the hummingbirds


Have you heard of the Hummingbirds? Whitney Warne and Emily Steele are the women behind this buzz-worthy concept and I recently chatted with Emily about how it all came together.

Full disclosure: I’m part of the nest. Also, this interview was edited for length and clarity.

Tell me a little bit about the Hummingbird’s program and its overall purpose.

After realizing so many people look to their social media community when it comes to making decisions about what to buy and what to do, we saw a really unique opportunity at a local level.

Our hummingbird program, put simply, is a micro-influencer marketing service based out of Des Moines (for now!). Many people are familiar with influencer marketing, but we put a spin on it based on geography. Instead of finding one national Instagram influencer with thousands of followers, we partner with businesses to work with 10, 20, 30+ Des Moines-based micro-influencers.

When 30 people are posting about the same restaurant’s grand opening at the same time, people are going to see crossover and immediately be interested and curious. The overall purpose of this service? Help small businesses, nonprofits, local projects, and events create more awareness and ultimately generate sales.

Why did you launch this service when you did? Did you anticipate a strong response?

We had no idea how the Des Moines market would respond, but it's evident based on the partnerships we've already secured that small businesses and corporate America understand the value of individuals sharing their experiences on social.

There are so many studies showing the younger generation is going to social media first when it comes to making purchasing decisions. They want to see what their friends are doing, what they're buying, where they're shopping. Most people my age (I'm a millennial) aren't watching TV ads or reading the newspaper, so we are providing a platform people already know and understand (social media) with local voices.

Talk a bit about why we use the term “hummingbird” in place of “influencer”.

The word influencer can feel so pretentious. Like any label we put on ourselves or others, it comes with other associated positive or negative connotations. We chose "hummingbirds" because it's lighter and quirkier and it doesn't have baggage associated with being an "influencer."

Anyone can be a hummingbird, just like anyone can be an influencer. It's about being intentional about how you're putting yourself out there and the impact you are creating because of your presence. We know everyone is capable of being a community advocate, but some people it comes more naturally to, or they do it because they see the long-term benefits it brings to their career path, business dreams, and everything in-between.

When I was initially tapped to be a part of the next, I was curious how you and Whitney would organize different partnerships. Can you tell me about some of the legwork behind the scenes?

We are learning so much! The legwork that went into creating the nest of hummingbirds was truly a labor of love. We initially reached out to people we knew are supporters of all things Des Moines and then we started getting applications in from people we never met, and had amazing conversations with them about the impact they are making and want to make for our community.

We were very transparent to our birds that we are going to be curating experiences with brands for perks, not for pay. Our belief is that it keeps content more authentic. And birds can always say no if the perk isn't worth their time. The thing is though, these are the humans who want to see local happenings succeed and they were probably already going to go show up at the open house, restaurant grand opening or the annual music festival. However, now they have an incentive.

One thing we also really care about is the bird’s experience with the brand. If it is not positive, we ask them to give us constructive feedback to give the client, versus a negative post. This has never happened, but it's bound to. Clients have to be willing to receive feedback or it's not a good fit for anyone.

What are some goals for the nest looking ahead to 2019? Like, a dream client or dream event etc?

We want to continue matching birds with experiences that bring them a lot of joy, while simultaneously giving businesses a new platform to reach like-minded customers. We would love to partner with more events, restaurants, and boutiques who can give birds a promo code or something fun to offer their friends and family.

Our dream is to really impact the quality of life in Des Moines, not only for our millennial's who want a fun place to get a smoothie, but how do we use these people's voices for causes and nonprofit events, as well? Ultimately, we want to help businesses get creative in reaching people and both Whitney and I thrive on helping businesses open their mind to possibilities and partnerships that can really expand their reach and overall impact.