Amra & Elma Beganovich of A&E are two successful women in the influencer marketing world that have taken New York City by storm. Together they have built A&E, a digital agency with the largest client portfolio of Fortune 500 companies such as Wells Fargo, J&J, P&G, and Netflix. Not to mention Amra and Elma, are mega influencers with over 2.2 million social followers!
When the opportunity to have an interview with Elma Beganovich of A&E arose, I knew I had to have a virtual sit down with her to pick her brain. Amra and Elma are capable of not only giving insight into building a brand from the bottom up but also an insight into what influencer marketing agencies look for when selecting influencers for campaigns.
Influencer Insights with Elma of A&E
What is the best way an influencer help demonstrate ROI for brands?
Firstly, as a digital agency, A&E always advises brands to have a clearly defined goal of how the brand wants to measures ROI. For instance, is the brand measuring ROI through any of these Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – follower growth, website traffic (if so, what tools is the brand using to measure its incoming traffic?), forms being filled out (e.g., newsletter forms or sweepstake forms), impressions (available through Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc.), store foot traffic, brand sentiment, post engagement, promo codes, or pieces of content produced? There are many KPIs from which a brand can choose from; the brand needs to have these in place to match its goals. Once the brand has outlined the way it measures ROI, and it may be several different ways depending on the campaign or fiscal quarter, then it becomes easier to have a conversation with influencers.
Secondly, the influencer, on his or her part, can have great engagement, between 2% to 6%, on posts or have well thought through and curated personal brand to demonstrate to be a strong partner for the brand. Lastly, the influencer should understand the KPIs of each campaign and can mention some of the successes his/her campaigns have had in the media kit, e.g., new followers for the brand in a giveaway, impressions, reach, click-through rate, etc.
As a company, what is the largest metric you are currently looking for in an influencer?
The metrics A&E uses to evaluate an influencer of course depends on the brand’s goals/KPIs. We discuss the brand’s goals first before coming up with a specific KPI to measure the campaign. Typically, we do look at the influencer’s engagement compared to his/her following size, the reputation of the influencer within a specific industry or region, and the values the influencer is repeatedly communicating to his/her followers. A&E encourages influencers to share insights and analytics/demographics for particular campaigns.
Also, it’s very important for influencers to have a clearly defined brand, a personal brand. Influencers are also brands and need to think through their personal brands carefully. Which target demographic is the influencer trying to address? What is the aesthetic the influencer wants to be recognized by – there should be an aesthetic carefully thought through that makes the influencer’s brand very discernable. Lastly, what values are the influencer communicating to his or her audience on an ongoing basis – is the influencer vegan, eco-friendly/focused on sustainability, an activist for particular causes, etc?
Does a micro-influencer with no previous collaborations hold any weight with their competition?
For paid campaigns, A&E definitely looks at the brands the influencer has worked with in the past to make sure that those brands are complementary to our client’s values and that the influencer is not working closely with major competitors. For collaborations, non-paid partnerships, A&E account managers understand that every micro-influencer, up and coming talent, has to start somewhere. Hence, if the engagement is amazing, e.g. 6%, and the content aligns with the brand’s values, the micro-influencer without collaborations stands a great chance of starting to work with the brand! On a side note, we always encourage micro-influencers to start somewhere, and to build a portfolio of brands they have worked with even an exchange basis.
Do you work with influencers who have a large amount of sponsored posts?
Yes, A&E mostly works with mid-sized companies and large privately held companies and corporations; hence, there is an advertising budget to spend. With that said, A&E sometimes organizes influencer trips, and fun events, for which influencers are willing to forgo being paid and participate in the brand experience. I think clients are always looking for talent, so whether or not an influencer has secured a large amount of sponsored posts may not be what makes or breaks the brand-influencer partnership. The ultimate question always is does the influencer have the target demographic the brand is trying to reach?
What are the biggest reasons why you decline to work with an influencer?
The selection process of the influencer is always ultimately up to the brand – it depends on many factors such as the approved budget, values, and timing. With that said, an influencer may not have great engagement, e.g., below 1%, or the values of the influencer do not align with the brand’s, and A&E always takes into account both of those factors when making selections and presenting the influencer list to the brand.
What is your favorite type of influencer to work with?
The A&E team has guidelines to work with influencers who are professional, i.e., have professionally curated feeds, are timely, and their brand is clearly defined, including values and aesthetic. This makes it easy for A&E as an agency to pitch the influencers to various clients across industries, e.g., food, tech, fashion, and beauty.
Is aesthetic really that important?
Aesthetic is extremely important for some industries, e.g., fashion and luxury. For other industries, it may not be as important. For all brands, as I mentioned previously, the ultimate goal is to reach their target demographic and have the influencer endorse their service or product. Industries, like the fashion and luxury industries, do carefully evaluate the influencer’s aesthetic. As a tip, an influencer can pick a few Fortune 500 or Fortune 1000 brands and align his/her image with that brand because there are industry leaders and then other brands within that industry that follow the trail of that corporate giant, e.g., Target and many of the brands it carries.
How about follower count?
At A&E, we do scrutinize the follower count but it’s as equally as important to have a strong engagement so that the brands see that the influencer’s followers are loyal and engaged. The ultimate question is how authentic is the following and how engaged is the audience with the influencer and is the influencer responsive to his/her followers? Yes, A&E and brands read comments from the posts!
Business Questions with A&E
What are your 3 favorite tools as a business?
As a marketing agency, at A&E, we love Google Analytics; Muck Rack is great for finding media, and AWS is really robust to back up our data.
What would you do differently if you were starting over now?
I would tell a budding entrepreneur, who is thinking to start a business, to work at as an executive assistant to the CEO or one of the top executives in that company in order to learn the ins and outs of the business from that executive leader. Amra and I did it the long way – we became influencers first and then founded a digital agency. Whatever your passion may be, fashion, beauty, etc., work in that industry and work as an assistant, who is close to one of the executives of the company, forgo even better-paid positions in order to learn – to get the big picture of the business and what your every day would ultimately look like as a CEO of a company you want to build.
What books and/or people had the most influence on you?
I follow leaders like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg. I think it’s important to understand the attitude, perspective, and pain points that founders go through in order to build companies that change the world. A book that I really liked reading recently is What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence by Stephen Schwarzman; the book is a superb example of the painstaking journey, and all of the twists and turns in between, a founder, a self-made man, undertakes in order to build a company that is revered in that industry. It’s a story of perseverance and triumph.
What has been your biggest win as a company to date?
For A&E, there have been several wins, which I think made Amra and I very excited about the future of the company. For example, one of the wins was when a well-known technology reported from the Financial Times came to our office in Times Square to do an exclusive interview of A&E. Other exciting wins were having exclusive pieces on Business Insider, including being part of a documentary on influencers, and Forbes, and going to Bloomberg studios for a television appearance. On the client side, exciting wins were working with Fortune 500 companies and industry leaders like Nestle, EssilorLuxottica, J&J, and P&G. I think being part of global and nationwide campaigns is always exciting for us.
What platforms do you utilize to market your business?
For A&E, we market our business through several channels, including social media, Google and then referrals, e.g., if we’ve done a great job for one client or losing out on a contract but having that prospect refer the agency to another brand. Advice – it always pays off to be polite because you never know who is listening and where that person will refer you.
How many hours a week do you work?
For me, it’s easy to have a 70-hour week. I’ve seen that this is a marathon and not a sprint; therefore, I have learned that I have to pace myself and not burn out in the meantime. Taking a break when my brain is slowing down and tired seems to be a good sign that I need to pause.
What are some mistakes you wish you could have avoided?
As I’ve mentioned previously, I think it’s important to work in the industry, where one wants to carve out space and build his/her own company. It’s even more important to work for the “boss” the founder wishes to become. We all have limited time, so trying to understand how to maximize the time we have is of utmost importance. Learn every inch of the industry and the business before venturing on your own in order not to avoid “rookie” pitfalls. Also, it’s important to know what lies ahead and still know that the entrepreneur wants the job. Lastly, be prepared to fail, and fail many times over and over again. Understand that from each “failure” comes a lesson and that you are one step closer to success.
With 2020 being a whirlwind, do you believe businesses will utilize more budget for influencer marketing as a way to boost online sales now?
In the age of COVID-19 and even post-pandemic, brands will keep increasing their digital marketing spend, which of course includes influencer marketing. One of the biggest burdens for companies is to educate the consumer, especially the older consumer-like Baby Boomers, about online shopping. Now, almost everyone was pushed into the direction of buying online.
Moreover, online views surged on social networks. Facebook reports that in late March, Facebook Live and Instagram Live views doubled. We’ve also seen an increase in impressions for our influencer network of at least 40%. A&E did an extensive study on the effects of the pandemic on influencer marketing, including how pricing models have shifted: https://www.amraandelma.com/effect-of-pandemic-on-influencer-marketing/
Once the consumer behavior has shifted – browsing and shopping online – it becomes more paramount for brands to increase their digital marketing spend and take advantage of direct to consumer business models, and influencers fit perfectly into the equation!
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Elma Beganovich leads A&E’s efforts in building the list of world-renowned partners and clients. Her area of expertise includes identifying roles that A&E can play for a variety of brands in different industries, as well as developing the terms and scope of those partnerships. Ms. Beganovich holds a B.A. in Government and French from Georgetown University (2007) and a J.D. from the University of Miami Law School (2011). She attended Georgetown University School of Law for the LLM program in Securities and Financial Regulations (2012) and is a New York barred attorney. Ms. Beganovich is one of the top New York City’s lifestyle influencers with over 1 million followers across her social channels. She has been named as a leading influencer marketing expert by Forbes, Business Insider, Financial Times, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, WSJ, ELLE Magazine, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and many more. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies like Johnson & Johnson, LVMH, Procter & Gamble, Uber, Nestle, HTC, Huawei, and more.