On the sixth episode of Julius Profiles, Danny spoke to Caroline Tseng and Darren Wong, both entrepreneurs and food influencers, about their experiences running startup food businesses on social media.
Takeaways from this episode include:
- How small business owners approach social strategy
- The importance of consistency for small businesses
- Using influencers to create a visual identity for your brand
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About our guests:
Caroline Tseng (@carolinetseng_): After eight years in advertising helping large brands learn how to speak to millennials, Caroline left to build something of her own – an actually good-for-you superfood nice cream brand called Sweet Nova (@SweetNovaNYC). In its first year, Sweet Nova raised a successful $18K Kickstarter, worked with brands including Sweaty Betty, WeWork, and Square, and opened a retail pop-up location in Canal Street Market for January and February 2019.
Darren Wong (@darrenwong): With over 10 years of experience in advertising and digital media, Darren created the overnight sensation, Raindrop Cake (@raindropcake), in 2016. Darren translated his industry expertise to create an engaging and highly Instagrammable dessert as an “art project,” which found its way onto the news and into the bellies of Smorgasboard attendees year after year.
Key episode insights:
How small business owners approach social strategy
Influencers operate in many ways like a small business. They have a brand to define and upkeep, and their choices affect business outcomes for their career. Caroline and Darren have both parlayed their experience in digital advertising to inform their business practices. Despite their experience, they’ve faced challenges along the way in developing a personal social strategy for their brands.
Since they invest so much of themselves in their businesses, their social presence incorporates their personalities, so much so that Caroline is, “constantly trying to figure out the balance between putting myself out there versus putting the brand out there.” Darren considers Raindrop Cake to be “an expression of me.”
Developing a social strategy for a small business, then, is a matter of developing oneself and finding a comfortable, authentic social identity to reflect it.
Darren, for example, started Raindrop Cake as “an art project,” an attempt to create something and experiment. Though he attributes the beginnings of his success to chance, he admitted that he’s not too concerned about diversifying his product offerings. In fact, Darren is content to stay in his niche:
“I can have a product that doesn't appeal to half of people because you only need to get to enough people to make a buck – I'm not trying to make Procter & Gamble – I just want to do a small version of whatever that is.”
The importance of consistency for small businesses
Starting a business is tough enough on its own – starting a social channel is another beast entirely. Caroline and Darren both agreed, though, that the most important aspect of building a brand on social media is consistency.
“It doesn't matter what you posted. I spent like maybe less than an hour a day on it and I posted, I share it and it's the consistency that gets the followings and commenting and conversation,” said Darren.
Though consistency matters more than quality, quality still matters. While Darren has a naturally Instagrammable product, Caroline is always striving to learn more about quality presentation. When she was a brand strategist, she didn’t have to worry about photo framing, or background space, or color grading. Now, as a small business owner, she’s squarely in charge.
“I definitely want to reiterate what Darren said about consistency, which I really think – since we're both formerly brand strategists – that we didn't have to do any of it.”
Using influencers to create a visual identity for your brand
To fully flesh out their visual identities, Caroline and Darren have looked to their online communities, and even influencers, for help. Though it may have been difficult to manage in the very beginning, now that they’re a few years into business, Caroline and Darren are eager to bolster their brands’ visuals.
“Your visual story is everything now in your startup and don't skimp on it. Invest in creating the brand visuals to land what your product is about,” said Caroline.
But it doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Entrepreneurs can take simple steps to improving their brand identity, whether they choose to work with an influencer as a creative director of sorts, or do something as easy as leaving enough room in their photos for text overlays. Caroline worked with an Instagram photographer to nail down the creative direction of her product, so as to build from a solid foundation of work.
In the world of food, visuals are (almost) everything. As Darren puts it, “So here's my point of view on social content when it comes to food. If you start off by focusing on your product and making it visually appealing or whatever, then the content takes care of itself.”
Incorporating visuals into the product will lend itself to content creation. Consumers of the product can even take part in the fun themselves, making user-generated content that helps propel a brand to new heights on social.
The Julius Profiles podcast talks to people like Darren and Caroline about their unique perspectives on the many touchpoints of influencer marketing. Subscribe below on your favorite podcasting platform to get more stories like these.
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