Elma and Amra Beganovich started with simple DIY social media posts in 2012. Since then the sisters have turned their side hustle into a digital marketing agency for food, fashion, travel and lifestyle brands that have earned them up to $20,000 per Instagram post and a client base of Fortune 500 companies.
As the co-founders of A & E, (that stands for Amra & Elma) Elma, 32, says their more than 2.3 million followers on social media qualify them as influencers to help clients including Avon, Uber, Johnson & Johnson, Smart Water and W Hotels, to optimize their content and messaging.
Like many start-ups, this one also had humble beginnings.
“In late 2013, we had a Paris Hilton line of purses and they started offering us product in exchange for posts,” Elma says. The sisters decided, “This looks like a business.”
Not that they were not already busy. Elma was working as a lawyer in international arbitration after graduating from Georgetown University Law School in 2011.
Her sister, Amra, 34, was working as an economist. After graduating from George Mason University, she was involved with World Bank projects and now “leads our social media teams to create and implement strategies and our business development efforts with venture-backed and innovative companies,” according to their site.
They charged $99 for their first post.
Later, traveling the world and posting visual and editorial content for beauty and lifestyle brands, Elma, who is also a co-founder and CTO of Club Fashionista LLC, with her sister, says their agency, that goes live in January with an influencer data analytics platform, helps clients navigate the fickle and fast-paced world of social media content.
That’s because she says, “There was a gap in the market.”
“Influencer marketing has emerged as a powerful advertising tactic for A-list brands such as Mountain Dew and Amazon. As a result, marketers are doubling their investment in influencer marketing this year, with Instagram influencers alone accounting for more than $1 billion of marketing spend, “ according to Brendan Gahan at ADWEEK. He adds, “Brands are only just beginning to explore the universe of possibilities enabled by collaborating with independent creators.”
As entrepreneurs and influencers, Elam says their expertise is extremely valuable to companies with CEOs and marketing teams, who don’t quite understand it, “and have fear in their eyes,” she says.
Brands are discovering “it is no longer enough to have an amazing store, now your store is your social media” presence, Elam says.
According to Smart Insights, “Influencer marketing relies on technology; whereby influencers are expected to spread the word through their personal social channels. There is no denying that traditional ads are no longer as appealing to consumers as they once were."
Smart Insights adds, "Unlike traditional ads, influencer marketing is proving its value as an effective marketing tool. Whereas conventional ads are no longer as effective because ad blockers are becoming increasingly popular and easy to use. The same applies to social media and pay-per-click ads that can be avoided through ad blockers; 47 percent of online consumers are using ad blockers and this is set to rise, so the advertising model has to change.”
As Elma says, “We were at the right place at the right time.”
Yes, in this space they have come across skeptics as well as sexual harassment, including the one VC funder who after a presentation in London called her and asked her to dinner. Both sisters showed up to the restaurant and left quickly when it became apparent it was not about business.
Elma is eager to share what she knows about influencer marketing and how she knows it to any female entrepreneurs with a great idea—and a knack for social media engagement.
Do not be naive. “Learn not to take rejection personally.”
Content is king—and queen. “You can’t put out garbage content, and cannot be thought of as unthoughtful or not inspirational. Think of the end user and how you stand out.”
It’s very important to tell a story. “Influencers make a prettier everyday version. You have to communicate well visually and have a wholesome approach.”
Be a generalist. “Pick up the skills you need and learn the market.”
There is no such thing as a mentor. “The market is our mentor. You are not going to have a wizard tell you what to do, and sacred mentors may not be there. If the market tells you what is wrong, the data is there.”
This post originally ran in Take The Lead.