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CSA Exclusive: Creating online impact with social influencers

Elma Beganovich
Elma Beganovich

Social influencers offer retailers the opportunity to engage with customers in a direct and personal way, but they must understand this new environment.

Chain Store Age recently had a virtual conversation with Elma Beganovich, founder and COO of New York City-based digital marketing agency Amra & Elma, about how retailers can leverage the growing industry trend of social influencer marketing. Beganovich launched the company with her sister Amra Beganovich in 2012.

“I began as an attorney, my sister was an economist,” explained Beganovich. “We got into influencer marketing by accident in late 2012. Nobody knew where social media was going. However, we penetrated deep as influencers, growing organically to 2 million followers. Brands began asking us if we could replicate our own model of social media success for them.”

Social media has become much more of a commerce-oriented channel since that time. Beganovich explained several different ways can take advantage of the increasing impact social influencers have on today’s consumers, especially shoppers in the millennial and Gen Z age cohorts.

“A fashion brand can sell through social influencers via capsule collections,” said Beganovich. “For example, the influencer might design six pieces of clothing, put them on the retailer’s e-commerce site and also promote them through their own social channels. Or a health and wellness retailer could put an influencer’s name on a vitamin brand it sells through its own social media and blog.”

Influencers can also turn their blogs into e-commerce sites, according to Beganovich. “Relationships with influencers can be intimate, like with a design collection namesake brand, or just a one-off paid campaign,” she said.

However retailers choose to collaborate with social influencers, Beganovich cautions they need a way to accurately track results of the partnership.

“Just paying an influencer to promote a product without understanding how the promotion is working isn’t enough,” she said. “You should create a landing page and integrate it with Google analytics. Activate a group of five influencers and see who drives the most traffic, where customers drop off, and who has the most traffic and conversions. Not all influencers created equal.”

As an example of the different levels of ROI social influencer campaigns can provide, Beganovich said that while an influencer who is a TV personality typically costs more than a non-TV personality, a retailer may actually be better off partnering with a lower-priced social media celebrity who has more followers. And followers are the ultimate target of influencer campaigns.

“Followers are hanging out anyway, clinging to the influencer’s every word,” said Beganovich. “You may as well take advantage. It always helps to get a third-party endorsement. That used to mean radio disc jockeys.”

In the next year, Beganovich expects to see social influencers progress even further in significance as different social media platforms and technologies continue to develop. She cited the explosive global growth of the Chinese short video platform TikTok to illustrate her prediction.

“As more TikTok videos become available and more people get hooked on them, TikTok influencers are becoming mini-production houses with their own studios,” she said. “There will be more social content and entertainment based on short video clips. Instagram is surging up its usage with the Reels feature to compete with TikTok.”

Beganovich concluded by stressing the importance of having qualified personnel oversee social influencer promotional efforts.

“Don’t kid yourself by putting an intern or new employee on this,” she advised. "You need someone with a technology background. Social influencer marketing is a sophisticated solution with different benefits; you must understand the surge in online shopping in the past year. According to an IBM report, the COVID-19 pandemic has advanced e-commerce four to five years in the past year."

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