Startup Studio sessions at the recently Girlboss Rally LA were highlight for many of the women who came down. Why, you ask? Because, presented by Google Chromebook,they provided actionable tips and tools for growing their businesses. And now, we’re sharing it with you.
Opening the media-themed session with a industry overview was Cyndi Ramirez, the founder and chiller-in-chief of Chillhouse, an incredibly cool cafe/spa hybrid in New York that she calls a “destination for modern self care.” For background, Ramirez did exactly what so many of us are trying to do.
She started a blog, worked hard to grow a dedicated and engaged audience, started working with other brands as an influencer, and then leveraged those connections and her audience, to create a successful business.
“The media industry has become more than just about reporting the news,” said Ramirez explaining that the industry is now fragmented into millions of topics and publishers, both niche and large. “People now, especially millennials, want to consume their media in bite-sized, digestible formats. And more than anything, they want to connect with who’s telling the story. Today, not only do we see and hear the story, but we see and hear the voice of the person presenting it.”
“Millennials want to consume their media in bite-sized, digestible formats. And more than anything, they want to connect with who’s telling the story.”
Ramirez says that shift in the landscape makes is possible to have more control over our own media. “We have in many ways become our own media companies,” she explained. “This is why it is so important to understand and identify your own brand or company through a strong and recognizable voice and visual identity.”
Instagram has been instrumental in growing both Ramirez’s personal brand and Chillhouse, but as she explained, it’s important to understand its role today. “Instagram has pivoted to be less about aspirational imagery and more about going deeply inside someone’s life,” she noted before sharing a few pointers with the group.
- Videos are the future. “In the past, it was all about the feed. People are now consuming things at an ever-increasing rates. Videos captures people’s attention much higher than a photo and a healthy mix of video and photo will help increase your placement in the algorithm.”
- Don’t worry so much about over-posting on your feed. “In fact, post as often as two or three times a day if you can. The algorithm will favor you, and you won’t overwhelm your followers because chances are they won’t see all three. If they do, then awesome! You’re breaking the algorithm and that’s fantastic.”
- Lengthy captions tend to do very well. “So, if you have something to say say it loud and proud. When people see a lengthy caption, they assume you’re saying something important. Don’t be afraid to share meaningful, lengthy thoughts in your captions.”
- Always end your captions with a call to action. “Maybe not always, but try to as much as you can, because it encourages comments.”
Ultimately, Ramirez said, “Identify your customer and build the brand with them in mind.”
Maia Knudsen-Schule is the brand marketing director at Tastemade, so she spends a lot of time thinking about creating content that speaks to the food platform’s values and the brand their working with, while simultaneously entertaining and engaging the consumer.
“What defines you? What do you stand for? You can’t betray that audience trust.”
The way branded content is created today allows brands to create a meaningful narrative around what they stand for, which creates an entertaining experience for the consumer while they get to know the brand. Citing a campaign that Tastemadedid with LL Bean called Uncharted, Knudsen-Schule showed how today’s branded content is less ad and more experience.
Good branded content is all about authenticity on both the brand’s side and your side. Using a romantic relationship as a metaphor, Knudsen-Schule explained that it’s important that both sides enter a branded content partnership with the same goals. “If you’re entering a relationship wanting a really serious relationship and the other person just want this really quick Tinder date, it’s not gonna work,” said Knudsen-Schule.
And that all starts with your voice. Which, Knudsen-Schule says is born from your brand pillars — the words that describe your purpose, values, and mission as well as your tone, look and feel.
“What defines you? What do you stand for?” asked Knudsen-Schule. “You can’t betray that audience trust.” She explained that before Tastemade enters into a brand partnership they make sure their brand pillars and ideals align with the brands because otherwise nothing feels authentic. “Ask a lot of questions up front,” she advised. “You want to make sure you understand what they stand for, make sure they understand what you stand for.” Then, it’s about creating amazing content.
Closing her session, Knudsen-Schule advise those in the branded content arena to be curious and open to trying things. “Poke your head and your nose around where it doesn’t belong,” she said. “Ask a ton of questions. My boss would probably say I ask too many questions, but you’re never gonna learn unless you ask. Just try things. You’ll never learn unless you try.”
“Growth is … the ability to get people to share the content, because they care about the content, because they self-identify with it.”
Someone who knows a thing or two about trying new things is Martha Pierce, head of audience growth, ATTN.Their social first strategy may have seemed wild a couple of years ago, but is now being copied by some of the biggest players in the digital media realm.
“In the last three years, ATTN has grown from essentially nothing to a media company that receives more than 2 billion monthly impression, 30 million monthly engagements, and over 500 million monthly video views and we’ve done that almost exclusively on social media, using the same metrics available to you and your brand,” Pierce explained.
“The way that I think about growth is the ability to get people to view your content and return back. But, as importantly, the ability to get people to share the content, because they care about the content, because they self-identify with it.” Pierce says getting people to engage with your content all stems from a well thought out content strategy. At ATTN, they’re content strategy is narrative issue-based videos that that often include influencers.
A great piece for content means your audience will start to engage with it. Maybe they tag a friend in an Instagram post or share or comment on Facebook. It’s Pierce’s job to look at the metrics, measure the success of what they’ve done and strategize how to iterate upon that success to grow even more.
According to Pierce, the performance metrics that are going to give you the most information about the success of a video are engaged time, repeat viewership and engagement rate (the sum of the reactions, comments, shares per post, divided by the total number of impressions on a given post).
AtATTN, Pierce says they also use their video’s metadata to track those seemingly unquantifiable metrics. “Before we actually publish a video, we tag it,” Pierce explained. “With things like topic and source, but also with things like sentiment.” Pierce then uses that data in creating successful content in the future. For example, she shared that through this type of tracking, she now knows that environment content does better for them with a positive spin versus a doom and gloom negative spin.
Additionally before any video publishes, Pierce says they do a “boring test.”
“I think it was my second day working at ATTN, our co-founder said, ‘Okay. You’re going to sit down. You’re going to watch this video and you’re going to tell me when you get bored or when you think that it’s just you lose interest,’” she explained. “It happened probably 15 seconds in and that’s what we still do to this day.” For her, that speaks to the importance of being self critical.
Her biggest piece of advice? “Don’t be afraid of failure,” she said. “We’ve launched many pages. We’ve launched many pieces of content that have not worked and we give them happy funerals. We’re like, ‘Okay, that’s done.’ You have to keep moving and keep looking forward, and finding new ways.
“Maybe the way that you positioned one thing isn’t the best way to do it and you can try a different form of post text, or a caption, or an image that people are engaging. Never be afraid to load something twice and make it special and make it better.”