Social media has been core to our company from the beginning. When I say the beginning, I truly mean the beginning. I have been engaging in social media before it was called “social media” and before the word “blog” came into our nomenclature.
Here’s a little history. SCOTTEVEST was the first clothing brand formed on the internet as a direct to consumer channel. Check out the earliest version of my website here. Since we were the first, we had to figure out how to reach out to these people that could potentially be interested in my brand. It was simple, reach out to where they are. They are on the internet. Before Facebook existed I did this through blogs, forums, boards, or anywhere people were talking about gadgets online. I would engage on all of these gadget boards with the intent of contacting as many people as possible. Having the ability to engage instantly with these gadgeteers turned a big light bulb on. It taught me to embrace this medium of talking directly to these people, which is now generally referred to as social media.
Then came along Dave Ciccone with Mobility Today. I’ll never forget it, like it was yesterday. I was working out of my home when I received an email from him, which looked incredibly goofy. In my mind, I am thinking, “Has it really come to this? Am I really going to be engaging with anyone who asks for a sample or reaches out to me?” And I said yes to myself. I will do whatever it takes to get the word out, no matter how significant the reporter, website, etc. I actually got pretty excited about this meeting and interview and was ready to share with him all things SCOTTEVEST. But then, lo and behold, Dave forgot the meeting. I’ll never forget the feeling of sheer rejection. I did not let that discourage me. It’s funny to see that many of those gadget websites which I thought looked “rinky-dink” at the time, were actually formed by these soon to be influencers in the community that we now call social media.
What I realized through these experiences, is whenever I had something new to say, whether it be about a new SCOTTEVEST sale, new product, or random thoughts, I would go back to an old post on a forum and update it to keep the conversation going. It gave me a direct communication path to people who were interested in talking about our product. I don’t think there were many CEOs, then or now, that take that personal approach and engage in these types of conversations online. I had pursued that strategy for some time which led to several significant relationships, such as Leo Laporte at TwiT TV, Patrick Norton at Revision3 and many others.
At the beginning, we tried every new social media that came out, as we felt we had to embrace that new medium whether we understood it or not. This included Myspace, Stickam, Ustream, Twitter, Facebook, vBulletin forums; the list is massive and we experimented with them all. Because we didn’t fully understand how to use each one uniquely and a lot of them are no longer in business, we lost our focus and lost our way. We were spitting out content that wasn’t engaging or thought provoking. It wasn’t until recently that we have stepped back and embraced our social media strategy. We focus on a select few platforms (in my case in particular, it’s Facebook), and produce great content there.
Social media does not feel like work to me, it has become second nature, I live to engage. It comes naturally and I feel like that is why we have been so successful with how we’ve used it in business. You can’t force someone how to be social, it has to be natural and authentic. This is what has led us to be named 86th on Internet Retailer’s Social Media 300 List.
Not only is authenticity crucial, but you need to be prepared to put yourself out there through social, and this requires transparency. I am always prepared to take criticism and praise head on. I’ve learned that social media works very well with my personality, as engagement and interaction is key for me. It’s not for everyone, as proven in this short commentary between my wife and business partner, Laura, and I.
As Laura catches me on FB, yet again, in my converted mancave to Facebook page, My wife, Laura, just exclaims “I could never be on FB. I just don’t understand the compulsion to share.” I replied “I live for sharing” Surprised? Opposites do attract. In all seriousness, Laura catches me typing this now and exclaims “who is this for??? Your audience??? Why do you think you have an audience?? What are you writing? You know I can’t see!! Why would anyone care? I’m married to you and I don’t care! I’m out of here.” Meet Laura, truly my better half. She keeps me in check. I love her, but can’t tell her that as sentiments piss her off.
It is important to talk to our audience as intelligent people who need to be engaged and entertained. I give them a reason to come back to our page and acknowledge that they have choices of where to spend their time on the internet and give them interesting content. For example, anytime we post questions about our product; what styles we should make, what our customers put in their SCOTTEVEST, or how many pockets they have on them right then, those are what drives engagement and conversation. These posts relate to our product, but encourages our fans to express their opinions about something, rather than us throwing a sales pitch in their face. I always say, don’t be afraid to express your opinion about something–people will agree, others will disagree, but you have to start with this level of transparency and engagement which comes really natural to me in person, and at the same time with social media.
Everything we do at SCOTTEVEST all comes back to FU-following up, and social media is no exception. Our customers opinions mean something, and it’s important to me and to them, that I acknowledge that. When people are taking the time out of their day to engage with my or my brand directly, I make an effort to show my appreciation by following up. The FU concept is the same and it is critical that everyone receives a reply to all of their outreaches. Embracing social media has allowed people to root for us on our successes and be empathetic for our failures. We have notable ones in the recent past that we have been able to address. It wasn’t until realizing those failures and addressing them, that I realized the important lessons learned from failing.
I want feedback as it relates to this process. I feel that we can improve on our use of social media and we have talked about ways to come up with content that relates back to what our customers are interested in. I also want to know, would you be interested in more articles about several other aspects of SCOTTEVEST? We have so many topics to cover that make up our business and being the transparent CEO that I am, want to share. Please leave your feedback here. I promise, I will read it all..
–Scott Jordan, CEO
Image by Jason Howie via Creative Commons