Bree Johnson, Erika Geraerts and Jess Hatzis, Founders of Frank Body
$20m in Sales in 1 Year Using Instagram? – The Frank Body Story
Two years ago, the owner of a local coffee shop, Steve Rowley, was asked by a regular customer for coffee grounds to be used as an exfoliate. This simple act was the catalyst for a brand that has experienced amazing growth driven heavily by Instagram.
Frank Body creates coffee scrubs formulated with minerals and essential oils and is set to bring in more than $20 million this year. The Frank Body founding team included Bree Johnson, Erika Geraerts and Jess Hatzis of Willow & Blake.
Willow & Blake was already using Instagram to establish followings for other businesses and they brought their knowledge and best tactics to bear on the Frank Body brand. They focused their messages to young women and developed a personified character that captured the voice and tone of their ideal audience. Frank Body content is produced in the voice of this personified character.
In addition, they included invitations to become Product Ambassadors with each product shipped. The invitation provided guidelines and instructions to post #thefrankeffect. The response was amazing and resulted in the brand capturing more than 600k followers.
Guiding their Instagram strategy is a tight focus on creating content themes that ensure their Instagram page is a cohesive representation of all that embodies the brand. Within those themes, they “keep evolving because when you do something different, everyone else copies you.”
In addition to tons of user generated content and consistent postings, Frank Body collaborated with influencers to stretch their reach and gain a greater audience.
As a business built on unique, ownable values that were developed into a brand voice and springboarded by an active community, Frank Body is a tremendous example of the power of a well-executed Instagram strategy.
- How to find your voice and personify your brand
- How to turn influencers into brand ambassadors
- Key tips on speaking to your target market in way they’ll listen
- The best ways to generate exciting content for Instagram
- Hacks to scale your business to epic proportions
Full Transcript of the Podcast with Bree Johnson, Erika Geraerts and Jess Hatzis
Nathan: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the “Foundr Podcast.” We’re up to episode number 52 now, and things are going pretty fast. What’s been happening in my world, I’ve just come back from a big one-month trip to the States, and it was absolutely amazing. My mind’s been blown. I’m thinking so much bigger, and the people that I met over there, and the things that I did really, really made me think about the kind of business that I wanna build with Foundr. Because here’s the thing, right, guys. When I first started Foundr, you know, I started while I was at my full-time job, just as the magazine. And at first, it wasn’t about, you know, how do I build this multi-million-dollar media empire. It was like, how do I make enough money to leave my job?
And then once I finally did make enough money to leave my job, then it’s just like, okay, well, how can we build a million-dollar business? But now, after coming back from the States, it’s like I’m not building a lifestyle business anymore. I’m building a serious startup, and this is what I’ve decided to do. So, really, really pumped to be back, super energized, and it was an amazing trip. So enough about me.
Today’s two guests, the founders of an Australian company based out of Melbourne, called Frank Body. And these guys are absolutely killing it. Bree and Erika share with us how they are on track to do $20 million in sales this year. And most of that traction’s coming from Instagram, which is absolutely fascinating. So some of you guys might know that we’re doing quite well on Instagram, too, but nowhere near as well as these guys. And I really, really break down, you know, how they’re doing it, and they share with us so much gold around their tips, secrets, and strategies on how to explode their Instagram account, and really, really reap the rewards of this platform.
So that’s it for me, guys. If you are enjoying these episodes, please do take the time to leave us a review. Also, if you are interested in learning what it takes to rapidly grow and Instagram account, get more traffic, followers, email subscribers, leads, and sales, we’ve actually created a step-by-step course that has revealed how we’re killing it on Instagram. Like we’re close to 300k followers, and we’re recording this on the 1st of August. And we’ve been on Instagram since November. So, you know, it’s exploded our business, and we have a step-by-step course we actually created, called Instagram Domination. If you’d like to check that out, you can go to igdomination.com.
All right, that’s it for me. Let’s jump into the show.
So, can you guys tell me about Frank, how it started, you know, fast-forward from now to back then? You know, take us back to the humble beginnings.
Bree: Oh, god.
Erika: Yes, it feels like a long time ago even though it’s, in some ways, I think people will say it’s a bit of an overnight success. So, Frank’s been around for two years, but I guess the story for us dates back a little bit longer, four years, to when we started Willow and Blake, which is the content agency that we run out of here in our office with Frank. So, Bree, myself, and also Jess, our other business partner on Willow and Blake, we might while we were all studying at University. Bree and I both studied journalism, and Jess studied commerce.
So, we were all working a part-time job, and had a love of writing, and I guess, just communicating with people, and telling their story. So, out of Uni, we all got different jobs in editorial, in copywriting, and in PR. And we were there for about a year and a half to two years before we probably all got a bit of an itch to do our own thing. So, that was where we sort of came up with this idea for Willow and Blake, which actually just started as a website to profile people, and tell their stories. That was people who were our age, or they could have been people that we aspired to be like, or that we wanted to meet. And we would just approach them, sort of take them out for coffee or dinner, and chat, and then tell their story, and pair it with really awesome photography.
So, that website got a lot of traffic, and was pretty popular. From that, we got a lot of freelance writing requests.
Erika: So, then we decided to leave our jobs, and turn that into, I guess, a copywriting or a content agency. And then that kept getting more sort of work, and so we started, I guess, with small brands. We were reaching out to friends of our or anyone that we sort of knew, friends of friends who had their own businesses. And we just wanted to write for people in any possible way. I guess our sort of style led itself to social media. We have a very conversational type of writing. It’s very sort of short, and punchy, and concise. And we were always to how we could connect with our friends, or the people we met, or customers in a more personalized way than what we felt like other businesses were doing.
Bree: Yeah. And what was common at that time in social media was really take off for business and for brands. And a lot of people were using it in a way that didn’t really resonate with us. It was very sales-y, whereas, our social media was always about having conversations, and yeah, just chatting to people, and buildingthat personal relationship. And so that kinda became a big part of our business quickly, because for us, it’s really important for a brand to have a consistent tone of voice. So, we like to work with brands on everything from their letter copy, to their packaging copy, to any of their marketing collateral, which with social media.
Erika: Totally. So, we sort of started with one or two businesses where we offered all of those services, and just kept getting more and more clients from different industries. It was very varied, from fashion to hospitality, to IT, property, which was good for us because we could sort of mix it up, and really change the way that we were writing, and learned from one job and apply it to the other.
Erika: We were training with Willow and Blake for about two years before we sort of had that…another, I guess, inkling or itch to do our own thing, because we were offering our service to so many other clients, but were sometimes a bit, I guess, restricted by their budgets that fear of wanting to do something a bit risky or push themselves.
Bree: Yes. So, for us, Frank was a chance to do what we did for our clients every day, but to do it for ourselves.
Bree: And just do it, I guess, our way, and not have anyone say, “No. That’s too risky,” or, “That’s a crazy idea.” We could just try things, and if they didn’t work, they didn’t work. We just learn from that.
Nathan: Gotcha. So, you have your own kinda little baby. It’s like a passion project. So, Frank just started as a passion project? Fair to say, or you thought it was gonna be a…
Erika: It was a lot of branding challenge. I kind of like to think of it in that way. We were spending so much time on social media, and particularly, Instagram, for our other clients. And we did notice this sort of little niche within the beauty, and health, and fitness industry that there are a lot of brands on there. And that was probably the more sort of influential sort of market that people were really listening to, with just the fact that on Instagram, there were so many young female users. And they were quite impressionable, and I guess, building an idea of themselves and who they were via the products that they were purchasing, and the brands that they were engaging with.
Bree: Yeah. And so, at the same time, my partner, he’s also quite…I don’t like the word, but he’s quite entrepreneurial. And he had these two ladies come into one of his cafes. He owns a bunch of cafes around town.
Bree: And they asked him for leftover coffee grounds. They told him it was a great treatment for cellulite and stretch marks. And he told us that. We were like, “Oh.” Actually, you know what? After a bit of research, we realized there was some merit to this fact, and we could see the potential there was to market a product like this, as Eri said, it appealed directly to our target market, and tapping into that health, and fitness, and beauty market that was already booming on social media.
Erika: And for us, I think there were a lot of do-it-yourself recipes online for coffee scrubs, but nobody was actually packaging it up, and then marketing it, and using Instagram as that main channel. So it was sort of a fun thing that we could give a go, and if it made us a couple of hundred dollars during the week on the side, that would be really nice.
Bree: Exactly. So, we had low expectations, but I guess we had an idea that it was gonna work. And obviously, it did a lot quicker than we expected, which was good and challenging.
Nathan: Gotcha. So, can you take us back? You know, how did you get your first 10,000 followers? What did the first initial website look like? How’d you come up with the concept, like, you know, for the branding? Because this is what you guys have got down pat. You know, I think a lot of our listeners would really resonate with the early days, and some strategies that you learned to really, I guess, leapfrog the business in the early days.
Bree: So, I guess, for us, it all sort of began with the name and the tone of voice. So, we were looking at this product, and it was coffee grounds and oil. It just looked like dirt and brown dye. So, we were like, okay, we can’t dress this up, or we can’t make it too fancy. We just have to be really honest. It was a simple product. We wanted to be completely frank with what it did. And so, from there, we’re like, okay, it should be Frank. That’s where the name came from.
Erika: And then from here, the tone of voice kinda developed, and this dirty character kind of evolved. On social media, no one was really using character, and it allowed us to talk, I guess, as more personal on a personal level with our audience, and to push it a little bit.
Erika: I think that’s what we felt was really missing that all these beauty companies were speaking from their sort of higher level of, “We think this,” or, “We think that.”
Erika: They’re just not connecting with their customers at all. And especially because we were probably aiming for that younger audience, that maybe 16- to 18-year-old girl. We knew that they use social media so casually, and just were talking to each other every day in the very conversational manner that we wanted to talk in that same way to them.
Bree: Yeah. And so, simply by changing it from “we,” as a business to “I,” of the product, gave us that flexibility.
Erika: Yeah. And there was also that kind of little tongue-in-cheek for sex selling. Obviously, there were beautiful pictures of girls in bikinis, and people like looking at that. And, you know, we never hide that or ignore that that was part of, I guess, our initial strategy, which has since then evolved. And it’s been interesting because so many people have since come to us at Willow and Blake, and think that perhaps pictures of babes is their social media strategy. Yeah. You know, we could laugh it off, and say, “Sure. Give it a go.” But there’s so much more to it, and obviously, for us, the words are as important as the pictures. And the two work really well together.
Bree: Yeah, exactly.
Erika: And that’s what our thing is. It’s basically getting everyone to figure out what their voice is for their product or their service, and really owning it, and something that they feel comfortable with, but that their customers will understand, too.
Bree: Yeah. And just something different. You know, Instagram these days is so crowded, and everyone’s trying to get people’s attention. If you’re just posting the same content or speaking the same way as everyone else, you’re not gonna stand out.
Bree: When we first launched, it was quite different. And we had to keep evolving because since you’re doing something different, everyone else copies you.
Nathan: Yeah. That’s right. Yeah.
Bree: Yeah. We keep evolving, and moving ahead.
Erika: And so, when we started, I guess, we knew that there were these influential people on social media that would be incredible brand ambassadors for us, and that we would have to use them to leverage our brand, and just the time that it would take for them to spread the word about our brand was so small in comparison to how, I guess, traditionally any business would spend trying to get the word out about their brand.
It’s changed so much since we started in those two years. So, when we first started approaching people, it was very much about that relationship building, and sending product to people who we felt aligned with our brand, and could take amazing imagery with our product. And they were generally probably posters purely for the sake of liking our product, wanting to review, and establishing a relationship with us.
Erika: Now, it’s a little bit trickier in that, I guess, a lot of people are building careers out of being influencers on social media. So they come with a price.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s right.
Erika: So, generally, it’s about negotiating that with them. It can be a very simple sort of business transaction in that this is what it costs to make a post. For us, it’s just changing the way or the means of advertising, so it’s no longer that we take out a print ad in a magazine. But we would focus on paying potential influencers who we feel are the right fit for us. And that takes a lot of work, too, because you need to sort of instruct them on how to take a picture, and what is right, and what is wrong for your brand. And you do want them to love the product, and so, actually getting them to try it and use it so that they become genuine ambassadors as opposed to just the sort of token cliché pictures of, like, product.
Bree: initial stages. It was so important for us to have that ambassador…and still is, to have that. That really helped us springboard the brand, and get it out there.
Erika: Yeah. For us, I think it was about trying to find that way that these brand ambassadors could show the product in use, because without it being opened, it was just a brown coffee bag. And people have no experience with what the product actually was. And we tried to do that with all of our clients, I guess, find that way that people can take photos of your product, and actually demonstrate it in use, because those peer recommendations or referrals, they speak such yeah, than what you would just as a business.
Bree: And so, yeah. The other thing that’s been really important for us is our customer generated content.
Bree: So, with every pack we send out, there’s a little flyer that goes with it. And on that, it says, “We’d love to know what you think. We want you to share your feedback, using the hashtag #frankeffect.
Erika: Yeah. And I think if you look on that, there’s 71,000-81,000.
Bree: Yeah. About 81,000.
Erika: Yeah. Sometimes, like, a couple of hundred uploads a day, which is pretty amazing, of just people using the product.
Nathan: Yeah. And taking the time.
Nathan: It’s not easy to get attention, let alone get people to take their time out of their day to take this photo, go and upload it. So they’re really proud and…
Bree: Yeah, exactly. I think it just shows how much they do like the brand, and wanna be involved in that community. Yeah. You have to make it fun for them, and simple, like, not too many barriers to entry. I mean we started taking those photos ourselves first, trying to demonstrate. And then it slowly just tipped over. And so, you know, it’s funny now talking to people, and they ask, “How did you get so many user generated images? How did you get to 10,000 followers?” The first thing I kinda say is, “Well, you have to start at zero, and then you start at 10. And then you might get to 50, 100, and it keeps growing.” But everyone has this sort of unrealistic expectations that it’s zero one day, and tomorrow 10,000. Like, we launched with a pretty aggressive social media strategy, and we post pretty much every hour…
Erika: Oh, yeah.
Bree: …in the beginning. So, we’ve since turned it back down, probably five to six times a day. That’s still a lot.
Nathan: Yeah, it is.
Erika: So that’s the thing. We have a lot of different things that we post across, and that’s not necessarily relevant for every brand. I mean at the start, it was fine because, I think, people wanted to see a babe every hour, and the, really, kind of, commentary that went with it. But, say, if you had a different product, you don’t wanna be, I guess, spamming people’s feed that often.
Bree: Yeah, exactly. It kinda just depends. If you’ve got something interesting to say, it’s okay to post a lot. But if you’re just saying the same thing over and over, it’s gonna get spam-y.
Erika: Yeah. And we use ourselves and then the people in our office as the gauge of that to be, like, “Would I be interested in seeing this post? Would I be bored of it? Would I think they’re being spam-y?”
Nathan: Ah, so you do the self-test.
Erika: I think that’s really important to do that perhaps in everything. It’s, “Would we find this funny?” Especially when we, I guess, are posting so often, trying to come up with these captions. You know, you can very easily get a bit lazy or feel like you have nothing to say, and you have to stop for that second and, “This is funny. This is clever.”
Bree: Yeah. And we’re lucky because there’s three of us who look up Instagram, and so, we can keep the content fresh and interesting, and bounce off each other.
Nathan: Awesome. So, there’s a lot I’d like to unpack there. First things first. That’s all right. We’ve got heaps to work with. So, first things first. What advice would you give to anybody just starting out to wanna develop a voice for their brand in general then they can communicate it on social?
Erika: Yup. I think it’s important to start by looking at your competitors or the industry. So, obviously, locally, like who you are competing with selling, whether it’s online or even in retail. I often like looking internationally, too, just for the voice implications, like how other brands are talking. They might not be a competitor in terms of if they don’t sell in the same location as you, or country. But it’s still just interesting to see how other people are branding themselves and the way that they’re connecting with their customers.
Bree: Yeah. Basically so that you can do something better.
Bree: And not copy them.
Erika: So, from there, I think you can really start kind of breaking down what it is that you think that is different for your brand, and what you care about, and trying to, I guess, look at values for what’s unique about your brand or product, and trying to own that for yourself. Like, everyone can say. You’d hope that everyone is friendly to someone who wants to have a brand that isn’t.
Bree: Yeah, exactly.
Erika: So, really trying to find, I guess, values that are ownable, and that you then can turn, say, into a social thing, or into some kind of voice or characteristic.
Bree: Yeah. And then we always look at the audience.
Bree: Look at exactly who you’re talking to. We get quite specific. You know, you might have this product, but you might have four different audiences. So, it could be moms, it could be teenagers. And we get quite specific on what they like, what they don’t like, how they speak, and kind of what things are gonna resonate with them.
Bree: You know, the way you talk to a teenager is quite different to how you talk to your mom. But finding out that balance, and working out what’s gonna appeal to bite them, but then also still unique to your brand.
Erika: Yup. Yeah, they can be a bit tricky, and that’s why, I think, we do spend a lot of time really figuring out who that target audience member is, and you know, who’s gonna be making the purchase decision at the end of the day. And once you sort of identified that, you just work through a lot of different ideas on how you could apply that to, say, your web copy, or just a positioning statement, or your elevator pitch, how you would sell it to someone that you’re having a conversation with. And then throwing around what that voice or that positioning statement means for social. So, different, like, imagery, and certain, I guess, like, color palette to then your copy, and how you would caption everything.
Bree: I guess, for us, the aesthetics and copy go hand-in-hand. So, they both need to be really strong because, you know, if one is not gonna match the other, it’s not gonna work.
Erika: Exactly. And I think that social media users are quite savvy these days, and they just see through when a brand is being genuine or when it doesn’t match up. And then, very harshly, they’ll pull you apart on social media. So, being able to have, I guess, a strategy for any sort of process or when the people are thinking ahead into what they’ll ask, and what they’ll say about your post or your brand, and being able to have a response for that.
Nathan: Gotcha. So, what I’m hearing is you guys have an overarching theme for your Instagram page, but not only just in your Instagram page, but all your social in general from copy and aesthetics as well. Now, I’m curious. What tools do you use? Because I know, from our experience with Instagram, you can’t really schedule. So, when you say you post every hour, do you post America time as well when we’re sleeping, or how does that work? What tools are you using?
Bree: Yeah. So, for Instagram, you know, you have to post live and you can’t schedule.
Bree: So, we don’t really pre-plan our content. It’s only for our clients we sometimes do, but we prefer to work on the fly. I think.
Nathan: Yeah. So, that’s how I do it, too. Yeah. People think…like, they look at our page… We’re the same as you guys. We post every two hours, and we post, you know, sometimes 6 to 8 times, sometimes 10 times a day. And the more you post, I found, the faster you grow. Because we’re posting mainly quotes and stuff. So, there’s that viral effect, and people share it. And people find that really overwhelming, and they’re like, “How do you plan all that?” and stuff. And I just do it on the fly.
Bree: Yeah. It is interesting.
Erika: So, there are apps called, like, Latergram or Schedugram, where you can upload into a desktop, and it’s sort of all saved post, but then you still have to manually go in at the time you post.
Nathan: Yeah. You get a reminder and stuff. Yeah.
Erika: For us, it was easy that social’s changing every day, and something that is cool today is tomorrow. So, it was easier for us to be on, like, daily seeing what’s happening and saying, “That’s cool. No one’s seen it before.”
Erika: And we’d have this idea, and posting as we go. And we’re lucky that there’s the three of us that would split up a little bit.
Bree: Yeah, and we have someone in America.
Nathan: Oh, you have someone in America. Gotcha.
Bree: manager who can post for us while we’re asleep. Because America is a really important market for us.
Nathan: Yeah. Same.
Bree: We wanna make sure we’re hitting that morning slot.
Erika: But there was a time when Steve set his alarm…
Bree: Oh, my god, 4 a.m. each morning
Nathan: Oh, wow. That’s dedicated.
Bree: …4 a.m. he’d wake up, and post.
Nathan: Oh, wow.
Bree: Yes. It wasn’t a manageable role like a long-term plan.
Nathan: Yeah. Gotcha. Fully aesthetics, what are you creating the images in for Instagram, or you know, Facebook? You’ve got your biggest presence on Instagram. Are you using Photoshop or tools, like, on your phone or what?
Erika: Yeah. The hardest thing probably for, I guess, brands just starting up is that they don’t have potentially the content to begin with. So, for us, it was just inspirational content, or things that we liked from Instagram, or just from various blogs that we were constantly looking at. I guess the most important thing now is crediting all sources because whilst it’s, I guess, a public platform where you can share this information, the owners of this content can get quite snarky if you’re not tagging. And that makes.
Erika: So, for us, it’s about putting the relevant sources of wherever we find inspirational content, but then trying to create your own imagery, whether that’s product shots and being really straight on the quality of the photos and what is in those photos.
Quotes are a big thing for us, I guess, because…
Nathan: Yeah. Quotes are massive.
Erika: …Instagram feeds are filled with just visuals. So, it can be a bit crowded, and the quotes actually stand out.
Erika: And, you know, in the beginning, we were just reposting other people’s quotes, and then we made our own branded template in design.
Erika: There are apps where you can do quotes, like Overgram, but we sort of found that they were just a bit, I guess, for lack of a better word, or we just have a specific font that we like.
Nathan: Yeah. Gotcha.
Erika: …in design, or easier. And it’s just nice because it breaks up your page between inspirational content, product content, and you know, quotes from the brand, and just gives you that chance to really push that tone of voice again.
Bree: Also, with our ambassadors or the people we send product to, we always send them posting guidelines.
Nathan: Ah, gotcha.
Bree: So, they know how we want them to post, how we want the product positioned, how we want them positioned,copy, so that we can repost that content, and use it on our page.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s right. That’s a good thing when you get people to…with this user generated content, that’s so much content for you guys to post that you don’t have to worry about.
Erika: Yeah, it’s wonderful. We can just look up the hashtag, and there’s all those images. But it’s funny. Like, at one point, I think people were probably taking it a bit too far, because you have to get naked to use it in the shower. But there were some stuff that we didn’t wanna see, and that Instagram wouldn’t allow you to repost anyway.
Nathan: Yeah. So, you have to be careful, right?
Erika: Yeah. We had our account deleted in the first two weeks
Nathan: Oh, wow.
Erika: …about 10,000 followers. So that was pretty hard.
Nathan: How’d you get it back?
Erika: Well, we had to start again. You can’t get it back.
Nathan: Oh, wow. Because I’ve had friends… Because I’m with you, guys. Like, you have to do a lot of business development to know the influencers in your niche. We’ve looked on that heavily. And, you know, I actually had some friends that lost their account, too, but they managed to get it back through contacts at Instagram.
Erika: Because we had posted, like, nudity, and we had it completely in the wrong.
Erika: But depending on, yeah, what happens, you can kinda fight it. But it’s a hard, slow…like, getting in contact with the Instagram people.
Bree: Yeah. But it was really good for us to have that happen early on, so that we could our strategy.
Nathan: Yeah. At least it happened then as opposed to now.
Bree: Yeah. Exactly. We also tried to invest a bit of money into doing our own shoots. Like, if you’re a startup, I think it’s worthwhile. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but if you can, invest that money into producing your own content. It can be really valuable.
Erika: Yeah. But I mean we can take on our iPhone. It’s amazing what you can set up by white cloth, piece of paper to do, like, flat light shots, depending on what your product is. But we’re often, getting, I guess, people involved, though. So, you know, your friends together to get them using whatever is…or finding… Putting the human element into your brand is really important.
Nathan: Okay. And when it comes to the hashtag, do you recommend that everyone that starts their own Instagram account have their own individual personalized hashtag for their brand?
Erika: I think it’s definitely good to consider, but I mean it depends on…
Nathan: Depends on the product?
Erika: …the product or service. For us, it was always about trying to make the hashtag fit in with the caption, or if it was an extension of a conversation. So, for our product, people could say, “#letsbefrank, I’m in love with this new coffee scrub,” or, “I’ve just joined #thefrankeffect.” Think like that where it doesn’t seem to tacked on or forced. It’s pretty funny seeing some of the hashtags that companies come up with that are just so cliché, or corny, or don’t make sense, or they’re just trying to be cool, or you know, finding something that’s different than just your brand name as well.
Bree: Exactly. And we were lucky because, you know, #thefrankeffect didn’t have anyone else posting on it.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s right.
Bree: But then it does open you up. I mean we can’t control who posts on that.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah. I’m sure there’d be a lot of people that try and spam that hashtag.
Erika: It’s not too bad, but there definitely are some… But I mean we’re sort of against the spamming of hashtags anyway, and we see some brands, say, a fashion brand, for instance, and they hashtag #outfitoftheday #star #fashion #glamour #jeans #top.
Nathan: Ah, you don’t like doing that.
Erika: No. Well, for us, it’s… I mean it’s a really quick grab for likes, I guess, but I think we feel like it takes away from the aesthetic of the image or the look because it really is just a push or a grab for likes. And B) your content so quickly will get lost amongst millions, eventually, of other images. So, for us, it’s about finding really branded hashtags if you are gonna have one.
Nathan: Gotcha. And when it comes to working with influencers, you said that you guys just send them product to begin with. Now, you know, people are building a career off Instagram. What sort of rights should people be looking at if they wanna work with influencers depending on the size of their account, and the influence, and the engagement of their account? Can you give people an indication?
Bree: It’s hard because I think it’s such a new platform, and such a new concept that
Erika: There’s no standard.
Nathan: Yeah, there’s no standard. But what would you pay if you found an influencer that has about 200,000 followers, you know, fits in along with your brand? You know, there’s an engagement, you know, at least 5,000 to 10,000 likes per image. What would you be prepared to pay, and you send the product, too?
Erika: Well, for us, I think that engagement of a person’s account is so important. A lot of our clients look at someone who’s got a million followers, and think that they’re amazing, but they might not have everybody actually commenting or liking on those images.
Erika: So, it’s really important to look at that, but also to know that I think that average is about a 3% to 4% engagement for a brand. And 5% is actually quite amazing.
Erika: But, again, it varies. Like, you could get lucky with one girl who has 200,000 followers, and she might say, “I’ll do it for free,” or she might say, “It’s $500 for an Instagram post.”
Nathan: Yeah. Gotcha.
Erika: Or, you know, there are people who’ve got 2 million followers who have sent us quotes for $100,000 for an image.
Nathan: Oh, wow.
Erika: And I mean that’s, like, quite a well-known celebrity.
Erika: But then there’s the Instagram celebrities, and they’re still within $20,000.
Bree: Yeah. It’s crazy. Like, we paid $20,000 for Jen Selter.
Bree: And she just got 6 million.
Nathan: Wow. So you guys paid that?
Bree: But to be honest, we didn’t get a return on that.
Nathan: Really? How do you track that return?
Bree: So, obviously, we’re lucky because with clients, we can see as soon as someone posts, our sales will spike on Shopify, or they won’t spike, depending on how effective the post is.
Bree: And we can just track that over the hour or two hours after they post, and see how it goes. And that’s kind of how we look for the return. Obviously, there’s a longer-term benefit in people going back, and seeing…
Nathan: And they follow your account, and the longevity…you play the long game.
Bree: Yeah. For us, we really do look for that initial engagement, and to see how it converts into sales.
Erika: If the influencer, I guess, is interested in the brand and the product, and actually seem like they’re invested, and like it, and wanna keep posting, we’re willing to pay more for it. You can see how much they care about it in the image that they actually provide, which is really interesting. But I’d say we would, like, do a lot of investment in influencers that are in that low kind of hundred mark. That seems reasonable for us.
Erika: It’s definitely a smaller amount of people that would be over $1,000. You really start thinking about that. There are a lot of agencies now who represent influencers.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Erika: And we found that it goes one way or the other. Like, sometimes they’re helpful. Sometimes it seems to just add more stress to the process.
Bree: Yeah. Sometimes they just get in the way, and charge an fee.
Nathan: Oh, gotcha.
Erika: For a few emails in between.
Erika: But it’s a constant searching thing. Like, we’re always using either the Explore tab, or you find one influencer, and follow them. And then it suggests more people to follow, that are in a similar vein.
Nathan: Yeah. That’s a good one.
Erika: Yeah. And most of them will have their email addresses, and we have a specific way to approach them, and talking to them about a product, and asking if they’d be interested in working together. We direct message people on Instagram as well if they don’t have their email addresses.
Bree: Yeah. We’re just constantly looking.
Erika: Like, all the time. And you get so many noes, or so many no reply.
Nathan: No reply. Yeah, yeah.
Erika: And that’s fine, though, because you don’t really know them. You’re never gonna see them again. It’s just another way of, I guess, advertising or approaching people.
Bree: And I think now that we’ve got a larger following as well, a lot of people wanna work with us.
Nathan: Yeah, of course. Yeah.
Bree: and we often do repost their content, and that can help build their following…
Nathan: Yeah, that’s right.
Bree: …to help them get other brands. So, it’s all about give and take, and working out ways that you can work together. We try to relationships, as Eri said. So, rather than just a one-off post, find people who like the brand who wanna do more posts. We do a lot of…we call them dirty talks, so blogs with people of interest, or people that our audience will find interesting. Those are the ways that we can form a long-term relationship.
Nathan: Gotcha. And would you say that majority of your traction for the business comes off Instagram, or other channels, too?
Bree: Definitely Instagram, most popular. We’ve been trying to focus a bit more of our attention on building up our other platforms. We’ve got Facebook, we’ve got Twitter, we’ve got Pinterest, we’ve got Tumblr, and we’re about to start our YouTube channel.
Nathan: Ah. Yup. Gotcha.
Bree: Yeah. And it’s really important to make sure you’re giving all of them some attention and love. But, for us, Instagram has been the biggest success.
Erika: Yeah, or our strategy, I guess, was nailing one, and then moving on to the other…
Nathan: Yeah. That’s really good. Yeah.
Erika: It’s a really big task trying to take on all of them at once, and you end up giving none of them the attention they deserve.
Erika: So, Instagram is obviously kind of fun, really interesting for us to get on board and play with. And once we felt like that could look after itself, or we didn’t have to think too much about what we were doing, we could focus all of our attention on Twitter, and pushing that in the U.S. because it’s more used over there. And then Pinterest is the same sort of thing. But then understanding, I guess, that you use those different channels for different things. We try to tailor our content to Facebook. And then Twitter is all about the conversations, and really trying to differentiate what we were posting on each one.
Bree: Yeah. And, obviously, for us, when we launched, Facebook had already interest advertising. The organic reach was so low, but we knew unless we were gonna put a decent amount of money into advertising, it wasn’t gonna get us a lot of return. Whereas, because Instagram didn’t have advertising at the time, all of our posts got seen, and we grew a lot quicker without sending them money.
Erika: Yeah. That’s something we suggest to most startups, too, is that unless they’re willing to sponsor their ads on Facebook…or posts, sorry…
Nathan: Yeah. It’s really difficult.
Erika: …it’s not really worth it, or they’re just gonna be…it’s kind of wasted energy. I mean a lot of our clients will sponsor each post as little as $5 just to sort of get them on the page and up in the algorithm. But otherwise, we just say, if you don’t have that budget, start on Instagram. You can make some really valuable connections there, and reach quite a large audience.
Nathan: Do you guys believe that you can use Instagram for any brand and any business, whether it be local or global?
Bree: Not necessarily. Like, I find it’s harder for service based.
Nathan: Yeah. Especially, like, local as well. Like, for me, I found this really cool hairdresser called, like, Morris Motley, or something. And, like, they contacted me because I followed them, and now, I’m gonna get a haircut from them on Friday. And I found them through Instagram. Like, they’re just here locally in Melbourne. They’ve got, like, 30,000 followers. Is it possible to do it for a local service based business? Do you reckon it’s best to spend your time there, or what are your thoughts?
Erika: No, I think it’s definitely worked well for some services. Like, obviously, cafes are a big…you know, everyone can access them. But if you’ve got beautiful imagery, or it can still reach the people that are around you, it can work. But, for instance, I would have a little bit of a wondering where they say a doctor should have an Instagram account. And these are people who would approach us and ask us. And we just have to be quite honest with them, and manage their expectations.
So, maybe for them, having 200 followers is amazing. And that’s what they should aim for. Whereas, you know, they can’t expect, I guess, to join Instagram, and have the same result as Frank. And so, I guess, if you are gonna be on social, just knowing why, and what you’re gonna do on there, because you don’t need to be on every channel. Definitely not.
Bree: Yeah. I don’t think that everyone has the answer. Like, I think a lot of people have kind of unrealistic expectations around social media that they’ll just start a page, and suddenly, everyone will follow them. It’s all very well, I guess, to send out these messages into the digital world, but you’re not guaranteed followers unless it’s something people wanna hear.
Erika: Exactly. Personal trainers are, I guess, another thing. And we’ve been talking to some people about that.
Nathan: Yeah. They do well.
Erika: Yeah. And so, some of them do really well because they’re also, I guess, being an inspiration to people even if they can’t train with them. especially with video content. But then, another good thing for personal trainers is just, I think, talk to friends, and word of mouth, and if it’s posters or things like that, that are still worthwhile. So, I guess it’s understanding what the mix is for each brand or business.
Bree: But we love a challenge. You know, one of our favorite clients at Willow is LaserAway.
Erika: Yes. They’re a laser hair removal company in California, that’s one of the biggest venues there. And they came to us, and they’re like, “We would like some help with our social, and I guess, building a voice.” And, you know, at first glance, we were like, “What do you say about tattoo removal, hair removal?” And we did a lot of research kind of into the industry, and everyone was just posting horrible tattoo photos, horrible tattoo photo.
Bree: Yeah. Really bad before and afters.
Erika: And no one had a voice. So, for us, it was really exciting. And we were like, we can try and build this company up to have their own, I guess, position.
Erika: So, we came up with this sort of voice and story for them, and a visual direction. And we grew their sort of following from that 5,000 to over 20,000 in, I think, less than six months or so.
Bree: Yeah, which is a great return for them. And it’s just, I guess, put them on the map as not just leaders in the service that they’re offering, but using social media in an unconventional way.
Erika: Yeah. And we’ve also done stuff for property developers.
Nathan: Ah. So, you’re local.
Erika: like, yeah, quite of the service based now that I think about it. happening.
Nathan: Gotcha. Question. I read an article that said you guys are on track to do 20 million in sales this year. Is that correct?
Nathan: That’s good. Yeah.
Bree: I always think he’s been counting your financial
Nathan: Yeah, okay. We’ll roll with that. So, you know, first thing that goes through my mind is you’ve got these two businesses. How do you work out where to go? You know, where do you…
Erika: Between Willow and Blake, and Frank?
Nathan: Yeah. That’s right.
Erika: I’ve said a lot.
Bree: For us, it’s an ongoing juggling act.
Erika: Like, how to divide the day up. Like, it just doesn’t work, and we sort of pull between both.
Bree: It’s kind of like asking you to pick between your two babies.
Erika: Yeah. Pretty much.
Bree: Obviously, we started Willow four years ago, and we’re really proud of that. We love it. I don’t think we could ever give up one of them.
Erika: We couldn’t. We’re lucky that we have two other copywriters at Willow, and brought on a studio manager, who’s helped take a load of that admin work from us, and really been able to lead some of our projects. We’re in the middle of, I guess, the brand evolution with Frank as well, and we’re launching some new products. And we’ve got a whole brand, sort of, refresh or update, which is really exciting that that’s taken a lot of our attention away from Willow at times, and the deadlines with printing.
Bree: And even just product sampling. So, getting those right, and it’s quite a lot of going back and forth. And we’ve shot all these branded video content, and they’re big, big jobs to kinda undertake. But we really think that having Frank has helped Willow a lot, just because that’s an opportunity to learn so much, and to learn from a client perspective, and to try different things, and see what works. And so, when we’re talking to our clients, we kinda get where they’re coming from because we know
Erika: You’ve done it. Yup.
Bree: I think we got that other side of it. And I think we’ve got 13 people working with us now for Frank. We’ve got a lot of support around us, which is great, and a really good team.
Erika: The boys, obviously, head up all the ecommerce and the logistics. So, you know, we just couldn’t do
Bree: At all.
Nathan: You’ve got a big team.
Bree: And we just work really fast, you know, I think.
Bree: We’re really efficient. Like, I know some people who work 9 till 5. I know when we first started working for ourselves, like, day. We really make sure every minute counts when we’re working.
Nathan: Okay. Work towards wrapping up. Just any, like, key things that people need to be doing on Instagram today. You know, after watching this, what can they take away, and go and implement in their business whether they’re just about to start an Instagram account, or they’re just wanting, or they just currently have one, but they’re trying to get some traction? What are some big things they can take away, game changers for you guys, game changers for them?
Erika: Figure out what your voice is, like, really have something different.
Nathan: Yeah. You got that down really down pat.
Erika: And then how that voice translates into imagery. So, thinking about not just the single images when they come up on the feed, but when you’re looking at a brand page, and, say, the nine that you can see at once.
Erika: Finding, I guess, a steady color palette, and something that works, and mixing it up with quotes, and specific lifestyle imagery, and product imagery. So, really, picking out maybe three to four content themes, as what we like to call them. So, say, for Frank, we obviously have our inspirational pictures of beautiful girls. We have our product pictures, which might be a flat lay, or there might be people actually using it. We have ingredient focuses, which talk about all the natural ingredients we have in each product. And we have our quotes.
Bree: We got user generated content.
Erika: Yeah. I mean we’re constantly thinking of new things to put into that mix, and making sure that it’s still interesting and engaging.
Bree: Yeah. Just make sure you’re posting regularly and consistently. I think people sometimes, they get caught up, and they’re like, “Oh, I don’t know what to post. I don’t wanna post,” and they don’t post anything. And that’s
Bree: And that’s the worst thing you do. Posting nothing is the worst thing. Make sure you post something.
Erika: And we think about the times that we’re on the phone. So, generally, it might be if you’re on the way to work, unfortunately, in traffic, or on public transport, on your lunch break, and that sort of end of day when you’re getting a bit bored at work, or late at night before you go to bed.
Nathan: So, they’re the times you wanna be hitting.
Erika: Kinda. Yeah. You just think about, like, when am I scrolling on my phone and through my feed? That’s when I need to, I think, focus on grabbing people’s attention.
Bree: And then also, make sure you tell people what your social handles are. So, put them on your website, put them on your packaging, put them on your flyers.
Erika: There’s a lot of people who don’t know about you. And it sounds silly, but…
Bree: Yeah. A lot of people make that mistake. Like, you I can’t find the social handles anywhere. Like, they need to be on your website, or even just tell them. You know, if you’re a service based industry, not in a pushy way, but like, “Oh, hey. Did you know I have Facebook? Did you know I have an Instagram account? Check it out.” that kinda thing.
Erika: And, like, for the hairdresser, they would, I guess, every time a client comes in, be like, “Let’s take a pic. Put it up on Instagram. Tag us.”
Erika: If you make it friendly and conversational, people are just like, “Yeah, sure. I’ll do that.”
Bree: Yeah, exactly.
Erika: I guess, for us, collaboration and networking is really important on social. So, when you see people whose brand you think aligns with you, or influencers, not being scared to send them an email and ask them if there’s any opportunity to work together. And in saying that, being prepared to spend a little bit of money. You know, we’ve learned lessons where we realized some haven’t been as good as investment as others, and some really paid off. But just seeing it as more of an investment as opposed to an expense is kind of a good idea.
Bree: Yeah. Competitions and collaborations have been really important for us as well.
Nathan: Oh, competitions. Yeah. Collaborations. Yup.
Bree: Collaborate with a brand who is in similar field, but not competitive. It’s great. Like, even if you both got 5,000 followers or 1,000 followers, you could still springboard off each other’s audience.
Nathan: Yeah. Cross-promote.
Bree: Cross-promote. It’s good for everyone. And yeah, competitions, people who are getting stuff for nothing, but makes them creative. Like, everyone’s doing a repost comp, and it gets too spam-y.
Bree: Tag-a-friend comps are great, but just make it a bit interesting. Make it a bit fun. And make sure the entry to…sort of barrier to entry is really low. Often the simplest competitions for us are the best. There’s one where we filled our bath tub downstairs with balms. You probably saw it when you walked in.
Bree: And we just went, “Guess how many balms there are in the bath? And the person who guesses first will win a year’s supply of balm.” I think we had, like, oh my god, like, I don’t know.
Erika: It was a couple of thousand entries or something.
Bree: Yeah. It was, like, 5,000 entries. People were guessing. People would like to guess.
Nathan: Yeah. That’s a good one. So, last question. You guys are killing it on Instagram. You know, the advertising networks coming, are you…you must be a little bit concerned the reliance on just one channel. What’s next for you guys? You know, you said you’re starting all these…focusing on other channels. What do you guys see as the biggest next possible high growth channel? I know that some of my friends are saying Snapchat, get people to add them on Snapchat. That’s gonna be massive. I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
Bree: Yeah. For us, Instagram has always been like a ticking bomb. Since we started, we knew that advertising was eventually gonna come. And so, first and foremost, our strategy has been about directing people back to our website, and to our EDM database because, obviously, that’s a platform that we can control. Unless we got their emails, then it can’t be taken away from us.
Erika: EDMs can still be really powerful in a really personalized way, if you put the effort in, and just make sure it’s not too spam-y. Our EDMs, again, are sort of broken into content things, where we will have a product section, and we’ll have a lifestyle section, and sort of a benefit driven section, and try to give as much back to our customers. We have a little selfie of the month pic that’s in the EDM. So, I guess it just gives people a reason to keep engaging with the brand
Bree: We have a blog that we update weekly. You know, we’ve always tried to put new content up there so that our page doesn’t get stagnant, so there’s something interesting. And then as we said, yup, YouTube is gonna be a big focus for us this year.
Nathan: Yeah. YouTube. Yeah.
Bree: And we have dipped our toes into the world of Snapchat.
Nathan: Ah, yes.
Erika: I think there is a lot of potential there. It’s just, you know, Instagram is so sort of…so much effort goes into it. And, you know, we on about how the page has to look good and aesthetically pleasing. But Snapchat is long over it, and just sort of almost like behind the scenes and candid view of people’s lives. So I was trying to take new photos I kept thinking, like, “Doesn’t look good. Doesn’t look good. Doesn’t look good.” And the girls were like, “It’s fine. You can just edit.”
It’s interesting because, for me, personally, like, I haven’t seen many brands using it that well. It’s very easy for Snapchat to look, yeah, underdone or…
Nathan: Very raw.
Erika: Yeah, but in a bad way. So, for us, it is finding that balance and experimenting, and sort of what will work.
Bree: It’s just all learning, and that’s what social media is kind of about. we can try Snapchat. See if it works, and hope that people will like what we’re putting up there. But if they don’t, we can change it.
Erika: And that’s what’s great. Like, obviously, there are some barriers or things that you wanna be sensitive to, and careful of.
Erika: They’re quite forgiving. You will get people who will be having a debate or maybe. We always encourage discussion and debate, but as soon as it goes too far, you know, we know when to stop the conversation, or report users, or delete comments. But, yeah, you can put an image up, and it might not get traction, and it’s not about beating yourself up about it. It’s just being, like, cool. Lesson learned. We won’t cross that again. Or that picture did really well. Let’s post more of that. So, yeah, it’s just a big learning kinda platform.
Bree: And even with the advertising coming on to Instagram, necessarily mean that platform’s redundant. It just means we have to work out a different way to use it, and work with them to give them what they want.
Nathan: Okay. Awesome. One last question. Like, are you able to share, like, how big your email database is?
Erika: I think it’s gone over about 210,000, which is pretty strong. Yeah. But we’d love to keep building it, obviously. It’s funny. I’m trying to figure out how often people wanna receive EDMs.
Bree: It’s worked for us, like geo-locating, send some different content to American audience or Europeans.
Nathan: Okay. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for taking the time. This was an awesome interview.
Bree: Awesome. Thanks.