How this pet food subscription business promotes its website using social media

Want to convert browsers to buyers via social media marketing? Learn how tails.com uses a variety of social media channels to engage and boost sales

This article is sponsored by Verisign

With a multitude of social media channels readily available, an effective social media strategy can help draw consumers to your website. Learn how to use social media to help make your start-up stand out…

The UK is a nation of dog lovers, which perhaps explains why social media has proven to be a great way for dog food subscription service tails.com to reach potential customers.  tails.com, which has more than 69,000 followers on Facebook alone, is a good example of a start-up using social media to cut-through a crowded market.

Launched in July 2014, the London-based start-up now produces and delivers tailor-made, personalised dog food to thousands of pooches across the UK every month – reaching an eight figure revenue for 2016.  tails.com believes social media has been a vital ingredient in achieving  its success. By maintaining a consistent yet engaging online presence on multiple sites, the e-commerce business has seen its social media following double in just six months – and that’s no fluke.

tails.com’s start-up success also serves up an important lesson; for any start-ups looking to build a social media presence and ramp up sales, tails.com believes that setting up a .com domain name is simply essential as it can provide a start-up with a consistent online destination to drive its social media followers.

A .com domain name not only invokes trust, but it’s also an ideal base on which to build your brand as .com is one of the world’s most recognised domains.

Wondering how your start-up could follow tails.com’s lead? In this exclusive interview with Startups.co.uk, tails.com’s head of marketing, Fiona Wallin, offers up insights on how the business promotes its website via social media…

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Using different social media channels to interact with customers

It’s rarely a case of one-size-fits-all when it comes to using social media. For tails.com, efforts have been focused on identifying and producing different types of content geared toward the distinct audiences across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Wallin believes its Instagram feed has to centre around customer storytelling through high quality imagery as this generates a lot of engagement. In fact, it’s led to a doubling in followers over the last six months, thanks to “embracing new platform developments such as Instagram stories”.

Facebook requires another approach altogether, adds Wallin. “Our Facebook audience tends to engage with longer form content that’s either educational or entertaining,” she says. “It’s here that we demonstrate ourselves as a leader in dog advice and stay on top of trends as reliable reporters of news and stories that break in the dog world.”Facebook has become one of tails.com’s core channels in reaching new customers. “It’s consistently one of our highest performing channels in driving cost-effective new customer sign-ups” says Wallin.

As for Twitter, Wallin finds it as primarily a customer support tool, but also an effective way to share news. Wallin also finds LinkedIn as a great platform to create awareness of tails.com as a great place to work.

Social media can compliment and support your business

According to Wallin, there are several ways in which social media output complements business activities at tails.com. First, social media has allowed tails.com to provide customer support.  She says “we’re a customer-led business and pride ourselves on our award-winning customer support team. Social media has played a key role in this, allowing for speedy resolution of customer queries.”

Second, social media has helped tails.com increase its customer base. Wallin adds that “Facebook is instrumental in our digital customer acquisition strategy, allowing us to grow the business through consistently proving itself as one of our most effective channels to drive new customer sign-ups.”

Lastly, social media has assisted in attracting talent. Wallin shares that “if you’re looking to make your business stand out as a place to work in order to attract the very best talent available, it helps to have a channel to make prospective employees aware of your success.

“It’s great for us to be able to share news like our recent Startups Awards wins and our inclusion in the Future Fifty with a relevant audience on LinkedIn. As part of our content marketing strategy, our social purposes are to entertain, educate, inform and give insight. It’s important for us to be a source of informative content for dog owners everywhere whilst still providing entertainment too.”

Creating a brand personality using social media

tails.com has carefully used social media to create its brand personality. The key though, isn’t just to share absolutely everything it comes across relating to the business – it needs to consistently reflect the brand’s carefully constructed personality through its tone of voice.

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“We’re confident in our language,” says Wallin. “We like to inject a bit of humour but maintain a confident, authoritative tone.” Tails.com injects its tone in a variety of media and content, including imagery, video, and links to its blog content or relevant third party content.

Using Facebook and Twitter to connect with customers

Spending copious amounts of time posting on Facebook and Twitter will ultimately be hard to justify if there’s no correlation between social media output and revenue.

For tails.com, it appears there’s a causal link between customers choosing to buy from the company and their interactions with the brand on social media. “Facebook has been instrumental in the growth of the business,” says Wallin, “allowing it to consistently recruit new customers in a cost-effective way.”

She adds “the way social media allows us to further develop the direct relationship we have with our customers, particularly on Twitter and Facebook, has contributed to our award-winning customer support.

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Social media has also been a great way for us to learn about our customers, both through their feedback and by reviewing what type of content they engage with most and what conversations they’re having on the platforms.”

Paid advertising on social media

While promoting your brand and engaging with customers on social media can be ‘free’, if you exclude the valuable time employees spend on it as a marketing channel, tails.com suggest that taking a premium approach, like them, by paying for social advertising could help grow your business too.

Wallin says “Paid social advertising forms part of our always-on, digital acquisition strategy. We run paid advertising across most of the platforms, however it’s Facebook that has consistently driven cost-effective volume.”

In particular, she puts success on Facebook down to two main factors. “Firstly, consistently testing and learning, embracing new ad formats early and investing in learning what works for us as a business. Then secondly, frequently refreshing our creative, helped by the wealth of user-generated content our customers provide us with every single day.”

Making the decision to hire a social media executive

Should your start-up hire a social media exec? It’s quite a big investment, particularly in the early days, and especially if you don’t have significant funding behind you.

Much will depend on the nature of your business and the role social media can play in its growth. For tails.com, in-house resource appears to have proved a worthwhile investment.

Some of the value created is defined by the social media executive’s ability to spot trends and turn them to the company’s advantage by joining conversations playing out in public. Building on that, Wallin says, is crucial.

“Our social media exec’s role is primarily to support the creation and syndication of content across all the social platforms we use. A significant part of her role is also to analyse what’s happening on social media each week; what content has or hasn’t performed well and why, and then feeding these learnings into what we do going forward.”

Social media = part of tails.com’s growth formula

Social media has always been a part of tails.com’s growth formula. The results show the fruit of this decision.  “In six short months tails.com’s social media following has doubled and Facebook in particular has been responsible for the company’s commercial growth,” says Wallin, “with users clicking through to the website to start their subscriptions.”

But tied to that is the community the business has built around its proposition, with dog lovers sharing photos of their dogs with their tailor-made food, largely driven by the fact that as well as each bag of dog food being tailored to the dog’s specific needs, they also come with their dog’s name printed on the front.

Wallin shares that “Customers love sharing these images and it’s always exciting to see new posts of new customers who have recently joined us”.

Advice for start-ups that are new to social media

So, should your start-up embrace social media?

For tails.com, the answer would be a resounding ‘yes’. “Social media is a great opportunity to reach out to customers, followers and fans to demonstrate the human qualities of your business and further develop the direct relationship you have with your customers” says Wallin.

She advises to “Think about the type of business you’re in, whether social media is the right channel to invest in and what the role for social media in your business will be. Listen to what your customers are engaging with as knowing your audience is key, and how that audience differs across each of the platforms. This should inform the type of content you create.”

If you do decide to invest in social, don’t assume you know it all. Keep testing different content and ad formats and analyse what triggers a response.

“The key” concludes Wallin, is “to determine what works for your customers as – what’s successful for one business might not be for another.” Finally, remember a website can provide you with a consistent online destination to drive your social media followers.