The word ‘social’ might trigger thoughts of newsfeeds and photo grids, but Ali Grant proves that the offline version (connections! relationships!) should be just as front of mind. Her LA-based social media and PR agency, aptly named Be Social, operates on just that: the perfect mix of digital and IRL. She spoke with us about her team’s focus on finding new solutions to take influencer campaigns to the next level, plus her insider tips for brands breaking into the space.
How did you get started in your career and what was the trajectory to starting your own company?
I had studied journalism and public relations in school, interned every chance I could and when I graduated dove straight into an in-house PR position at an ecommerce tech company. It was interesting because we serviced multiple categories, from women’s shoes to activewear. From there, I moved to a traditional PR agency and then, what really sparked my passions, a digital agency. We were one of the first to really harness the power of what we called the blogger! I was working with lifestyle and fashion brands on product seeding, affiliate marketing and analytics behind the content these bloggers were creating. I had a desire to create a company that was the perfect mix of traditional and digital, where I could create a launch event and invite bloggers AND media. Be Social quickly became one of the first agencies with a hyper-focus on influencer marketing, but we are still grounded in traditional methods, such as experiential and media placement.
Why did you call your agency Be Social? Was it a nod to its social media practice?
Funny enough, no! Our company creates awareness, connections, and relationships... we are all about being social online and offline. The name fits!
What are some of your current projects that you’re excited about?
We’re excited to explore new territories in the way of influencer marketing. We’re looking to really push what’s already being done and find innovative ways to tap influencers. From extremely robust reporting to a deep understanding of the ROI, we’re finding solutions to take influencer campaigns to the next level.
Do you have any advice or key learnings from scaling up the agency, that you’d pass on to other entrepreneurs?
Stand for something or you will fall for everything. Have a strong mission statement and get your team to believe in it. Keep focused on what your key services are and don’t try to do it all.
What’s been most effective in establishing the close relationships your agency has with influencers?
We’re definitely in a similar age group as a lot of the influencers who target female millennials, so it’s deeper than a business relationship, it oftentimes is a friendship. Just like anything in life, we take care of our relationships and cherish them. We watch their YouTube videos, we follow them on Instagram, we engage with their content, so when we have a product we want to get to them we know exactly how and why it will fit into their life.
What are some insider tips for brands wanting to do influencer marketing?
Hire an agency! It’s all about relationships and starting a program from scratch requires resources. An agency with deep-rooted relationships is a turnkey solution for a successful influencer program. If you’re required to keep it in-house, I’d recommend studying the landscape. Get to know who is relevant in your industry... follow them and engage with them. Make sure your initial outreach is tailored.
Do you have any predictions for the influencer landscape, particularly regarding how marketers and communicators will engage with them in the future?
Yes and I believe it will transform into more offline experiences, larger ambassador programs and programs where the influencer is a part of the brand in a larger way.
What are the skills or personal attributes that you’re looking for in new hires for the agency?
Passion and hustle. You can learn how we do things at Be Social, but we can't teach hustle. We’re in an industry that is constantly evolving, there is plenty of competition and it’s high stress work, so I look for someone willing to get their hands dirty and truly loves the industry.
You’re headquartered in Los Angeles. It feels like a really exciting time for the city – to what do you attribute it?
Yes, we are! We’re in West Hollywood right now and moving our HQ to ROW DTLA. Downtown is becoming a popular destination as well! I attribute the excitement to the rise in entrepreneurship... there are so many new and exciting brands, services and agencies. I started my company seven years ago and being a young, female entrepreneur everyone was shocked and almost discouraged the idea. Fast forward to today, it’s accepted and praised! We are having a moment and I can’t wait to keep seeing women follow their dreams!
What accomplishments are you most proud of in career and life?
The ability to evolve. I’ve had to pivot our company, I’ve had to grow as a leader, and I hope I continue to be fluid and accept change with open arms. I’m proud of my team and how we’ve grown and the projects we’ve been able to be a part of. My “it” moment hasn’t happened yet, I have more hard work to put in, but it’s coming...
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