Happy Halloween y’all!  This interview is not at all Halloween focused, but it brings the opportunity to share an influencer who has influencer marketing on lock.  No doubt her website, WhatMomsLove, is full of kids Halloween gear and has been for a while now.  In fact, Aly, the founder of WhatMomsLove.com, offers so much incredible advice throughout our interview you will walk away from this article ready to launch your influencer brand (or scared to death of the idea!).  Her story is so very rare because it takes guts, sweat, and tears to reach her level of success.  Read on, and let us know what you think of this interview in the comments below!

ZJ: Aly, I love the story of how What Moms Love came to be.  We are all overwhelmed with product choices online, but particularly parents and moms who are already overwhelmed with daily parenthood activities.  What year did you launch, and how soon after you launched did you begin to see a growth in followers (what launched first- blog/ social, and how many followers on each)?

WML: What Moms Love launched in 2016 with the ultimate goal of providing busy moms with ideas and solutions to make their journey through motherhood easier. Whether it’s keeping them up-to-date on the latest gear, providing top-notch gift guides, or suggestions for indoor activities for a rainy day, everything, we do aims to achieve this goal. And we make sure that our tone is always fun and upbeat. Our site is a place where you can get information without feeling like you’re inadequate – we want to support our moms and spread positivity because there’s already so much negativity and mom-shaming these days, we want to be that breath of fresh air.

We launched whatmomslove.com and our social media accounts at the same time – we wanted everything in place so that if someone connected with our content, they would be able to follow along with us via Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest as well. Or if we were discovered via social media, they’d be able to link back to the site. We knew we’d lose potential readers and followers if we weren’t connected from the get-go.

Everything started at ground zero. Zero traffic. Zero followers. But I’m delighted to say that we have grown at a steady rate and have seen an increase in our readership, followers, and subscribers every month. At the end of 2016, we had amassed 200,000 pageviews on the site, and our social accounts (particularly Instagram) were starting to pick up steam. Fast forward to current day, and we’re on track to reach 2M pageviews this year, and our Instagram account has over 100k followers. It’s been a wild ride!

ZJ: Did you have to do a lot of work to get readers and followers (if so what did you have to do), and when you started gaining readership/ followers, how did you feel?

WML: Absolutely! Running a website is not for the faint at heart – it takes an incredible amount of time and energy to create meaningful content and to promote it in a way that will capture your target audience’s attention.

Having no previous web experience, there was a lot of trial and error involved in increasing our readership – experimenting with different tactics and social media outlets to see what would bring in the most traffic. We soon discovered that Pinterest was our top traffic driver, and therefore put a lot of time and energy into learning all the ins and outs of the platform, and how we could put our own strategy into place to maximize its potential. We started using our insights to shape our content creation plan, and have learned a lot from our mistakes. The #1 mistake we made: not promoting our seasonal content early enough…it still seems crazy to me, but people start searching on Pinterest up to 3 months ahead of any holiday…so we now have Christmas content ready to start seeding before Halloween and Thanksgiving have even passed!

We also learned that our readers were highly engaged on Instagram and that they connected best with content that wasn’t just about the website, but instead, was more of an inside look into my own life as a mom. That was really surprising to me because it was my initial idea to have our Instagram account be a behind-the-scenes of the website, and not focused on my family and me. However, once I started creating more personal content, I found it so much easier to engage with our followers, and the engagement levels on our posts increased as well.

I try my best not to be focused on the numbers – but when you put so much of yourself into something, and people actually start discovering it and reacting positively, it is a very rewarding feeling.

ZJ: Initially, where did you get insights on products to write about for your blog?  Did you seek out brands, and have the tables turned to the point that they reach out to you for sponsored posts?

WML: Initially, our product insights came from my first-hand experience as a mom of 3, plus in-store research (I became very friendly with my local baby/kids store owner!) and outreach to local moms’ groups.

We are lucky enough that brands now reach out to us, but we only do a very limited number of sponsored content on our site. The brand and product have to really align with our core goals and values and be a seamless fit into the content we’re creating.

That being said, I love to tell our Instagram followers all about my personal favorite things and have therefore accepted more sponsored content opportunities on our @whatmomslove Instagram account. Still, I’d say that I turn down at least 50% of the opportunities that come my way due to them not being a fit for our brand or my lifestyle – it is so important that you stay true to yourself and your beliefs, and I hope my followers can see that every product or service I mention, is something that I am truly passionate about.

ZJ: Do you consider yourself an influencer, and if so, what does that mean for your brand and your audience?

WML: Well, I think in a way we are all influencers – we all want to share our positive experiences and insider knowledge with friends and family on products and services we’d tried and loved – like the swaddle blanket that made our baby sleep 8 hours straight, or the learning game that had taught our preschooler how to read. We want to share the good stuff!

The only difference is that I’m now lucky enough to have a larger network of mom friends upon which to share my experiences.

ZJ: What is your long-term vision for What Moms Love?

WML: When I started What Moms Love, I was a one-woman team– doing all the research, writing, photography, graphic design and social media promotion myself – all while being a full-time stay-at-home mom to 3 kids. I now have a small team that I bring on board for specific posts and projects, but I still can only work when my kids are in bed (I burn the midnight oil every night!).

Ideally, I’d like to have a full staff that can help me make What Moms Love a household name – a site that every mom knows and recommends to their friends. I’d also like to better connect our community of moms so we can all provide support, information, and tips to one another – either directly through our site or via social media.

ZJ:  Have you helped anyone through What Moms Love and if so, what was the outcome?

WML: Yes! We have 15,000 loyal subscribers who I am lucky enough to correspond with via email. If you subscribe to our newsletter, you get a welcome series of emails which introduces you to our site, and it includes two juicy emails all about the #1 topic that moms talk about: SLEEP! I’ve had moms email me after trying our tips telling me that I helped change their lives because their kids (and themselves!) are now getting a full night’s sleep. I file those away to look at whenever I have a down moment because those type of experiences are really the reason why I created What Moms Love – to make moms lives easier!

ZJ: Your kids are simply too adorable.  How do you think growing up in the spotlight of social media will affect them in life?  How does it affect them now – what do they say about it?

WML: I really don’t think of them as being in the spotlight. Although we have a good-sized following, it’s small in comparison to the exposure a child who is a model or actor might receive.

I have always had a love of photography, so even before I started the website, I was constantly taking photos of my kids – so not much has changed from their point-of-view.  Right now they are too young to really understand social media, but it is something my husband and I put a lot of thought into before I started posting photos of them on the account, and something that will continue to stay top-of-mind as they grow older. To keep some aspect of their privacy, I don’t use their first names, and ultimately if they don’t want to take part in any organized photo shoots, that is their decision (which a 2-year old will make very clear!).

ZJ: Many people are curious about the influencer industry, particularly those influencers who are just starting out.  Do you invest a significant amount of money back into your business, and if so in which areas?

WML:  Running my own business, I’m very conscious of expenses, but also believe that sometimes you have to spend money to make money. I have invested in several different courses run by field experts to expand my knowledge of running an online business and social media strategy. In addition, as our site has grown we have had to upgrade the tools we use including our host, email platform, and photography equipment.

ZJ:  What advice would you give to beginner influencer marketers?

WML: I have two pieces of advice:

1.) Begin with the end in mind. Think about the brand you want to be in 5 years, 10 years and start acting like that from day one. That doesn’t mean be arrogant – it’s really about envisioning your future and making it a reality. Something small I did, was to use the word “we” in all my communications. Sure it was just me when I started out, but my goal was to have a team helping me, so I wanted my language to reflect the brand I was going to become.

2.) Don’t expect success to happen overnight. It takes time to build an engaged following, so don’t get discouraged when you don’t see the results you had hoped for right away. Put a strategy in place, and it gives it a fair shot, but always be open to switching things up if it’s not working. Keep your head up and try not to focus on the day-to-day numbers (as hard as it may be!).

ZJ: Do you have a daily mantra?

WML: My father instilled in me at a young age the Golden Rule: treat others how you want to be treated.

ZJ: Biggest dream in life?

WML: To raise kind, loving children.

ZJ: Do you have any announcements to share?

WML: Yes! I recently announced on my Instagram account that I’m expecting my fourth child. My family is delighted, and I’m looking forward to sharing this new adventure with our audience.