Building your brand with social media: Yes, it works and Kiwi companies are doing it right now

Building your brand with social media: Yes, it works and Kiwi companies are doing it right now
In his 2014 book, Zero to One Peter Thiel addressed what he called the “field of dreams conceit”. He said “customers will not come just because you build it. You have to make that happen and it’s harder than it looks”.

Social media sites offer a new way for businesses to advertise their wares and engage with customers. Idealog asked Kiwi businesses at different stages of development how they used social media to build their brand and build sales.

We know, we know. Social media is a powerful tool for connecting business with customers. Why then, has recent research from PR agency Hotwire found less than a third of companies in a global survey are using social media to grow their brand?

While the numbers of companies overall using social media to grow their brand appear to be small, there are a number of young New Zealand companies doing precisely that.

Her Apparel intimates is an online retailer of lingerie and Anzac collaboration between Rebecca Rasool, a New Zealander, and co-founder Bethany Payne, an Australian, who runs the social media marketing of the lingerie line. The company, which is just a little over a year old now has more than 30,000 followers on photo-sharing site Instagram.

Her Apparel posts photos of their latest lingerie offerings on Instagram and Payne says, for a business like hers, social media marketing is primarily about visual promotion of the product.

“The most important thing is how you visually merchandise your social platform,” says Payne.

Payne says she has noticed a shift away from Facebook to other forms of social media because of that platforms ‘pay-to-promote’ model.

“Facebook [is] not as strong as it used to be,” she says. “It has declined in popularity as any type of marketing you do [there] has to be paid for.”

Payne prefers Instagram for Her Apparel because brands can filter content towards interested followers and put out higher quality photography to catch the attention of potential customers. This is no different from the importance of layout in a physical store, Payne says.

“Everything should always look nice and appealing to the eye, otherwise people become uninterested. [The look] also lets people know who you are as a label and what you can cater to the consumer.”

Image: Her Apparel Intimates co-founders, Bethany Payne and Rebecca Rasool

Thirty thousand followers sounds impressive on first hearing, but for any business, it’s all about the bottom line. So how does a social media presence actually drive sales?

Payne uses Iconosquare, an Instagram service that provides account holders with key metrics such as the number of ‘likes’ a specific post receives and how many followers an account has accrued. She then compares trends in followers against sales orders received to determine the impact of posts on Instagram to sales of Her Apparel lingerie.

Payne notes that the biggest number of followers of Her Apparel come from the United States, reflecting the reach that social media actually has.  

Payne says there are two factors which helped to grow Her Apparel’s following. First, she reached out to fashion and lifestyle bloggers with significant followings by offering them a lingerie sample, then having them promote the product on their blogs.

The other factor is simply the well placed hashtag.

On both the Her Apparel Intimates and Her Girl Club Instagram accounts, the company uses hashtags which Payne says act as a sort of directory.

Hashtags direct followers toward the specific content, such as styles of lingerie, which they are most interested in.

Image: Value my Venture founder, Nathan Rose

Nathan Rose, who founded Value my Venture, a company offering valuation and business advice services to business three months ago, says he’s  been successful in creating opportunities by publishing blog posts on LinkedIn and Facebook.

He says the blog posts help to increase his online presence and engage with prospective customers.

“Content creation and distribution through these social networks has been a great way to get myself out there,” he says.

“Social media is totally transparent. People can engage with you in that way.”

Value my Venture is still in the early days of it’s operation and Rose can’t yet point to great sales success from social media but says it helps start a dialogue.

“I probably haven’t generated direct sales through LinkedIn and Facebook but it’s been good to start relationships with people who have then introduced me to new clients. People who work with these sorts of businesses like and comment on the articles which hopefully converts into a sale down the track.”

For Simon Phillips, founder of Fitwear, an online gym clothing business, building a brand with social media is all about hard work and tried and true customer service.

“I reply to 100 to 150 customers on Facebook a day.”

Fitwear has grown substantially in popularity and now has a large social media presence with over 27,000 followers on Instagram and 180,000 likes on Facebook.

Phillips also creates Snapchat stories which are very popular. He says there is no real secret to the popularity of these, other than being genuine and showing the individual character of the brand.

“It’s just me and the boys,” he says. “Other brands’ Snapchats are boring and don’t have any personality.”

Companies starting out in 2015 need to be dipping more into their back pocket to make social media marketing build their brand given the arrival of the pay-to-promote model, Phillips says.

“In this day and age [companies] need a reasonable budget for [social media] advertising,” he says.

Phillips reiterated the fact that the only constant in the social media landscape for businesses looking to build their brand was change.

“Within a year’s time there will be something new, then that will get monetised,” he says.