You probably know of Lyft as the popular rideshare service app. But did you know Lyft also owns most of the major bike shares across the country? Or that the company has a huge focus on social impact campaigns for food equity, voting access and job access programs?
In this episode of the Perlu Influencer Marketing Podcast, we sat down with Lyft’s director of influencer marketing, Bette Ann Schlossberg, to learn how she incorporates authentic and passionate influencers of every audience size to these meaningful campaigns.
So ask to borrow your Lyft driver’s aux cord and learn about the heart behind what is so much more than a rideshare app – and be one of the first to hear about the new LyftUp program!
- Influencer marketing can be used in conjunction with other marketing campaigns.
- In today’s day and age, influencers are looking for something meaningful to talk about, and they can be picky about who they work with.
- You don’t have to choose one type of influencer to work with. Lyft works with everyone, from micro influencers to celebrities, for different tiers of their campaigns.
- Brands want long-lasting relationships with their influencers, so they look for influencers with an authentic passion for their product, service or cause.
- Sometimes things don’t go as planned, and that is okay. It’s important to step back and realize that influencers are people too.
Interview with Lyft
Perlu: Hello and welcome to the Perlu Podcast: Influencer Marketing Re-imagined. Today we’re going to be speaking with Bette Ann Schlossberg of Lyft.
Bette Ann is the director of influencer marketing and entertainment events on the culture and entertainment team at Lyft. She leads all influencer marketing campaigns and entertainment event partnerships. Prior to Lyft, she worked at Google for over six years, managing celebrity and influencer partnerships across hardware.
She launched Google’s first white glove concierge program as well as a micro influencer community for hardware with over 400 influencers. Prior to Google, Bette Ann worked at a tech startup and as a producer at Crispin Porter Bogusky in Miami.
Bette Ann earned a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and currently lives in New York City with her husband, Jason, and her dog, Clifford.
I’m your host Alexis Trammell. If you enjoy today’s episode, we hope you sign up for Perlu to learn more about how you can grow your influencer marketing career.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Bette Ann.
Bette Ann: Of course, I’m excited to be here.
Tell us more about what kinds of programs you are running at Lyft.
How are your current programs unique from the work that you’ve done in the past?
Bette Ann: Yes, so influencer marketing at Lyft is unique because we really focus on social impact. So when we think about influencer marketing, we think of it as a tiered approach. We work with micro influencers; we work with mid-tier or macro influencers; and we work with big celebrities. We also do influencer events and co-marketing events in the entertainment space. But a lot of these campaigns and events have a layer of social impact.
Influencer marketing is really a primer – it’s not our entire marketing campaign, but it’s definitely a big part of the strategy. We think of influencer marketing happening both digitally and in real life. As I mentioned, we like to do a lot of events and partner on events that have influencers and an entertainment component.
At Lyft, we’re really a mission-driven company, and we are trying to make transportation accessible for all. In doing that, we have a lot of social impact campaigns. And in this age, influencers are really looking for something meaningful to talk about. That allows us to authentically engage with influencers, and it really is less transactional than my past career.
Perlu: When we previously spoke, you mentioned that 99% of your work for Lyft marketing is to make a social impact, and you listed several highly creative and showstopping influencer campaigns for social good, from fighting food inequality and empowering the trans and non-binary communities to facilitating conversations around immigration.
Could you tell our listeners about these awesome things you and the Lyft marketing team have been achieving?
Bette Ann: So I am super excited because since we last talked, we actually launched a brand new initiative called LyftUp. So you are the first to hear about it. We launched this about two weeks ago, and it’s all about bringing transportation access for all those who really need it most. Nearly 4.5 million Americans do not have access to reliable, affordable transportation. And we really want to change that.
LyftUp is about the notion that everybody should have access, no matter who you are, to reliable, affordable transportation. So within LyftUp, we have a range of programs you touched on a minute ago. One of those programs is our Grocery Access Program where we’re providing transportation for communities to help them get healthy food. Our Jobs Access Program provides access to transportation so that people can either go to interviews, or once they get a job, get to that job. Our Voting Access Program provides people with access to register to vote and get to the polls.
View this post on Instagram
For @KingJames, it all started with a bike. “It was more than a way to go see my friends or play basketball — it was a way of life. A bike opened doors, allowed me to get to safe places after school, and gave me access to opportunities I never would have known.” • • We’re partnering with Lebron James and @uninterrupted to give one-year bikeshare memberships to thousands of young people across the country. 🚲💨 Join us. Link in bio.
Our bike share access is what we really honed in on two weeks ago when we did a big partnership with LeBron James. We partnered with him and his company, Uninterrupted, to really empower thousands of youth by providing them with free one-year bike share memberships.
And for clarity, in case you don’t know, Lyft owns most of the major bike shares across the country: City Bike in New York City, DB Bike in Chicago, Bay Wheels in San Francisco, etc.
With this announcement with LeBron, what’s really interesting is that it was truly a tiered approach in the sense that we had our major celebrity, LeBron, and we partnered with a professional BMXer, Nigel Sylvester, who is top of his game in the BMX world. He’s New York based, and he is a content creator on YouTube and Instagram.
We used him as a creative director for a video that we created in partnership with LeBron. Nigel directed and starred in this video. LeBron had a voiceover in this video. That launched when we launched the partnership. Then we worked with 50 micro influencers from around the country to talk about LyftUp and about why bikes are meaningful to them.
On top of that, we had an unboxing experience where about 25 of our nearest and dearest influencers received boxes of swag — items that were created to go along with the campaign. This campaign is actually still ongoing right now, since it just launched two weeks ago.
I don’t have all of the results, but we have already seen incredible media pickup from this. We expect this to be one of our biggest, most successful influencer campaigns.
Perlu: That is so awesome. What all goes into this kind of work? We’ve got videos, we’ve got celebrities, we’ve got 50 influencers. And it’s in all of the major cities. This is a huge campaign.
Tell me about the work that had to go into this on your end.
Bette Ann: This has definitely taken a long time to come to fruition because there’s a lot of negotiations and figuring out who the right partner is.
LeBron was a natural fit for this because he’s so passionate about bikes. If you Google prior to this launch, “LeBron bike,” there were a lot of articles of him talking about how bikes were so important to him — that when he was younger it all started with a bike. Bikes gave him freedom. Bikes gave him access, and he wanted to be able to provide that to others. And Lyft’s superpower is, of course, transportation. With LeBron’s power and our power combined, we were able to make this happen. That was the spark of the idea. So we collaborated with him to figure out what made the most sense for him.
This word gets thrown around a lot, but a big thing was “finding authentic partners.” This relationship between LeBron and Lyft was so natural because it was something he was passionate about. It was something we were able to provide at scale, and it just made it feel less transactional and more authentic.
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When working with Nigel, he has actually been a friend of the brand for awhile. Back in the day when I was at Google, I also worked with Nigel then, so he’s part of the family. Working with him was such an incredible process because we really went to him as the expert on how to create a video that includes incredible bikers from around New York City. He not only directed the video, but he curated about 10 to 12 youths that were in the video, and then he starred in the video as well. That was a lot of fun.
Instead of just saying, “Hey, Nigel, you’re going to be in this video” and dictating what that video looks like, we had him play a part in the creative process.
In working with influencers, it is very important to have them play part of a role. Because then they just feel more invested, and you’re going to get more out of them.
Perlu: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And we hear that time and time again about how much more powerful a campaign can be whenever you get the creative perspective of the influencer upstream.
Bette Ann: Yeah. And then of course, there were our micro influencers. Their content is still ongoing and coming out.
But we asked our micro influencer community to tell us their story of a bike and why a bike has changed their life. We’ve gotten such amazing stories that have come out on social, like a local New Yorker who immigrated from outside of the United States, moved to New York and used a bike in order to get to school and then in order to get a job.
These stories that the influencers are telling have just been so incredible. And right after that launch, we packed up our bags and went to Sundance where we were the official rideshare partner of Sundance. At Sundance, we decided to do a LyftUp influencer experience to really spread the word of what we were doing with this LyftUp program to the influencer community at Sundance. As I described when I first started, LyftUp encompasses a lot of things; it doesn’t encompass just bike share, but it encompasses job access, grocery access, etc.
We decided to focus on grocery access for our experience at Sundance. And we had about 40 influencers join us for a full day of giving back. We started by visiting a local food bank in Park City called The Christian Center, and we donated bags of food that the influencers packed themselves.
From there, we went to a brunch experience where we flew in chef JJ Johnson from Harlem. He has an incredible restaurant in Harlem called Field Trip, which is all about food equity — bringing healthy good food to communities that don’t have it. So we flew him in to cook an incredible brunch and talk with other thought leaders in the space about what food equity means, what it means to not have access to healthy food, to be a mother of two in the middle of Harlem and have the closest grocery store be 14 blocks away.
Helping these influencers that may not have heard of things like food deserts or food equity, understand what food equity is was so amazing because all the influencers walked away and having learned something and wanting to take action, which I think is very important for influencers today.
Perlu: Oh, I love that. You gave me goosebumps.
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Bette Ann, how did you go about finding those micro influencers, whether it’s the 50 that helped with the bike share program for LyftUp or the food equity event?
How did you know whether these influencers were going to be the right fit?
Bette Ann: When we look at influencers, we really evaluate them based on their content, who they are, their passions. We don’t look for influencers that are just posting various products every single day. We need to make sure that the message they are getting across can really relate to the message that we would like them to share with their audiences.
For example, we look for a diverse group of influencers who are mavericks in their various verticals and pushing their industry forward. If they’re a photographer, they have a unique angle. They have a unique point of view. If they’re a foodie, same thing. If they’re passionate about fashion, the same thing.
We want to make sure that they will be able to be a storyteller for truly align with our brands.
When we work with influencers, we hope it’s not just a one-and-done opportunity. We want to build long lasting relationships. From my time at Google, when I built our micro influencer communities, to today, a lot of those influencers are still with me, and we still work together. I’ve seen them grow and develop to much bigger influencers. Identifying these culture creators, these Mavericks in their various verticals, is the key to success for influencer marketing.
How do you choose when you want to be working with nano, micro, macro or celebrity influencers?
Bette Ann: As I mentioned, with this tiered approach, we really work with micro influencers the most to create this steady drumbeat that really primes an audience.
And that is really on an ongoing timeframe. Monthly, we are working with micro influencers. The bigger macro influencers, we will have them come in, whether it’s to get involved with an event or, like with Nigel Sylvester, a macro influencer, to help direct something. So that’s a little less frequent.
And then our celebrities are really involved around our key campaign moments. Another big celebrity that we worked with was last year during pride was Sasha Valore from RuPaul’s drag race, and she acted as our creative director as well, in partnership with our creative team to help us design and construct a float for New York pride and curate what would happen on our float. We had a campaign that was really empowering the trans and non-binary communities. The campaign was called “Two is Too Few.” The idea was that we wanted to make sure that we were speaking and giving a voice to those communities.
At Lyft, we really took action, and we added all pronouns to our app, which was exciting because other big tech companies followed suit after us. And then we helped our trans and non-binary community of drivers by giving them access to change their name that is on their license, which is a tedious, difficult process.
I’m actually going through that process right now myself to change my name because I recently got married, and it’s very hard to navigate. We gave them the tools and also funds to help them navigate that process. And then Sasha Valore came in and really helped to tell that story.
Sasha was just the most engaged and really gave it her all, and we had such an amazing partnership with her. So to go back to your question, we use celebrities for these big key tent pole moments like that.
Perlu: Yeah, you definitely need some eye catchers for such a big movement like that. That’s beautiful. How powerful is that, that Lyft would change the genders on the app and then everyone else follows? That’s amazing.
Bette Ann: Yeah, I think Lyft is incredible because we don’t just do a marketing campaign. We actually take action. And a lot of brands try to be part of the social impact narrative because it’s so popular today, but they don’t actually do the action. Whereas at Lyft, we are taking action.
Perlu: Making real changes.
Bette Ann: Yeah.
Perlu: It’s amazing.
Who have been some of your favorite celebrities to work with?
Bette Ann: I would have to say my number one was John Legend. He was so incredible to work with. My last big partnership while I was at Google was with John Legend, and we filmed a music video entirely on the Pixel 2, and he was just such a pleasure to work with. So responsive and genuine.
I loved Sasha, as I mentioned before. She was incredible. The year before that for Lyft Pride, we worked with Bobby Berk from Queer Eye. He officiated some LGBTQ weddings on our float in the parade, and he was so fun to work with and it was such a passion of his.
Also, while I was at Google, I worked with Jeff Koons. So not quite a celebrity, but a celebrity artist, and that was such an amazing experience to see his creative genius and how he worked to create a product with us. There’s been a ton more, but those are probably the ones that are at the top of my mind.
Perlu: Wow. What a dream.
How do you see influencer marketing evolving throughout 2020?
Bette Ann: So as I mentioned at the start, I think influencers are searching for meaningful things to talk about.
Influencers are bored, quite frankly. They get offers and pitches day in, day out, and I think at this point in time, they can truly be picky about who they partner with.
And on the inverse of that, brands can be picky about who they partner with. And I think it is more important than ever to find a voice that is going to resonate with the message you’re trying to get across. So in the example I gave around LyftUp and the 50 micro influencers that we were using to tell their bike story, we didn’t want just an influencer who was riding a bike just to ride a bike. We wanted an influencer who really had a story and could relate and relay to their audiences how important that bike was. I think with the climate of the nation and with everything that’s going on, influencers and brands are really looking for that real transparency in each other.
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Perlu: It makes a lot of sense.
What are some of your biggest lessons learned in influencer marketing?
Bette Ann: I’ve been in the industry for about eight or nine years now, before influencer marketing was even influencer marketing.
The biggest learning that I’ve had is that influencers are people. While a lot of brands try to hold them to a higher standard, in the end, they’re human and mistakes are made, and I think in my position you have to be able to know how to work with that and know when to take the step back and say, “you know what, he or she made a mistake, and that’s okay. We’ll get through it. We’re going to fix it.”
A lot of brands really make their influencer partnerships so strict and stringent and transactional that it takes the human aspect out of that.
My biggest advice for anybody else in the industry is just to take a step back and realize that influencers are people too.
Perlu: Show some grace.
Bette Ann: Yeah, exactly.
Perlu: Wonderful. That’s a great message. Thank you so much for sharing that.
Bette Ann: Of course.
Well, thank you so much, Bette, and I have one final question for you….
Bette Ann: Sure.
Perlu: Your dog Clifford. What breed is he? Is he a big red dog?
Bette Ann: He’s a medium-sized red dog. He’s half lab, half Manchester terrier, and he’s turning 12 this year. So he’s an older man, but he’s so great. He’s the best dog ever.
Perlu: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Bette, and I’m so glad that you joined us today. It’s been such a pleasure talking to you about all of these big, big differences that you and Lyft have been making.
Bette Ann: Well, thank you so much. It was so fun chatting. I love talking about this, so thank you for having me today.
Perlu: Awesome, and thank you to everyone listening. We hope you really enjoyed hearing from Bette Ann Schlossberg at Lyft. If you like our show and are interested in what it takes to succeed in influencer marketing, check out our blog at blog.perlu.com for more podcasts and blog posts. And sign up for Perlu at perlu.com to meet, mingle, connect, collaborate and grow your career.
We hope you join us for our next installation of the Perlu Podcast: Influencer Marketing Reimagined.