Talk to your audience, don’t talk at them. Yes, you want to promote your business and get leads or sales, but that won’t happen by just asking people to work with you or buy your product time and time again. Why did you start your business? Why are your products special and different from your competitors? Aim to start telling these stories in your posts and see how your results start to shift.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Taylor Kincaid, the Social Media Director at Online Optimism. Taylor is a digital marketing professional based in New Orleans helping local businesses amplify their reach through social.
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 had always enjoyed writing and being creative during my earlier years in school and my first year in college, but I was struggling with finding a concrete career path in that type of realm. At Florida State University, they have a program called Editing, Writing & Media, which focuses not just on writing and editing as a craft, but as a career path in our modern, digital world. Immediately, I knew that this could be a great path for me. The program was different from Journalism, English, or even Creative Writing, because it pulled in elements of all three while also showing how in the ever-evolving technology and digital landscape, writing and media will continue to play a large part. I took an internship in marketing for a local company in Tallahassee, and social media just came naturally and become a really fun outlet for my writing and creative interests. From there, I knew very clearly that this is what I wanted to do professionally.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about Social Media Marketing?
I have over 5 years of experience in social media marketing, working for various small businesses, organizations, and professional agencies. I’ve worked across so many different industries, from hospitality and tourism to governmental and nonprofits. I also specialize in social media advertising, in particular on Facebook and Instagram, running trackable campaigns that produce real results and increase awareness and growth for businesses.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
I think my journey with Online Optimism, the agency I currently am the head of the social media department for, is probably the most interesting. I was almost a year out of college, working for the school I graduated from in the marketing department while also interning part-time for a local marketing agency. I knew I wanted to move somewhere else and gain experience, and the Specialist program at Online Optimism looked like a great opportunity. It was paid, working with an agency that was bigger than where I was but not so big that I felt I would get lost in the shuffle, and promised hands-on work, which is what I wanted most of all. So I packed up my life and moved out to New Orleans to take a chance on this opportunity for the next three months. About three years later, I’m still at Online Optimism and really loving what I do. I worked as a Specialist, to a Strategist, and eventually have become the Director of our social media department, and I’ve loved helping shape the way we do social media work for our clients and implement more actionable campaigns. I also gained so much confidence in myself as a social media professional, knowing that I’ve been able to help local businesses and educate other people on social media and its value in New Orleans and beyond. It’s an experience I know I couldn’t have had anywhere else, and that chance I took three years ago paid off so much more than I ever could have expected.
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?
I definitely made a lot of mistakes when I first started! I think that’s the best way to learn, though. My first full year at Online Optimism, we had an internal motto to “Make Better Mistakes”, and it really helped me in how I approached the way I dealt with mistakes by forcing me to think about how I can learn from them. My biggest mistake, and looking back definitely the silliest one, was in the way I questioned myself. It took me a long time to gain my confidence and voice in a professional setting, and while I know I had to take my own journey and I really wouldn’t change it, I know I could have progressed a lot earlier on if I had believed in myself more. Millennials all struggle with one form of Impostor Syndrome or another, and I felt that a lot at the beginning of my career. The sooner I realized that making mistakes can be a good thing, and everyone (in particular for social media) is growing and adapting as they go along, I was able to be a lot more confident and assertive in my role.
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?
I don’t think any social media platform has a secret formula to give businesses immediate results. I like to approach social media strategy for each business I work with by looking at what will work specifically for them. Business owners should be very mindful of who their target audience is, first of all. That being said, I think Instagram has the most potential for growth. In order to perform well on Instagram, you need to be able to tell a well crafted and visually curated story that lets your followers know who you are, and how your business can benefit them. One example I think of is when we took on an account that had a larger following because of their presence in the community already, but their engagement was low and their following was not involved. As we started to craft their posts and tell their story in a more authentic and approachable way, we were able to watch as those engagement numbers began to soar along with their follower numbers. We also started far more productive, two-way conversations between the business and their target audience.
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.
- Talk to your audience, don’t talk at them. Yes, you want to promote your business and get leads or sales, but that won’t happen by just asking people to work with you or buy your product time and time again. Why did you start your business? Why are your products special and different from your competitors? Aim to start telling these stories in your posts and see how your results start to shift.
- Use smart hashtags! I hate seeing what could be a great account use hashtags that are either way too general or way too specific. Using something like #happy will put your content in with millions upon millions of posts, and while you may get some engagement, chances are it will be spammy or you’ll just get lost in the shuffle entirely. On the other hand, using hashtags that no one uses besides you will mean your content isn’t getting discovered at all. Try to find a good middle ground with hashtags that are used by communities relevant to the content you’re posting.
- Listen to your followers and ask them questions. I see a lot of influencers use the “poll” and “question” stickers in Instagram Stories to ask their followers about what content they want to see, and I think this is so smart! More businesses should capitalize on those features to learn more about their follower base and what they like to see, and craft their content specifically for them. You can even ask UX and product based questions here to get direct feedback from your customer or user base.
- Speaking of Instagram Stories, that feature is only going to continue to grow. Now is the time to be posting on Stories and figuring out how you can best use it for your business. I also really love running ads on the Instagram Stories placement. You need an advertising budget in order to do this, of course, but it’s a really powerful placement right now since it’s not quite as saturated as the Instagram feed. Plus, there are so many cool ways you can design your ad directly in the Instagram Story screen with no graphic design or professional video shoots required.
- Leveraging Instagram shopping features will be huge for businesses that sell products. Instagram has already rolled out shoppable posts, but shoppable Stories are currently rolling out slowly to select users, and Instagram has also announced that the buying experience will soon not require users to leave the app at all for a more seamless shopping experience.
- Be mindful of your aesthetic. Your top nine posts are your business’s first impression on any potential new follower, so presenting your posts in a way that is cohesive aesthetically is more important than ever. That can be as simple as using a simple filter and bright lighting on everything you post, to more complicated strategies like incorporating a single color into all of your posts.
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. 🙂
We all like to put our best foot forward on social media, but seeing only the best things in people’s lives can also be a bit overwhelming, and even feel bad. I’ve seen a trend among some influencers and brands to bring in more authenticity and honesty in the way they present their content and use it as a platform to advocate for prioritizing mental health and self-care.
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 pick Madison Utendahl’s brain! She is one of the founders of the Museum of Ice Cream, and works with one of my favorite activewear brands, Bandier, and has also won lots of awards for her work in social and content. I think she has influenced the Instagram landscape so much and just hasn’t gotten all the recognition she deserves yet, and I’m always excited to see what her next project is. I also really admire the authenticity and diverse representation she brings to the brands she works with.
Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!