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We love that our members are some of the strongest leaders in business and are often at the forefront of emerging trends and best practices for everything from fashion to e-commerce to tech to design. It seems that no matter the industry, we have the best of the best to call upon. Such was the case when we wanted to answer the question of how to find your brand identity and then work with influencers to spread the word in our latest power panel in partnership with rag & bone. Influencers and their relevance has been a hotly debated topic of late and we wanted to tap four women who are navigating this landscape and steering the future first hand.

HEYMAMA Co-founder and Creative Director, Amri Kibbler curated some of the leading voices in influencer marketing today in a panel that included, Samantha Wennerstrom, Founder of Could I Have That?, Mandana Dayani, Chief Brand Officer of Everything But the House, Elle Strauss, Fashion Director and Stylist and April Uchitel, the CEO of Violet Grey. Here, they discussed emerging trends in the influencer space, how to harness your influence, what some of today’s smartest brands are doing to connect with their audience in an authentic way and just how much technology they allow in their own homes. Read on…

What would you say really dictates influence right now and how would you define the word Influence?

Mandana Dayani, Everything But the House

When you think about what influences, it’s your ability to affect the way someone thinks or behaves. It’s important to evaluate influencers by three markers –  their relevance, their reach, and their engagement. You can go to someone like Kim Kardashian to sponsor your post, but her audience may not care at all about the subject matter. The size of the audience doesn’t necessarily matter, it really comes down to the following: Are they credible in this space? Do they have the authority to speak in this space? And does their audience want to hear this from them? We are an interiors based company and we partnered with designer Emily Henderson, and our audience went bananas. We saw engagement on our site and she in turn engages her audience. When you look at the engagement that her audience has that is really where you see the return. The reach and the size is important, but like in this case, the relevance they have in your space on the subject matter, how authentic it is for them is super important. I always look at the credibility the influencer has in the space and whether people care what they have to say. You can then leverage that influencer for your brand, regardless of whether they’re super famous, and see results by how they include their audience in their conversation.

HEYMAMA x Rag & Bone partner on the State of Influence panel

What are your thoughts on working with multiple influencers for single campaigns vs building a long term relationship with someone is more helpful? How has this worked for you?

Mandana Dayani

You can’t assume that everyone is using Instagram every single day. People may miss a post so making sure that repetition is there is helpful. For us, to encourage engagement between our brand and the influencer is that we would offer them credit for the site vs just sending them a product and asking them to review it. When they’re included in their discovery, the influencer feels like they discovered you themselves. In turn, they want to talk about it and they want to be an ambassador and share their discovery in an ongoing story line. I have found that most consumers are divided into two categories, either they’re leaders or followers. Very few want to go find all the cool things by themselves. Most people want to read a Yelp review on a restaurant when they go out, or they read car reviews before they buy a car. Consumers want validation that someone vetted the things you are looking at and they’re cool, which is why influencers work. I know if someone I follow posts a dress, it’s probably going to fit really well and it’s going to be great. It’s awesome that all of these human beings are vetting things you are considering and they don’t have to do the work and I think that’s what consumers want.

Do you have any advice that you would give to other influencers out there?

Samantha Wennerstrom, Could I Have That?

The climb! I stress about it all the time. It doesn’t really matter anymore because there is such a weird algorithm controlling it all. All that matters is whether at the end of the day you’re feeling good about what you’re putting out there and you’re engaging with the people who follow you, that would be my tip. Really engage with the people and have a conversation. When you post something, think about what the takeaway is. What are people asking in this photo? With your caption, start a conversation where people can actually join in with you and then Instagram will see it is picking up some engagement, and then it kind of favors your photos. It’s a struggle for everybody I think.

HEYMAMA x Rag & Bone State of Influence panel

What is your process like when you first agree to work with a brand and how do you go about creating content with them?

Elle Strauss, Fashion Director and Stylist

The first thing, in an ideal world, is to create a brand identity and find out who their customer is and really entrench yourself. If time doesn’t permit, I recommend creating an editorial calendar and linking it with marketing. Traditionally, editorial and marketing sort of bash heads a little bit, because what tends to see ROI is not necessarily on brand. Then, look at what assets the brand already has as you don’t necessarily want to spend extra money. And then strike up a clever conversation with your customers. Just ask questions! You’d be surprised that so many brands aren’t aware of this. A lot of people in this room have more power than these big brands as they can really listen to what their customers want and make subtle changes. It’s very surprising. Talk to your customer, she needs to know you and you need to engage with her. Then, go back to the brand identity and the brand’s voice. You’ve got to inspire people, but you have to be inclusive.

Mandana Dayani, Elle Strauss and April Uchitel at the HEYMAMA x Rag & Bone State of Influence panel

April Uchitel, CEO of Violet Grey

You don’t want to lose sight of what your mission statement is and chase the dollar. You need to know whether you want to be a 100 million dollar brand? Or are you okay to be a 5 million dollar brand? What are you trying to do? Everyone wants to be the next billion dollar brand, but you need to check in to see if it’s really something that’s sustainable. You gotta play the long game. If you’re in it for the short term sell, its a very different strategy than it is for one where you think, “this is what I really want to do where I get excited to get up in the morning.” It’s just a different approach. So really knowing clearly as an individual and as a brand, what your end game is really has an effect on how you’ll get there.

What are your tips for creating good content?

Samantha Wennerstrom

Stories is a big thing now too. Just go crazy with stories.

Elle Strauss

Use hashtag in the stories! Eva Chen, the head of Instagram’s Fashion Partnerships told me that one. Putting hashtags in the stories will pick up your engagement.

Mandana Dayani

And be vulnerable. This is really hard for me because I’m a person who I spent my whole life thinking I had to be perfect, and I’m oversharing, but that prevented me from sharing anything real or authentic on social.

HEYMAMA x Rag & Bone State of Influence panel

How are you dealing with technology and your kids?

April Uchitel

We’re the first generation to parent through social media and screen time for kids, and it’s really hard because sometimes you just wanna plug them in so you can have your time. I find that my kids attention span is shorter. My daughter doesn’t want to watch a movie, she just wants to control on demand, and everything’s about YouTube. There was a New York Magazine article about how the internet apologizes for everything. It was really amazing if you didn’t read it. The founders of the iPod don’t let their kids have social media or screen time. They had no idea the impact, especially what’s happening in politics, and using it as a weapon. It’s really scary. To me, kids feel like its a very narrow world when you’re just seeing certain things, and obviously certain algorithms are showing you things that everyone’s watching. So you start to get a sense, everyone is doing this, and it’s not true. There are apps that I’ve found, where you can turn off their internet and apps from another room in the house. You can just shut it down. You’re literally releasing dopamine the same way that if you are doing drugs or alcohol, and there’s no regulation. So unlike nicotine and alcohol where its regulated, the screen is not, and it’s really kinda scary. I think we’re all trying to balance it and I would like to not look at my phone for hours, but its kinda impossible when you’re in a startup and it’s your only form of communication. So, my kids are say, “You’re on your phone all the time.”. That’s the hardest thing. It’s not easy.

HEYMAMA x Rag & Bone State of Influence event in LA

Have you run a successful influencer marketing campaign? We’d love to know what worked for you! Leave a comment. 

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