It’s everyone’s new favorite social media platform and for some business owners, it’s a gold mine.
Lily Jade is a multi-million dollar diaper bag business and they’ve generated seven figures alone through Instagram.
eCommerceFuel community members and founders of Lily Jade, Landon and Meggan Wood, along with their Instagram manager, Ashley McGleary, share the secrets behind using influencers and creating engagement to create buzz (and lots of sales) using Instagram.
Andrew: Hey, hey, guys, it’s Andrew here. And welcome to the eCommerceFuel podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in to the show today. And on the show, we’re talking Instagram today, and specifically, how do you generate seven figures in sales from Instagram? And my guests have done that. Not only do that they have a multi-million dollar business, and have done well with Instagram, but they’ve generated seven figures in sales just from the Instagram channel itself, by their own estimates. A really impressive story.
And the owners, who are eCommerceFuel community members, I had the chance to meet them at ECF Live last year in Nashville, Landon and Meggan Wood, and they’ve got a really incredible story. And we’re…we have them on, and we’re also joined by their, kind of a Instagram manager. She heads up their Instagram team at the company, Ashley McClearyan.
And talk tactics. How do you make this work? We talk about the early days, how they got going, how they got their 1,000 followers. We talk how much you should expect to spend when you paying for influencers to share your things, based on how many followers and how much engagement we have. We talk about how you should put together an engagement letter when you have people that you’re paying sponsored posts for, to make sure they present your brand in a way that actually gets engagement and represents you the way that you want to be seen. And we talk about that, and a lot of other things in today’s interview.
So, I’m going to go ahead and get the intros brief as possible, and let’s go ahead and jump right in to discussion with Landon, Meggan, and Ashley from Lily Jade.
In Search of a Great Diaper Bag
Andrew: So, Meggan, you were mentioning that you’ve only been doing this for a couple years. I think like, October of 2013, you and Landon and the team there, and…which, really surprised me, given the quality of the business of your line of products, and what you’ve been able to accomplish since then. So, was LilyJade born out of just, your need for a good diaper bag?
Meggan: Yeah, actually it was. I’m a mom of two little girls, and when I had my second daughter, I looked at my husband and said that one day I wanted to design a diaper bag line that did not look anything like a diaper bag, and that had multiple functions, just as a great coat, and that had an organizational component that would help keep moms and women and business women just organized. Help their lives run a little bit more efficiently. So, yeah.
Andrew: I think this is the kind of thing where you don’t really realize how valuable that is until you have kids. Because we have a couple girls now, and when we had our first, my wife got a…she got something…not a…she didn’t know about Lily Jade, but she kind of got a nicer, higher end designer bag, because she uses it so much. Meggan and Landon, of course, you guys are married, for people who may not be aware of that, just listening. But, have you been working together since the beginning of the company, and what are your different, respective roles within Lily Jade?
Landon: Yes, we have been working since the beginning of the company. I think that we work well together as a team. We have a lot of respect and love for one another. I know a lot of people certainly would say that you’re crazy for, you know, husband and wife team. But, you know, it works for some. Not for others. But it…you know, I think for us, anyway, it does. Just having that mutual respect is key. And, there are things that I know for sure I couldn’t do without her, and I think there are things that I probably do that she certainly wouldn’t want to do. So, it works out well. But yeah, we definitely are partners together in the thing, and on a daily basis.
Andrew: And, what I’d love to do, one of the reasons I was excited, especially to have you guys on, is the success you’ve seen with Instagram and using that channel to really drive your brand forward. And, we’d test taking a couple different snapshots. Kind of get a sense of where you guys are now with Instagram, and then kind of step and really dive into the details of how you got there. So, when did you start marketing on Instagram, and how long did it take to go from…you know, when you first opened your account, to get 55,000. But I’d love to hear…yeah, how long it took to get to that thousand mark as well.
Over 50K Followers Within Two Years
Landon: I would say, the way we got to 55,000 followers would be, over the time frame that it took, was probably about…over the course of about two years? And we started we off really, to Meggan’s point, we simply…collaborating with other accounts that were larger than our’s. That was really our primary strategy, was to leverage the influence of others. So, we did do a lot of, kind of cross-promoting other products, brands.
Again, the focal point of growing our social media has been really working with influencers and brands that really have more of a following than we did, and leveraging their accounts, doing shared giveaways, cross-promotion, things like that.
First thousand followers, it seemed like…it didn’t seem like we would ever going to get there. And then, you know, five thousand came shortly after that, and then 10 and 20. It’s been a steady growth curve over the last two years. It slowed down a little bit over the last, probably, couple of quarters. We saw the most growth probably in the first 20 months or so. But yeah, that’s the strategy that we use.
Andrew: Perfect. That’s great. So it took about two years to get to 55,000. I want to dive into some of those strategies with cross-promotion and partnerships. But a couple more, maybe just like, real quick snapshots of where you guys are now. Just roughly, what percentage of your revenue can you attribute to traffic coming from Instagram?
Landon: As best as we can tell, mainly because the issue isn’t there. It’s not like Facebook where you’ve got the links embedded in the post. So, we’re estimating probably about 50% of our revenue comes from activity related to Instagram. But I can’t say for sure. It’s very hard to track that, and that’s really just an estimate, because you know, the tools are still limited.
I mean, you can kind of triangulate a little bit by different ways. You could run promotions, or you know, hoping somebody will cut and paste a shortened link. But it’s not nearly as robust as like, tracking on Facebook, or you know, looking at analytics and traffic coming from a blog post or something like that.
Andrew: You guys do mostly organic. You don’t do a lot of paid stuff on Instagram, right?
Purely Organic Growth
Meggan: Yeah, our paid…we do not advertise on Instagram. We’re looking into that and utilizing that. Our paid promotional stuff on Instagram just comes from through our paid blogger outreach. Or when we pay an influencer. You know, sometimes that will include a – most of the time now, it does – a shoutout on Instagram. Every now and then they will host an Instagram giveaway for us. Some do that. We have a lot of ambassadors that we have not had to pay anything, and they do get a bag. And so they get a nice bag. So that’s great, but, yeah.
Landon: Yeah, as far as the digital marketing, or the paid advertising, like using Facebook ads to push out promoted Instagram posts, we haven’t done any of that. It’s something that, this year, that’s on the radar for like, “Let’s really dig into it and leverage what we’ve already got going.” But yeah, it’s primarily organic, and the stuff that we do pay for, it’s really just paying other people to post for us.
Andrew: Couple of years, get to 55,000. You know, 50% roughly, even though I know it is hard to measure, of your revenue. So I’d love to kind of break it down from the very beginning, for someone who maybe is thinking about using Instagram, to be able to kind of replicate what you’ve done.
And to start out, setting up an account. Maybe this is a silly question, but is there anything when somebody’s creating an Instagram account for their brand, that they need to be thinking about? What’s important in terms of maybe naming or style, handles, things like that? What do people overlook that they shouldn’t when they’re just kind of creating the presence right out at the gates?
The Importance of Researching Customers
Ashley: I find that people overlook research. We need to understand what our demographic wants, and where do they go for information, and why are they going there for information? For instance, our demographic is millennial moms, and so they’re searching out, “What do I do with this new baby? I don’t know what I got myself into. What are the best products to use? What are the opinions and what’s the information out there that’s going to help me be a better mother?”
And so knowing what your demographic, who you’re selling to, what they’re looking for, is essential before you start throwing posts out there. Otherwise, you’re kind of wasting your time, because you don’t yet know what they want to hear and what they want to see from you.
Another thing is, you need to know if your demographic…are they social or are they wanting to research? Some people are there because they want to be known and they want to know others. And they’ve got lots of opinions and they need to be heard. We find that stay-at-home moms, all day with their kids, love to talk to adults and so they need to be heard. And so, we ask questions and we tell stories, and we provide the need for interaction.
But if you have a customer that is solely wanting to absorb and research and have a takeaway intellectually, then you have to frame out your posts and your captions to encompass that.
And then, hashtags are your friend, and that is how everyone searches on Instagram. And so, if you don’t have a few hashtags for your brand that are easily searchable…for instance, we use #leatherbag, #leatherdiaperbag, #diaperbag, obviously. However, if you are a smaller business, and the higher the search for a given hashtag, the more likely you’re going to get lost. So look for what we call micro-niches. I don’t know.
For us, it works better if I say #brownleatherdiaperbag. That’s the hashtag. So whoever’s looking for that, instead of competing our posts with 100,000 other posts that say just #diaperbag, there’s only 6,000 posts that say #brownleatherdiaperbag, and so there you have found a much more willing customer when you narrow down your hashtag content.
And then, one more thing, you really want to find out what customers are going to. Where do they already shop? You want to associate your brand with the quality they’re already used to. For instance, we want to be associated with Kate Spade and Kendra Scott. So we must go and look at the quality of content that they put out, and come up with an action plan to reach that over the course of our work. And so, that’s what I would say for anybody who’s starting out.
Andrew: Nice. That was Ashley, right? Not Meggan?
Andrew: Yeah. And I, of course, mentioned you in the intro, but Ashley, you, among other things, lead the team that kind of just handles and runs the Instagram marketing strategy at Lily Jade. Very cool. And so, with the hashtag…so, you’ve got…even before you start, you’ve got a sense of who your customers are, what’s important to them, and also who you want look like.
Early on, once you’ve got all this data, before you dive in, it’s intimidating for someone, starting an account. Nobody’s following them. You know, you’re not…you may be following a handful of people. Does the strategy that you start with, to get your first thousand followers, is that the same type that you use all the way from a 1,000 to 55,000? Or, what should you be focused on to get that first 1,000 followers?
Test the Waters
Ashley: I think being fearless. To not be afraid to test the waters with your content, and then really carefully identify which posts they respond well to, and not be afraid to do that over and over again. Figure out as quickly as possible what works, and then replicate it.
Andrew: Okay. So throw in everything, and seeing what gets the most engagement. Can you give us a sense of, for Lily Jade, what kind of things in those early days worked really well, and maybe some things that you thought that would work, but really didn’t get the traction that you were hoping for.
Meggan: You know, one thing I feel like with Instagram, early on, when we’d do a collaboration, or host a giveaway with another brand that has a larger following, that’s compatible with us. So they’re sending people our way. So these are new Lily Jade followers and friends on Instagram.
So then, what kind of things do I want them to know about Lily Jade? And so there was a strategy in that, in on Facebook we kept our content very slim. So they would just do, like a couple sentences. On Instagram, we found that we could actually tell a story. So it was like window shopping plus a story, and that resonated with those – and it still does – who follow us. And they would follow it up with a question, and there was some engagement early on.
You know, “What do you love about this bag? What would you change about this bag? This is the thought process that went into design this certain bag.” Talking about the photoshoot. Just made it really personal. Like, at Lily Jade, we are a brand. We are a bag. But we’re mom and we’re people. And really wove in this kind of story of who we are. And it was a gradual thing. It wasn’t just like, instant, you know? Stories! Which, I don’t think is necessarily wrong. But, that was helpful, for sure.
Andrew: And so you’re out there, definitely throwing stuff out there to see what sticks. I know a lot of times people, especially on Twitter, will go and they’ll follow a ton of people to try to…to kind of, “Oh, someone followed me,” and get those follow backs. Is that something that you guys even looked at at all, or were you just primarily focused on, right out of the gates, finding what resonated well with the audience you were trying to target, and then, as we’ll get to in a minute, that influencer marketing?
Meggan: As far as going and following a bunch of people, no. We didn’t. We didn’t follow…we haven’t tried that.
Ashley: Right. We have found it’s a lot more effective to hone in on a really highly engaged audience, than to spend so much time and manpower casting a wide net, only later to lose thousands of followers because really, we kind of lured them in, and gave up a false front. So, I think our time is much better spent finding the people who actually want to know us, and that actually share us. And so then it’s more than one customer. Once we get a follower, she’s tagged five of her friends she knows will love. And so, much more effective to get a really engaged audience right off the bat.
How to Perfect a Giveaway
Andrew: That makes a lot of sense. In terms of giveaways, is that something you can do right out of the gates? Maybe for some reason I have, and it might be a misguided notion, that you kind of need to get a little bit of a following, maybe. I don’t know why 1,000 comes into my brain, but 1,000 followers. A little bit of a foundation on Instagram before you can start rolling out things like the contests like you’re talking about, and before you can start maybe, you know, maybe even doing influencer reviews. Is that the case, or did you guys just, even from zero followers on out, just hit the ground running with all of these tactics?
Landon: You know, when we first started with giveaways, it was like pulling teeth. I mean, I was like, “Oh, I’m going to give this bag away,” and I was looking at the cost. And at the time, we were manufacturing in New York, and I was like, “All these bags cost like…man, they’re so expensive.” So, no, right out the gate, we did. But here’s the thing, is that we didn’t just put it on our…like, there’s was no way it would have worked if we had just given…you know, with 100 followers, which was basically our friends and family, you know.
Landon: After we launched, we told everybody that we knew. And maybe we had a few hundred followers on the different channels, and that was it. But the only way the giveaways really worked in the beginning…I mean, now they’re totally self-sustaining. I mean, we could give away a bag and drive tons of traffic where we’re at now, but in the beginning, without a doubt, we always partnered with somebody every time we did a giveaway. Another brand, or an influencer that appreciated the product, or our brand, one way or another.
And some of them were free engagements, like it was the cost of the bag. We did a lot of those. Some of them started transitioning into more and more paid, as we were finding people with more reach, and who knew the value of their accounts. We were willing to pay for it. But, yeah, absolutely. We always would partner with somebody, especially early on.
Finding the Right Influencers
Andrew: And let’s talk about…maybe a good transition into those influencer reviews, maybe starting with, how do you find those people? I’m sure that just kind of through the process of being on Instagram, knowing the hashtags you do, you know a lot of those brands. Are there any other tools or databases or paid services that can either help you identify some of those influencers, or even facilitate that paid review that they can do?
Meggan: We reached out to find bloggers that we can send a bag to, that will post on their Instagram account, or do a feature on us on their blog.
Ashley: And now the process is super simple, because you can go to a blog, if it’s professional, and if they share your demographic, you can see their Instagram icon. You click on that, and you get to go straight through, and see how many followers they have on their Instagram page. It takes seconds.
Andrew: So really it’s just about looking through the Instagram landscape, looking through the blogosphere, finding people who…kind of just doing the leg work of…kind of, just really knowing the space and Googling and following just kind of the rabbit trail that is social media, and creating a hit list of people you want to reach out to, have audiences that overlap. With, you know, your target customers.
Meggan: Yeah. So like, for us, maybe we have looked at our competition, and see who has featured their bags. Because then usually they’ll give a shoutout. You know, “This blogger did this great picture of our bag.” Or, “This blogger did this great picture of this high end baby product.” And we’re like, “Oh, okay. Who’s this blogger?” And then that’s where the creative part comes in.
You know, I was thinking about this last night, as I was going through some of this. You know, it’s newer. I was just thinking, “How would this translate to another type of business?” So we’re retail. We’re fashion. We’re motherhood. We fall in a few categories. But like, if I were selling mini-blinds, let’s say. I would approach these interior design bloggers, or interior design Instagram accounts, and I would approach them and say, “I would love to outfit your kitchen window with a drape and blind. Would you feature that? Would you talk about that?” And send them over to the site.
Or, there’s this creative…and I’ve seen that done. And so, thinking outside the box, and not being afraid to, A. kind of give stuff away, but then approach…you know, think creatively and then just approach and ask. Like, we just…we asked for a lot of things, and some they say yes to, and some they say no to.
Andrew: How much do you pay, if ever, for influencers? I’m guessing sometimes, you know, they’re very happy if you donate the product to write up a review. I’m guessing people that probably with sizable audiences are going to have to pay. Can you give us a sense of, you know, where you need to start paying for that positioning, based on audience size and exposure, and how much you do have to pay.
Landon: We had to feel out what works for us. So, as we got into it, I wouldn’t say that there’s a set standard for like, what works and doesn’t work for every business. So, it’s really trying it out, and evaluating that particular influencer and their audience, and what kind of ROI that you get from that engagement, and then go to the next one.
And then, pretty soon you get a feel for…because I imagine every demographic’s going to be a little bit different. With the mom-bloggers, there’s a lot of them out there. Maybe it looks a little bit different if someone’s selling truck parts and it’s a blog on off-roading or something. I don’t know. But for us, there are a lot of mom-bloggers that had influence that are just willing to trade. Because we have a high value product, they were willing to trade for a bag. And then it costs $250, $300, but they’re happy to post for that.
We started getting in…as we started looking at paying people, you know, we started off with $400 engagements, $500 engagements, $1,000 engagements. And looking…one of the things that we’re looking at, we’ll try our best to figure it out. We’ll look at Alexa Rankings, we’ll ask for their stats on their blog, we’ll look at…you know, we’re always looking.
How many people are commenting on their posts? Do you they actually have an engaged audience? We’re looking on their social media. Do they have a bunch of followers, but then nobody’s saying anything? Does her audience look like they’re buying…when she does promote products, I’m looking at seeing what products she’s promoted and how did her audience respond to that? Do we have people commenting in the comment feed, like, “Hey, I love this. Hey, thanks for sharing this. I can’t wait to get it.”
You know, you can tell what kind of audience a person has. Are they there just for fun or are they there because, you know, “I like this person. I want to buy what she’s got.” You know, everybody’s got a different type of audience. And we evaluate all those things. That all goes into our decision on how much we’re willing to pay.
But, I mean, it could be…now, we’re…it’s not uncommon to spend three, four grand, and we’ve got one engagement that’s like, four times that, that’s coming in a couple of months. And we’re going to launch our first really, really huge one. We’ve got a lot of really big ones that we work with, and this one’s just crazy huge. So we’re hoping it’s going to be good. We think it will.
But, you know, we kind of just grew into larger paid engagements. I don’t know that out the gate I would just…especially, you know, depending on your budget. If you’ve got it, you can drop it on whatever you want to, but for us, we kind of started out just feeling it out, and trying to get an idea of what works, what doesn’t. And we can get into this later, but we also work with the bloggers to guide the post. You know, giving them input on how they do what they do, and it’s going to work best for our brand.
Systemized Approach to Finding Bloggers
Meggan: Yeah. I think like, the blogger communication has been key. And then, you know, up front, we were told, like, “Oh no.” Basically like, “They’re not open to that.” And we were like, “Okay.” And we just graciously have approached them, and now we actually have more of a concrete…and that’s a whole another one.
But, we actually now have a more of a concrete, systematic approach. Like, this is how we approach them, and this is what we’re asking, and this is how we’re want our bags photographed, and this is what we don’t want. And, really guide them, which has been helpful, because we need content. Content, content, content. So if I send them a bag, then I want content. I want pictures to share, and things to talk about, and a good review. Yeah.
Landon: Andrew, this works for us. I mean, I don’t know if it would work for everybody, but we basically have a standard engagement letter that we’ll send to them, and say, “Hey, here’s what we’re looking for. Here are things that we…you know, here are the big no-no’s, here are the must have’s, and here are the things that we’d like.” So, you know, some strategic things that we do with that. Just coaching them through the post.
And we still want it to be authentic, and they realize that…I mean, it’s on them to make sure that they resonate with their audience. But there are little things that we can guide. Maybe even things that we’re targeting from an SEO standpoint, that we’re like, “Hey, can you include some terms in there for this or that?” Just trying to be strategic with how we…what information we feed them, and then kind of, you know, driving to some of goals.
Andrew: The engagement sheet standard is brilliant, because I’ve done some paid review…or, not paid reviews, but similar influencer marketing in the past, and it’s a fine line, but you’re in this position where they’re kind of…well, less so, being paid. But, they are kind of doing you a favor in some sense, and you’re leveraging their audience. And you do want to direct it as much as possible, but you can’t become too controlling. Otherwise, you’ll just…the relationship will break down. So, I love the “must have, hope for,” and the likes, like that. That level, that’s cool.
Landon: Yeah. Like, here’s a funny one. It’s like, no bathroom selfies, you know? If you’re going to post on Instagram and we’re going to pay you to do it, no bathroom selfies. Or, no standing in front of your garage and taking a picture. You know, like that’s not going to cut it. So, little funny things like that. But, the thing is, is it’s happened, which is why we put it in there. Because we’re trying to communicate a certain appeal to the brand, and we want stuff we can promote. We want stuff that is going to come back and be content that we are proud to repost on our own page. Yeah, but we realize you can only control things so much. So we try to give them as much room as they can, but offer guidance and just a few, like, “Hey, no-no this and yes-yes this,” and that’s it.
Meggan: We have far more brand ambassadors, that we call. Their level of following orientation on their blog is not the paid standard, and we have a different way to qualify all that. But anyways. And the ambassadors, they follow the same guidelines. And so, for some, we ask that they post a few times a month. For others, maybe it’s a couple times every six weeks.
Andrew: So when you say “ambassadors,” can you give me a little more better sense of how that works? Is that a group of, let’s say, a couple, a dozen, or a couple dozen people that, not only have…instead of just being a one-time…you send them a bag, and they talk about it, this is a group of people that regularly, that you have hired to create content or talk about or take pictures of their Lily Jade content on a regular schedule?
Meggan: Yes. We have a lot of them. They’re not…we don’t pay them for posts. Again, they have the look that we love. Maybe we love their Instagram account. And they don’t…some of them don’t even have a blog, but they have a good, strong following on Instagram. And, that varies. For us, when we define “good, strong following,” you can have 9,000 followers and 50 people like your picture. You can have 9,000 followers and 1500 people like your photos. That will vary, but we send them a bag, and we don’t pay them, because they’re not at the following on the level to be paid.
And so, we have agreement with them, and a lot of them are frequent contributors. And so some gals rotate bags, and feature different bags for us. And then, just do it a couple times. Some do it more frequently. And yeah, we call those our ambassadors, and they have really helped in this last year propel us forward, for sure.
Andrew: Interesting. And so you’re not paying them, but you’re either giving them free bags, or maybe every…
Meggan: Yeah, yeah. No, we’re not paying them. Hm-mmm.
Andrew: Okay, so you’ll send them a free bag, or you’ll send them a free bag that they swap out every quarter that they can take pictures of, something like that?
Find Your Engaged Audience
Andrew: That makes sense. And then how…Landon, jumping back to you for a minute. You had mentioned, you know, it really depends. You could spend three, four thousand dollars, or even way more to be able to kind of get a good sense. I know it’s going to vary a little bit, but if I can pin you down on a generic answer here. Let’s say, do you have an Instagram follower influencer with 100,000 followers in your guys’ market. And, fairly engaged audience. What would be like a ballpark, roughly – and again, a lot of variables – but roughly, what would you think a reasonable price to pay them for an influencer post on Instagram would be, or series of posts?
Landon: In our market, with a very engaged…because you could have an Instagram account with 100,000 followers and you know, you might have like 5,000…you know, 2 to 3,000 likes per post. Or you could have somebody that has 10,000 or 15,000 likes per post. So, I’d say an example would be like, maybe…we worked with a, kind of an Instagram fresh blogger a couple years ago that had…she’s grown considerably. Like, she’s like 5x now, within the last year, of where she was last year. But I think paid her probably, at that time, I think she was getting…she probably had 100,000 followers, and maybe she was getting, maybe 10 to 12,000 likes per post. I think we probably paid her around $2200 at the time. She’s demanding a lot more now.
But we also…I was going to say, you know, we also have…I mean, it’s just how it works. I mean, sometimes it’s relational. There are accounts that we’ve worked with where, you know, have 100,000 followers and a highly engaged audience, and we haven’t paid them anything yet and we send them a bag. It varies widely. But at the same time, you know, that same account, we’d probably be willing to pay them a couple thousand dollars to post, if they just asked, you know?
Andrew: And, that $2200, would that be for just a single post? A single picture? Or would that be something where maybe that she shoots out, or he or she shoots out about three or four shots over the course of a week? That’s for a single picture for $2200?
Landon: No, that varies. Yeah, but a lot of times, yes. That’s a single post, or it might include a giveaway, or it might be coupled with a blog post. It really depends on the influencer. And, I mean, it is…the variety of how people charge, and the manner in which you can make arrangements with influencers is vast. I mean, it’s just…there is no standard at all.
Meggan: Yeah, and there’s definitely an art to negotiating, and we’ve made a lot of rookie mistakes in the process, for sure. I mean, I know you do have the leverage, and we have found there’s leverage to negotiate. We have a celebrity that’s going to post at the end of the month, and she has an engagement of like, 500,000 followers on Instagram, and she has a blog, kind of on the side, and she’s got strong members, as far as engagement. And, we’re going to pay her $2,000. But she’s not a mom, and so she’s going to do it from a whole nothing angle, as far as our bags, go they’re perfect for travel, honeymoon bag. And those are just people we just approach and just start asking. You know, it’s knocking on doors. It just looks different.
Babies on Instagram = A No Brainer
Andrew: What percentage of your posts are you guys reposting things from other Instagram feeds? What percentage are your own products? What’s the mix between your own products and other peoples’ things that you’re posting? How does that play out?
Ashley: We shoot for about three original posts on Instagram a day, and 35% over the course’s time are not our own content. We share other people who, their brand is synonymous with our’s, or their values echo the values of our brand. We look for things that capture our customers’ hearts and their emotions. Women are emotional shoppers, and we tap into that.
What’s working really well this season are beautiful, beautiful baby pictures. And so, what Instagram account isn’t super flattered when you share a photo of their beautiful child and they get so many more follows and so many more likes. And it benefits us, because then our customers have oxytocin running through their veins while they’re looking at our bags, and they can’t differentiate the love they feel. “Is it the bag? Is it the baby? I don’t care! I’m going to buy it!”
Andrew: Oh, dirty, dirty marketing right there, when you bring babies into it.
Ashley: Yeah. And so we find things that our demographic responds to. What thrills their heart? What do moms need? Well, they need a break. They need a mental break. They want to feel calm. They want to feel like they’re doing a good job. And so, anything that’s affirming of motherhood and resembles lifted spirits, actually helps to sell our product as well.
Andrew: One third other people’s stuff, two thirds your own, original posts that feature your products. And, is that something you guys tested to see, “Hey, is this a good mix?” Because I’m guessing if you just blasted your bags nonstop, I mean, you probably still would do well, especially if you were really careful about how you curated them and what you posted and quality. But, there is something of value, of course, to bring other peoples’ content in, both from a…the standpoint of mixing it up, and also from a natural marketing standpoint. Is that something you guys tested a lot? Or is that just kind of something that has stuck based on just tradition?
Ashley: We’ve tested. We have experimented tremendously. And then we would test something for an entire week, gung ho, even if our followers were dropping. And then we would have the data to know, “We don’t want to do that again.” And now we know. And so then we would try the other thing and see that we’ve got much more engagement, because our mothers have a need to conversate. Then we can’t just do product posts, simply because there’s only so much you can say about a diaper bag. So we have to get other conversations started that would lure them in, and give them exposure to our products.
Andrew: Do you recycle posts, or is every post you put out there original? Or is there something where, you know, every…you’ve got a queue where every couple months you can recycle it, given that probably not everyone on Instagram’s going to see it the first time.
Ashley: I would say we rarely recycle posts.
When Customers Become Your Photographers
Andrew: And, I think I know the answer to this, but can you give me a sense of how much you guys are investing in the photography, in the images. Because that’s obviously…it’s a very visual, completely visual medium. And so, how much are you investing in photography, and how do you guys try to be able to do that efficiently, because I’m guessing…you know, how do you do that internally, and how do you…any tips or tricks for people to be able to do that well? Whether it’s maybe batching photo shoots and being able to spread those out, or things, hacks, or tips you guys have found when creating this content. Because I imagine on your side, it’s got to be, A. expensive, and B. relentless, to be able to continually put out really high quality stuff on Instagram.
Ashley: Believe it or not, it’s been wonderful to find out, but a lot of our customers, because they resonate with a high quality product, they also do high quality all across the board in their life. And so, a random customer will take a selfie. Well it turns out she’s a really good photographer with a really beautiful house. So, many of the photos I get to use on Instagram are simply shared by our customers who have a lifestyle of quality already. So that’s been really fun. It’s free content.
Meggan: Yeah, we’ve been fortunate that we’ve had what Ashley talked about, just a great customer base, and then blogger influencers that we’ve been able to pull from. It’s been recent we’ve actually started now to branch out and to pay photographers.
One gal is one of our favorite Instagram. She’s blueprintsociety, but Landon actually knew her growing up. And she’s a great photographer. Reached out to her, and said, “Like to see you and some lifestyle shots with our bag, and we’ll host some giveaways, and send people to your Instagram.” And now, we have just started…in the process of paying her pretty consistently.
And it varies with different photographers that we’ve used. Sometimes it’s $25 a shot, sometimes it’s paid per package. So many photos, of so many models, you know, for this amount. Sometimes we swap. We have swapped bags consistently with photographers, because they fit large cameras in them. So it just varies.
Andrew: So you guys, at the moment, it sounds like you have kind of contractor photographers do most of your photography, versus having like a big studio in-house where you guys take most of your shots.
Meggan: Right. Yeah. No big studio in-house. Nope, not yet.
Andrew: That’s impressive. It’s impressive that you guys are able to get such a volume of really quality shots. Your fan base, and yeah, with contractors like that.
Meggan: Well, and I think…like, different influencers, again, we’ve built up to that. So now there’s a criteria that we ask that they follow. Our guidelines, that we’d like to meet and have a mutual agreement on. And that’s really helpful as well.
Pinterest Versus Instagram
Andrew: You mentioned earlier, kind of Pinterest versus Instagram. And both are, obviously, very visual mediums, different channels with their own quirks. Is there something that has worked as well for you guys as Instagram, and any thoughts maybe on, if there’s somebody listening, who is thinking about pursuing one of the two really heavily. Can they do both really well? Is it better to double down on one, and really own it? And if so, how do you know which one to go after?
Ashley: Absolutely feasible to do both, and the thing is, is that Pinterest is very little effort for an incredible amount of turnover. Because once you pin one pin, and if it’s shared only by one person, then their thousands of followers are then exposed to it. And let’s say, only 10% of their followers repin their pin, then all of their followers…and so, it’s exponential marketing for zero dollars, except for what you pay your pinner to pin your product. So, absolutely, do Pinterest.
Know that you’re copy writing will need to be different, because the Pinterest user is using Pinterest for a different reason than she uses Instagram. Instagram is much more social. People are there to have conversations, to be known by one another, to seek approval. Pinterest is pretty much the opposite. Pinterest is, “I’m by myself. I have shut my door. This is my happy place. Don’t come knocking in. Don’t interrupt me. I want to be alone and build my dream world.” And so, your captions will need to be appropriate for each customer.
Andrew: If you guys haven’t checked out the site, Lily-Jade.com. Beautiful, beautiful bags there, and it’s well worth looking at if you’ve got kids and need bags, as well as, just if you want to see a really beautifully done site and an impressively curated Instagram feed. Meggan, Landon, Ashley, thank you so much for taking the time to talk Instagram and your story.
Landon: Yeah, thanks Andrew.
Ashley: You’re so welcome.
Meggan: Thank you. Thank you.
Andrew: Want to connect with and learn from other proven ecommerce entrepreneurs? Join us in the eCommerceFuel private community. It’s our tight-knit vetted group for store owners with at least a quarter million dollars in annual sales. You can learn more and apply for members at www.ecommercefuel.com/apply.
Thanks so much to our podcast producer, Laura Serino, for all of her hard work in making this show possible, and to you for tuning in. Thank you for listening. That’ll do it for this week, but looking forward to seeing you again next Friday.
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