a variety of tech companies. He tests new apps and technology products, helps improve them, and works to define their launch strategies for younger consumers.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Wheres My Office Now _ Vanlife

    Can you hack it making your living as an Instagram influencer? 

    The "profession," if we're ready to call it that, is an increasingly popular one, idealized especially by millennials afflicted with acute cases of wanderlust and a yearning for independence from corporate drudgery.

    The money companies are pumping into it is steadily growing, too. It's a $500 million industry today, and corporate muscle will bolster that to $5 billion to $10 billion by 2020, according to Mediakix estimates

    That money isn't going exclusively to celebrities. "Microinfluencers" who have between 50,000 to 200,000 followers are taking a not-insignificant share of the pie as well, according to a recent profile in The New Yorker by Rachel Monroe.

    Monroe spent a week hanging out with Emily King and Corey Smith, the itinerant duo behind the account Where's My Office Now, which has 147,000 followers and counting. The account essentially documents the couple (and their dog) living out of a Volkswagen van as they travel from scenic mountain range to idyllic beach (#vanlife is a popular hashtag — more than 1.3 million photos have been uploaded to it — that King and Smith and countless others use).

     

    But Instagrammers like King and Smith, with a sizable yet close-knit following, can be more appealing to some advertisers than accounts with over 1 million followers because they tend to generate more loyalty and interaction among their fans.

    Monroe explains:

    "Celebrity endorsements aren't new, of course, but influencer marketing expands the category of 'celebrity' to include teen-age fashionistas, drone racers, and particularly photogenic dogs. Advertisers work with people like Smith and King precisely because they're not famous in the traditional sense. They're appealing to brands because they have such a strong emotional connection with their followers. Krishna Subramanian, the co-founder of captiv8, a company that has helped Where's My Office Now connect with advertisers, said, 'Their followers know what they're doing day in and day out.'"

    The best of the best social media influencers can earn tens of thousands for a sponsored post. Users with a few million followers, like the couple Jack Morriss and Lauren Bullen, make six-figure incomes and as much as $9,000 per post traveling the world and snapping eye-popping photos

    A post shared by JACK MORRIS (@doyoutravel) on

    At this point, King and Smith only make between $500 to $1,500 per sponsored post.

    But the couple, who are picky about the companies they'll endorse ("We see every dollar as a vote," King told Monroe), appear to be gathering steam. They had already booked $10,000 in endorsements two months into 2017, compared with the $18,000 they earned in all of 2016. They've gained more than 7,000 followers since the piece in The New Yorker published mid-April.

    Their posts tend to get a few thousand likes each. Although, perhaps predictably, shots featuring King in a bikini or semi-nude will bump that up by a factor of two or three. From Monroe's profile:

    "King clicked on the account's most successful post, which has more than eight thousand likes. In the image, the back seat of the van is folded down into a bed; King faces away from the camera, holding a sheet to her chest, her hair cascading down her naked back. The second most popular post was of King wearing a bikini, standing on the van's front bumper. In the next most popular, King is in a bikini, slicing lemons.

    "'People really want to see beautiful locations,' King said.

    "'They want to see Emily in a bikini, they want to see a sun flare, they want to see the van,' Smith said. 'Ones of Emily in the van waking up with Penny, they crush it.'

    "'It's real and it's kind of moody—'

    "'It's a naked female,' Smith said. 'If I'm in that picture, it gets three thousand likes.'"

     

    Read the full story at The New Yorker »

    SEE ALSO: Meet the Instagram-famous travel blogging couple who get paid up to $9,000 to post a single photo

    SEE ALSO: Instagram fitness star says he makes $650 on a slow day

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Top financial adviser: Just working hard will not make you wealthy


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    The INSIDER Summary:

    • Professional Instagrammers thought the app was "shadowbanning" them.
    • That meant their posts didn't show up in hashtag searches and overall engagement went down.
    • In reality, it's because of a bug in the app.
    • The whole episode shows that influencers don't trust Instagram.


    A few weeks ago, something sent ripples through some corners of the Instagram world.

    Professional Instagram users — like photographers and designers — noticed that engagement with their posts fell off a cliff. Few people liked and commented on their posts, and follower growth slowed to a halt.

    Many users feared they were "shadowbanned" from Instagram. They could continue posting, but wouldn't know that their posts were invisible to everyone else. It's similar to a now-discontinued punishment on Reddit, where users, without warning, were banned from the site.

    In reality, a bug in Instagram's code — since fixed — along with likely misconceptions about how Instagram treats spam, caused users to think that Instagram's mysterious moderators unfairly targeted them.

    Professional influencers and photographers felt a target on their backs.

    Instagram's shadowban, itwas theorized, worked differently than Reddit's. Followers could still see posts from shadowbanned users, but posts wouldn't show up on Instagram's "Explore" tab, where users search and look at hashtagged posts.

    Instagram explore page

    As one Instagram user who uses the app professionally told INSIDER, The Explore tab is essential for people who want to expand their reach. For pretty much any business that deals in anything visually appealing — which can range from influencer marketers, to professional photographers, to wedding planners — being banned from Instagram can be devastating.

    "A lot of people use hashtags because they either reach a lot of people, or because people who follow you may only come across your photos through hashtags rather than their feed," said the user, who preferred to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation from Instagram. "A lot of bloggers prefer to go through hashtags rather than their feed just to discover new accounts and to widen their network."

    The ban, she said, was absolute. Until recently, her photos could not be found on Instagram's explore tab.

    "I have my own hashtag, and every single one of my photos in that hashtag were all gone," she said. "In any hashtag, they were gone."

    A couple of weeks ago, she and other influencers and photographers interviewed by INSIDER said, posts started appearing on the Explore tab again. But not all of them. And overall engagement isn't what it once was.

    Was Instagram punishing professional Instagrammers?

    On a February 28 post on Instagram for Business's official Facebook page, the company said it understood that users "experienced issues with our hashtag search that caused posts to not be surfaced" and recommended "focusing on your business objective or goal rather than hashtags."

    The Instagram business community didn't take it well.

    "I've reported my problem literally 50 times to no avail,"wrote a professional photographer in one of the most-liked comments on the post. "I've been 'shadowbanned' for the past 3 months. I have done nothing wrong, I use appropriate, unbanned hashtags and post ONCE a day, if not less. Please figure this out."

    people looking at phones

    Someone even made a site to check if your account is "shadowbanned." It was used thousands of times, even though people reported that the results were inconsistent.

    A viral post on Quora, viewed more than 130,000 times since it was published on April 11, alleged that Instagram's apparent shadowban was "a clear move by Instagram to control Influencer Marketing," and said that Facebook, Instagram's owner, was trying to get business owners to pay for advertising instead of grow their businesses on Instagram organically.

    "For Instagram, they have been leaving money on the table and over time, they have been taking steps to take that money back,"wrote the Quora user. "The only way they can do that is by stopping businesses from reaching audiences through their own methods, forcing them to advertise through them."

    Fagbohun did not respond to INSIDER's request for comment.

    The reality is less scary.

    The real explanation for the dip in engagement is much less nefarious. A bug in Instagram's "Explore" tab, along with spam filters, is what actually quelled engagement.

    The bug was fixed on April 12, which matches reports from Instagram users who found the "shadowban" suddenly lifted around that time.

    woman girl shock horrified scared looking at phone

    However, other users still complain that their posts have less engagement in the past few weeks, and that some of their posts still don't show up in Instagram's "Explore" module.

    This seems to be because of Instagram's spam detection algorithm. Users who post a lot of content in a short period of time with a lot of the same hashtags, and users who use third-party applications, can trigger the algorithm to limit the reach of their posts, like by keeping them off the "Explore" page. And because of the bug, users may now be more sensitive to changes in engagement.

    Beth Meyer, a chef and food stylist who runs Recipe for Adventures, told INSIDER that she was "shadowbanned" for a time, but then the ban appeared to be lifted. She's noticed that other people in professional Instagram communities are still complaining about a "shadowban," but the way they describe it makes it seem like they're talking about something else.

    "After 3 weeks, it corrected itself," Meyer wrote in a Facebook message. "I keep seeing new folks say they've been shadowbanned, but those folks also say they post 5x per day or use services ... which makes me think IG might be trying to crack down on that."

    The whole situation shows that Instagram still has some work to do.

    While Instagram's alleged shadowban turned out to be nonexistent, and the kerfuffle over it misplaced, the episode shows that Instagram has a lot of work to do.

    The bug lingered for weeks. The company acknowledged it in a public Facebook post on February 28, but it existed before that. And it wasn't fixed until the middle of April. In that period of time, businesses owners who depended on Instagram had a harder time growing.

    The reaction, too, is telling. Fagbohun's viral post indicates that a lot of people are deeply anxious that Instagram is going to try to take a bigger slice of the money, and paranoid that it will be at the expense of smaller businesses. While Instagram has been focusing on features like Instagram Stories, the company hasn't provided much of a public position about the influencers on its platform.

    A huge chunk of Instagram's 700 million monthly users follow businesses on the app. And if Instagram wants to calm those users' concerns, it needs to be more transparent about what it thinks about Influencers.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 15 things you didn't know your iPhone headphones could do


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    woman reading water beach

    The world's most influential people still make time for a good book.

    Earlier this year, Facebook asked 62 such people— from Arianna Huffington to Richard Branson to Newt Gingrich — for the books they'd recommend. More than 230 titles came Facebook's way.

    After some careful tallying, the social-media site narrowed down the most recommended books to a list of just 11 titles.

    We can't guarantee they'll bring you the same level of success, but they'll move you in the right direction.

    SEE ALSO: 5 books the head of MIT Media Lab thinks you should read

    "Sapiens" by Yuval Noah Harari

    Harari, a Hebrew University of Jerusalem historian, traces humanity's roots in what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls"a big history narrative of human civilization."

    Zuckerberg selected "Sapiens" as one of the titles for his book club in 2015.

    The book examines our early hunter-gatherer societies all the way through our modern conception of community, which often lives inside a screen.



    "Freakonomics" by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt

    Published in the summer of 2009, "Freakonomics" is the duo's first dive into bewildering social and economic trends.

    In plain language, Dubner and Levitt break down complex topics on parenting research, death rates, and crime. They challenge conventional wisdom with compelling, if eyebrow-raising, examples to back up their claims.

    "Freakonomics" helped spawn a genre of publishing that takes advanced concepts and distills them for a lay audience, usually with a sideways perspective.



    "Originals" by Adam Grant

    Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many other pioneers all have a number of things in common, argues Grant, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist.

    In "Originals," Grant takes the reader from an idea's inception, through its (inevitable) backlash, and all the way to implementation and acceptance by a wider audience. He reveals how novel ideas are formed, how to advocate for those ideas, and how adults and kids alike can learn to be original.

     



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    max lowery sprinting

    In a fitness-mad world, protein shakes are for many the must-have accessory to a workout.

    We're promised they'll repair destroyed muscles and, crucially, prevent the dreaded two-day burn.

    And it's not a wonder gyms are promoting their fancy new shake bars, sometimes at more than £7, or $9, a pop. They're a nice little add on to your already pricey exercise class.

    But not everyone's sold on them.

    Before becoming a personal trainer, Max Lowery, 27, was a professional sprinter for four years.

    He told Business Insider why he had never taken a protein shake in his life — and doesn't intend to. Lowery believes protein shakes are unnecessary for about 90% of people.

    W e e k l y G o a l s -- If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you. Challenge yourself this week 👍🏻 Photo: @tomjoyphoto

    A post shared by Max Lowery (@max.lowery) on Oct 30, 2016 at 1:35pm PDT on

    "The only people who might benefit from them are vegans who aren't being so careful with their diets — so it's an easy way to get some protein — or elite athletes who are training twice a day six days a week," he said.

    "The average untrained person needs as little as 60-75g of protein and the average trained person who exercises three times a week needs 1.2g-2g per kilo of body weight. You can easily get enough protein from eating real food.

    "In fact, too much protein can actually be broken down into sugars that create an insulin response which can facilitate fat storage. This is called gluconeogenesis."

    He's also unconvinced by what's going into these blended concoctions.

    "Lots of shakes are packed with artificial sweeteners like corn syrup solids, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium —companies use these because they are addictive and send a signal to the brain to keep drinking or eating without an off switch — even if they, themselves, don't contain any calories."

    He went on: "A lot of whey protein comes from very poor sources as well, most commercial whey powders are high-heat-treated, acid-flushed, and stripped of vital nutrients, creating an imbalanced, acidic 'whey isolat,' that's frequently contaminated with synthetic additives, chemical detergents, and heavy metals.

    "It's no wonder they have to use all these sweeteners to cover the taste."

    If you're hell-bent on shakes, then Lowery recommends vegan proteins, such as Form Nutrition. "They're generally healthier and take pride in the quality of their ingredients," he said.

    There are studies, however, that support the consumption of protein shakes after a hardcore workout.

    Lowery said: "Like with many food products the companies funding studies have an interest in positive results. There have also been a few recent unbiased studies that suggest your protein consumption over the course of the day is what's important — the emphasis that has been put on the hour after exercise is false."

    Protein shakes are part of the hard sell in fitness

    Lowery has another issue with protein shakes: the way they are marketed.

    "Sports-drink manufacturers have been incredibly successful in convincing us that we need to consume copious amounts of their product in order to look and feel good," he said. "It's a multimillion-pound industry with clever marketing and celebrity sports gurus promoting it."

    That look you give someone when they tell you they finished the almond butter 😤 #2mealday

    A post shared by Max Lowery (@max.lowery) on Apr 25, 2017 at 11:32pm PDT on

    And the rise of the Instagram fitness stars has only intensified things, he added.

    "Influencers are being paid thousands to promote their products. They prey on people's emotions. Unfortunately, people look at these influencers and believe that they look like that because they take protein shakes.

    "This is untrue. They look like that because they train hard and eat well. There is no quick fix to getting fit and healthy. Don't waste your money consuming dust. Eat real food."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: What you should know before grabbing a protein bar, according to health experts


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    CyreneQ

    • Snapchat is starting to warm up to the group of internet celebrities and so-called influencers that it has long ignored.
    • The app is starting to verify more of these influencers in recent weeks, giving them access to special features that normal users don't have.
    • The shift in strategy comes as Snapchat's user growth has slowed in the face of fierce competition from Facebook-owned Instagram, which has worked closely with celebrities and users with large followings for years.

    Earlier this year, Cyrene Quiamco received a surprise invitation to visit Snap Inc.'s headquarters in Venice Beach, California.

    With more than 100,000 followers, Quiamco is part of a small group of Snapchat power users who have built sizeable audiences and made thousands of dollars promoting brands on their accounts.

    An early Snapchat user who first started partnering with brands in 2014, Quiamco — who goes by "CyreneQ" in the app — had tried for years to contact Snap employees and have them fix her problems with the app, which frequently crashed due to the sheer number of messages she received.

    While her bugs persisted, she watched Snapchat proactively reach out to household names using the app, like DJ Khaled and Kylie Jenner. In November 2015, Snapchat started verifying top celebrities in the app, giving them access to special features and emoji versions of the coveted blue check marks found on other social apps.

    Quiamco watched as many of her "influencer" peers, realizing that they may never be verified, stopped posting regularly to Snapchat and took the audiences they had built elsewhere.

    Then one day in March, seemingly out of the blue, Snap asked her to come visit its Venice Beach offices. During her visit, Quiamco was given a Snapchat-branded backpack filled with company swag, and she met with folks from Snap's partnership team. Not long after that, she was sent a pair of Spectacles and verified in the app.

    “I was like, 'Wow, they actually acknowledged me, they’re the ones reaching out to me,'" Quiamco told Business Insider of her first meeting with Snap, adding that she's had more discussions with the company since.

    Expanding Snapchat's 'Official Stories'

    DJ Khaled

    While internet celebrities like Quiamco have thrived and earned sizeable incomes from posting videos to platforms like YouTube and Instagram, Snapchat has historically kept them at arm's length.

    Snap executives have maintained that they want to cultivate a social network for close friends. View counts aren't broadcasted in Snapchat, and the app has never shown users how many followers they have.

    But in recent weeks, Snap's attitude towards influencers like Quiamco has changed. The company has been reaching out to internet celebs like famous YouTubers and former Vine stars, verifying them and asking them for feedback about how to improve the app.

    A Snap spokesperson told Business Insider that the company has been intentionally deliberate about expanding its verified "Official Stories" program, and is planning to verify more of its top users in the coming months.

    Aside from a dedicated emoji next to your name, being verified on Snapchat comes with a list of exclusive perks: a collab mode that lets multiple phones post to the same account without having to log in, account promotion in search and the app's crowdsourced "Our Stories" feature for events, the ability to create geofilters for free, and an emergency contact for problems with the app. Verified users can also get important information, like their follower count, from Snap.

    Snap is also working on more features for verified accounts, including better analytics and more prominent placement in search, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company has already verified a handful of non-people accounts, like The White House and Major League Soccer.

    The expansion of Official Stories comes as Snapchat's user growth has slowed in the face of fierce competition from Facebook-owned Instagram, which has worked closely with celebrities and users with large followings for years. Facebook will soon release a standalone app to make it easier for creators to see video analytics and interact with their fans.

    "I think it's exciting to see that Snapchat is recognizing the celebrities being created on their own platform," said Nick Cicero, CEO of analytics firm Delmondo. "It's a sign that they understand that homegrown stars like Ross Smith, CyreneQ and Shonduras can emerge on their own platform and then turn into bonafide celebs."

    While many Snapchat power users like Quiamco have spread their efforts onto additional platforms like YouTube, Quiamco doesn't think it's too late for Snap to finally kick-start its relationships with influencers.

    “Even though people left Snapchat, they’re not completely off it," she said. "They’re posting sometimes and keeping the door open."

    SEE ALSO: Meet the most important people who help Evan Spiegel run Snap Inc.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: RICH GREENFIELD: There is just one way for Snapchat to survive Facebook


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    weibo

    “This coat is pure wool. It’s lighter and thinner than regular woolen overcoats, while at the same time it’s just as warm,” the girl in the camera explains to her fans through her livestream while putting on a slight pink double-faced cashmere overcoat.

    “Is it heavy enough though?” types a fan in the chat box on the upper right hand corner of the screen.

    “I think it’s better suited to wintertime in the South. Winter winds in the north are too strong,” the live-streamer explains patiently to the fan.

    This live streamer, wearing a sweet smile and a rimless round-framed pair of glasses, is Zhang Dayi, a widely-known cyber celebrity in China.

    It's a regular scene for Chinese fashion influencers. Introducing products through live streams has become the new trend.

    In this one-hour long live video, Zhang displays 10 coats and sweaters in her first half hour. She acts as a shopping guide, a model, a stylist and even as customer service, presenting clothes her team designs while giving style consultations and answering questions about the design, fabric and price of her clothes.

    This live video has been viewed 9.73 million times over the last two months.

    Born in 1988, Zhang began her climb to fame as a fashion magazine model in 2009. In 2014 she set up her own Taobao shop with her partner, Feng Min, the founder of internet celebrity incubator Ruhan E-commerce.

    Astutely managed, her Weibo accounts saw a boom in follower growth from 250,000 to more than 4 million in one and a half years. Part of her fame stems from the sales legends that surround her: she is said to have established record sales over two consecutive Singles’ Day online shopping festivals on Taobao.

    On Singles Day 2016, her Taobao shop made it into the top ten for Taobao’s  Women’s Wear category.

    Zhang is one of the most prominent cyber celebrities in China. Behind much of her success in retailing is the rising trend of China’s “Internet Celebrity Economy”.

    China’s 'wang hong' industry

    Internet celebrities (more commonly known as ‘wang hong’ in Chinese), can be traced back to the emergence of the Internet.

    Through the ups and downs of different social platforms — from BBS’ to online forums, social networks to short video sites, video streaming platforms and now livestreaming services — the history of the renewal and replacement of different kinds of internet celebrities can be observed.

    “Back in the latter half of 2014, we noticed the rise of cyber celebrities, and they saw  explosive growth in 2016,” said Zeng Ming, Chief Strategy Officer of Alibaba in an article posted on WeChat.

    The word “wang hong” has seen a boom in search volume since November 2015 according to Baidu Index, the big data platform of search engine Baidu. In February 2016, Papi Jiang, dubbed the top “wang hong” of 2016, became a household name for her viral short videos.

    She focused the public’s attention on the internet-based cyber celebrity. Not long after Papi Jiang came the boom in Chinese live streaming platforms that we see today.

    china tech insights

    In both the US and China, the term “Internet celebrity” encompasses a wide range of types.

     

    The development of this ecosystem in China and the US has seen a shift to where internet celebs are now able to make money out of their fans. In the U.S., among the many kinds of web celebs that have risen to fame on social media, the most successful kinds to have monetized their huge fan bases are the fashion icons.

    They blog about style or do make-up tutorial videos, becoming Youtube or Instagram personalities earning large sums from brand sponsorship.

    In China however, the most profitable types of internet celebrity are the fashionistas based on Weibo and Taobao. They are now becoming a significant force in the online retailing business in China.

    china tech insights

    How do fashionistas in China build their fan bases? A case study of Zhang Dayi

    The first step to understanding the essence of a fashion influencers success in retailing is to find out how they convert fans into buyers. Here is a map of the working mechanism operating in the industry.

    China Tech Insights

    Fashion sellers usually start with Weibo, the leading social media platform in China.

    They publish content to their accounts regularly, which ranges from daily life observations to fashion recommendations in the form of photos, videos and live streams. What attracts fans is often the integration of many elements. Using Zhang Dayi as an example, let’s take a look at what these essential elements are.

    Personal charisma: an outstanding appearance, good taste, personality or an enviable lifestyle. Zhang Dayi, having been a model for at least nine years, she has formed her own taste in style and is experienced with modeling and photo-shoots.

    Another key to attracting viewers is to demonstrate an enviable lifestyle. Cherie, another top Chinese fashion influencer, said in an interview that, “ your fans have to believe that you are truly living the perfect life as seen through your photos, rather than just posing.”

    She adds, “you are actually selling a kind of lifestyle through these photos you show them, something which satisfies a fantasy that their lives could be as good as yours when they put these clothes on.”

    Zhang Dayi’s Weibo account

    Style: their expertise and aesthetic taste are key to nurturing loyal fans and converting them into consumers.

    According to a report by CBN Data released in May 2016, a majority of the consumption around internet celebrity-run Taobao shops stems from females aged between 22 to 28 years old dwelling in first and second-tier cities.

    This group of people typically shows strong consumption for beauty products.

    Meanwhile, the fastest growing market segment derives from those born after 1995.

    Chinese people in their early twenties are marked by a pursuit of fashion trends and personalization, while at the same time, having not formed a strong sense of style and being more inclined to be impacted by recommendations from internet celebrities.

    Celebrity recommendations save users the trouble of searching for products in the vast sea of choice afforded by e-commerce platforms.

    These recommendations are also felt to be exclusive, which grants users a sense of uniqueness allowing them to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack.  

    Affinity: apart from content updates, another vital routine for the internet’s wang hongs is fan maintenance. Keeping an approachable image through frequent interaction with fans brings them much closer to their fans. Instead of the sense of superiority and distance one might feel interacting with an A-line superstar, the relationship between fashion influencer and fan is more equal, mutual and intimate.

    Zhang Dayi creates an image of a frank, honest and amiable girl in her fans eyes. Interacting with her fans via comments and replies on Weibo is part of her routine. This also includes regular surveys of fan design preferences via social media posts. Even when she becomes embroiled in fights with people who condemn the quality of her products, her fans come out to fight back and show their support. 

    Shared values: another reason for the success of a celebrity brand is the existence of a shared set of values among fans. Internet celebrities form a set of values through the social images they post across the web. A fan might admire an individualistic attitude towards consumption and self-investment.

    For instance, a post by Zhang Dayi reads, “you are not simply spending money shopping, you are building an ideal empire for the person you aspire to be.” 

    China’s wang hong’s are constantly reinforcing this image and conveying values to fans through their exclusive communities created on social media. Fan recognition of these values increases the coherence and group loyalty of the community. In all, the web celeb becomes an incarnation of a set of values, and fans aggregate around a celebrity under the spell of this powerful force of attraction.

    The Weibo platform ecosystem facilitates the job of influencers by offering various communication channels including embedded short videos and live streaming functions in-app. The Weibo app is also well-designed for converting viewers to shoppers.

    It provides a window-shopping function that enables a user to browse products sold by the influencer within Weibo. It also has a seamless connection with the Taobao app (Alibaba has a strategic investment in Weibo) meaning users are able to be directed to Taobao effortlessly through in-app links.

    A maturing business model: how influencers are innovating the retailing industry

    China Tech Insights

    Effective social media for internet celebrities serves as an essential element for success in a later e-commerce business. It reduces a lot of the cost incurred typically acquiring users. However, this is only halfway to earning real money from fans. 

    To complete the last step of an online retailing business, influencers need the help of a range of professionals including those from: apparel design, supply chain, manufacturing, inventory management, e-shop operations and after-sales service.

    There is no way that these diverse positions can all be fulfilled by the influencer alone particularly when massive numbers of orders are made.

    This is where fashion influencer incubators have emerged providing a vital new role in the industry to assume some of these responsibilities. Presently a majority of internet celebrity affiliated Taobao stores are backed by behind-the-scenes incubators. Ruhan, the incubator behind Zhang Dayi, is now the leading player and the most successful case of this particular kind of incubator.

    China tech insights

    With the participation of Ruhan E-commerce, Zhang can focus on promotion and customer relations, in other words fan management.

    Ruhan E-commerce assumes the role of supply chain manager and e-shop operator. In terms of supply chain management, the company is in charge of fabric purchase, pattern-making and design, and outsourcing manufacturing to partnering factories.

    In terms of online shop operations, apart from daily routines and after-sales services, Ruhan also innovates by offering pre-sales and speed-sales in order to avoid inventory overstocking, which is a deep-rooted problem for the traditional apparel industry.

    For those having just started on their journey, with little experience in styling and social media operation, Ruhan E-commerce provides designers, buyers, and even assistants to assist with shooting photos, selecting samples and making patterns.

    The company also acts as talent management helping with curating a set style and image for its clients and training them to blog, pose for photos, and interact with fans.

    Wang Jun/China Tech Insights

    An image issue

    Despite the proven profitability of internet celebrities in China, perception of internet celebrities varies among both fan groups and the broader public. China Tech Insights has observed a dramatic contrast between the breathtaking sales volume taking place on the business side and a general negative attitude held towards both internet celebrities and their businesses.

    According to our survey, 41.7% of respondents reported a dislike of, or even disgust of internet celebrities, mainly due to the stereotypical impression formed of web celebs. 51.1% reported a neutral feeling towards them mainly due to a lack of knowledge. Only the remaining 7.2% showed a positive attitude.

    China Tech Insights

    The Chinese term, “wang hong” is actually somewhat of a negative term for many Chinese people. A stereotypical impression of a Chinese internet celebrity usually includes a female who, in her quest for sudden fame, has abandoned her brains for hype and scandal.

    chinese instagram

    To make things worse, the market is saturated with the standard East Asian ideal of beauty: a palm-sized face, light skin tone, big eyes and a slim figure.

    This kind of negative impression only hinders a budding brand attempting to establish trust outside of an existing fan base.

    The founder of Ruhan E-commerce said in an interview that he disliked people referring to his clients as “wang hong’s” rather, he prefers the term “KOL” or Key Opinion Leader. He describes his clients as “professional content creators in the [fashion] industry”.

    Zhang Dayi is no doubt the most successful case of a web celeb pivoting from a field to becoming a fashion influencer and a Taobao owner. However, there are tons of other fashion influencers who are finding it harder and harder to acquire fans.

    Though shedding the negative image has become a top priority for the internet celebrity industry — essential for long-term development — this will likely be a slow and unpleasant process.

    Nevertheless, regardless of when exactly the public begins to hold a different attitude toward this group, the inadmissible fact is that web celebs have already become a leading force today in the online retailing business in China. And this success is likely to grow and last.

    SEE ALSO: Dying malls in the US should take note of how China is approaching retail

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    As the year gradually draws to a close, most of us will start to think of what 2018 will bring — specifically where our travels might take us.

    If you're in need of some inspiration, Business Insider has teamed up with The Indie Traveller to bring you a comprehensive list of the most inspiring, wanderlust-inducing, and influential travel Instagram accounts on the planet.

    In order to pinpoint the biggest travel personalities on the photo sharing app, Marek Bron — who is behind the blog — created an algorithm to analyse hundreds of accounts (filtering out any brands or group accounts.)

    It measured the accounts on several metrics including follower count, follower ratio, account activity, and engagement rate.

    The "Top 100" list shows the accounts that are not only popular among users, but also highly active, and get a lot of engagement from their followers. It includes some of the biggest names in the travel influencer world, but also some exciting rising stars.

    Business Insider has compiled a list of the top 30 most influential accounts according to the algorithm.

    From dreamy travel couples to professional photographers, influencers, and ambassadors to some of the world's biggest brands, scroll down to see the most beautiful and influential travel Instagram accounts on the planet, ranked in ascending order alongside their impressive follower counts.

    30. @californiathroughmylens — 19.5K followers.

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    Josh McNair runs the California Through My Lens travel site with his wife, which is used by over six million people. The shot above is taken from the North Dome at dusk in Yosemite National Park.



    29. @lebackpacker — 454K followers.

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    Belgian-born self-taught travel photographer Johan Lolos just returned home after a five-month summer road trip of across 17 countries, a project he called the "Peaks of Europe." He is also Toyota’s latest 4×4 ambassador. Check out his blog here.

    Above, he's pictured in Elgol, in the Scottish Highlands.



    28. @chloe_t — 251K followers.

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    Aussie-born Chloe Ting says she is a "Gymshark Athlete." In addition to her globetrotting on Instagram, you can follow her fat burning and fitness tips viaher YouTube channel.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider