Thursday, April 5, 2018

Pushing Through The Social Media Noise?

How this social media maven pushes through the noise..

"But First, Coffee."

You've probably seen that phrase on a mug somewhere (or even used it to jump-start your day). Curious where it came from? Well, Elena Hansen can tell you the story.

You've probably seen that phrase on a mug somewhere (or even used it to jump-start your day). Curious where it came from? Well, Elena Hansen can tell you the story.

As the founder and CEO of SWIM Social, a full-service social media agency, Hansen developed strategic messaging around #butfirstcoffee as part of a campaign for Alfred Coffee, one of her first-ever freelance clients. Since the hashtag, Alfred has grown from 1,000 followers to 100,000, and SWIM's clientele has also followed suit. Over the last few years, Hansen's team has grown from a one-woman show to a collaborative collective, coordinating social media campaigns and brand identities for literally everything — from products to companies to people. Their latest project? International pop star and musician Selena Gomez' Revival Tour.

As a self-funded entrepreneur, Hansen has a lot to say about DIY branding, bootstrapping creative and hustling to get a story heard.

We hopped on the phone to talk about best practices and ultimately narrowed in on a few pointers for small business owners looking to up their social media game. Read our interview below and take notes!

Jane Claire Hervey: To start, who are you and what do you do?

Elena Hansen: My name is Elena Hansen and I’m the founder of SWIM Social, a full service social media marketing agency. I develop social media strategies for a range of businesses and people, collaborate with a new generation of creatives, and continue to grow a talented team at SWIM.

Hervey: What sorts of projects has SWIM Social taken over the years? What have been some of the most memorable and why?

Hansen: Our first client and crown jewel is Alfred Coffee. We started with one shop and 1,000 followers, and now there are six shops and over 100,000 followers for the company. It’s a true testament to the brand itself, the careful thought that Josh [the founder and CEO] put into the experience, and how that story can be amplified online. Alfred’s social media is now a revenue stream with major partnerships like Disney, Bumble and more. It’s been a great case study, and we’re still challenging ourselves to showcase the lifestyle and brand in new ways.

In the second year of SWIM, we were approached by Selena Gomez to do her world music tour. We launched separate accounts for RevivalTour, with its own strategy and content. She was really passionate and collaborative with the project, since it was the first time a world music tour had been marketed in this way. We sent three people on the road for six months. I was awake all hours of the day and night—it was intense but so rewarding.

Hervey: Can you elaborate on SWIM Social’s ethos of organic storytelling and approach to bringing authenticity to for-profit brands?

Hansen: We believe in creating a mutually beneficial relationship between the business and consumer. This often spans into the lifestyle and education of a product, how it actually improves and contributes to people’s lives. We understand that there is a lot of noise on social media, and you have to share a unique story in order to stand out. There are questions that we ask early on to ensure that we’re working with businesses who have enough to talk about on social media. We believe in creating original content that catches people’s eyes and contributes something valuable to their daily lives. Despite algorithms and other challenges, we do believe that “if you build it, they will come.” At the same time, we joke that you can’t put lipstick on a pig. Social media should be an extension of the brand or person, not a facade. If the brand is authentic in every aspect, then its social media will be, too.

Hervey: What are three tips you’d have for creative entrepreneurs trying to craft their own stories?

Hansen: First, prioritize professionalism. Coming from a corporate marketing background, I know that professionalism and presentation are very important. We don’t act loose and fast—we put together a lot of strategy, materials and systems to earn the respect and trust of our clients. I believe that has set us apart in the social media and creative space, especially as a young, millennial-run agency.

Second, be a pioneer. It is easy to follow the masses or what’s popular, since that information is so readily available. I think the people who stand out are the ones who do things differently and do what hasn’t been done before. Whatever your creative medium is, find a unique way to share that story. If you’re passionate about what you do and believe in it, that will come through. You don’t need to do it the way everyone else is doing it. Social media has blown the market wide open for people who want to be pioneers.

Third, have a good reputation. The thing you don’t necessarily see on our social media is the business-to-business relationships. SWIM has been built from word of mouth and referrals, and for every client we work with, they have five friends who have businesses that also need social media marketing. There’s nothing worse than being excited to work with someone because of what you see on social media, only to find out that they’re a pain to work with. You want to build a reputation where you’re top of mind for anyone to refer you—whether you’re a photographer, influencer or agency. You can’t build a sustainable business off of a bunch of one-time opportunities.

Hervey: How does SWIM Social stand out in today’s media landscape?

Hansen: We understand that people come to us looking for expertise and experience in social media, so we don’t sit back and wait to be told what to do or how to do it. We take a very proactive approach from the beginning, and set a productive pace. I think people can feel and trust our authority and passion for what we do.

We also have a cultural approach to what we do. It feels fresh and on-trend. It’s been really important to me that SWIM is at the forefront of the industry, not following what other agencies are doing. Being at the forefront will ultimately put us in the driver’s seat when people ask us the big question about social media: What’s next?

Hervey: What are three elements of a successfully branded social media campaign?

Hansen: I’ll share one of our approaches that people can take away and implement. We develop campaign initiatives at SWIM around three C’s: Creative, Community and Commerce.

In any given campaign, you should have all of these bases covered. Strong “creative” content will pique interest, make people feel good about the brand, and potentially get shared far and wide online. Your “community” initiatives can relate to an influencer or ambassador program, or a cross-promotional campaign with a like-minded brand. And your “commerce” initiatives will ensure that there is a call to action and trackable return of investment to your campaign.

A balance of the three C’s will result in an effective campaign strategy.

Hervey: Your DIY bootstrapped approach with some of your first clients is a true testament to the entrepreneurial spirit. As your company began to grow, how have you personally approached pivots? What has that journey looked like for you as a thought leader and an employer?

Hansen: I’ve always felt very fortunate for any opportunity. I have always believed that no opportunity is too small. Every opportunity is a training ground for the next thing. We still maintain a do-what-it-takes approach to our clients’ success. I look at social media as a big responsibility—it’s the most public-facing and accessible part of a brand or person. Our early success stories involved a lot of guerilla marketing, activations, offline ideas paired with strong online storytelling. We still take that approach.

With SWIM being just over three years old, the business has evolved a lot in order to scale and meet demand.

That challenge is also paired with the fast evolution of tech and the platforms themselves. We have a very customized and intricate approach to what we do, but we also have a lot of people knocking on our door and it can be hard to turn business away.

From an operations standpoint, we haven’t had funding or investment since day one, so I’ve been making decisions off of needs versus wants the whole way. Every client has also been incredibly valuable to the growth and sustainability of the business. I’ve learned to recognize red flags or the reasons a brand isn’t a good fit for us (or isn’t ready for social media marketing).

Hervey: Any morning routines or professional self-care resources to share?

Hansen: I think a healthy dose of vulnerability is important. I’m learning to embrace that more and more. People appreciate the bad with the good. You don’t always have to have it all figured out, and you can lean into others for advice. Being OK with showing a little vulnerability is helping me to deal with the pressures. In a leadership position, you may think that people will judge you for not knowing what to do, but I think people innately want to support others and will be even more invested in your journey if you let them in.

Exercise is also really important. I believe that physical strength becomes mental and emotional strength. If you played sports growing up, I think exercise is even more important to your self-care as an adult. We need to maintain those healthy outlets for emotion and frustration, and have a strong mind and body.

Related Article:

Guest Authored By Jane Claire Hervey. Jane is a Creative Producer and Entrepreneur. Originally from South Texas, she moved to Austin, Texas in 2011 to study Journalism. Post-grad, She pursued a career in content production, startup management and experiential marketing, which led to the launch of her nonprofit, #bossbabesATX, in 2015, and the launch of her production studio, group work, in 2016.

In the last two years, Jane produced 100+ events and led 40+ campaigns and projects for culture- and community-oriented companies and brands. As an intersectional feminist, her personal and professional life are dedicated to improving community infrastructure, retooling systems of collaboration and changing cultural economies to create equal opportunity for women and girls. Follow Jane Claire Harvey on Twitter.

"Develop a multi-channel social media strategy that clearly articulates your brand voice, uses a mix of paid and organic means, and brings delight to followers.

In time, you develop a meaningful social media following capable of driving big business to your organization.." -DeepPatel

    • Post Crafted By:
      Fred Hansen Pied Piper of Social Media Marketing at & CEO of Millennium 7 Publishing Co. in Loveland, Colorado. I work deep in the trenches of social media strategy, community management and trends.  My interests include; online business educator, social media marketing, new marketing technology, skiing, hunting, fishing and The Rolling Stones..-Not necessarily in that order ;)
    Follow Me Yonder..                     Instagram

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