Episode 207: Show Notes
Today on the podcast we welcome Mae Karwowski, the Founder and CEO of Obvious.ly, a technology-driven influencer marketing platform that launched in 2014. In this episode, we are talking all about building a business from the ground up. Mae shares how she scaled her company to over 20 employees without any outside funding, as well as her experience working as a woman in the tech industry today. But for the most part, we really hone in on influencer marketing; what it’s really like working in that space as an agency and how you, as an influencer or brand, can work with an agency like Obvious.ly and start making a little money!
Mae is an absolute badass with heaps of insight, tips, tricks and advice. The influencer marketing landscape has truly evolved over the past four years and Mae gives us an overview of how influencer marketing started, the progressions it has made, and where it is today. This is a really exciting and rapidly growing marketing road to be on today and we can’t wait to share what Mae has to say on this. If you are a brand looking to partner with influencers, or an influencer looking to partner with brands – then you’re going to love this one!
How Obvious.ly Started and The Gap In The Market That It Fills
Obvious.ly is an influencer marketing company that provides a platform to make it really easy for influencers to work with brands and for brands to work with a couple of influencers at a time. On top of that, Obvious.ly, is also a full-service agency. Influencers know to come to them to get a really great collaboration with a brand. In terms of making sure they get their product and packages on time, correspondence, communication and all in all, Obvious.ly makes sure that both parties have an awesome, hassle free and fair time. Influencer marketing is constantly evolving and when Mae started out doing this manually, without any technology, she realized just how time consuming it really was. Brand managers, for the most part, really don’t realize just how time consuming it is to DM a hundred people and answer a hundred questions! All of a sudden, five hours of the day have gone by and you haven’t secured one influencer yet. She saw the business opportunity, or niche in the market, for something like Obvious.ly because of this. Prior to starting Obvious.ly, Mae was a social media manager and was doing private consulting on the side. It was while she was doing this that she realized, “Wow, influencers really are the thing” and it’s a really untapped opportunity. Brands want to work with 200-300 influencers at a time and this is really hard for them to do it manually. So, she decided to start her own business and build a tech product as a solution to this problem.
How Obvious.ly has Evolved Since 2014 and Where It Is Today
Influencer marketing has really taken off in the past four years and Obvious.ly started off on a manual basis. She and her team built a basic prototype collecting all the influencer information, putting it into a database and pinging against that database for whatever information was needed. For example, if a fashion brand wanted to work with an influencer in Boston – you can consult that database and the list kept building that way. As the business discovered more and more of a need and listened to what people wanted from a brand standpoint, they built more and more functionality into the prototype. Obvious.ly doesn’t have an app right now, it’s just a mobile website. But even that was done with intention, because it’s really easy to spend loads of money on an app that no one uses. Whereas mobile websites, well, everyone likes them. Mae really likes to focus on sustainability and so not having outside investors has been a strategic decision for her. Being cognizant and confident in her company’s numbers is what has enabled Mae’s company to grow at the speed that it has grown. Today, Obvious.ly is 20 people strong with offices in NYC, San Francisco, Paris, Sydney and LA. One key thing that has been so important for Obvious.ly is listening to what the brands want when it comes to influencer marketing and then selling that to them; as well as really understanding pricing.
How The Influencer Marketing Landscape Has Shifted Over The The Past Four Years
Influencer marketing is evolving so quickly and this is one reason why the space is so exciting. So many new brands are seeing influencer marketing as a viable way to conduct marketing and also, the platforms are changing so much. In the beginning it was a lot of Facebook and Twitter and then Snapchat got in the mix and now Instagram is so huge. Every time there is an algorithm change, Obvious.ly accounts for that – for example, with Instagram Stories. From the business side of things, influencer marketing used to be all about the Kim Kardashian’s of the world about four years ago. But now, brands are working with more micro-influencers to reach the same amount of people that one big influencer, like Kim Kardashian for example, would enable them to reach. These micro-influencers allow them to target their specific audience, rather than a larger, more diluted, audience. That has been a big change over the past four years. Brands today test with a lot of different micro-influencers to see what is working and place an emphasis on building relationships with their influencers to see which influencers are being really genuine with the product. A year or two ago, brands would typically send packages to influencers, have a quick chat, and then never see them again. Today, there is more of a drive to really connect and build long term relationships… which is why social media was started in the first place, right?
How Obvious.ly Works With Influencers and What They Look For In Influencers
So a surf brand, for example, will approach Obvious.ly and say, “We want girls who surf who live in California.” Then Obvious.ly will go out and find who they think really fits the bill for that brand. They also have a lot of influencers signing up with Obvious.ly who are interested in working with specific types of brands. For a lot of micro-influencers, they sign up of course for free product, the income that an influencer-brand relationship can lead to and then also for the awesome experience. For one Instagram influencer couple, for example, they got to go backstage at the Grammy’s! Outside of Instagram, Obvious.ly is seeing blogs make a really big comeback, and are also using YouTube, podcasts and Pinterest. There are a few key things that make someone a great candidate for being an influencer. One is just having a really unique viewpoint. People who share stories that are uniquely their own. Two is aesthetics. Really understanding what makes a great photo or a great video. The third thing is having a good sense of who your audience is. If what you care about is really apparent from your feed, then that’s a great way in to pairing with brands that represent that. When it comes to numbers, Mae recommends having a few thousand followers. But this also depends on your engagement. If your followers are not as high but your engagement is rocking at 20%, then Obvious.ly and the brands will weigh this up. Brands are getting a lot smarter too about who they work with and it’s a very analytics driven conversation.
Identifying Paid Ads Versus A True Opinion And How To #ad Appropriately
Obvious.ly is very conservative when it comes to the FTC. A lot of influencers don’t want to announce that they are being sponsored, but Obvious.ly tries to flip that on its head and say, “As an influencer you should be super proud that this brand wants to work with you.” They encourage influencers to say why they are excited to work with a brand and why they decided to do it and to announce this publicly. From the brand’s perspective, it’s important to give the influencer something to be excited about. That seems more genuinely cool rather than, “Oh there she is, drinking Smart Water again, she probably hates that stuff, #ad.” Changing the conversation toward being more open about the paid sponsorship and why the influencer likes the brand; that is more positive and way more appropriate than the sneaky sale.
- How Obvious.ly Started And The Gap In The Market That It Fills. [0:03:00.1]
- How Obvious.ly Has Evolved Since 2014 And Where It Is Today. [0:07:30.1]
- How The Influencer Marketing Landscape Has Shifted Over The The Past Four Years. [0:13:15.1]
- How Obvious.ly Works With Influencers And What They Look For In Influencers. [0:19:15.1]
- Identifying Paid Ads Versus A True Opinion And How To #ad Appropriately. [0:30:50.1]
- Focus on the quality of your content.
- Look at what your audience is liking and not liking.
- Observe the timing of your posts.
- Ensure that you have a real narrative.
- Stay engaged: Follow, comment, like.
- Get brands you like to talk about you.