Elma Beganovich, one of the top New York City's lifestyle influencers and founder of A&E, talks about our shift into the digital age. Discussing the evolution of marketing this past year and business strategies behind influencer marketing; how influencers are impacting brands in 2021.
06:00 - How marketing is evolving
08:15 - Tips for influencers during the pandemic
13:55 - How to become an influencer
16:15 - Advice for businesses working with influencers and collaborations
Welcome back to another episode of the EventBuzz podcast presented by Purplepass. Today's episode is for professionals out there trying to boost their online traffic. Maybe someone who is constantly asking themselves the famous string of questions.
"How can I make my website more discoverable online? Why is my engagement so low? Why is nothing I do working?"
Today's guest is Elma Beganovich, a digital marketing authority and founder of A&E, a full service marketing agency. As one of the top New York City's lifestyle influencers, she has been named a leading influencer marketing expert by Forbes, Business Insider, Financial Times, Entrepreneur and many more.
Elma, thanks for coming on the show. We are so excited to have you today. How are you doing?
Thank you, Savannah. I'm doing well. Thank you for having me.
Yeah, um, so let's just jump in. I want to just start by having you do a brief introduction of who you are, a little bit about A&E, so our listeners know who's talking to them today.
Sure. So, yeah, about us, basically, yeah. So Amra, who is also my sister and business partner, we started in late 2012. This was before Facebook even had its pages out. A world before then, but yeah, we started and essentially, we started as a blog, at the time, they weren't that many do it yourself, blogs. And then essentially, we, you know, garnered, I think it was like over the first few months, over 100,000 unique monthly visitors.
And that's when brands started approaching us. Essentially, we, you know, shifted to as social media grew, including Instagram, we switched to social media grew to influencers got over 2 million followers, and then essentially, companies started working with us as influencers, they asked us, you know, can you do something else, you know, with us? Could you essentially replicate your same model of success on social media?
So, you know, we, while we didn't know, at the time, we essentially became an agency, digital agency. So we started doing services, anything from growing the following, to influencer your partnerships, and now to Google ranking.
So we're able to rank businesses, number one on Google using, you know, their, you know, competitors keywords, for example, Google keywords. So yeah, anything essentially digital, to just to channel and to sales.
I like how far it's came from just starting from your blog. What was your theme? What was your blog about? When you first start?
Yeah. Yeah, at the time, we had, you know, like I said, they weren't, there wasn't that much do it yourself content actually not, you know, not much at all. At the time, you know, you had Vogue, you had InStyle, your Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar, and so forth. So these are essentially, you know, big publications were kind of telling women, you know, what to buy, where to go, you know, essentially how to feel.
And so, you know, what it obviously happened, you know, the media distance itself, via at the time, it was very interactive, so, was very relatable, and I think our content, the way that, you know, our followers described, it was basically was like a prettier version of everyday, so it was more relatable.
And the content, you know, it spanned from for example, you know, travel, vacation and budget, which everyone was interested in. To, you know, how to make a face mask out of your kitchen ingredients. So, you know, this is kind of on theme with Lush at the time.
So, yeah, people wanted this, like, do it yourself, they wanted something that was more relatable, more affordable. And so I think we addressed that market, and therefore, you know, had quite a bit of traction.
Yeah and I think, too, that you guys were so far ahead of the times and the trends, that really helped a lot, because right now, there's, it's so much competitive. If I was like, I'm gonna go do a do it yourself. blog. Like, it's everywhere you turn, there's everything.
Right, right, yeah, no, at the time, there was no there at the time, there was actually only like, five influencers. So and, you know, we, we started looking at them and following them. So and we thought this is, you know, especially I have to give credit to Amra, who was mentioned, my sister and business partner. She was a visionary in that sense that she really saw, you know, that Instagram, and then you know, influencers would essentially explode. And so we got on to that.
But again, at the time, no one knew exactly, you know, how it would pan out.
Okay, awesome. Yeah, I was curious, I guess, got started or like that. And that's great. I have an older sister too. And that sounds like we have a great relationship as well, as I'm sure you and your sister do to be business partners. So that's, that's so fun. It's so fun.
I mean, I'm assuming.
Yeah, no, it's it's been great. It's been challenging, but it's also great. As you mentioned, also that, you know, before we started this, I was at Georgetown Law, I was doing my LLM program in Securities and Financial Regulations and Amra was working on World Bank project.
So we were both in Washington DC, we had these sort of like, serious, you know, professional trajectories. And then obviously took a complete, yeah, deviation from that path.
Yeah. You never know, you never know where life's gonna lead you. That's for sure. So just to dive in, we have a lot of our event, promoters, listening, and one thing that kind of has seemed to pop up a lot during this pandemic, a question is marketing, obviously. I'm curious, have you seen a big change in marketing practices during COVID? During this pandemic?
I know a lot of people are spending more time online, spending more time on social media, if that's possible, the TikTok movement. I was just curious, from your perspective, how you think marketing has kind of evolved during this time if it has?
Yeah, so absolutely. We've had you know, we've had more than ever requests and bounds about you know, our services. So digital marketing, I think, essentially, everyone's you know, going into the digital shift. So meaning you know, ecommerce mainly and essentially with the pandemic, I was reading the other day data study, but basically accelerated, like, by five years into the future, like in terms of the ecommerce and online shopping.
So yeah, people are spending more time online on their mobiles. So that obviously, really kind of, you know, shifted the dynamics from, you know, from physical location, obviously, because of the lockdowns as well.
So, yeah, I think that, you know, in terms of, you know, online and promotion and marketing, yeah, it's been very, very, yeah, kind of like, abruptly changed. So, and then obviously, what has helped also is, you know, social media is also developing technologies, anywhere from around Instagram swipe ups, to track your, you know, essentially ROI, your traffic to, you know, igtv, to Instagram Live. People is essential to Instagram shopping as well, they've been really, you know, kind of using, yeah, using all the tools available.
So essentially, now, you know, anybody can, you know, kind of get into the game in terms of to be seen by millions of people if you're savvy enough to use the technology available.
Exactly. Now's the time to become an entrepreneur and just go for it. I mean, maybe not the pandemic, but because technology, our technology's amazing. And like you said, growing rapidly, and everything you need is available.
And so COVID has definitely pushed us well into the future, really fast, especially with remote work. It's crazy.
Yeah, yeah, that's exactly right.
And obviously, for us, and I'm sure, everyone, it's been a really tough year. It's been a tough year specifically for events. I'm curious to know, how has your past year what did it look like for you guys? I know, you said that you actually gotten more business, which is amazing.
But when it comes to being an influencer, I know that's a big thing, being limited to traveling and, you know, having those hands on experiences, especially when it comes to working with clients who, who need whose services are hands on, and they specialize in different products that people kind of need to see. How have you guys navigated that?
Yeah, so in terms of, you know, for influencers, you know, most of our work, you know, about, you know, 95 to 97%, is just revolves around their agency. So actually, like, very little do we do as influencers, but I know, in general, from influences we work with, and that we have in our personal network.
You know, it's been, you know, we even did this panel discussion, it was actually a virtual event, through Entrepreneur Magazine, and basically the influencers, were all talking about this sort of stay-at-home economy, so you can no longer showcase to your followers, you know, some beautiful travel destinations. You may even, you know, look tone deaf, if you go there and take the risk yourself because people are not obviously in that, that mood, you know, some may argue, well, they still want to dream, yes.
But so, basically, you know, the way to, you know, win your followers, you know, attention is also to be relatable, meaning you know, that they can, you know, they can see themselves doing what you're doing so, you know. Basically the stay at home economy shifted to you know, work out videos, shifted to cooking, even gardening.
So, you know, anything revolving around the home and sort of your, you know, everyday look and what you know, day to day life looks like right now. So yeah, influencers have also had to adjust and like again like saying you can't be tone deaf so pretending this is not going on and you know, some have outright gotten backlash who do you know go out or disregard or they you know, tested positive for COVID and still went out.
So, you know, some have even like, taken their accounts private because of the backlash because of their behavior. And some have publicly apologized to kind of, you know, others followed suit, as well to see that numerous times especially because social media so interactive, and people have more time on their hands.
So they're gonna be more busy bodies, if you are more active online, they will, you know, they will give you their opinions and feedback. And sometimes they're very strong. So yeah, tread carefully for, you know, for influencers included.
Yeah, that's a good point. I think now with which I love how our, our everything's changing, how we market is changing. And I think people really value authenticity now, and being real, open and raw. And I really like that we're coming to that instead of being photoshopped, edited and fake. So like you said, Be real adjust with, adjust with your audience what they need, they'd, like you said, they don't need travel pictures right now, maybe they need tips on how to stay in shape at home, working at home and being a teacher for their children.
So adaptability is key I would think for influencers but and then the clients working with them. Because I mean, I'm sure it's well, actually, I don't know where you hands on before was it a lot of Zoom calls in the past or?
No we were, you know, very hands on before we had events, live events, you know, that we would host and we would also invite influencers and caterers and work with hotels. So yeah, hands on, they would come to our office, here in Times Square.
So, but now, yeah, it's shifted to calls or Zoom calls or Google Meets.
So yeah, everything essentially, you know, all the coordination part, the introduction part, everything has shifted to, you know, virtual. So that's been me, you know, it's been interesting. But, I mean, obviously, for us, I think we're fortunate in the sense that it is doable, for obviously, other businesses, it's not.
But yeah, businesses do, they're trying to be creative in terms of how to address their target demographic. So for example, you know, within the beauty industry, you have a lot of, you know, orientation towards self care.
And then the video gaming industry, for example, has been blossoming and that's obvious. Because of, you know, people's daily activities are limited.
So, you know, some industries have done really well and some of you know, like, the travel industry and fashion industry to have really taken a hit. And even fashion industry has had to, you know, pivot. So, you know, for example, focus on active wear. So, yeah, they're, you know, every industry is looking for opportunities and looking how to adjust, you know. Because of our lifestyles right now.
Yeah. Yep. It's all about keeping up with the trends. Okay, so switch it up, you guys, you and your sister are obviously big influencers. That's how you kind of grew this business. For people looking that are interested in that kind of entrepreneurship becoming an influencer there themselves, what would you say is the biggest piece of advice you could give them?
And I know, for a lot of people, I have a few friends that have been trying to be like influencers for a while and there comes, they come to a point where they kind of hit that marker of followers and engagement and they stay at, and they they struggle with getting their their growth and boosting their engagement.
That's the biggest challenge I see with them when they're trying to grow their accounts. So I'm just wondering if you had any, like, piece, one piece of advice you would give someone that's looking into this?
Yeah. I mean, I would say, you know, something that's really important to consider, it's basically, you know, for influencers and the reason they're so valuable is because essentially, they've become basically mini production houses, if you will. So they're like, basically studios, that are producing this, you know, incredible for, you know, for their resources given content and that others are, you know, you know, they basically stay glued to because if you look at you know, production and yeah, studios, you know, like ABC, universal, I mean, they have, you know, a lot more to work with when the content they produce.
So, influencers are, you know, it's, you know, they're a huge phenomenon, because they're able to do this with like two people. And so I would say, you know, people trying to break in, or yeah, get past, you know, it, content is still King. And you know, you know, whether it's on Google or on social media, so you have to really be creative with your content and understand your own brand. And so, you know, become distinct, so we become memorable. But then you also have to, you know, basically, you know, invest a lot of time into the content production planning. And, obviously, as you go further along, you will get better and better, but always keep your brand in mind.
And I think with that, you know, word of mouth marketing, nothing substitutes that. So if you can figure out your content strategy, I think, you know, you're, you know, at least halfway there in terms of getting gaining your followers.
And for businesses who want to make influencers part of their marketing strategy, how would you, what would you suggest for them looking, looking into forming these types of relationships? Like, what's the what would be the approach for a business that wants to reach out to an influencer, and maybe form a partnership?
I think, you know, advice for businesses, you really have to know the, you know, the influencer market. I mean, now it's become so vast, so you have to, you know, if you're within the beauty industry, really, like, roll up your sleeves and understand who the you know, what we call the Epicenter of Influence, is in that space.
So for example, you know, use fashion, you know, there's Chiara ferragni. And there is, you know, Brianboy. Brianboy has fraction of followers that she does, but he's just as influential in the fashion community. So, you know, and in fact, she follows him. So you know, anything that you want to set a trend, you can go to him for a fraction of the cost, for example, than her because of the following.
So, yeah, you have to really, really know you can't just, you know, you can't have an intern or somebody who's you know, fresh out of college, you basically have to have a professional who's going to handle your influencer marketing strategy. And I think that, you know, there's no getting, you know, there's no shortcuts, and there's no way getting around that. So that would definitely, I think, would be a good starting point.
And you guys specialize in in that as well, right? A&E someone came to you, that's what you guys do?
Right? So we do, you know, variety, obviously, influencer marketing has evolved. So, you know, we do a variety of, you know, services. For example, you know, we had a fashion brand from Europe approached us and say, you know, we want to do basically, exclusive collection with certain set of influencers, basically celebrities and mega influencers. And they would just, you know, we use their face and their likeness and our website, and they designed this, like, you know, five, six piece collection.
And so, you know, things like that, like limited collections to just, you know, pay partnerships in terms of they post something for the product. Or, yeah, like, you know, it used to be events or trips, and now it's turning to virtual events.
So yeah, different types of, you know, they could be, you know, for example, Zoom calls and panel discussions and Instagram Live. So, but where, you know, they basically have their followers join and then talk, you know, with someone from brand, for example.
So, yeah, it's a variety of different types of partnership, or even forming of like a brand partnership with a, you know, vitamin brand and then having the influencer sell, you know, have a namesake brand under that by a brand and sell through their own website.
So yeah, it's a variety of different partnerships, that we do services based on obviously, the brand's needs and based our advice to the brands, how they should, you know, approach their influencer marketing strategy.
Yeah, influencers have become such a huge, huge trend. And it's hard for people that are traditional and are aren't used to this, and we kind of been pushed into the future really fast. So I'm like, you need to get online, you need to look into these partnerships, look, people that are really hesitant about social media, and I'm like you have to be on that. You have to whether you like it or not, you kind of have to go to the audiences. So kind of forced us to either evolve or, you know, jump off, jump overboard and get out.
I guess so just to wrap it up. Keep it brief. I tend to end with the question or at least, um, any tips that you might want to leave the listeners that are, like I said, kind of slowly coming into the transition online, new to the world new to social media. Just something you might want to say or where they should start if it's a kind of like a new experience to them.
Yeah, that's a good question. I think, you know, they should start that no matter you know what size the business, you should do you know, where you can start small but make sure like I said, it's you know, working with a professional. Don't think that you will, you know, get away with, again hiring an intern or you know someone who's you know, fresh out of college, who's never done this.
So hire yeah professional, someone who's mature and even if they take baby steps, it's okay because you know that, you know, one baby step, you know, for somebody who knows what they're doing.
It's, you know, gonna get you, you know, 10 times further than, you know, having somebody who has no clue, you know, working on it, like, you know, 20 to 40 hours a week, and then you wouldn't even have to go up and, you know, clean up the mess.
So don't that's, I think that's like one of the biggest mistakes that somebody who doesn't know this, they can dismiss it easily and say, "Well, you know, my niece can do". Um no they cannot, it's, it's a way to evolve for that, you know, phase.
So, yeah, I would definitely say yeah, start out with a professional like, even if it's something small, it's better than, you know, like, do nothing, or even worse? I don't know which one actually is worse than having someone who's completely inexperienced, yeah, or to start something or yeah, to throw. I think also to just not understand how to budget with influencers that can quickly turn into a disaster.
Yeah, that's a good point. That's a good point. Yeah, social media is a full time job. If you want to see if you want to see real engagement, you got to be like commenting, you got to be engaging liking, following the trends 24/7. It's like a dedicated role and I don't think people realize that.
Yeah, it's a very dedicated role and then, you know, also make sure that you have someone from the technology side work together with someone from the marketing side to set up basically, you know, you need a way to track your conversions, your traffic, you know, what happens in the consumer decision journey.
Why did they drop off?
So, basically, to have an integrated marketing approach.
Yeah. Yeah. I agree, you need a whole marketing team, for sure. Okay, well, thanks so much for taking the time out for joining me. And I know you've had a busy week, so I'll let you get back to it and enjoy the rest of your weekend weekend.
Okay, thank you, Savannah.