We talked to Ricardo J. Zulueta, Jr of Paid Exposure about influencer marketing and COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ricardo J. Zulueta, Jr: My family and I are holding up well in dealing with the pandemic so far. Thank you for asking.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Paid Exposure.
Ricardo J. Zulueta, Jr: My partner and I own an apparel company, and that’s how we learned that the influencer marketing process, where people with social media reach get compensated for promoting brands or products, is very time-consuming and typically takes weeks or months to finalize transactions. Most influencers are unprofessional and lack business experience. Because influencers don’t have the tools to run their own business, less than 18% of influencers are actually monetizing their reach consistently on a full-time basis. Our startup, Paid Exposure, empowers anyone to monetize valuable exposure with a platform to manage & grow your own business and connect with advertising sponsors and agencies.
How does Paid Exposure innovate?
Ricardo J. Zulueta, Jr: Our unique system allows sponsors to book influencers, the same we book rooms or flights with ratings & reviews, where promotions are automatically scheduled on specific dates. Paid Exposure empowers influencers with a platform to scale their own business by saving time finalizing transactions within 24 hours and with a marketplace by making more money connecting with sponsors and agencies looking for advertising exposure.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ricardo J. Zulueta, Jr: The pandemic has directly affected our startup since a lot of small to medium-sized businesses became more cautious in spending their marketing budget on influencer marketing. It has definitely been more difficult to gain sponsors’ trust to use a brand new platform for a very young industry. We’ve been coping by trying to get feedback from our users and attempting to learn as much as we can that can improve our platform while everything is mostly at a standstill.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ricardo J. Zulueta, Jr: One of our platform’s biggest benefits is how easy it is for any sponsor of any size to implement influencer marketing to get more customers. We were really hoping to start testing and getting feedback from hyperlocal small businesses who might be interested in influencer marketing to promote their businesses, but the lockdown due to the pandemic prevented us and potential influencers from visiting these business venues.
We had to postpone our plans to acquire and promote local businesses on our platform, but we learned that the pandemic has actually increased the support for local businesses that are struggling around the world because of the government shutdown from the pandemic throughout most of the year. We believe that people will resonate with our mission of empowering anyone to monetize valuable exposure more because of the growing support for local businesses and also to support people who are experiencing unemployment.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Paid Exposure in the future?
Ricardo J. Zulueta, Jr: Because of our experience with our inspirational apparel brand and nonprofit foundation for mental health and suicide prevention, we’ve trained ourselves to deal with stress and anxiety better than most people. I’ve actually been selected to present at the TechDay Town Hall to discuss MENTAL HEALTH: Developing the Right Mindset to Persevere as an Entrepreneur.
Below are some of the topics I will be discussing:
1. Develop Your Personal Purpose – I’ve learned from developing our mission statements for different businesses that it’s also important to develop our purpose in our personal life because our startups are just an extension of ourselves. Our perspectives must be in line with our purpose, which guides us to make the right decisions when running our businesses.
2. Focus on the Cause of the Problems, Not the Result – The same way we are solving the cause of problems in the influencer industry with our startup, we need to be aware of what’s actually causing your stress, anxiety, or depression because your by only focusing on these results, then your solutions to these mental health issues will only be temporary.
3. Entrepreneurs have a Boss; Your Future Self – Impostor syndrome is very common with startup founders because we focus on the current version of ourselves. An effective way of getting rid of impostor syndrome is by making decisions about our startups based on the future version of ourselves who we want to become.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ricardo J. Zulueta, Jr: We have hundreds of competitors in the influencer space! Even though all of the influencer industry’s problems stem from the influencers, most of our competitors are building platforms that cater to the sponsors. None of them really have the ability to take advantage of network effects, and nothing is really keeping businesses and influencers from leaving their platforms. We believe that our focus on the influencers will be more valuable in the long-term by creating defensibility and controlling the supply of influencers in the industry.
The pandemic has also given us the benefit of pivoting to catering to the hyperlocal businesses and influencers, where local communities can really support each other during this time of chaos.
Your final thoughts?
Ricardo J. Zulueta, Jr: We’re really hoping we can make a difference by empowering local communities to support each other. Instead of businesses spending their advertising money on digital or social media ads, they can keep their advertising dollars within their own community by relying on their local support to maintain their businesses after the pandemic.
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