Tell us about yourselves and how your journey with social media began.
Sherif: I’m an ex marketing communication manager at Etisalat. I have always had a passion for athleticism, but I don’t like being a trainer on the ground. I thought of doing online programs that I can sell through my social media platforms, which wasn’t a very prevalent thing to do in Egypt so it was risky, but it was eventually popularized enough for it to sell in the Egyptian market. Another thing I used to do on the side was posting some gym-related insights that people found interesting, and it had nothing to do with my business, yet it went viral. It sparked my passion for social media, so I thought why not make a business out of it as well? I eventually shut down my brand’s account and kept my personal one up which has amassed a huge amount of followers. When I met Ali, I thought about creating a platform that others could benefit from in gaining the same amount of popularity that we both garnered. I just called him up one day and said “Let’s create a social media agency called The Influencers”, he said cool let’s do it tomorrow morning. Morning came, I resigned, and we created it.
Aly: I started off my social media journey in college. I was a finance major, but social media was just my passion. Any events that would happen in AUC - it was known that Aly Osman would manage himself. Three years later, I created EgyFunnySociety. It was during the revolution when everyone was stuck at home; I thought of coming up with something that would cheer people up and get their minds off things. It went really well and one day while I was sitting during a lecture, I posted saying “Like this picture with your nose”, I saw the professor as well as a multitude of other students with their noses to their phone screens as soon as I posted it. I realised that my platform was bigger than I thought. I later got a gig at J. Walter Thompson through posting on my Facebook “AUC graduate. Looking for a job. Come on, guys. Tag JWT.” And they surprisingly responded from their official account with “Waiting for you tomorrow at four.”
How do you approach your clients?
Sherif: We started a month and a half ago. We, so far, have not made the first approach to any client. We always get our clients through our reputation that so precedes us through my past work on Etisalat and Ali’s social media savviness and overwhelming success on his social media platforms.
Who was your first client?
Aly: Our first client was Orange. They told us that they had a project in mind as well as a brief ready that they needed to get done instantly. We came up with an idea within twenty four hours after our meeting with them, they dug it, and approved it right away. We met Wednesday and the deal was sealed Friday, which never happens with any multi-national company. We shot the project, and it was a success. Our following clients after that were huge as well: Cairo Fashion Festival and The Sisters.
We heard you were social media partners with Omar Khairat. How did that happen?
Aly: One of my family called me up, and since he is one of the people running El Gezira Club where Omar Khairat is a member, they told me they wanted arrange a concert in the club for Mr. Khairat, which was a great opportunity for me to meet him and his wonderful manager, Ismail Dessouki, who is now like a big brother to me. After the concert, he gave me his business card and told me he wanted to speak to me. I thought it was a compliment, but then a few days later he calls me and corroborates that he seriously wants to meet me. That’s when I was asked to manage his social media, artworks, designs, and even general consultation.
Were you expecting such a huge success in such little time?
Sherif: We were expecting the success, but we had no idea we’d reach it this fast. Our contact lists combined were everything anyone would ever need but we have not once used it, it used us! Our social media presence is what helped us immensely. We strive to be different and that’s what the clients truly seek.
What separates you from the competition?
Aly: We can help people who have a huge budget and want to invest it in something that creates an overwhelming buzz, as well as those who have a very limited budget who seek the same buzz. Our edge is the ‘buzz’ that people won’t stop talking about. We work on weekends and holidays, we always answer our calls whether we’re at the office or not. We’re not just an agency you hire, we become your partner who is 100% dedicated, which is why we don’t take a lot of clients simultaneously.
Sherif: We also do not repeat our ideas. We have a brilliant creative team who offer us new and different briefs. If we find a brief that is similar to something we’ve already created, we kill it on the spot.
What is your response to the misconception that says social media managers get paid to do nothing?
Aly: The office is open for anyone who has this concept to come and just watch us working for two days. They don’t even have to work, they can just watch us, which will probably stress them enough not to want to come back.
Sherif: Suppose that it’s true that we do not work in exchange for money…what’s the problem? We never even started off our social media presence for money. Besides the fact that we worked really hard to amass this kind of audience; we did not wake up to find thousands of followers overnight. Having talent and charisma enough to garner this much popularity is not an easy task.
Does the idea of being an influencer stress you?
Sherif: Of course, it does. It’s a load of responsibility on our shoulders which in turn can be stressful. What exacerbates the stress is that we have to manage our own social media platforms as well as our clients’.
How do you deal with being attacked for anything you post on social media?
Sherif: With time, you become a bit numb to it, but so far, it’s always annoying. It’s stressful to see that you have a great deal of notifications coming in knowing that they’re either going to be positive, or just a bunch of people insulting you because they do not agree with the way you’re presenting your content, for instance.
What kind of obstacles do you face?
Sherif: Because of the economy, budget can be challenging. Our constant strive to offer something eccentric that will appeal to the audience is another challenge.
Aly: That’s not mentioning our competitors that attempt to bring us down, but if you’re good at what you do, no one will be able to take that away from you, not even a multi-national company at half the price. What we find challenging is making our client understand what we do; it’s not about gaining a bunch of followers and selling, it’s adding value to your product!
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