E-Commerce secrets to scale

030 - How To Be Effective With Your Social Media Strategy With Jennifer Christensen

030 – How To Be Effective With Your Social Media Strategy With Jennifer Christensen

E-Commerce Secrets To Scale is a marketing and entrepreneurship podcast that revolves around hearing the stories and strategies of successful entrepreneurs and e-commerce professionals to uncover scaling secrets that will impact your online store.

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Tanner:

This week on the show, Jennifer Christensen, co-founder of Beacon Media + Marketing joins me to talk about social media marketing. Jennifer and I talk about what actually goes into crafting a social media strategy as well as how business owners can improve their social media performance. Jennifer’s an amazing person. You’re going to love this episode.

Welcome to the show. I’m really excited to have you. Go ahead and introduce yourself to the audience.

Jennifer:

Hi, thank you so much for having me. My name is Jennifer Christensen and I’m one of the co-founders and owners of Beacon Media + Marketing.

Tanner:

Awesome. So how did you guys get started and how did your career get started? Can you tell us what your story is?

Jennifer:

Absolutely. I’d love to. I actually started and ran a very successful travel business in my early twenties. So I’ve always kind of had the entrepreneurial bug after 9/11 that we basically just did not end well. So it was kind of a massive failure for me and I did that for eight years and honestly it just kind of turned me away from being a business owner for a while. I just thought, I’m never going to do that again. So I went more into corporate sales management. You know, always knew that I was good at sales. That’s how I’d built the travel business really well. That had been my strength. So I just kind of went the corporate route for quite a while, a good eight years.

And then this opportunity came up that just kind of came up on a nowhere in which I was asked to not just sell, but to actually learn what was going on in the digital marketing space, because there was a new startup newspaper in our city that was completely online. And Alaska is like most small communities, it’s kind of behind the times. And so this was a completely new thing. This was a woman at a New York that basically decided that she wanted to start this company in Alaska. And so, you know, she just thought everybody would adapt really quickly. And I was so excited Tanner because I got that entrepreneurial bug again, it was able to grow that or help grow that online news site basically from zero to, you know six figures revenue pretty quickly.

And it took a lot of doors slammed in my face. People telling me that online was not going to stay. And then social media was ridiculous and you know, those things would never become part of our advertising model, but it just, it turned me on to this whole world of marketing. And I realized that that was really my style. The reason I was good at sales was because I intuitively understood people in different demographics and how to speak to them and how to message, you know? And so when I started translating my skills online, I had a lot of success and then started taking classes and I got the first online certification marketing certificate that there was a University of San Francisco and it was literally the only university online that was offering anything at the time. So this is 11 years, no 12 years ago and it just didn’t exist.

So I had to learn everything myself, which I loved, from the ground up. So I left there after two years, decided to go out on my own. I was not planning on owning a big business. I was just going to do my own thing. And then I met this amazing woman, Adrian, who’s my business partner. And we just completely clicked from the minute we met. I told her I didn’t want to own a big business again. And she told me how much she did. And she really felt like, you know, I’d be able to focus on the stuff that I love to do, and she’d be able to focus on the business side, which was the part I didn’t want to go into it again. And it’s been nine years and it’s been an incredible journey and I have learned to embrace owning a business again and love it, but I’m so glad I have a partner, that was key for me.

Tanner:

So it’s kind of a ying-yang thing. Right?

Jennifer:

Completely. And I’ve heard so many people say that partners are terrible and don’t work. And I just think like everything in life, it’s completely about who you are and if you have great self-awareness and we both had very clear self-awareness of who we were, you know, I knew the parts that I did not want to work on. And she knew the parts that she was not skilled at and did not want to work on, but together, because we have such respect for each other you know, we’ve grown into being best friends as well, but for us it’s been fantastic. And I know that’s not common, but I don’t think we should make those gross statements of, you know, all partnerships are bad or, you know, it just depends on the situation. So for us, it’s been great.

Tanner:

Yeah. I completely agree with you. And you were talking about how you had to learn everything on your own. What was that like?

Jennifer:

You know, I was older going into this, so I had already had, you know, like two careers. And so I didn’t get started on the digital marketing side until 39, which is, you know, really that it was like starting all over again. I’m not kidding. When I say that my brain hurt a lot. I mean, it was almost like learning a new language of how are people communicating online? The sense that I had at the time is that I was a part of a communication revolution and how we were going to be doing business and how things had happened in the past was going to completely shift in our world and being in Alaska. I could see some of those trends happening a lot sooner in California.

So I was learning by example. I spent a lot of time online following gurus or people who call themselves gurus. People who were ahead of me and they were learning it. And I just dug in. I love to learn. So anybody who had something, I would try. One thing I love about our industry is that you can measure everything so I could see what was working. It wasn’t just somebody telling me, you know, I could try it, see if it worked and then try again. And I have a lot of perseverance, so it was a good, good thing for me to learn from the ground up.

Tanner:

You know, I think that’s the best way to learn anything. And that’s how I learned. I graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in marketing and I couldn’t find a job. So I just said, I’ll just start my own agency. How hard could it be? And of course, I was really naive to think that, you know, there were times where I just wanted to rip my hair out because I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. Right? It’s just always going to bother you. But that was one obstacle that you obviously had to overcome. Were there any others?

Jennifer:

There were so many you know, Anchorage where we are has a very tough market. It has not been a growing market for 10, 12 years. We started in the middle of a massive recession up here. And 10 years ago it was a pretty sexist market. So every, every agency, everybody that we were talking to pretty much, it was male dominated. Not that we let that hold us back at all. And I don’t even consider that like a great threat because I really believe if you’re good at what you do that ultimately comes out anyway. And it might take you a little bit longer, but that’s not going to stop you from succeeding. So I would say the market we were in was an incredibly behind, right?

So unless you were like an extreme early adapter in our market, you were not even considering the services we were offering. There was a juggernaut of what I would call old money in like fields like oil and things like that, or pretty much the majority of all the wealth is. And so we were going after various small mom and pop clients, which makes it hard to be profitable. All that being said, we did good the first couple of years. I mean, we started out and we were profitable right away, right within that first year.

Tanner:

That’s awesome. And I really love your mindset. You just have to persevere and get through anything, right? So Jennifer, what would you attribute your success to?

I think that’s the best thing that we had going for us and just that determination to learn and grow and get better at this.

Jennifer:

You just said it, I mean, perseverance for sure. So our first year in business, we had our office broken into and everything stolen. So we lost all of our equipment. You know, we didn’t have a lot of cash reserves. And I got really sick. I almost died actually like our first six months in. So I couldn’t work for quite a while. And just, there is a belief, one that we were doing something that mattered. And I do believe that very strongly, I believe helping small businesses in America is so critical. It matters like it really does, and it matters that you do it ethically. So we really believed in what we’re doing. And we just were like, we’re not giving up until, unless this forces us to give up, we’re not giving up. I think that’s the best thing that we had going for us and just that determination to learn and grow and get better at this.

And then we did see, you know, you had those moments of hope where you see other people succeeding. You know, we didn’t see anybody in our market, but we can see people in other markets succeeding. So we knew there was a path, we knew there was a way to do this. We made some huge mistakes, which is that we got so much resistance that on year three, four, I think we decided to go a little bit more traditional because we thought, well, we’ll just kind of give the market what they want. And so that’s when we first started losing money was we went the more traditional route. And that was not, you know, who we’re supposed to be. So we had a crash course on a year six, but the best thing that we did was when we started marketing nationally outside of our own city. And when we started getting clients outside of Alaska and then eventually opening other locations, so it was perseverance. I mean, I really don’t think without that, I don’t think you can make it kind of that overconfident belief in yourself, what it doesn’t really make sense. And then being willing to think outside the box, because pretty much everybody we talked to told us that going outside of Alaska was ridiculous and we wouldn’t be able to compete and that’s was completely wrong.

Tanner:

It’s amazing what other people will say. And, you know, if you just agree with them, then you might as well just go get a job. Right?

Jennifer:

What a great statement. I’m going to remember that line. That’s really true.

Tanner:

Yeah, I mean, those people that aren’t pushing boundaries and are trying to do something out of the ordinary that are going to try to pull you down, and you just have to stay away from those people and you just have to have tough skin. Right? And perseverance, like you mentioned. So I want to take a little bit of time and talk about what you’re really good at, which is social media marketing when it comes to developing a strategy for social media, you know, what are some important aspects to that?

It’s speaking to somebody right at their level, letting them know that you, as a business owner, don’t think you’re above them.

Jennifer:

Yeah, that’s a great question. We take it to the same filter that we do pretty much any marketing client, right? So it’s all always looking at the target market and who they’re going after. And usually it’s more than one. So for most businesses, it’s, you know, four or five different types of clients, you know, some that they know or their current clients that are really happy with them creating those ideal client personalities, and then a big part of that strategy, this whole conversation that we’re having with a client then is helping them understand that it’s not about putting information always out there that they think is relevant or that even that they necessarily, you know, would think makes the most sense, but it’s really touching and connecting with those people about the things that they care about. So it’s really not any different than a normal marketing strategy, except that I would say it’s much more personalized and specific.

One of my favorite things, and I’m not happy with Facebook right now at all, but in general, one of my favorite things about social media is being able to what I call use it for good, which is when we use what’s called dark posts. You know, we’re not putting this stuff on the timeline, but we’re targeting it directly to that ideal customer and we’re providing them with the information or the solutions that we know that they’re interested in. So it’s relevant information, it’s educational information. You know, I look at some of the stuff like you put out Tanner where you put out like really great stats and, you know, like some of your blog posts and things like that, and that stuff is meaningful because I care about that stuff. You know, you’re putting out the right things that your clients or potential partners would be interested in. And so it’s being very thoughtful and relevant and educational and informative and communicative. And it’s speaking to somebody right at their level, letting them know that you, as a business owner, don’t think you’re above them. But that you really care about their feedback. I think we make it this big giant thing. And it’s just not, it’s the basics.

Tanner:

Yeah. I think it’s more simple than a lot of people or small businesses truly realize. It’s just truly understanding your target market and your target customer and posting things that they would enjoy. I see a lot of businesses out there, you know, they’re small businesses, they’re obviously our marketing experts, but all I see is offer after offer after offer. And it’s like, who wants to see that? Right?

Jennifer:

It’s going to get even more that way. I mean, I have some pretty bold predictions about what’s going to happen with things in the next three to six months. And it really is going to come down to small businesses ability to really capture their own clients away from even some of the social media platforms. So they can use the social media platforms to create those conversations, but they’re going to need to bring them so that they actually want to follow them through the email and through direct conversation.

Tanner:

So what about putting it together, a strategy across multiple platforms? I mean, at its core, the strategy doesn’t change, but what are some differences between the platforms and how does that impact what actually gets posted?

Jennifer:

Yeah, that’s a great question. So we’ll often use some of the same content and repurpose it on multiple platforms, but they do have a different flavor for sure. My favorite platform at the time right now is LinkedIn for sure. Organically, we’re just seeing tremendous traffic and return on investment when we post on there. And it’s less about changing necessarily from Facebook to LinkedIn. I mean, those can actually be pretty similar if it’s like a business to business model. And even business to consumer is actually doing good on, on LinkedIn. Now it’s more about how you engage. So LinkedIn people are engaging more in conversations, so it’s having some questions that people can share back and forth. And then on LinkedIn, making sure that you as a presence are reaching out to people as well, and also commenting and posting on their stuff.

So kind of like Facebook used to be, you know, five, six, seven years ago. So we don’t change up the content a lot. We slightly changed some of the verbiage, often the photo, the video, all of that will stay the same. We haven’t ventured into TikTok. I was waiting for them to not be owned by China. So we haven’t ventured into that yet, but we’re just starting to now. And that does have a completely different flavor. So for that one, like you need original content. It’s very grassroots. You’re not going to be able to use the same stuff you’re using on Facebook and LinkedIn at all.

Tanner:

Yeah. I mean, definitely not, but it seems to me like, you know, the content project would be a giant hurdle.

Jennifer:

It’s a giant hurdle. We can only do it for two or three clients and it’s actually only appropriate for two or three clients. So a lot of our clients are either business to business or service industry and the core of their target audiences are not on TikTok. So until that changes that would be wasting their money. We wouldn’t do that anyway. It doesn’t matter if it’s cool and matters, like what their benefits are going to be. Right? So hands down, we’re getting still the best return on investment from actually Google My Business, LinkedIn, and Facebook. So Google My Business is another one and a lot of people, I mean, I don’t know if you really consider that social media. But we do, we have that as part of our packages for social media, because it’s so effective.

Tanner:

That’s an interesting idea. It seems to me like there is a social aspect to it because you can put posts out on your listing.

Jennifer:

And we do for all of our clients and it’s very effective because when people are searching, if you tag them correctly, they’re searching the back of the photos and if they’re typing in words, Google actually categorizes it by hashtag. So like we have a client who I can tell by competitive analysis that their competitors are paying five to six grand a month in Google AdWords. She doesn’t have that budget. So we put everything in a Google My Business, and she’s now ranking number one botox in her area and a huge market just by doing it that way. And we’re just tagging every post that we’re putting in there and those photos and posts it. I guess I’m trying to say, you can use a lot of the same content per platform, but you need to know what’s the value and the purpose of that platform and how it can benefit the client.

Tanner:

Right. Yeah. I mean, it definitely depends on the business and who they’re going after for sure. So what are some ways that businesses can just add value to their followers? I’m speaking to small businesses that don’t really know what they’re doing.

Take down the wall of the business owner hat, where you have this distance from your customers and clients, and think of them like somebody you’re just talking to.

Jennifer:

Sure. So they’re going to DIY it. So the best thing that they can do is really to take down the wall of, and this is hard for small business centers, but you know, if they’re not going to spend the time to do like the target market and they’re just like, okay, well, it’s just something I can do to maybe like improve my presence or have people know who I am. Take down the wall of the business owner hat, where you have this distance from your customers and clients, and think of them like somebody you’re just talking to, like you and I are talking right now and provide some iPhone photos and some iPhone video. And just really talk to them, ask questions. I’m just thinking of my client that they own like 12, you know, gas station stores. And some of the most successful Chevron stores and some of the most successful posts we’ve had have been talking to people about like their morning routine and coffee, and what do they like? And the same type of questions you would ask somebody in your location? I think it, then again, it’s like that wall of, oh my gosh, I’m putting this online and it needs to be perfect and, you know, look this way. And that is just not true. It needs to be a conversation of asking them questions. So if they can take some six and photos of their location, what’s happening in their office and actually ask questions that they really want answers to have a conversation with people about what they care about. That’d be the simplest way to start.

Tanner:

I think that’s great advice. So what’s something you see a lot of businesses doing wrong on social media?

Jennifer:

Yeah. It is something we even struggle with. And that is the whole wall thing of just trying to put forward an image. And it’s not that you don’t represent yourself for who you are. Of course, if you’re an insurance company or something, you’re not going to pretend to be something that you’re not, but it’s thinking that they have to like, to be very careful and more corporate professional than they absolutely should be. They’re worried that they’re going to put out a wrong image, but they have to remember that people do business with people. And it is about the connection to the person and visibility, and people are going to have their opinions and say stuff about you, no matter what anyway. So you have the opportunity to show them who you are and that you care. And so it’s being too formal, too stuffy and just being afraid.

Tanner:

Yeah, I was going to touch on that and you beat me to it. People do business with other people and they want to know that there is a person on the other side of that wall, like you said. They just want to know that they’re going to be working with a real person if they do choose to engage with your brand. Right?

Jennifer:

Especially now I think we’re craving authentic interaction. I mean, social media has gotten in some ways, very volatile and negative. And you know, if you’re just consistently putting out positive, if it’s authentic, you know, not fake stuff, but if you’re consistently putting out that your care and you want your clients to be most business owners, they wouldn’t have gone into business if they didn’t care about solving a problem and helping people.

Tanner:

Yeah. I would agree with that. I think that they just don’t really do a good job of communicating that. So, Jennifer, what would you say your secrets to scale are?

Jennifer:

Being true to yourself. I think as far as I told them when we went off track that, you know, even though we did scale, I would consider that almost like scaling in the wrong direction. And then we had to completely bring it back down to who we are supposed to be and what we’re supposed to be doing. So not being afraid. And you and I have had this conversation before, but not being afraid to focus on niche and what you’re good at and really hone in on that. If you think about it, the value that you have, or I have by being really, really good at a few things, it’s just a higher value level than somebody who’s a Jack of all trades. So not being afraid to say no, you know, to things that are outside of that.

And it’s very scary as a small business owner to do that. I’ve been there. And then being humble. So there’s like that combination of humility and confidence. Where the humility is being willing to really hear and listen to people’s feedback, honestly. And if you really are willing to listen, a lot of times, people will tell you the truth. And if you can do that, you’re going to be so far ahead. I’m sure you’ve experienced this too. It’s like somebody going down a path for like five or 10 years, the wrong direction, just because they won’t listen to that one thing that could make them change and be more successful. So I think humility, but then the confidence to just shake it off too and recognize that none of us are perfect. We all make tons of mistakes. And so the confidence is just, okay, I’m going to learn from that. I’m going to grow. I’m going to get better and I’m going to move on.

Tanner:

Yeah. I really love that. I think it comes down to just not considering yourself, the expert on everything. Right? And like you’ve mentioned for we’re all human. I mean, if you ask me questions, certain things about my industry, I have a great answer for you. Right? I mean, everyone is just learning, learning every day. And I think it’s also important to have an open mind and be open to feedback, like you mentioned, but also criticism. And you’ve got to be able to not only take that in a good way, but be able to do your own due diligence and see if that doesn’t actually mean something.

Jennifer:

And sometimes I’ve definitely had stuff where I’ve had to just truly shake it off and recognize where I just wasn’t a good fit to work with that person, you know? Because sometimes it really is just that. And that’s okay. But if somebody has something that can really help you get better, take it, you know, one thing I want to add that I’ve learned a lot over this last year especially with people so stressed out and just doing the best they can just to survive. It’s just how important it is not to assume anything. And you know, I can be upset. It would be ridiculous for me to do this, but I could be upset because a client expects me to know it because I’m in the digital agency world. But why do I assume that they would know what digital agency even means? And I think that is so much where, you know, you can avoid a lot of problems is just asking a lot of good questions and making sure people know what it is you do or don’t do and go from there.

Tanner:

Yeah. And I would say most of the time, no one knows what that actually means. Right?

Jennifer:

Yeah. Why would we assume? There’s there should be not the assumption of just, hey, let’s just make sure we totally understand what exactly the service I’m providing for you and what the boundaries are. And then because I’ve gotten way, way better about that. I’ve developed a lot of other like referrals and people to send people to, they can help them in other areas, you know, and just not taking it personally that they assume that I would know everything, you know, related to these things.

Tanner:

Yeah. I love that. So Jennifer, thank you so much for taking the time. What’s a good way for anyone listening to get in contact with you?

Jennifer:

Oh, thanks for asking. Go to our website. It’s beaconmm.com. We’ve got a podcast called The Beacon Way. They can go to my LinkedIn page, Jennifer Christensen and I’m happy to chat entrepreneurship business. Definitely my passion.

Tanner:

Awesome. We’ll make sure to link that up in the show notes. Thank you again.

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