Social media… a necessary evil according to most eCommerce business owners. It’s a magical place that can bring us lots of new customers, but can also drive us mad.
Platform changes, algorithm updates, new strategies, oh my! Trying to show up in all the places, using all the features, posting pretty pictures every day, creating entertaining content, engaging with your audience, the to-do list goes on and on.
And when we realize we can’t manage it all on our own, we think maybe I should just outsource this?
Today’s guest is Katie Wight, founder of social media marketing agency KW content. She shares why she thinks eCommerce businesses should manage their social media in house, why she thinks hashtags are a waste of time, and her tried and true strategies for creating exponential growth for her clients.
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Why should eCommerce businesses do their social media in-house?
Social media is a daily (if not multiple times a day) touchpoint with our customers. It’s the frontline, it’s where we bring everything about our brand to life. So it’s really important to create and nurture these one-to-one relationships with our customers. In order to do that well, it takes a lot of work. That community building and loyalty aspect are just some reasons I think it’s better to do it in-house.
There’s an economy of scale that’s achieved when you have someone who is living and breathing your brand and your products daily.
Inside my agency, brands are paying us to get up to speed on their brand and their products. After that, even though we work really hard to make sure our operations are really efficient, we work hard to make sure that we’re pricing as fairly as we can, our clients are also paying a premium for that skill set. For my team, the challenge that we have to overcome is this degree of separation from the brand.
The importance of a dedicated brand manager
Brands who don’t have a community manager responding to people’s questions and commenting in response to comments on posts are really missing opportunities to educate the larger community.
An example of this would be requesting for people to email your brand for answers to a customer question about a product rather than being able to answer it right there because that community manager doesn’t know how to respond. Or they respond in a lifeless way. Those are all missed opportunities to literally drive sales.
Questions to ask when outsourcing
When we’re deciding what we are sourcing in house versus outsourcing, we’re asking ourselves questions like, is this a one-time project? Or is this going to be a part of our ongoing success and am I paying a premium when I outsource it? The answers to both questions are yes.
While I don’t think it’s always reasonable for a bootstrapping or scaling eCommerce business to do it all in-house, one thing that I talk a lot to our students about is having the skills of leadership around social media in-house so that you’re not paying for that strategic piece.
Maybe you get some support on content creation or on ads, but you are driving the strategy and you are leading the program. This leads to it being more tightly aligned with your business goals, it’s more resource efficient, and it’s also more responsive to the market and what’s happening.
You know the most about your brand, and that makes you the best equipped to creating a social strategy.
Outsourcing social media, while it was very helpful, it might not make it easier because there is so much communication that has to happen to keep them in the loop of what is going on. You can’t be as reactive to things that are happening in the world.
You, as a brand director, a marketing director or a founder, are by far the most qualified people to be creating a content strategy. You just need to understand the process and how it fits in with what you already know about brand marketing rather than investing in getting someone else up to speed on all the institutional knowledge you have about your brand.
The three simple steps you need to grow your brand with social media marketing
These drove 200% eComm growth for a family owned jewelry brand, and 150% eComm growth for a swimwear brand.
Step 1: Strategically developing a strong content strategy for social media
Everyone is sick and tired of hearing you need to know your customer. But there is a reason why every marketer and strategist says it.
- Who are we talking to?
- What are we saying?
- What does that look like, feel like and sound like?
You need to know your customer on a different level altogether to actually socialize with them and in a way that is meaningful.
This is the first phase of bridging the gap between a really strong brand strategy and what actually is going to happen in your digital ecosystem every single day.
Step 2: Get the right message in the right place at the right time for ultimate resource efficiency
The second phase is tactical. Right now everybody’s favorite tactic is Reels. But if you don’t know who you’re speaking to and how your specific human really wants to consume Reels, then you might not be reaching them in the way that they want to be reached. Depending on the real nuances of your target market, they might not want to see lip synching videos or talking head tips.
Quality over quantity
People who produce a trending Reel get a ton of exposure and new followers, but none of those followers are people that actually want what they sell, so they’re worth nothing. All it does is bring your engagement down because now when you post about all that other stuff that person doesn’t give a shit about because they only follow you because of that trending Reel.
That’s why we do the strategic part before the tactical part.
When we’re looking at all kinds of tactics, whether it’s Reels, or a specific targeting strategy within the customer journey, it’s important to match your strategy to the message you’re sharing. Make sure you’re tapping partnerships with other people and other brands as well.
Step 3: Having the right measurement model for ultimate optimization
The third phase is optimization. You have to push your assumptions to market and one of the biggest pitfalls in our field is that folks don’t have quite the right measurement model set up for social media marketing. All we look at is engagement, which is misleading because depending on what the message is we should be measuring success differently.
Often people say that posting about their product doesn’t get as many likes, so they stop posting about it but the point of their post is actually to sell their product so looking at likes isn’t the most accurate measure of success. Rather, they should be looking to see whether people clicked on your website. I would take one sale over 100 likes every day of the week.
It’s really important to remember that you’re measuring success on revenue and profitability and growth and while audience growth and consumer engagement can certainly be lead indicators of those things likes and followers don’t equal dollars.
How is the widely taught “know, like and trust” model killing your brand and losing your customer?
Know, like and trust is talking about ourselves and our brands more than our customers need us to.
Customers do not actually need to know you that well. The thing that’s actually going to build trust is if they can tell you’ve done your research and you’re saying things that land with them. You’re able to put them at the center of your story.
The framework that I teach is three pillars: one is aligned with brand growth, one is aligned with sales, one is aligned with loyalty. That loyalty spot is where all the know like and trust stuff goes. That’s where your secret sauce, personality values and great supply chain stories go.
Social media can be so chaotic and we like to over complicate it. Think about creating relationships online like you would in real life. You wouldn’t just go up and start talking about yourself because then that person would be like well, she’s crazy. You would find common ground. They become more interested in you because you both like tennis, or you both have kids and then it becomes natural to talk about yourself because you’re discussing similarities.
Pillar 1: Brand Growth
Finding mutual ground. This accounts for 50% of your content.
When we think about the customer journey, we want to introduce ourselves to our customers on a topic of conversation that first bridges the gap between them and our products. It shouldn’t be totally random, it should pre-qualify their interest in us but it should be all about them.
A really low hanging fruit example of this is if you’re selling spices or kitchenware, you can publish online recipes and they can have joy reading this piece of content without buying from you. There’s nothing that builds trust like that.
Pillar 2: Sales
This incorporates showcasing the products that you sell and accounts for 30% of your content. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but make sure you’re showing off the benefits and transformations that you’re product offers.
Pillar 3: Loyalty
All about you! This is about 20% of your content.
This is where you share all of your brand stories and the things that set your brand apart. Your values, your mission, your supply chain, how you do business, your behind the scenes, your credibility—all that good stuff.
The zero waste social marketing machine
The zero waste marketing machine is about getting out the right message, at the right time, with ultimate resource efficiency, all of the time—not just in our sales funnels.
It’s about organizing your organic content in a way that mirrors your customer journey.
We essentially do micro-campaigns, which are kind of like “boosting” because you’re working from your organic content. Unlike boosting, though, you pick the audience and you pick the objective.
We take pillar one content and align that with audience growth objectives like engagement, reach, or traffic to site depending on the piece of content. If it was a blog, we would target people who looked like our customers.
Then, when we publish pillar two, we would retarget warm audiences and sell with conversion objectives.
Pillar three can go either way, depending on the nature of the content.
The months that we implement these systems, we see immediate lifts in our average cart values. We’re talking about a 30% increase in average cart value for a makeup brand whose average cart value was $50. That’s huge.
Approach organic content in the same way you approach your customer journey
That means sales funnel strategies need to align to the messaging to which in turn needs to align with objective, which needs to align with budget. And doing that day in and day out. The results have been really, really great and very, very consistent. It’s never not worked.
How do you tie an organic content campaign back to the final results?
The first thing we do is we showcase those results. We break it down in a way that shows we’re not just posting content just to post content, we are aligning it to your three critical business goals of demand, increased demand generation, sales and customer loyalty. And you can directly see how we’re going to allocate these dollars according to those objectives.
The thing with marketing is that it’s always your best guess or your best assumption, and then you have to test your assumption.
How long give this strategy before deciding whether it’s working?
This varies a little bit, depending on how aggressive you’re being. Volume of content and budget will obviously accelerate the rate at which we can see results.
Our standard baseline, based on our usual working perimeters like quality over quantity and a modest budget, is 90 days.
If you’re posting 12 times a month instead of every single day, or multiple times a day, 90 days is going to give you enough time to see what’s working, what’s not working and what needs to change.
What’s a strategy or something you tried that didn’t work?
Hashtags are something I’ve been testing. The cost benefit analysis of how long it takes to research and apply the proper hashtags to every post against the actual incremental reach that it’s getting us doesn’t weigh up more often than not.
The question is whether the juice is worth the squeeze? We spend a lot of time doing that and it doesn’t really work for much, yet it is so time consuming.
So instead of spending so much time researching hashtags, just research your customer and create content that is 100% what they want to see and share.
Other than that I could name 100 million other little mistakes I’ve made and content that I published that didn’t land. I would say that every single one of them probably comes back to a miss with my target market. Sometimes we get ideas in our head that mean more to us than they mean to our customer
What’s a strategy you tried or something you did that blew it out of the water?
The three pillar framework how we align marketing messages is probably the capstone of my career in terms of strategy that works.
I was working with a national cosmetic brand W3ll People, which is a truly green, truly natural makeup brand. When we were deciding what our Q1 campaign was going to be and what conversation we wanted to have with our customers, we decided to go with a campaign that was actually encouraging our people to take their makeup off.
During January when everyone was going to be saying “New Year, New You” (which is essentially marketing to women about how they’re not good enough) we decided to do a series of videos of women taking their makeup off, which was obviously a little bit risky.
We had an overwhelmingly positive response because the customers felt like this was a real sure sign that this brand cares about us as people rather than us as “just” customers.
When it comes to your messaging strategy and when you’re in the ideation phase, don’t be afraid to have conversations that need to be had, that might be a little bit counterintuitive but could actually be really refreshing for your customers.
You don’t have to be selling all the time to make sales and in fact, you can make a lot of sales when you are not directly selling.
Remember that these are all just human beings on the other side who are struggling with all the same things you’re struggling with. They just want to feel seen and heard.
The #1 take away
It’s really important when it comes to building a social media strategy and program for your brand that you think for yourself. Be willing to learn enough to understand what size program and what size investment you need, based on your unique business goals, resources and unique life stage of your business.
The biggest flaw of our industry is just handing out blanket advice, which really confuses people.
The fact is that my business does not need the same social media strategy or program as your business, and it does not need the same social media strategy as $100 million brand.
What you really want is to understand the landscape and be able to build something that can grow with you. And that, of course, you’re only investing in to the extent that you need. It really has to plug in to the rest of your business strategy. Get your hands a little bit dirty and be willing to figure that out.