Network. This is definitely something I have become better about over the years, and is undoubtedly important in terms of building relationships, whether with potential talent, clients, or industry contacts. If you’re attending events, don’t just stay in your comfort zone and stick to socializing with the group you came with. Meet new people — you never know what friendships or work relationships could come out of it.
As a part of our series about “Marketing Strategies From The Top” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ali Grant. Ali Grant launched Be Social in 2012 as one of the first agencies executing integrated influencer outreach and collaboration. Today, the communications group is headquartered in Los Angeles specializing in digital-forward campaigns for lifestyle, fashion, and beauty brands and talent. With Ali at the helm, Be Social has been named one of Inc.’s fastest-growing businesses spearheading influencer campaigns.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, or readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In college, I decided to venture into PR courses which really solidified my passion for the industry as it combined my interests in media and storytelling. From there, I started Be Social after a few stints working at traditional PR and social media agencies. I saw a need for an agency to bridge the gap between digital and traditional methods and was confident the rise of influencer marketing was going to be a very big opportunity. Luckily, it was! Today, Be Social does just that. We are one of the first agencies to provide more traditional 360 services, such as editorial and event production, but with a very large emphasis on digital influencers.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’ve made plenty! And still do. I am a big fan of the phrase “learn by doing.” I think mistakes make us better in the long run. A funny story… We were planning an activation for a sunscreen company and ordered some cards for our ambassadors to drive around in. Funny enough, they arrive and they are manual… and they had no idea how to drive a stick. On top of educating them on sunscreen, we had to teach them how to drive.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
When I started hiring people who were more experienced than me in various specialties it felt like a real tipping point in the business. The burden felt like it was lifted and I could really focus on the areas of the business I was actually interested in. When you have a team focusing on their passion and what they’re good at, it changes the level of work produced.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
From the beginning, we have been hyper-focused on influencers. We saw an opportunity in the marketplace to hone in on this discipline and it has played out very well as brands have opened more budget to focus on influencer initiatives. When we first started, we had a much harder time selling in influencer services, as it wasn’t seen as legitimate to some brands. We had the challenge of selling our services as a benefit, as well as selling our agency as the one to execute it. As time went on, it became part of almost every brand’s online presence, and we’re luckily seen as one of the leaders in the space.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We have a lot on our plate, from organic to paid programming. We’re diving into the brand building with the influencers we represent, so seeing the progression from idea to launch has been exciting!
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Learn how to say no! I am always one to want to say yes even when I know I shouldn’t. I used to live by the say yes and figure it out later mentality, but I realize this can lead to poor execution, burnout, and frustrated clients. Be mindful of your time and ensure you’re able to execute with top quality, so you don’t ruin your reputation.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My friends have been such a positive network of support! Many have their own businesses or side hustles, so we are able to have meaningful conversations about our challenges and successes. It’s a good exercise to gather some third party feedback before acting on a certain situation. I can recall a few times I was frustrated with a certain situation and after a quick call with one of my friends, I was able to get a different perspective which allowed me to shift mine.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There are hundreds of memorable marketing campaigns that have become part of the lexicon of our culture. What is your favorite marketing or branding campaign from history? Can you explain why you like that so much?
We’ve been a part of so many memorable campaigns that have been impactful for our clients so it’s hard to select just one, but I’d say that a pretty pivotal campaign that we worked on for our agency was helping to launch the H&M League influencer ambassador program during Coachella 2019. We spearheaded the event activation which included 2 full hotel takeovers, multiple events, photoshoots, and custom moments that made the entire weekend so special. It also generated millions of impressions for the brand and resulted in over 100s of pieces of social content. Seeing the results of our efforts come to life was a pivotal moment for us.
If you could break down a very successful campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.
We don’t go by a “one size fits all” approach for our clients, so it’s hard to break down an exact blueprint for everyone. Rather, we really hone in on a client’s goals, whether that be to amplify brand awareness, generate sales, build an ambassador program, etc. From there, we present a strategy, outline the assets needed for us to be successful, review targets, and conduct a competitor analysis. We pivot strategies as needed in order to get necessary results, and are always in constant communication with our clients, providing feedback on what’s working and what needs to be shifted.
Companies like Google and Facebook have totally disrupted how companies market over the past 15 years. At the same time, consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. In your industry, where do you see the future of marketing going?
Consumers are becoming more and more aware of paid marketing campaigns, which is why we overemphasize the importance of authentic relationships between brands and influencers. I see authentic, long term partnerships between influencers and brands on the rise, versus one-off campaigns. It’s important for talent to be selective with the brands they choose to work with in order to maintain trust with their followers.
Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started? Can you please share a story or example for each.
1.) Intern. I always advise people looking to enter the industry to intern as much as possible. Work at different agencies/brands, discover what aspects of the business you like via trial and error, and gain knowledge by learning from those more experienced than you. Having internship experience on your resume will be very valuable when you’re ready to begin looking for a job. We love our interns at Be Social and do our best to ensure they learn from their experience with us and leave the internship feeling accomplished and knowledgeable.
2.) Network. This is definitely something I have become better about over the years, and is undoubtedly important in terms of building relationships, whether with potential talent, clients, or industry contacts. If you’re attending events, don’t just stay in your comfort zone and stick to socializing with the group you came with. Meet new people — you never know what friendships or work relationships could come out of it.
3.) Leadership Lessons. I was never formally trained as a manager and leadership didn’t come naturally for me, so this is something I’ve had to consistently work on as an entrepreneur. Advice from fellow business owners along with resources such as the book Radical Candor has really helped to improve my skills as a manager and leader. Keep learning and make it a priority. You can always better yourself in all aspects of your life, and especially as a leader.
4.) Build a team you can trust. I can’t stress enough the importance of building a team that you can trust that kills it at what they do, so you can focus on your own workload. This takes time and energy to cultivate but having a core team you can count on is essential.
5.) Take risks. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I have made plenty, and continue to make them, but I like to think I am learning by… doing! Picking yourself up and doing better the next time is part of the journey.
Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners to become more effective marketers?
Cision, CreatorIQ, Fohr, and Salesforce are all platforms that our team uses daily. When there is an opportunity to bring on a system that is effective and helps make the team more efficient, I’m always open to exploring.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
Radical Candor is a book that really changed my mindset as a team leader, and I always advise that managers on my team read it. Goal Digger and How I Built This aretwo favorite podcasts I have on rotation and listen to while I’m driving or going on a walk. I always get inspired by listening to successful entrepreneurs share their stories and how they got to where they are. I keep up to date with industry updates via PR Daily and Fohr.
Who is your hero? Can you explain or share a story about why that person resonates with you?
I have a few and it keeps growing. Anyone who stands out in their category as a real thought leader, one who is taking risks and sparking change catches my eye. To name a few… AOC for her continued work in politics as a young female leader, Sharon Chuter from Uoma Beauty for creating a standout beauty brand and continuing to be an advocate for change in the beauty industry, and any woman in business building their own empire each and every day. It’s not easy and takes quite a bit of grit.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We’re partnered with Freedom & Fashion, a charity dedicated to supporting women and youth overcoming domestic violence, sex trafficking, and other injustices. They have seen an increased need for support during this time, as the home isn’t always the safest place for domestic abuse victims. We’re encouraging people to support via monetary donations, or to donate clothing and products (beauty products, hygiene, self-care, wellness) to send to domestic abuse victims to use during this time. The address is copied below — anything helps!
Freedom and Fashion
147 N. Holliston ave. unit A
Pasadena, CA 91106
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Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.