Jason Will’s years of experience as a consultant at Accenture and Slalom gave him the knowledge to launch his new travel app Zipkick, but he partnered with a social media influencer, Scott Eddy, for the marketing fuel to power the app’s trajectory.

The two have begun an epic road trip with partners in all spheres of travel and transportation. Their efforts epitomize the new paradigm in which a new company no longer needs to wait around to be recognized by print publications to break news or break down walls. Brands realize that traditional marketing efforts are not leading to the desired level of direct user engagement, and they are reallocating their funding toward digital and social media. Facebook, Periscope, SnapChat and Twitter are the millennials The New York Times.

Market intelligence and consulting firm Strategy Analytics published its latest advertising spend figures in the U.S., estimating total expenditure at nearly $187 billion and digital accounts at $52.8 billion of that. That is nearly $30 billion less than TV ad spending. However, digital remains the fastest growing of any category, increasing at a rate of 13 percent this year and up 2.5 percent versus 2014. TV’s number continues to decline annually; it is down 0.6 percent versus 2014). Print, by the way, is substantially less in third place at 15 percent of total ad spend ($28 billion). Meanwhile, social media ad spending is expected to reach $8.3 billion in 2015, up from $2.1 billion in 2014.

This shift to digital media means an opportunity for social media influencers who are able to create real time engagement with their followers at the fraction of the cost. The queen of the phenomena, Kim Kardashian, has built an empire on this principle.

One negative experience with a brand can catch fire on social media, though, and destroy the best efforts of said brand through TV and print media. This denotes the difference between “audience” and “influence.” Just because you have a large following doesn’t necessarily mean you have influence. The content and audience can determine what catches fire and what is background noise on social media platforms.

In Will’s case, he made the choice to bring Eddy, a social media influencer in the travel industry, on board as his brand ambassador. Eddy has worked with Starwood and Marriot in the hotel industry, as well as with other travel brands in assisting them in creating strong audience engagement on social media platforms. Will recruited Eddy off of Twitter. They immediately connected as they are both believers in the dramatic shift occurring in brand marketing, which leverages an influencer’s existing audience and community online and offline to build a brand’s following.

As Eddy has an audience of 671,000+ Twitter followers and growing, Will believes Eddy has the relevance he needs to share his app, the reach as Eddy’s audience is largely interested in travel and resonance as Eddy shares daily content.

The Zipkick roadtrip team (with Scott Eddy on far left and Jason Will in the driver's seat). Photo credit: Larry Wong.

The Zipkick road trip team (with Scott Eddy on far left and Jason Will in the driver’s seat). Photo credit: Larry Wong.

“People follow me on Twitter because sometimes they just want to escape their daily grind of life, they have the opportunity to live my experiences, which for many reasons they might not be able to do,” says Eddy, perhaps echoing the sentiment of many influencers. “But because of their interest and following, when they do have the ability and resources to go to the places I’ve been, they need the tools to make this happen, which is why Will made the decision to leverage my audience to market his app.”

So far it’s worked. Through this engagement, Zipkick has built up over 16,000 followers on Twitter and growing daily, with many travel professionals and travel business reaching out to the company to see how they can be involved in the app. This is prior to the app’s launch, which is scheduled for the last quarter of 2015. (The app will provide personalized, mobile travel search and booking.)

To add some more fuel to their partnership, Will and Eddy are wrapping a KIA Sedona with their new Zipkick logo and driving 6,500 miles in 50 days. For some, that may be more about craziness than about influence, but stay tuned!

Editor’s note: A bit of an influencer herself, Lisa Niver has been invited to join Eddy and Will on part of their Zipkick journey. She will spend one week traveling with them across Utah, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore and Minneapolis.