Q&A with Kelly Simpson, head of social media, Birdsnest

Kelly Simpson

Ahead of the fast upcoming event, Social Media: Connect, Personalise and Transact, Inside Retail spoke with Kelly Simpson who heads up social media for women’s online fashion retailer, Birdsnest. Kelly will be presenting at the event on why building trust with customers is of paramount importance in driving engagement with consumers – and how this improves a retailer’s bottom line.

Inside Retail: How difficult is it to capture attention and build engagement online?

Kelly Simpson: Capturing and building engagement online begins at a business level, by having a product or brand that an individual wants to stay connected to. Your brand has to feel alive and like it’s evolving for you to attract people to your join you on your journey. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s an easier win when you’ve already delighted them with a product or given them really good customer service. We’ve built a community of Australian women in our target market who stay engaged with us because we give them practical tips about how they can feel better and be more confident in what they’re wearing – which can sound frivolous, but also be life changing.

Ultimately, you can buy a like with a flashy ad but you can’t pay them to stay. Your content has to do that. Facebook says that at any one time, there are 1500 pieces of content vying for any one position on your newsfeed – and it’s always different for everyone. This means that competition is fierce – which is why staying targeted and on message, and being consistent, is so effective. It means you reach the feeds of the people who actually matter to you, who are interested in your message, and excited to hear what you have to say. They’re the ones who are going to buy your products and recommend you to their friends.

IR: Are there valuable business insights to be gained from social media?

KS: Social media is where we create ecosystems for ourselves that are at once reflective, aspirational and nostalgic. When you get enough scale in a community, you can get really interesting insights into the ways that we lead our lives and the things that are important to us. This can then contribute to business strategy or development. For example, we keep an eye on the Facebook Audience Insights tool to map the changing makeup of influencers online – it gives us a list of the top pages which our community is also engaging with. This includes bloggers, brands, and publishers. It can highlight to us fashion labels that we should research because our customers might like to buy them from us; bloggers we could reach out to, to spread our message; and publishers we could advertise with to find a receptive audience.

We listen – hearing what customers and others in our space have to say about partnerships we’re involved in, brands we’re partnered with, or bloggers we’ve worked with, can be invaluable. It’s super nice to see when people comment about us on blogs or other Facebook pages, which gives us a chance to see how we impact people when we’re ‘not in the room’ so to speak.

We’ve also crowdsourced our Facebook page for inspiration and feedback. We found out that our customers wanted more options for our packaging, so we implemented more packaging options at the checkout. We’ve asked our community about brands they want us to stock; new features they’d like to see; and how we can generally give them better service. We’ve also built social elements into our products, asking our community to vote on the prints that feature on one of our exclusive labels. All of these things have real and continuing impacts for our brand.

IR: What’s the importance of trust when it comes to social media?

KS: You can communicate and discuss really big issues with your community on social media as long as you’ve earned their trust first. You earn that trust by showing up, consistently, in their newsfeeds with content that is quality, that respects their time, that doesn’t ask too much of them but that respects their intelligence. It’s also important to respond to questions, to go out of your way to fix any issues, and to learn from both positive and negative experiences. When you offer them something that nobody else can – that’s how you build their trust.

We’ve started talking about some pretty big things on our Facebook page. We’ve been working with Taryn Brumfitt and the Body Image Movement to spread messages of positive body image and loving the skin you’re in – it’s been huge on social for us helped along by a video we created that has had substantial organic reach. We also utilised Facebook Live to  share a related event that we hosted. It’s started a countless amount of conversations – and importantly, kicked some pretty big business goals for us where social media is concerned.

BirdsnestBody image is a super personal issue but the fact that we’ve been able to have a such a positive conversation about it on social media is I think testament to the behind-the-scenes work we’ve done in communicating honestly and authentically about our products and purpose. We’ve always set out to be wardrobe wingbirds – people who really have your back when it comes to dressing because we know how good it makes you feel. We’ve never tried to be too cool – we don’t really know how to be – or jump on too many trends.  And I’m pretty sure we’ve never shared a picture of a cat on any of our social channels.

When you’ve built trust, you can talk about these bigger issues and people will listen to what you have to say, really consider it, respond to you, and share it. It works from a business point of view and a community one, too. They’re already on your side. It also means that when they have issues of their own – perhaps we haven’t delighted them as much as we usually do; something’s gone wrong; we didn’t live up to expectations – they’ll visit our inbox first, or write on our wall, or politely comment on a post. They give us a right of reply instead of putting us on blast somewhere else.

For an online business, the stakes are higher when things can go viral in a heartbeat. When you have an engaged community that trusts you, they think the best of you and recognise your good intentions even when you miss the mark. Sometimes we’ll post up outfits that people abhor – but they still appreciate that we’re value adding by helping them style clothing; that we’re showing up at the same time each day; that we’re on hand to answer feedback; and that we’re providing them with at last a tiny slice of escapism.

The social proof that comes from having an engaged and passionate community, particularly now that reviews are emerging as a force of their own, is unbeatable.

IR: Is it possible to still be unique on social media or have we explored all possibilities when it comes to creativity and its use?

KS: I think that every business should have a unique point of difference that it can communicate online – the thing that your customers can get from you that they can’t get from anywhere else. As long as you’re communicating that, you’re being original – and there are varying levels of creativity that you can use to express these messages. It’s important to experiment with new formats but also to stay loyal to your customers and what they already appreciate from you. I like to think that you can pick our content out of a line up and it makes me really proud. We don’t always hit the mark but we always try to.

The social networks continue to keep us on our toes. We’ve seen in just the last twelve months that Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, and Snapchat are all becoming forces of their own. You’ve only got to hang out on Product Hunt to see that the next big thing could hit tomorrow. I think that social media will continue to present new opportunities and each time there’s a new development, we just have to figure out whether it’s right for our communities and if so, how we can get the best value out of it.

Hear more of Kelly’s insights about how social media can become a powerful tool within a retailer’s marketing arsenal, at the upcoming Inside Retail Academy event. For more information about where to buy tickets at either the Sydney or Melbourne workshops, click here.


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