Create a personality for your brand. Instagram is an opportunity for people to get to know your brand and what you are all about. Beyond just your company’s offerings and products, you can use Instagram to give your customers a sense of your brand’s essence- what is your brand’s aesthetic, voice, etc. For example, as an ice cream company, most of our photos are of ice cream, but our captions to these photos are about: throwing a party, unwinding after a long week of work, ideas for entertaining etc.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Tavss. Melissa Tavss started Tipsy Scoop in 2014. She previously earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Richmond, and later went on to complete her master’s degree in Integrated Marketing from NYU. Melissa’s background is in marketing and public relations, specializing in the wine and spirits industry. She was responsible for marketing on behalf of various wine and spirits clients for five years at The Baddish Group. Melissa has been quoted in various publications such as Forbes, CNBC, NY Business Journal, and Food & Wine. She has appeared on several TV shows such as Fox Business, ABC New York, Fox NY, and NBC New York. Melissa has been honored by The James Beard Foundation and the Specialty Food Association for her unique offerings as The Founder and CEO of Tipsy Scoop.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My Italian ancestors brought ice cream to Scotland in the 1800s. First up — my great, great, great grandfather, Achille, who moved from his small mountaintop town of Picinisco, Italy to Glasgow, Scotland. He made ice cream at home and sold it from a pushcart as he walked the city streets. Eventually he opened his own ice cream shop and brought his sons into the business. The family business continued with my great, great grandfather, Giovanni, who opened several of his own shops around Glasgow in the 1900s. My great grandfather, Federico, continued the family ice cream tradition and opened shops throughout Scotland and England and eventually became the President of the Ice Cream Alliance of Great Britain.
Following in the ice cream tradition, I started to experiment with putting a modern boozy twist on ice cream. I wanted to combine the best of both worlds! I started working on my first own homemade ice cream recipe and found it nearly impossible to get it right in our small Cuisinart ice cream maker. I was struggling and decided to add a tablespoon of alcohol to soften the ice cream. It was icy on the side of the bowl and I couldn’t get it to hold a creamy consistency. The alcohol seemed to help, but my recipe was far from complete. At the same time, I was working at a PR agency, which represented wine and spirits clients. I was lucky enough to bring home lots of samples to experiment with. I began to think — I need more than a tablespoon of alcohol to this ice cream! Why was there no actually boozy ice cream? We know- rum raisin and cherries jubilee but come on — that little amount of rum or brandy will not do the trick!
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about Social Media Marketing?
Tipsy Scoop started from an idea, not a traditional business plan at all. An idea that was first tested by family and friends as I served them different variations of recipes in tubberware containers. I tested out recipes on friends and family and tested out the idea and brand concept on social media, specifically on Instagram. I used Instagram to see if the idea had legs and how people (beyond those I knew) responded to it. I was able to gage how viable the brand and idea was through Social media and grow the company that way. I was able to grow my concept for Tipsy Scoop from an idea to a business using our strong social media following and cultivating that following. For that reason, I consider myself an authority on using Social media marketing to drive sales and awareness.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
in 2016, I was happy to slowly grow the business as we grew our wholesale and catering accounts, and our online and shipping business. At this point, we did not have a storefront and did not plan on having one. However, our social media page followings had been growing rapidly as our online orders increased and people learned about our business. Because of the rapid growth, we were approached by food content companies that were interested in creating videos about Tipsy Scoop and what we were all about.
In the fall of 2016, these videos started launching on Facebook and Instagram. The response was tremendous and caused a real domino effect. The videos started airing one after the other, each going viral: over 7 million views in just a few days! Our email inquiries, order forms, wholesale, and catering sales were completely flooded. People started showing up at our production facility in East Harlem looking for the boozy ice cream “shop” they had seen on their newsfeeds! We are not sure how they found us as the location was in a big warehouse right under the train in the middle of the block in Harlem (not an easy find!)- but they showed up in large groups and when we couldn’t sell them boozy scoops, they bought our boozy pints from us — right there and then! The crowds did not stop showing up and we ultimately had to hire someone just to ring them up. From there, we knew we had to open a storefront where people could go to buy boozy scoops and a shop that lived up to their expectations that were set on Facebook and Instagram!
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?
When I first started, I really thought I could do everything all by myself- or with limited help- from making the boozy ice cream, to selling and distributing it, and so forth. My partner Lyz and I literally hauled boozy pints in our car from grocery store to grocery store delivering orders in coolers in dry ice. We pretended our “truck” was parked around the block and we weren’t just hand delivering on our own! I once dropped Three 3 gallon ice cream tubs on my leg while carting them around- I still have a Hematoma!!! I quickly learned that we needed to build a capable team in order to scale up. You cannot do everything all on your own if you want to grow into a viable business. That is a hard lesson when you are funding your business as well. But investing in people, and good people, is certainly worthwhile and imperative to growth!
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?
We have definitely found video content on both Facebook and Instagram to be the most effective way to increase business revenues. In addition to Facebook and Instagram videos which initially drove traffic to our production facility in East Harlem, these same sorts of videos were extremely effective in generating awareness about our store opening in May 2017.
When our store opened, I was not sure what to expect. We spent the week before the store opening having different content companies in to shoot video of our store offerings. The videos started to be shared right before the opening date which created amazing awareness and excitement about our opening. I arrived at the store at 9am the day of the opening (we were opening at noon), thinking I had plenty of time to set up and get ready. Boy was I wrong! There were already people camped outside our store, around 10 people at 9am, waiting for the store to open at noon! By noon, the line was around the block. We continue to shoot videos about our seasonal offerings and these are a great way to bring new and old customers in and showcase our products.
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.
6 ways to use Instagram to leverage your business:
1. Create a personality for your brand. Instagram is an opportunity for people to get to know your brand and what you are all about. Beyond just your company’s offerings and products, you can use Instagram to give your customers a sense of your brand’s essence- what is your brand’s aesthetic, voice, etc. For example, as an ice cream company, most of our photos are of ice cream, but our captions to these photos are about: throwing a party, unwinding after a long week of work, ideas for entertaining etc. Providing some added value to your customers and giving them a sense of what you are all about makes Instagram a more interesting tool that goes beyond what an e-commerce website could provide someone with.
2. Motivate customers to experience your brand. And SHARE their experience. For a brick and mortar location, use Instagram to show your products and offerings in their natural environment i.e. in your retail location. This seems obvious but showing a physical location online encourages people to go there. They want to go there to see the space in real life! Also if the pictures are enticing enough — to go there, try your stuff, and get their own shot and share that with their following. We sometimes joke that at our Barlour, it seems like customers come in to just take a photo of their ice cream, and we are not even sure if they are going to eat it! (they do eat it, we promise it’s delicious)- but definitely getting that Instagrammable photo is important to them too!
3. Have a conversation with your customers on Instagram. Use Instagram to interact with your customers. You can listen to your customers on the channel and really get some interesting feedback that you can use to better your business! You not only get invaluable insight into your customers’ needs and wants but also get the opportunity to respond to them and start a conversation! Don’t talk at your customers by posting content and then never responding, but rather think of responding to comments as just as important as creating an Instagram posts schedule. You can also source imagery from your customers and repost their content- making it a collaborative effort and including them so they feel special and appreciated- as they should!
4. Show “Behind the scenes” views of your company on Instagram stories. Offer sneak peeks of your company, how your products are made, and provide insider information. This is something small businesses often do better than larger corporations as they are more willing to have a flexible social media schedule and strategy that allows them to post in real time and more spontaneously. Showing your customers what happens behind the scenes is a cool way to let them in and get them more engaged in your brand’s story. For example, we post sneak peeks of the making of new seasonal flavors at our test kitchen and the R and D that goes along with that!
5. Collaborate. Work with different companies and influencers to create new content and product offerings and in doing so, allow your brand to be introduced to their audiences. For example, we collaborated with a lingerie brand for Valentines day to host a giveaway on both their Instagram page and ours. We were then able to leverage the following of a fashion company and introduce our brand to a different audience, beyond foodies and spirits enthusiasts!
6. Be authentic. I am sure there will be lots of people who will disagree with me, but you don’t need to only use professional photos on your Instagram. You also don’t need to plan out your content in an Instagram calendar and schedule your posts so that they sound very rehearsed. Instead, have your employees take photos, use your customers photos and repost them. And create content on the fly sometimes- if it is still 80 degrees in October, don’t post about how it feels like Fall even though that was on the schedule! Your audience will see right through you if you aren’t being authentic and likely lose interest quickly. Keep them interested and keep them scrolling through your feed, then coming to your store, then sharing that experience!