As a part of our series about “Marketing Strategies From The Top” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kirsten Baumberger. Kirsten is the Founder of minisocial.io a User Generated Content platform disrupting the way brands view and get value from influencer activations. We work with companies including DoorDash, Native, Pattern brands, JAJA, and NomNomNow to generate high-quality, fully-licensed UGC on demand.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’m a relative newcomer to the digital marketing world; I got my start in the space growth hacking my personal Instagram to 100k in a previous life as a model. At the time it was super important for my career to grow a following, the industry is largely a popularity contest and it was one of the reasons I was able to get signed to an agency in New York. In order to help make ends meet while I was living out of an Airbnb in Brooklyn I started taking digital marketing consultation contracts. The clients kept coming and it quickly got to the point where I was getting more work as a marketer than a model so I left my agency to start a consultancy and focus on that work full time — that work would transform over the years into my current company, minisocial.io.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Getting started on social as a model/influencer it was important for my career that I had a “following” and tried every popular trend under the sun to gain traction with varying levels of success.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
Looking back there are definitely high points; my first Forbes feature, a big client I was excited to land, bringing on Emmett Shine as an advisor, an early New York Times article, etc. That said, there hasn’t been one thing I can point to as a moment where I felt like I had suddenly “made it.” I’ve found that my career has been a matter of putting in the time, it’s an accumulation of the little things along the way that have all added up. Everything I did was a small building block towards success; each new connection or late night stacked one on top of another to get me to where I currently am as an entrepreneur.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We’ve taken a pretty commonplace service, influencer marketing, and turned it on its head. By viewing our activations as a user generated content pipeline first and an amplification tool second, we give brands the ability to leverage UGC everywhere from social to acquisition while offering the benefits associated with a traditional influencer activation. The moment we knew we were on to something with our offering was when we piqued the interest of Emmett Shine, the co-founder and creative visionary behind Gin Lane, the branding agency that had lead the direct to consumer revolution, branding companies including Harry’s, Warby Parker, Sweet Green, and Hims among others. We first won over Emmett as a customer, working with him on his new project, Pattern brands and were lucky enough to bring him on as an advisor in 2020.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We love carte blanche projects (who doesn’t?). There’s a couple that come to mind that we’re working on in the food/bev space — one involves sending out disposable cameras to the creatives and having them capture a social gathering featuring a brand, the other is working with artists in different disciplines (paint, sculpture, 3D modeling, graphic design, etc) to all produce the “same” picture featuring a brand in different media which will be really cool, can’t wait to share more on those soon!
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Learn to take breaks. The world we live in is so overly connected it can be hard to make yourself take a step back and get off your phone, away from your email, and off Slack to decompress. I take every excuse I can to get out of the office, a bit of fresh air is a great way for me to reset and take my mind off things. Even living and working in New York City I find ways to get outside — I love an afternoon walk in the warm weather, it regenerates my creativity and helps me be more productive in the long run.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The first person who truly believed in me (besides my amazing parents) was my high school broadcast teacher, Amanda Fountain. She played a big role in my decision to follow my own path, even if it was different than my peers. Without that reassurance from her, it would have been a lot harder to create my own path and I might not have ended up where I am now!
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There are hundreds of memorable marketing campaigns that have become part of the lexicon of our culture. What is your favorite marketing or branding campaign from history? Can you explain why you like that so much?
As a member of Gen Z and a digital native, the campaigns that stand out to me the most are the ones that break through the noise. I often point to a quote from Emily Weiss, the founder of Glossier, she views all her customers as “influencers” and I believe that is the right way to harness the power of social media. If people buying your products want to share them on their social channels and engage with your brand you are doing something right.
If you could break down a very successful campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.
Don’t put too much pressure on the numbers at the onset, focus on developing your brand. Having a strong brand voice/story is something you can always fall back on. Grow a community around a common interest first, then sell your product second. It’s a lot easier to get someone to buy something when you have established trust and credibility with them.
Companies like Google and Facebook have totally disrupted how companies market over the past 15 years. At the same time, consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. In your industry, where do you see the future of marketing going?
Over-saturation is something we are constantly talking about as a company that works with influencers. Millennials and, to a greater extent, Gen Z are an incredibly fast paced group, meaning what works for them today might be stale and “salesy” in a month. Burnout is something we’re seeing more and more in the influencer marketing space and at minisocial.io we focused on integrating authenticity into marketing by focusing on micro influencers with an audience that is more personalized and engaged.
Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started? Can you please share a story or example for each.
Looking back my experience founding minisocial.io and working with startups as a digital marketing consultant, I’ll break down the five things I’d recommend every entrepreneur do first:
1) Know your product — As a (relatively) young founder I know the temptation to say yes to every opportunity. When income is tight it can be incredibly tempting to take on work, clients, sales, etc. which are outside of your core competencies. I’ve done it, likely you’ve done it but over extending beyond the product or service you set out to offer can lead to some sticky situations, especially when the decision to do so is, shall we say, less than completely thought out.
2) Know the market — In our industry at least, it’s a small world. Before jumping into your next venture it’s critical to know the players in your space, their offerings, their strengths, and their weaknesses. Articulating how your offering differs and fits into the broader market is a critical first step to understanding your own business and helping ensure it won’t get lost in the shuffle and will allow you to come to market with an offering that is in demand.
3) Sweat the small stuff — Talk with an attorney. Hire a CPA. Get insurance. Ignorance of regulatory requirements is not a defense and in my opinion, it’s better to spend pennies now speaking and planning with professionals than it is to spend dollars later fixing issues which could have been easily avoided in the first place.
4) Tap into your network — Use the knowledge of others around you. If you’re anything like me, you’ll likely be setting out to start a business in a space you know well. That should mean that you already have a network of colleagues operating within that space too. Take a few out to coffee, bounce your ideas off of them. Most importantly, meet with the sceptics. Invite and embrace their feedback to strengthen your plan point by point. Even if you don’t agree with their feedback this will allow you to articulate rebuttals with friends and colleagues before needing to do so with prospects.
5) Don’t be afraid to beta — In short, don’t quit your day job (just yet). There’s no shame in starting things off as a side hustle. Unless you’re lucky enough to be a heir or heiress of a plush trust fund, leaping too soon could be the difference between making it or not. By offering your product or service in a small batch, low risk environment as a side hustle nights-and-weekends project you can test its viability without the unnecessary risk of leaving your nine-to-five.
Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners to become more effective marketers?
I probably sound like a broken record here — social media! It’s FREE and is the most powerful tool to connect with your customers and listen to what your community has to say about your brand/product that has ever been invented. Tapping into that power can change your brand for the better and deliver insight that’ll help shape your future offerings.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skils?
I think every marketer should read Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success by Morgan Brown and Sean Ellis. Growth can be a tricky thing to figure out but the biggest problem is often people scramble to figure out where to start. One of the things I learned the most from the book is how to go where customers already are, don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to, you have a million other things to focus on.
Who is your hero? Can you explain or share a story about why that person resonates with you?
Sounds cliche but, my mother is my hero. I don’t think I have met anyone who works harder than she does, between having a 9–5, multiple side hustles, and being an incredibly loving and supportive mom (growing up she never missed a dance performance of mine). Her work ethic is incredible and her energy is something I envy. She is the reason I am so determined and relistant.
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. 🙂
Don’t be afraid to follow your passions and look outside of institutions for knowledge. I am very pro-education but that doesn’t have to mean pursuing a degree. Not everyone learns the same way and more people need to realize that a one-size-fits-all system of education may not be setting every person up for success. There is a lot of knowledge to gain from real-world experience and I’d love to get rid of the stigma on how not pursuing a college degree fresh out of high school makes you a failure — in my experience it can be quite the opposite.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.