Instagram isn’t just about posting for your own business, but also engaging with other users, connecting with those in your community and remaining true to your brand. By engaging with your audience, consumers, and other businesses, you’re expanding your reach and boosting exposure on the platform. This leads to more followers and potential partnerships, influencer opportunities, and brand fans.
As a part of our series about How To Leverage Instagram To Grow Your Business, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brandon Brown, founder and CEO of GRIN.
Brandon Brown is the founder and CEO of GRIN. With over a decade of experience in marketing, Brandon is an expert in developing and curating authentic relationships for the brands, partners and teams he works with. Brandon resides in Sacramento, California and can often be found supporting local small businesses or listening to his favorite podcasts.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always been drawn to the marketing space and began my career in action sports and consumer marketing at Red Bull. During my eight years at the company, I built one of the most extensive opinion leader programs (before “influencer marketing” and Instagram were popular) in the world for Red Bull. Through that process, I grew to intimately understand how to drive outcomes through “opinion leaders” as Red Bull calls them.
In the world of action sports, youth culture and music, the key to success is being genuine and real. I learned that the core problem influencer marketing solves is brand trust, and knew I could make a difference in the industry by focusing on a relationship-based approach versus the hyper-transactional model that was pervasive at the time.
I knew I had something more significant to contribute to the industry as a whole and took the next step in my career by founding GRIN. GRIN was created to bring real connection back to brands and influencers.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
So many to share. Not very interesting, but I think in general the difference between building companies and working in them is drastic. The air is much more turbulent when you’re in charge of building the plane while it takes off — lots of sleepless nights, lots of anxiety. I think earlier in this process I struggled a lot with thinking that my self-worth was tied to the business success, I’ve now come to understand there is a big difference between those things and it has enabled me to be a much better leader.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There are too many to count with GRIN. I remember back on my time at Red Bull and thinking that you can buy trust. I found out quickly that no matter how much you pay someone, you’re either a part of the culture or you’re not. So leading with money, without giving back to the community or person you’re supporting in a meaningful way, is a quick way to look out of touch and be counterproductive to your goals.
Ok. Let’s now move to the main focus of our discussion. For the benefit of our readers, can you explain why you are an authority about Social Media Marketing?
I have over 15 years of marketing experience, with over six years spent building and leading my own company. GRIN helps brands manage athlete, tastemaker & influencer relations via social media. I led one of the largest opinion leader programs in the world in Los Angeles while I was working at Red Bull, all before influencer marketing even became mainstream. I then founded GRIN to help restore authenticity to the influencer marketing industry and bring real connections and relationships to brands and their influencers.
GRIN is the influencer marketing category leader, we’re growing revenue the fastest in the space, have the strongest team, the world’s best investors and we own eCommerce by a wide margin. I work day-in and day-out with brands, large and small, to help them understand this new world and how modern media consumption is changing. GRIN’s software helps them scale their brand-building efforts and business revenue — but most importantly, establish meaningful and real relationships with influencers who reach customers.
Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?
When any platform emerges there is a period of distribution arbitrage, where it’s cheaper to buy organic traffic than paid traffic. That said, it doesn’t last long. This is because the social platform business model is to make money through advertising — so if it stays that way it’s a threat to their core existence unless they can monetize it.
A better piece of advice would be to not think in terms of social platforms because they come and go, if all you’re after is reach on social platforms you can just spend your whole budget on paid advertising. Paid advertising performs really well and the whole business model is set up to facilitate that. The problem with only growing through running ads is you end up with a hollow brand.
If brands want a strategic advantage over their competitors they should consider how they can become a trusted part of the conversation where their consumers are spending time. Oftentimes that’s by finding relevant advocates, athletes, taste makers — people who believe in your product — and collaborating with them. It can be paid or unpaid, the main goal is to build trust with the audience on that platform. When you do that it makes your ad spend perform better — Customer Acquisition Costs (CACs) decrease and Lifetime Values (LTVs) go up. This is because of the halo effect it creates around your brand.
Let’s talk about Instagram specifically, now. Can you share 6 ways to leverage Instagram to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.
- Utilize influencers who align with your business goals and vision. Your business posts can only go so far, and it’s important to find and utilize influencers whose values align with your business’ mission and goals. In fact, 92% of consumers trust influencers more than advertisements, creating an extremely effective way to communicate with your audience and grow your business.
- Authenticity is everything. Your business will find the most success on Instagram when you create more trust with your consumers. Remain authentic in your posts and partnerships to help you scale but also, more importantly, optimize towards honest endorsement and create brand fans.
- Trusted content performs better in paid channels. Once you’ve found the right balance for your content, and see it resonating with your consumers organically, spend behind it. If you’re working with an influencer, consider whitelisting the ad account on the influencer who posted it.
- Think long-term, it’s about a lot more than short-term traffic. Remember that using Instagram to grow your business is about the long-term, and it won’t happen immediately. Be sure to create engaging content at-scale that ties into the larger business goals and plan. One great post isn’t going to move mountains.
- Increase engagement. Instagram isn’t just about posting for your own business, but also engaging with other users, connecting with those in your community and remaining true to your brand. By engaging with your audience, consumers, and other businesses, you’re expanding your reach and boosting exposure on the platform. This leads to more followers and potential partnerships, influencer opportunities, and brand fans.
- Consider the Halo Effect. Instagram is a powerful tool but can be optimized even more when considered alongside other marketing mix spend. Don’t make the mistake of isolating your social channels, but instead, let them all work for you to create increased conversation rates and lifetime value across the board.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would work with creators, athletes, tastemakers, musicians — all people who have a captive audience — and help teach them to bring honesty back to their brand collaborations. The truth is that influencer marketing has made brand advocacy, athlete marketing and all of the original human-touch disciplines inside marketing feel fake. It’s a little sad. Creators who have an audience should only collaborate with a brand that they believe in, products they actually use and should never lie to their audience to make money. That’s part of our mission at GRIN, to improve the buying experience through trusted endorsement.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I would love to have breakfast with J Cole and just pick his brain. Not only is he a great artist, but I have a lot of respect for how he has built his career in hip hop, kept a level head through it all, and speaks on relevant topics in his music. His music reflects his passions, and he seems like a true, authentic figure in today’s culture.