How to Build a Successful E-Commerce Business Using Only Social Media Marketing
This week, I was fortunate enough to interview Dylan Kim: the co-founder of Brevite, a camera backpack company based in Providence.
What’s special about Dylan’s company is that it drives traffic almost exclusively using social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram. Using this strategy it has achieved a six-figure sales annually.
During the interview, I asked Dylan to share his “secrets” about building a successful social media presence along with his view on what the next big thing in Digital Marketing is. You can also view this interview in video format through this link.
Bill Su: Why don’t you begin by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Dylan Kim: Yeah, absolutely! So, about two years ago I co-founded Brevite with my two brothers. We’re currently based in Providence and we launched with just one backpack on kickstarter and it had a removable insert for your camera equipment. Since, we have expanded to three bags with the insert interchangeable between all three. In the future, we are looking to get into more commuter and travel based bags as we expand.
BS: Can you just tell us a little bit about the founding of Brevite, along with why you decided to go with camera bags as products and social media as one of your primary channels for promotion?
DK: The whole founding of Brevite really happened as I was trying to find a bag that I could use for school as well as for my camera and that bag didn’t exist. So I approached my brother and he designed a backpack that fits my needs. After coming up with the backpack, we launched on kickstarter and got really good results.
As for social media, we found that, as we were building an audience to launch this bag, we were having really meaningful insights and really meaningful interactions on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter so we have really focused on building those networks. Slowly moving from that base audience, we have a much larger audience today than we did when we launched.
BS: Can you give us a really rough idea of the audience size you have on Social Media right now?
DK: It would probably be 40,000 people I would say. Probably more, maybe 50,000 just over all platforms of social media.
It’s really weird to think about that number when you distill it down to individual people.
BS: Can you also just give us a rough idea of the traffic mix or digital marketing mix that you are using to engage your audience?
DK: Yeah, a huge thing that we focus on is really producing first and foremost really quality content. We spend a lot of time either taking photos or inspiring others to take photos.
What’s been phenomenal is that our user generated content has been very high and it keeps our reputation very high and keeps our brand very aspirational.
In terms of Facebook, we do some digital marketing so we’re always testing new types of ads. We’re putting a dollar a day towards it or ten dollars a day to test new ads to see if it works, check out google analytics, see what the bounce rate is, and then keep or discard the ads based on its success.
BS: What is your secret sauce in digital marketing for Facebook?
DK: A lot of testing, a ton of testing. We use a couple of softwares to really test our Facebook ads. One of them is AdEspresso, it allows us to test different types of content, different types of captions, different types of audiences, so we can A/B test rapidly.
Out of one Ad I think you can test up to 72 Ads in AdEspresso if you have the budget. We are constantly doing this kind of testing using those kinds of platforms to just test everything. Afterwards, we go into Google Analytics to see what has the lowest bounce rates or what has the highest conversion rates and then we go from there.
BS: After all of this testing what kind of posts did you find produced the best results for Brevite?
DK: It’s interesting because you have to distance yourself from just promoting your product and instead focus on branding.
In terms of Facebook and Facebook advertising because there is so much out there you kind of have to stand out or really put a lot into the photos.
How many stock photos a day do you see on Facebook? Hundreds of them! So really having something that sticks out has been incredibly helpful for us.
Also having really convincing copy is important. You know people don’t want to be sold on clickbait, they want to be sold on a genuine product so we’re currently working on getting our copy better and testing out many different types of copy but that’s something that we’ve found to be a huge separator between those ads that work and those that don’t. No one wants to see the best bag ever, they want to see what it does immediately.
It also helps a lot if you have someone who is good with a camera. I am personally quite passionate and experienced with taking pictures. It saves us a lot of time because we don’t have to go far to get those good photos. A lot of photos are even just taken on my bedroom floor or you know like in my living room. They’re nothing terribly fancy, but they do a pretty good job of getting the job done.
BS: Do you spend any money on Facebook Advertising? If so, what is your strategy in approaching Facebook Marketing?
DK: Yeah, we do. I will touch on this topic without getting into it too much. Our whole concept of Facebook advertising is based on this article we read where this guy was talking about how you could spend more on a cup of coffee than you can on Facebook ads.
This blew my mind because I drink coffee every day. I was like wow, you can spend like three dollars a day on your business and reach a very small amount of people but people nonetheless, and they could turn into new orders for you. Since we started implementing this philosophy we saw a really good return.
If the specific target or channel was doing well then we started going up to 5 dollars, 10 dollars, and even more. This philosophy of testing is a huge thing for us. As we kind of grow and expand to different platforms we always start with this principle.
BS: That’s really awesome! From this conversation all I’ve been hearing is testing, testing, testing, which is very crucial and important for people out there to understand because when you’re posting a Facebook post it never works the first time, you always need to test.
There are a lot of good tools like Adspresso and Google Analytics that make that easier for you. For a Facebook campaign or Google campaign to succeed, you need to have all of the metrics in mind and, like Dylan said, execute like 70 test copies. I think that number is even a little low, you need to do like 100 or 200 tests to find one that actually works.
DK: Absolutely, and it takes time too. With Facebook it’s weird because you see these weird fluctuations so it takes probably 5–7 days to actually get like an accurate pulse on whether that adset is successful and then you can go into your Google Analytics and check all of those stats which you can easily figure out with the Humanlytics tool, which is awesome by the way, loved testing it.
Definitely seeing if your thing works in Google Analytics is kind of a big part that no one really talks about. You know, you can have a great click through rate and a low cost per click but if no one is visiting your website or buying it is really not that useful for your business.
BS: You told me right before this interview that now it is much harder to build a presence on Facebook, why?
DK: Well I think to build a following on Facebook now is very difficult because they want you to pay. They expanded their ad features to cover everything from getting likes on your Facebook page to getting people to visit your website. All these ads takes precedence over organic posts so gaining an organic following has become like almost impossible. It just doesn’t exist.
Initially, we ran some giveaways to get people who are relevant to follow us on our social media platforms, and those people stick around. But, right now, with changes in the Facebook algorithm it’s almost impossible to replicate that anymore.
Right now you need to spend 20 cents, or even more just to get an impression, and even more on top of that if you want them to visit your website. For companies with a small budget it is really hard to do that.
BS: Given that Facebook might be a difficult platform to gain a following with now, which platform would you recommend people out there to explore?
DK: I would say live video. If you look at popular tools, they are all pushing for live video. Let’s say you have a following of like 200 people.
When you start a live video, 200 people get a notification and that’s like pretty powerful, even if not a lot of them tune in, they’re still getting a notification and that’s something with live video that we’re really trying to explore like how we can use that and leverage it because clearly that’s where the world is trending.
You know we have these massive platforms like Twitch.tv and YouTube right now on live video. It’s incredible.
And then I would say Instagram story ads. Whenever these new features come out they tend to be pretty lenient in the ad space. If you don’t have money for an ad I would just say be active and consistent.
We found that Instagram was great because our product is largely photo based or you know SAAS companies I know they’re very active on twitter so what’s key here is finding your [most advantageous or fitting] social network and then actually having genuine interactions with your audience.
BS: Have you guys tried anything out in live video at Brevite yet?
DK: Not yet, we have some really cool ideas but not yet, you know. So we’re hoping this summer. We’re going to have some really cool stuff lined up.
Host: Yeah, I can resonate with this. Obviously what we are doing now is an attempt at making Live Video work. It is pretty difficult for a startup like us because we tried streaming and it ended up just being me coding for a few hours with no one watching.
BS: Some suggestions I really liked in terms of making good content is from Seth Godin, who defined successful viral marketing as making really “remarkable” content.
It’s like when you are driving down the road and see a cow, you probably won’t say anything. But if the cow is purple, you will remark to your friends that you saw a purple cow. Making content that is truly remarkable is, in my opinion, the essence of digital marketing.
In order to be remarkable first you really need to understand your audience ; like what you guys are doing. And then you just need to repeatedly test 100, 200, or 300 times until you see things that work.
A lot of people expect digital marketing to be a silver bullet that can solve all of their problems immediately but, in fact, it is something that you need to do repeatedly and consistently and it works progressively over time.
DK: Yeah and I think a huge part of it is what you said. But you also need to recognize that digital marketing should only be part of what you are doing. There are thing that are much more important like knowing your brand, targeting a specific audience, having a good website, etc etc. Really, the only way to make your customer buy your products is to make your entire customer experience smooth and seamless.
BS: Having a good product first and then being super genuine with your audience instead of pursuing a shortcut for fast success. Got it.
What I really dislike about the current digital marketing world is that there are a lot of like silver bullet solutions like “If you run this promotion you will be able to get 100 conversions..” or “if you do these things on social media, if you post like this, post these videos, post those tags you will be successful…”
But, at the end of the day, it’s really all about having good content, having genuine conversations with your audience, and having a good product that really serves people.
This is, to be honest, one thing we want to do at Humanlytics, and something we are struggling with because people do not believe us we when we say, “you need to test constantly, be persistent and genuine.” It’s a tough buy in since those results come at a much slower rate than what they expect with “silver bullet” suggestions.”
DK: Oh yeah, absolutely. And I mean everything is about persistence as well. And something that we take also very seriously is really keeping the engagement up on our social platforms and I would say instagram is our largest following and definitely our most active and we get very good engagement you know for the size of our following. I would rather have a small amount of genuine conversation than a large following with incredibly low engagement.
Engagement is something that we’ve grown very slowly and very deliberately so we have an audience. What really brought us here today is really constant small adjustments that have perfected our customer experience and there really is no other way.