It all began with two Beganovich sisters; one an economist, and the other a lawyer, who decided to quit their day jobs and make their dream to create an influencer marketing agency a reality. They first set out to be influencers on social media, gaining an online following of over 2.2 million followers before setting up A&E. Today, A&E, founded by Amra and Elma, is a global brand with a powerful portfolio of Fortune 500 companies as clients, including Netflix, Wells Fargo, Proctor & Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson, among others. The firm specialises in influencer marketing campaigns, social media marketing, branding and content creation. They make use of social media influencers, a new crop of people who have the ability to sway the purchasing power of their audience. Influencer marketing is where you connect your brand with online influencers who then market your business to their followers. The New York-based firm has since spread its wings in Africa too, and they share how a startup can benefit from local influencers.
Why does an established business person need a social media influencer to do marketing for me?
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Amra: We have worked in both Europe and Africa and similar concepts apply. If brands already have revenue and are looking to work on their marketing and branding, both of which are very important in terms of competitiveness in the market, what they need to realise is social media has no borders. You can reach your audience from anywhere and it is quick and cost-effective, for example through influencer partnerships. Influencer marketing is an exceptionally effective way for you to reach interested consumers. It delivers 11 times higher return on investment than other forms of digital marketing and marketers often see a seven times return on their investment. The good thing about social media is no matter where you are in the world or what your background is, we all have equal footing. With a quality product or service, the traditional gatekeepers that used to exist are no longer there.
How do you get the right influencer for your brands?
Elma: First you will need to roll up your sleeves and do a thorough search on who you want to partner with within your industry. Finding an influencer who is within your niche is also top priority. The second thing is to not focus necessarily on the size of the followers the influencer has, but rather the reputation in the industry. Before diving into the market you have to know your own industry. You can do this by searching relevant hashtags to find influencers in your niche. Another great way is to look through comments and find engagement. Take for instance Bryanboy, a Filipino fashion blogger and socialite. He is also well followed in the West and he only has about 562.4K followers on Instagram, which is low compared to many other influencers with about 10 million followers. Despite his numbers, he has true influence in the fashion community. In line with that, find influencers who have very good engagement. Research and find out if their followers are asking questions and if they’re responding and how are they talking to their followers. If you find someone with a modest following that has really good engagement then pick that influencer. Also ensure that your brand values are aligned with theirs. If you are an eco-friendly company and use recycled material to make a product, find influencers who care about sustainability.
Can you as the business owner become an influencer for your products on social media platforms?
Amra: Definitely. There’s nothing more powerful than being your own brand influencer. Ultimately, if you are the founder of a company, you should definitely put yourself out there because people want to hear from you. You are definitely the most passionate about the mission of the brand. However, it’s one thing to endorse yourself and it’s a completely different thing to be endorsed by someone else. When someone else says they love your product or service, they are validating your brand. That is why it’s also important to find someone compatible with your brand to represent it as a user.
It is noteworthy that companies in Kenya prefer to go with controversial and scandalous people because that attracts numbers. Is this the way to go?
Elma: I think that will only go so far. You may get more reactions and more eyeballs but if you’re trying to sell a product or a service, it’s not about being seen by many people, but by the right people. Just because someone is notorious for scandals does not mean the onlookers and followers view that person as a trustworthy source. They may just be following for the entertainment. You always want to look at the conversion rate as a company and not necessarily getting clients to purchase but even customers going on your website and signing up for your newsletter.
What is your advice to other entrepreneurs in the digital marketing space?
Amra: Be patient because what you’re doing is long-term and there are no shortcuts to success. You have to take the stairs. Do it the right way the first time around or else it will backfire. For example, if you’re building a website, use the right server that is compatible with Google Search so that you get ads from Google. Lastly, make sure the content is quality and is something people would like to read or watch for long periods. Above all, be flexible. Do not be set on one path. For my sister and me, we started as influencers and now we run a digital marketing agency and we didn’t know this would be our path. So be ready to go where it takes you.