As a parent and businesswoman, I recently came to an important realization: influencer marketing is astonishingly powerful and I must pay attention to it. Because it is changing everything.

This all starts when I hear my teenage son giggling under the covers. He’s watching a video of a YouTuber called “Guava Juice.” I have never heard of him before, but apparently he counts millions of viewers (including my son) among his enthusiastic fanbase. Guava Juice is a social media influencer from the Philippines, and very popular with Hawaii’s Keiki.

What is a social media influencer?

A social media influencer is someone who has established authentic credibility in a specific industry or niche, and who has influence over others and has propelled regular people into “social media stardom” with powerful, engaged followings. They get courted by brands to promote on their social media channels because people trust them. In just a few hours, they can garner results that used to take mainstream marketing years to achieve.

Social media influencers have, in a sense, become the new celebrities. And influencer marketing is the new celebrity endorsement.

Think of it as word of mouth…on steroids.

Guava Juice, for example, attracts eager audiences with his over-the-top, silly videos. When my son will spend hours laughing at videos of Guava Juice taking baths in Sriracha, Skittles, and Doritos (notice the brands?). On a slow day, these videos average a whopping 4 million viewers. The marketing potential is undeniable.

Case in point: a week later, my son asks me for 10 bags of Doritos, so he and his friends can make a video. They create their own gaming channel. At the end of each video, they thank their two subscribers (each other) for following them, and ask their two viewers (themselves) to “like and subscribe!”

Clearly, my son has been influenced.

Since witnessing this, I have been on a mission to learn more about who our children are being influenced by, and how deep this influence goes.

When I first hit Google, I find an article by Hawaii Business Magazine. It references several business women who have built followings as social media managers. It is written from an agency perspective, and focuses on more main stream influencers in retail and fashion.

This is when I realize that no two influencers are created equal. There are influencers for every kind of niche with varying demographics, influence, and reach.

But my son and his friends don’t know who these women are. So I begin to wonder what this international phenomenon looks like at the local level. Who are the social media stars of Hawaii?

After a bit of research, I learn that the two most famous social media stars from Hawaii are influencers called Nigahiga and Bretman Rock. Their following is huge.

Nigahiga, now living in the mainland, has over 40 million combined followers.

And Bretman Rock, a teenager from Ewa Beach, has over 20 million. I personally don’t allow my children to watch Bretman Rock. The language and sexual content is just not appropriate for kids. But pushing these boundaries is precisely what catapulted him to success. And he is now reportedly pulling in $4000 to post a single photo.

808 Viral

But Nigahiga and Bretman Rock are just two participants in a network of social media influencers here.

The first locally based millennial entertainment page to build a name in Hawaii is called, appropriately, 808 Viral. It’s a group of influencers who collaborate on various outrageous comedy skits. Many of their challenge videos, such as “Mokes Try Vegan Food” and “Mystery Manapua,” have gone viral.

All of the kids, it seems, know about 808 Viral. And as a parent, I’m okay with that. I find them to be a nice group making an attempt to be more responsible when it comes to a younger audience. For example, they assisted a fellow parent in helping to diffuse a bullying issue. They have been speaking at schools and supporting community projects, That was a major plus for me. I still monitor their content, however, before letting my kids watch it.

Their popularity has resulted in enviable business partnerships. They recently received sponsorship from Hele Gas and Aloha Kia. Moreover, several of the 808 Viral members have built their own solo “brands.” Pashyn, known for her viral video “Pidgin Siri,” has accumulated a following of over 100,000. And her sponsors include companies such as Island Bookmarks.

808 Viral’s founder, Daniela Stolfi-Tow, has been working with Hawaii influencers for several years and has created a network of over 1.5 million followers. To date, her material has pulled in over 500 million views.

“Everyone started it just for fun and it just grew and grew. One day we were out shooting a video and groups of people surrounded us wanting photos. They knew all our names, and every video we had done. We were just looking at each other like, wow, is this really happening? It is pretty amazing that anyone can pick up a camera and go viral from their living room and become a star overnight.” said Stolfi-Tow

And that is exactly what newcomer Jelayne Shelton did. Immediately after having a baby, she made a video of herself applying LipSense, a cosmetics product. Two weeks, 8 million views, and 85 thousand followers later… she has become one of the fastest-growing social media stars in Hawaii since Bretman Rock.

“I seriously think she woke up one morning and went, ‘I am bored. I am going to blow up Facebook today!’” laughs Stolfi-Tow. “I immediately reached out to here and was like, um do you need help? She was like omg yes! HELP! Jelayne is 100% genuine, girl next door, just like you see her on camera. Easily one of the funniest people I have ever met. If she wants to, she will be huge, mark my words. And it couldn’t happen to a better person.”

I decide to test this claim for myself. As I watch Jelayne’s face mask video, I laugh harder than I ever have in my life. I may not get Guava Juice, or Bretman Rock. But I get Jelayne. And to be honest, I would probably buy anything she is selling.

As I crack up giggling under the covers, I realize that my son isn’t the only one in my house who has been influenced.

Some more reading:

Not All Influencers Are Created Equal: Celebrity vs. Influencer Part 1