Ksana Liapkova is Head of ConvertSocial. Ksana has been a speaker at world-class conferences on affiliate marketing and is in contact with more than 35,000 clients of ConvertSocial, involved in the blogging industry, which allows her to always be aware of the latest trends in the world of influencers. Before joining the team, Ksana had been working in affiliate marketing and content monetization for over 7 years, helping major brands launch their own solutions on travel services’ metasearch.
Where did the idea for ConvertSocial come from?
An idea to create the ConvertSocial platform came from understanding the needs of novice webmasters. There are 800,000 webmasters in our affiliate network: SEO-experts, website owners, blogs, extensions and content creators. For the latter, the path from registration to earnings used to be more difficult, as it required more experience, expertise and time to connect with advertisers, approve the content and gain access to advertiser tools. We have created a product for the needs of this audience. We save their time and simplify the algorithm of interaction with advertisers. With ConvertSocial, they get instant access to the entire advertiser database (no need to separately work with each brand) and can quickly and easily create affiliate links and monetize their traffic. That is, we have become a subnetwork for influencers, content creators and users of social networks. This is especially true for content creators with a small audience, who may need a month to reach the advertiser and get the opportunity to cooperate. With us it happens in a couple of minutes. The idea belongs to Alexander Bachmann, CEO of the company, who has a huge expertise and understanding of the market, broad visual experience, and a sense of humor, which helps the whole company to keep up with the trends and create products that meet the needs of the audience. We have customized and automated processes and are able to work with large amounts of data and confidently act as an intermediary, protecting the interests of content creators.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Everyday dayI monitor our statistics – I have built a couple of dashboards where I measure the effectiveness of the platform: business and financial indicators, product and marketing metrics. The entire data collection process is based on the EAEI model, where E stands for Effectiveness, A – Administration, E – Entrepreneurship, I – Integration.
I need to promptly respond to any anomalies, because we act as intermediaries between advertisers and content creators, and accordingly need to protect the interests of both parties.
Every day there is a meeting with the team, where everyone shares their thoughts for the previous day and plans for the next one. At such meetings, we quickly discuss and resolve urgent issues and set priorities.
Every week there are cross-functional meetings, for example: meetings with Country Managers which helps to understand tasks from business needs and Country Managers’ vision of what approach to choose in the particular country, since we operate internationally. Also, once a week we have meetings with the marketing team, media buying, PR, and others for task prioritization, results of completed tasks, backlog discussions and new tasks. In fact, such an approach and a clear division of responsibilities provides for more effective results.
Twice a month we have product demos where development teams demonstrate new updates on the platform, and we collect and prioritize tasks for the next iteration with them. At the same time, we are constantly in touch with other business units of the company ready for collaborations.
In addition to team meetings and sync-ups, there is a pool of tasks for every day. I start them on Monday and update their status at the end of each day. I use various day planners and organizers, but here everyone is free to choose whatever he likes. From the very morning I am busy with urgent cases and complex tasks. I decompose voluminous tasks into small ones – this way I can be done with them quicker, step by step. You can use the Pomodoro productivity hack: this technique involves breaking tasks into 25-minute periods (“pomodoros”) followed by short breaks. Do three or four of these sets every morning. Once you’ve managed to focus on a task for 25 minutes, try “doubling the pomodoros” – now work for 50 minutes and relax for ten.
I leave the tasks with the lowest priority for the second part of the working day. And I always try to automate them as much as possible in order to save time and spend it more efficiently on those 20% of tasks that bring 80% of the result.
The smallest tasks I can do outside the office and working hours, on the way to somewhere, during dinner or in any free time.
If we divide the day into blocks, then morning time is for analytics and solving complex problems, lunch and evening time are for meetings and sync-ups with colleagues and the team. We have an international team, so meetings can also take place in the evening.
In general, there are a huge number of life hacks, techniques and approaches on how not to procrastinate. As for me, I just get such a buzz and pleasure from what I do! Maybe it is this inspiration that energizes me and prevents procrastination.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The most important thing is to take the time to write these ideas down, as sometimes they can disappear into the thin air just the way they appeared. I have a very simple approach: any idea needs to be broken down in a simple hypothesis to be tested. If the MVP gives positive results, and the completed custom development confirms this, then you can involve the technical part of the team in search of the optimal optimization solution. I am not a supporter of nurturing ideas for a long time and waiting for the best moment for implementation, because the market does not stand still, and we must be flexible and fast in the face of rapid changes.
From time to time, we gather with the team for a brainstorm because it is very important to give an equal opportunity for everyone on the team to offer an idea to improve the product. At ConvertSocial, we openly discuss future steps with the team, and if an idea seems feasible, rational or profitable, it gets into work and we involve the product manager and the development team. It is very important to listen to the first line – the guys who directly communicate with customers, because they can come not just with an abstract idea “let’s do it cool”, but with a specific request, pain, or insight from influencers.
The company’s policy is built in such a way that everyone can openly share their ideas, even if this idea will help other businesses within the company. For sure, there is both motivation and the opportunity to take a direct part in the development, which gives employees new growth points.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The fact that social networks began to devote more and more time to creating new features for the launch and development of monetization of user content within the platforms. And this trend will continue to grow. On the one hand, this is a threat to subnetworks and our direct and indirect competitors, but on the other hand, it is an opportunity for growth and an increase in a loyal audience, as social networks accustom their audience to internal monetization.
For example, Instagram adds the possibility of paid subscriptions for bloggers and continues to develop methods of direct sales within the social network (Shopping Tags). Instagram has also promised to expand the ability to put direct links in the profiles of content creators.
YouTube tests product sales. So far, only a few bloggers have been admitted to the test. Youtube offers influencers $50 per month and an average of $0.08 per link click.
Pinterest has released several new features for sellers that have increased by 87% in the first quarter of 2022. These are:
Pinterest API – they say that it loads data and prices 97% accurately
Product Tagging – the mark on the pin of the product, as in the photo in Instagram
Video on Catalog – sellers can upload videos to better show the product to users
Shopping Tab – similar to “Shop” on Instagram
Separate panel with goods – 30% of sellers on Pinterest get their orders from this tab.
Thanks to these innovations, influencers themselves increase their monetization understanding and get new ways to interact with the audience. This directly affects their affiliate activity – more contacts with the audience, more opportunities to show an affiliate link and natively draw the attention of their subscribers to brand offers.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
There are a couple of habits, like clearing some time during the weekends for the freedom of creativity. It is also important for me to maintain a work-life balance, so I do a lot of sports during the week like fitness and yoga, and devote weekends to active sports like snowboarding, wakesurfing, equestrian.
I started to surround myself with entrepreneurs and people from whom I can learn something new.
And I: spare no time to train the team and delegate tasks. It is very important not to be afraid to surround yourself with strong people and hire strong experts on your team. Many people are afraid of this due to the competition, but I do support the opinion that you grow much faster with a strong team.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be afraid to delegate. At the beginning of my career, I was trying to do everything myself: I didn’t trust my employees or contractors. Now it is crucial for me to hire experts and delegate them as much as possible. It is important for young leaders to remember that 80% of their time should be spent on planning, strategic tasks, teamwork and other leadership functions, and only about 15-20% on linear tasks that are really important for them to have a hand on. Only this way can you focus on the big picture and avoid any burnouts.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Most bloggers believe that it is more profitable for them to work for a fix – they think that there are more brands and less responsibility for the result. However, in fact, the growing trend of collaboration in the form of partnerships shows that the CPA model often gives influencers much more opportunities and money than standard advertising. For example, in 2022, on average, influencer earnings from brand affiliates almost doubled in 2022 compared to the first half of 2021. This is explosive growth – and it has already become common for the affiliate industry. Influencers themselves have only just begun to realize this potential – so their number among partners is growing at the same rapid pace and they are building affiliate earnings into their profit structure. Therefore, I think that soon my opinion will no longer be so unpopular.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Take the time to train your employees. People are the most important resource and everyone on your team must be synchronized. I believe in education and always support the initiatives of those who take courses. In addition, we are an international company, and it is very important to speak the same language with colleagues, so we encourage and offer options for learning the language.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The influencer marketing sphere is very dynamic: social networks are constantly having new updates, influencers discover new ways to earn and monetize their subscribers. We live in times where staying afloat means being more flexible. Being able to build short-term and long-term strategies, check the forecast weekly and change it if needed – such an approach helps us achieve better results. We look at numbers across weeks, months, quarters, and years, and even in weekly iterations, we allow ourselves to change our focus and priorities.
Probably, our internal structure has undergone the most changes; over the past two years, we have cut and redrawn customer segmentation and employee areas of responsibility several times. It all started with dividing users by platforms, so we built revenue and new features from them. Ultimately, we moved to the top-level division by country, and then we introduced additional segmentation by platform or content category (beauty / lifestyle, etc.). At the moment, this is the most optimal approach for us, because at the country level we have support in the form of regional managers, and at the same time we clearly share responsibility among client and advertiser managers.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
At the early stage of the product launch, we neglected the normal custom development and rushed to launch a marketing campaign, and we’ve made some changes to the product on the go. It would work better if we chose to work with the focus groups first, do in-depth interviews; Then we would save time and understand much faster what we need to improve first.
We quickly realized that our initial approach was not the most effective and did not provide our clients with the necessary level of service. Therefore, we admitted the mistake in time and were able to switch to the testing mode with a limited group of bloggers. This helped us to get valuable insights and plan the re-launch properly.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Now the dropshipping industry is developing very actively – become an influencer and create your own small store. For example, Amazon has a similar program for content creators. They take care of delivery and storage. However, cooperation with such large companies always greatly limits the possibility of customizing the entire process and the overall profit of bloggers.
Therefore, the latest trend is outsourcing solutions that support small businesses of influencers in various ways. A great example is Collabica. Here comes the second business idea if blogging is not your cup of tea: I advise readers to take a closer look at the needs of bloggers in this matter.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Recently, a couple of the ConvertSocial team members had birthdays – and together we threw a small party for our team. We all try to create a connection with each other outside of work issues and tasks. Good interpersonal communication helps us quickly find a common language, better negotiate and understand each other.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Pomodoro is definitely my most favorite app so far!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
It destroys both the usual methods of sales and the excessive self-confidence of entrepreneurs. If you want a critical opinion be sure to read this book. You’ll find brilliant examples of how to ask questions correctly and understand the real needs of people, and where flattery leads, or how often it is said in order to support, get rid of, not offend the interviewer. If you don’t want to take a tour of the startup graveyard, don’t read this book.
What is your favorite quote?
“Why not invest your assets in the companies you really like? As Mae West said, ‘Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.’” — Warren Buffett
It is quite easy to interpret it as an investment of your time (our most valuable resource) and if we talk about bloggers, influencers and content creators, it is very important to occupy the niche in which you personally will be interested. Because there will always be inspiration to create content, understand trends, grow and invent new things, motivate your subscribers and stay afloat.
- Don’t hesitate to delegate, it spares time for you to act
- Take the time to train your employees – strengthen your team every way you can.
- Talk to your first line employees – they are the source of key insights
- Do what you really enjoy and ask right questions
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.