MORENA MILEVOJ OPENS UP ABOUT BUILDING A PERSONAL BRAND AND SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE IN CROATIA

Image Credit: Luana Racan

Tell me a bit about yourself because to me you’re what Croatians would call “zena zmaj,” you just know how to do it all in business and social media.

Thank you for this question, actually I do not see myself as ‘žena zmaj’ but as a person who really enjoys what is doing and doing it with a lot of passion. That’s why sometimes I have the impression that I am working all the time even and especially in my ‘free time.’ Of course I am glad that I am perceived as an expert in these two areas, it means that I am doing something right and it means a lot to me.

Apart from your fashion blog, you run a company called Brendaonica that focuses on branding and social media. How important is it to have a personal brand these days? Is it difficult to build a brand in Croatia?

Yes, that is true, first I had the blog, My Fashion.com.hr,  which I started in 2012 and in 2016 I founded a project called Brendaonica  as a result of my passion for blogging and social media in general but also as a consequence of the need I detected among freelancers, small and medium entrepreneurs to start building their brand using the maximum of digital channels. Brendaonica is focused to consulting people in developing their personal brand on social media but also their service or product’s brands and until now – I can proudly say – more than 300 people went to workshops organised by Brendaonica.

Speaking about a personal brand, I would say that personal brands are the future especially when we speak about the entrepreneurship area because the social media and digital channels in general give you the enormous possibilities to develop your image online and you can easily control your image taking care of the visuals, photographs, logotypes and communication of your brand in general. But of course, online image should be coherent with the real YOU and your offline image. You do not build a personal brand just for the sake of having a public image, but for a higher purpose – something that is important to you – in order to sell your services or products or to become an influential person and get rewards from your online influence (‘influencer marketing’).

“Of course, online image should be coherent with the real YOU and your offline image.”

From experience, how have you seen social media evolve over the past 3 years in Croatia?

Well, from my personal experience I would say that things changed drastically in 2014 because in that period Facebook started to change its alghoritm and organic reach started to fall rapidly, so many brands (Facebook pages) that did not have a strategy and a budget ceased their existence on Facebook and moved onto some other social media platforms or changed completely their digital strategy. Especially travel, beauty and fashion bloggers moved to Instagram, the fastest growing social media platform in the world and today in Croatia with more than 870.000 followers. Also, I would say that the way we communicate on the social media platforms evolved a lot especially in the last one year and  with the developing of the Instagram features like Stories (inspired by Snapchat) and the communication became more direct and spontaneous engaging our followers and our community.

Video and especially Facebook Live is very popular because it gives you the opportunity to speak directly with your ‘tribe’ and your ideal clients and I think it should be used even more as a communication tool to raise engagement rate, but of course with the previously defined strategy. On the other hand I also think that brands invest more in advertising in the last three years and in digital strategies because digital is definitely part of our lives and if brands want to succeed they have to have long term investment plans.

I have noticed that in Croatia local bloggers and influencers have a strong focus on building large followings without providing a reason to follow or providing value. Is it better to have a larger following (100k+) or focus on a niche as a micro-influencer/blogger? Which type of influencer has longevity of sustaining a career in this industry? 

Well, I think that you already answered this question,  if you do not provide value for your followers your existence does not make sense on a long term basis. Micro-influencers who have more engagement and a more active community that are really interested in their product are becoming more and more important and influential in this sphere. A lot of companies want to work with niche bloggers to get the maximum of their cooperation, measuring the results with some coupon discounts or similar sales tactics.

On the other hand, the number of followers and reach has always been important for marketing campaigns as an important decision factor but when these followers are fake and the engagement rate is low, I would always choose a micro-influencer who is a real expert in a specific area. Of course it also depends on the project in question and you know that marketers in general like ‘big numbers‘ and big followings so very often it ends up that they choose  influencers with larger numbers.

“If you do not provide value for your followers your existence does not make sense on a long term basis.”

As someone who operates on both ends of the business, as a blogger and also branding advisor, what do you wish local bloggers & influencers did more of? How can local Croatian bloggers step up to the next level and be recognised on a more global level?

Well, unfortunatelly there are not so many (as far as I am concerned) Croatian bloggers that are recognized at the international level except some beauty bloggers (Jelena Perić) or fashion and lifestyle blogger like Ella Dvornik. I think that the Croatian community likes Croatian bloggers and influencers because I think that we  still ‘live in a bubble‘ as a country despite the openness of the web and english speaking community on the social media.

I truly believe that my ‘real‘ community to whom I communicate is local and national. If I started a blog now, it would be in Croatian language.

For example, my blog is written in english and at the very beginning (in 2012-2013) I had some interesting cooperation proposals with fashion management companies in London that had the potential to develop into some serious business if I was ready to do so, but I wasn’t ready since I was never a ‘full time’ blogger. After that even though I had followers from all over the world, I truly believe that my ‘real‘ community to whom I communicate is local and national. If I started a blog now, it would be in Croatian language.

Which are some local bloggers and influencers you admire?

As I already mentioned above, Ella Dvornik who is making a reality show of her personal life. Ella has more than 300K followers only on Facebook and can be really considered influential taking in consideration her number of following on all social media platforms. Also consider her very high engagement rate because she is communicating with her followers ‘human to human‘ and has one of the most active community on Facebook (and Instagram, too).

Another example of great Instagram profile is the one owned by Jelena Perić, a Croatian beauty blogger with more then 1 mil. followers on Instagram who is making a living of what she is doing, as a result of cooperations with sponsors, tutorials, etc.  Speaking of micro influencers, I would like to mention an emerging blog for mums called, Lipstick Mom, which is very entertaining and the owner, Petra Ninčević, has that spontaneous vibe in her everyday story telling.

“Just tell your story, be honest, real and authentic.”

I think I just came to the conclusion that the secret of a good blogger is their ability to tell stories.  Both Ella and Petra do it perfectly and attract so many followers who can be considered their ‘tribe’. Speaking about another niche I would like to mention in lifestyle and entrepreneurship is the blog and You Tube channel owned by Tomislav Pancirov, my dear collaborator who gives so much advice and value to all the freelancers, people that start their businesses. He is a real inspiration to all of them. I think this kind of project will be succesful on a long term basis.

How important is content to you and your brand?

Content is the most important thing when we speak about branding and is going to be even more important in the future. The creativity and professional approach to preparing the content (texts, photography, videos) will be crucial at long term basis. Of course we can speak of numerous applications that evolved in the last few years that help us a lot, make the process easier and faster and we can all be considered – professionals. Many designers will not be happy with what they are reading but my world as a community manager, marketing manager and blogger completely changed with the discovery of Canva. Of course I put a lot of effort in creating branded visuals but I can finally do on my own and this is a very big step forward.

Croatia is far from being a saturated market in social media compared to the UK etc. what advice do you have for anyone looking to get into building a personal brand and earning money from social media?

My advice would be to tell their story, be persistent, be dedicated full time to what they are doing, to plan ahead because there is no random success story but a lot of work and effort invested in it.

Image Credit: Manuel Angelini

This is actually one of my favourite questions that I get asked from aspiring bloggers, “How much money will I make?”

It really depends of your effort and your persistence, also of how much you value yourself. You as a blogger are a medium and you have to perceive your value as such and so will others.

Last year I attended the first Diablog conference which gave me great insight into how some marketing managers and PRs saw local bloggers. Many of them stated that they would rather use an influencer from the outside the country with bigger numbers and prestige than one from Croatia. Some also boasted that they would use a local blogger, but without financial compensation as they didn’t respect their influence on a grander level and viewed their blogging hustle more as a “hobby.”. What is your response to this?

I think that the choice of some companies should be related to some specific marketing campaigns that they have because if they are selling their products abroad and have online selling platforms, then it makes sense to work with some international influencers which they consider more ‘prestigious.’ However, if they are selling products locally or nationally than the only relevant choice should be bloggers from Croatia or region (many are followed by Croatian community). It all depends of the goal of the campaign.

The culture of our companies and attitude towards bloggers is changing slowly and they might need more insights and ROI results to cooperate with some blogger and / or influencers. I think that bloggers should all have their professional media kits with all the insights that might be useful and decisive for some companies or marketing agencies to work with them. I think that this is also a process because many of the bloggers who are just starting a blog related to a hobby or their passion are usually focused on content and how to distribute it. They do not even think about the unique visitors on their blog or the reach of their Facebook page and posts as well as Instagram, but they absolutely should.

I know that this requires a lot of time and resources as well as skills related to analytics, it is normal that not everybody has those skills and especially if their blog is just a part time job, they won’t dedicate so much time to that. Blogging that becomes a full time job requires (as I’ve said before) a lot of dedication and determination and actually being aware that you are working all the time planning the content, creating it and taking advantage of all the resources that you have at your disposal. If not, asking for help from a mentor is always a good idea too.

I think that the social media boom has barely begun yet in Croatia, what separates those that will succeed in long run to those who will just ride the wave and fade out?

I think the dedication and also the detection of the newest trends in digital world because when you are willing to learn from the best ones and you want to adapt to some changes, that is what makes you different from the others. Learning every day is the key to success, in my opinion.

What type of personal brand has the potential to succeed long term in Croatia?

I think that in Croatia a lot of people perceive wrongly the term ‘personal brand’. Building a personal brand is not taking numerous selfies and posting them on Instagram many times a day. Building a personal brand is something much more than that – you are the CMO of the company called YOU and you have to be aware that you are making everything to stand out in the crowd but with the value that you give in some specific area of interest.

I will start an online platform in January where I will be teaching people who want to learn how to brand themselves on social media, how to tell their story, which social media platforms should they use and how to communicate with them, creating authentic content and being relevant to their communities.

You find more info at: Brendaonica

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