In the monthly “SKU Viewed” series, food entrepreneur Leveraging the expertise of mentors and startup founders at Austin, Texas-based consumer goods accelerator SKU, to provide insights on issues impacting early-stage food and beverage brands.
AUSTIN, Texas — For startup founders looking to grow their brands’ online followings, the World Wide Web feels like the Wild West. According to Alison Smith and Karin Samelson, co-founders of Umai Marketing, there are many factors to consider when developing a social media strategy,
The Austin-based agency works with a number of emerging brands, including Serenity Kids, Canteen Spirits and Wondercide. Ms. Smith and Ms. Samelson are experts in social media, content creation, email marketing, and influencer and affiliate marketing.
food entrepreneur: What are the dos and don’ts of reaching your target audience on social media?
Alison Smith and Karin Sammelson: Be real and authentic. Partner with creators and micro-influencers in exchange for free products. Nothing beats word-of-mouth marketing; seed and generate interest in your audience by dedicating roughly 15% or more of your marketing budget to free product exchanges to social influencers and creators.
Don’t focus on the overall beauty of the feed. Gone are the days of curating feeds for action. Create a brand guidelines document and use it to ensure your brand’s beauty shines through, but republishing user-generated and influencer content that doesn’t quite match your aesthetic will bring unparalleled reach and social proof, and will actually have Help expand your brand presence and develop your overall aesthetic.
Don’t waste too much time on apathetic community engagement. When you are a busy founder, time is of the essence. If you can hire an intern to do this, they can try the $80 strategy (Google it) and see if they can get good traction. If you can’t hire someone else to do this, prioritize making real connections with new or key potential followers — sending personalized direct messages, authentic reviews, etc.
Which platforms are best to use if time and resources are limited?
Ms. Smith and Ms. Sameson: For community and education, use Instagram. To reach and entertain, use TikTok
If your product is for a super-niche audience that relies on the community for recommendations and education, like mothers of new babies, try creating a super-strong community through Facebook groups.
How often should emerging brands post/retweet what content?
Ms. Smith and Ms. Sameson: For TikTok, use the rule of quantity over quality. We have a quick and dirty tip to stop using photo tools on your phone and only use video when you’re shooting anything. Capture three to seven seconds of behind-the-scenes, your product, and anything else related to your customers and core messaging bucket; this way you can quickly catch up on TikTok audio or other trends with a plug-and-play catalog of videos ready to go .
For Instagram, this will vary per brand. Some brands earn posts 3 times a day; some brands post 3 times a week. Track your analytics and make educated shifts in content cadence based on the KPIs you’re tracking (followers, engagement rates). Just keep the short video content flowing and on your schedule.
What are the best practices for growing a brand following on social media?
Ms. Smith and Ms. Sameson: Keep the rhythm. Only follow the channels you know you can stay engaged and keep posting.
Take advantage of all the features on any given social platform. Try everything to see what resonates best with your target audience, then keep testing.
Work with brands that have a similar audience to you. Test giveaways, collaborative posts, live streams, all of that.
If you have some marketing budget, try promoting organic posts and giveaways that are already doing well. Cost 50 cents or less per follow, and make sure the followers that pass look like your client avatars.
What are some examples of emerging brands winning (and how) on social media?
Ms. Smith and Ms. Sameson: osom. Founders who always share a lot of culture retweet content; they always come back to their brand mission.
Funk it healthy. Education-based content that fosters community and fosters engagement. They have amazing content series that support their bucket of educational information and encourage people to follow to learn more.
Zely’s. The perfect combination of foresight and education for founders on TikTok. Dr. Ellie is the founder and uses her expertise in dentistry to attract new followers/clients every day.
What is the biggest myth or misconception about promoting your brand on social media?
Ms. Smith and Ms. Sameson: One thing founders and companies still struggle with is a picture-perfect feed, wanting to make sure every piece of content posted is flawless. Brands that win on social media are testing and experimenting with everything until something sticks, and they just go with the flow. If you’re so focused on a single piece of content that it keeps your content calendar on track, it’s time to reevaluate your priorities and let go of the need for perfection or even a lack of fragility.