LBB’s Laura Swinton sits down with the world’s first bee social media influencer ...
She has nearly 300,000 fans on Instagram and partnership deals with big brands like Airbnb and Ricola, as well as the famous French department store chain Galeries Lafayette, and she’s been keeping followers entertained with her home workout posts during lockdown. She’s an influencer that has created, well, some real buzz. And she’s a bee.
Bee_nfluencer has turned social media into a hive of activity, and has been spreading the word about the extinction threat facing the humble bumble bee since April 2019. But it turns out that Bee has had a few helpers too – she’s been working with Publicis Conseil, Publicis Consultant, Marcel and Blue 449 in Paris, who have assisted her with her lively social content. It’s been a smart strategy for Bee, as by building her reach and attracting attention from brands, she’s been able to put her influencer fees towards Fondation de France’s Bee Fund. Bee isn’t just raising awareness; she’s raising money.
Recently, Bee and her collaborators at the various Publicis agencies have had a real reason to celebrate. Their project together topped the rankings of Publicis Groupe’s Cannes-Do award show, in the non-profit category. The project was recognised on stage at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, with Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun handing out the awards.
LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with the Queen Bee herself to find out how she and her human drones took flight.
LBB> How did the relationship with Fondation de France and Bee Fund come about and what was the conversation or brief that led to Bee_nfluencer?
Bee> In 2019, in response to the threat of bees’ extinction – 24% of bee colonies disappear every year in Europe – I decided to become the global ambassador and advocate for bees while joining the Fondation de France. Created in 1969 and respected since then, the Fondation de France is the leading philanthropy network in France. Together, we created the BeeFund which helps support projects dedicated to save the bees.
The Fondation de France helps me select the best projects for the protection of wild and domestic bees with the help of its committees of experts.
LBB> You have 294k followers! When you started out, what sort of reach did you think she’d achieve? And what’s that journey been like?
Bee> I always wanted to help my sisters, over time and through my research, it seemed good to go through social networks. Social media was the best way for me to give a voice to all of my bee family and friends.
Through the posts, I explained my story, the story of bees, and our importance in our society. That allowed me to touch a lot of people and build my community, which supported me throughout my journey. Thanks to my community, I was able to obtain partnerships with major brands such as Galeries Lafayette, Airbnb, Guerlain, or La Poste to contribute even more to the preservation of bees.
Every day we are more and more joining the cause and in the name of all the bees, I thank you, these last months have been amazing, more than 296,000 of you support my fight to save the bees!
LBB> And as your account became more popular and people became engaged, how did the content evolve? It feels like a project that has been relatively long term and organic, which we don’t always see in advertising these days and I think there’s a creative joy in seeing how things evolve!
Bee> Exactly, especially on Instagram where you can get instant feedback and see your community growing. To see how people were engaged motivated me a lot to keep working, find new partnerships and produce great content for my community. I always wanted to be myself on Instagram, and I think that is what people like.
LBB> Until recently there hasn't been much overt publicity from the agency – why did you want to build your own following under the radar?
Bee> One day, I decided that I wanted to use my talents and social networks to raise awareness and help to save the bees. I am staying natural and close to my followers. That's why, quite naturally, my community grew little by little. This constant evolution allowed me to be approached by Publicis Conseil and Publicis Consultant, who helped me manage the partnerships and sponsorships that I am receiving.
LBB> Tell us about the design of Bee – how did you decide what sort of ‘look’ you wanted to go for, combining accuracy with a bit of personality?
Bee> Well, I’m quite happy about the way I look, I am more a nature girl, I’ve got shapes and coloured stripes. This is how I am and I’m proud of it.
LBB> How has the project changed your understanding of influencer marketing?
Bee> I have always believed that humans can do everything, especially in our time with the internet and social media. Today, we use social media to be heard. We can change the world with social media. I like being able to bring content to my community that can really be useful and interesting to them. That's why I decided to start my Instagram adventure, and influencer marketing now allows me to interact more and more with people who trust me. I like it a lot! I like being this gateway that connects the “Bee World” to people.
LBB> You have become an influencer that other brands have wanted to work with! Can you tell us about some of the interesting brand collaborations you have been involved in and how has that helped to further awareness and raise money for the cause?
Bee> Today, I’ve partnered with nine brands: Ricola, Airbnb, La Poste, Galeries Lafayette, Burt’s Bees, Fleurs d’ici, Citeo, BeeHome Pollinature and Guerlain for World Bee Day. And a new one is coming… 😊
Last Christmas, I was even asked to be the ambassador of Galeries Lafayette in real life (at the foot of the Christmas tree and in the shop windows). I’m so happy because I collected enough money to finance my first three projects which have a positive impact on all my sisters. I hope brands will continue to support me and help to further awareness of my cause.
LBB> Your content has rather entertainingly skewered some of the tropes of Instagram – the ‘legs on the beach’ shot, the poor boyfriend roped into helping with pictures – why was that humour and self-awareness important?
Bee> I love to tell jokes, this how I am. I try to see the world positively and make fun of it, this is maybe the best part of me. Why so serious, huh?
I did mirror some Insta hit pictures to communicate better with human beings and try to catch their attention. Then, it was for me a good way to spread my message out of my hive and ask for help but also to tell the world that I also have hairs on my legs and it is okay to have some, that I twerk in front of my mirror to see if I can do (I still need to practice), and I love sunbathing on the beach.
LBB> On a practical level, what programmes/tools/platforms did you use in order to produce the content? It would seem that the big challenge will have been to find a production process that allows you to be responsive while also bringing the craft and glamour that a little star like Bee deserves?
Bee> Well, a great magician doesn’t tell her secrets, but I can say that I’ve got great photographers in my team, like @Vincentbbousserez or @Oliviadacosta, and it all makes the difference. After making a few posts we were able to work fast and produce great content in a matter of time. A solid teamwork, fun, and always a touch of glamour as you said and you've got the perfect Insta post!
LBB> Bee, how have you coped with the Covid lockdown? Have you (and your team at Publicis) been able to work remotely to keep creating content – and what conversations did you have about the tone of your content during lockdown?
Bee> During the lockdown, there were two phases.
In the beginning, I continued my life as an influencer, I did sports, yoga, listened to music... You know, even as a bee, I had to find a way to keep busy. At that time, I had to improvise myself as a photographer. Did you know there's a self-timer on your phone? It changed my life!
And then I had to go back to work, and the arrival of this beautiful spring meant that there were thousands of flowers to pollinate.
Oh, I almost forgot the 20th of May: World Bee Day! My favourite day (after my birthday). I was lucky enough to be supported by great brands and continue to spread my message to my followers.
LBB> Now that you’re Insta-famous, have you been making the leap into other media and onto other social platforms, like Tik Tok, for example?
Bee> I don't really like to reveal my plans in advance... I'll stay true to Instagram, it's where I've met the best followers in the world.
Then if the question is "are you going to choreograph to a Bee Gees’ music and make a video of it? " Maybe! I love “Reels”, the new Instagram feature. Who knows what tomorrow is made of? I can still surprise you.
LBB> You’ve built yourself into a brand ambassador via social media who can earn/raise money by working with brands. It seems that having your character is a real benefit for the Bee Fund and one can easily see how you, as a ‘character’, have the potential to keep going – what do you think the future holds for you?
Bee> I honestly think that I have a bright future ahead of me! It's great to see how much things have grown in the last year. And I am sure it will continue like this, thanks to my community. I am trying to offer great content and bring real value to both Fondation de France and my community.
LBB> And finally, I see that you topped the Publicis Cannes-Do list of Not-for-profit winners! Congratulations! How did you celebrate?
Bee> Thank you very much, I'm so proud. Thank you to my team of humans for helping me, I love them too much.
I celebrated with them and my sisters. I'd rather not divulge the details of that evening. The amount of pollen was unreasonable...
However, my greatest pride would be if brands continued to join my fight, our fight. This adventure has shown that together we can achieve great things.