Social media has been a secret weapon for many Australian entrepreneurs, allowing them to amass a significant following, creating loyal customers and brand ambassadors in the process.
Jane Lu, who founded Showpo in 2010, started really cracking into social media about two years ago.
“We were quite behind with everyone else, I was using [Instagram] as a photo filter tool rather than to gain a community,” Lu tells SmartCompany.
“I just wasn’t getting it and I felt really defeated by it.”
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Today, Showpo has nearly 1 million Instagram followers, a Facebook community of more than 580,000 people and a YouTube account with more than 36,000 subscribers generating more than 3 million views.
She says Showpo’s Facebook account has an engagement rate of about 50% to 75% of its followers.
“All the answers are there on how to crack it but people don’t spend enough time on it,” Lu says.
With social media here to stay, the 29-year-old entrepreneur says small business owners need to accept the online world and just keep figuring out what works.
“Every time they [Facebook] change their algorithm it’s actually a good thing because it brings you back to square one with everyone,” she says.
Slinkii, founded by model and law graduate Pia Muehlenbeck, has more than 66,300 Instagram followers, 4,800 Facebook likes and 3000 YouTube subscribers.
“When we started about 18 months ago, I had absolutely no social media following,” Muehlenbeck told SmartCompany.
Together with Slinkii co-founder and photographer Kane Vato, the duo began with a goal to share one great photo on Instagram everyday.
The professional model-photographer combination meant they could snap some high fashion images to promote the brand’s clothing.
But it has taken a very deliberate strategy of testing and analysis to help them grow their following to where it is today.
Social media success is not an overnight gig, it takes a lot of heavy lifting and dedicated hours to figure out what works.
These are their top tips.
Tip 1: Focus on one platform first
For businesses just starting out on social media, Lu recommends figuring out one platform first.
Whether it’s Facebook or Instagram, she says it’s important to dedicate specific time to develop, create and share content.
Part of this time should also include research and analysis to figure out what’s working, what the market likes, which posts do well in directing traffic to the business’ home page and which may be influencing sales.
“It’s a constant trial and error,” she says.
Tip 2: Test and figure out what content works
Muehlenbeck says they used Iconosquare, which was free at the time but is about $9 a month now, to get statistics on where their followers are, customer segments, the best times to post for higher engagement.
“We use this quite heavily,” she says.
At Showpo, Lu and her team regularly review the stats to iterate content that works.
“We do it based on the number of likes, engagement and links that generate revenue – we look at the clicks on that,” she says.
“I actually know Instagram is working because we’re selling so much internationally.”
Tip 3: Be consistent
“I’ve heard people say your vibe attracts your tribe,” says Muehlenbeck.
To attract an audience for their sporting wear, instead of just pushing a basic sales pitch they share content with the aim of pushing a lifestyle, social interaction and entertainment.
They started with a commitment to one great photo a day and now they share four at 6.30am, 12pm, 6.30pm and 8.30pm.
“It looks like I’m kind of just laying on the beach all the time but I’m really not – we do plan it in advance and collaborate with other brands strategically,” Muehlenbeck says.
If it’s a company that’s selling pillows for example, they can share interior design inspiration photos and the like, she says.
At Showpo, Lu says they now share Facebook content eight times a day and Instagram posts around 13 times a day.
About 75% of Showpo’s Instagram posts are original content with the online retailer holding two photoshoots a week to promote its products.
Tip 4: Partner with social media ‘influencers’
To really amp up followers and acquire new customers, Muehlenbeck says they use social influencers, who are people sitting in their market who have already established a large and highly engaged following.
“There is a cost to it if you’re doing it for big numbers but it is more affordable than traditional advertising and you do see, in my experience, a much higher return [because] you’re posting to people who have chosen to follow you,” she says.
“I’m not an annoying ad break that comes up on your TV.”
To access these big pockets of followers, Muehlenbeck suggests just reaching out directly to influencers or their media managers with an expression like ‘we’d love to work with you’.
At Slinkii, this approach has helped them to grow their new followers.
“[So] you’re not just preaching again and again and again to the same audience,” she says.
Tip 5: Be open and ready for new platforms
With the emergence of new social media platforms, it’s important to test and trial where the market moves.
Despite their success on Instagram, Muehlenbeck is staying on her toes managing two blogs, a home site and various social media platforms to generate brand awareness and sales.
“I want to keep this fluid,” she says.
With 10 billion Snapchat videos watched everyday, Lu has made an effort to build a following there too.
Lu uses it to share quirky videos and build consumer loyalty, but she has found they haven’t been able to generate organic growth through it.
While it took her a while to get used to the idea of creating great content that gets lost forever, she says it will be watched by far more people than on other platforms.
They can get about 7000 views a clip on Snapchat.
“It makes a much more lasting impression,” she says.