A strong social media portfolio is almost as important as a good advertising strategy.
One person who know this all too well is Sarah Timmerman founder of Beginning Boutique, an e-commerce site which has been named the number one social media brand in Australia, according to Engagement Labs.
Launching in 2008, a period in which Timmerman says “no one really believed in selling online”, securing advertising was “extremely difficult”.
“No one really wanted to publish anything on us, so we had to get the word out there ourselves,” says Timmerman.
That’s when she turned to Facebook — which was relatively new at the time.
“We started using it for talking about great places for coffee and fun things to do on the weekend, which built strong brand proposition.”
“We had Twitter and Myspace already but Facebook was the first social media channel that really took off.”
Now, Beginning Boutique has a cult-like following of around half a million Facebook likes, half a million Instagram followers and the same amount of Twitter fans, as well as a phenomenal following across Pinterest, Youtube and Tumblr.
Combine that with the business, which gets 500,000 visitors to the website per month and turns over millions of dollars annually, which Timmerman admits is “closer to five than to one million”.
Ahead of the Online Retailer and Ecommerce Conference Expo in July, Business Insider spoke to Timmerman to get her tips on building a portfolio of killer social media networks.
Here they are.
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“We try to share different content across the different channels,” Timmerman says.
“Currently we’re producing content for Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, as well as using Pinterest for content we have already created.
“We try to present a different story on each different media, and be as relevant as possible in those different media according to what is happening or trending on that channel.”
For example for an event, such as the recent Met Gala in the US, “we’ll create an album on Facebook but we’ll post on Instagram as fast as possible to get it before anyone else can,” she says.
“You always want to diversify your risk, and so if you’re putting all your eggs in your Facebook basket it does become scary.”
“It is a great medium and you can definitely make a lot of money there, reach a great audience and create a great community.
“Posts need to have a question in them and it needs to be a relevant question around relevant content.
“[Include] a link that makes it easy for them to get to the website from that post,” she adds.
“Pictures are also really important, I think they’re essential. People are very visual and you want them to see the story of your brand, so you need to make sure you present it the best way you can.”
She says it is also important to reply to peoples questions on social media. “It’s another form a great customer service, and people want to be served where they want to be served.”
“Instagram is definitely demand driven and a lot more real-time,” Timmerman says.
“We don’t see any major traffic from hashtags… If we do use them they are generally more of a joke than trying to attract followers.
“If we’re working with a brand and they sponsor a post, then we definitely ‘@tag’ them. That’s extremely important in building a network of strong influences… and it definitely boosts engagement.”
“We try to Snapchat little fun things, behind the scenes of what is happening, promotions, it’s a very hacky, mobile app,” Timmerman says.
While Snapchat is seen as the more casual social channel of the bunch, Timmerman says businesses “don’t have the right to not be casual anymore, unless of course you’re a law firm or something”.
“If you’re in retail or services people love to know the ‘real’ people behind a brand, they want to know what’s happening and where it comes from,” she says.
“Even though it’s produced on an iPhone people love it because it’s like a sneak-peek into things they wouldn’t normally see.”
Her advice: “Just get on board with it, try to produce the best content you can in relevance to who your customer is.”
How often is too often?
According to Timmerman, never.
“Post 3-4 times a day minimum because people don’t see everything you post.”
And more importantly, “Don’t be afraid of spamming, it just doesn’t happen,” she says.
“Social media algorithms work so that you don’t see every post that someone makes.
“12 times a day on FB and 12 times a day on Instagram, and unless your customer happens to be online at those exact times that you post then they are not going to see all the posts.
“People generally don’t scroll through their entire feed, and if they do I don’t think they’re going to mind seeing all your posts.”
Prioritise the channels which get the most attention.
“I think Facebook and Instagram definitely get more attention than the others, but that’s also because they require more attention. With Snapchat we’re not getting hundreds of customers putting inquiries on posts, it’s still quite simplified,” Timmerman says.
“Instagram is completely different. It’s a younger market than what Facebook is, and then Snapchat seems to be around the same age as Instagram but it’s a more forward moving customer as well.
“It’s also really important to be tracking what the customer’s activity is and what they are liking.
“I think it’s really important to be reviewing everything you put out and making sure it is still relevant, because it does change. The content we are producing now is completely different to the content we were producing two years ago.”
Timmerman says the biggest lesson she has learnt in building her social media empire is the art of being patient.
“Building a big audience takes time. It’s not something that happens overnight. I think people get really discouraged by how long it takes to build to the first 10,000 and how long it takes to build to the first 100,000 and then the next 100,000. It is a really big commitment of time and energy,” she says.
And when things go wrong?
“Just treat the customers like you would want to be treated,” she says, “and give the best customer service possible, that’s really all you can do.”
“Hard work and persistence, I know that’s not very sexy but there’s no secret,” Timmerman says.
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