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Beyond your backyard: Growing your business through social media

By Andrea Danelak, Special to Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada

Nadia Ladak envisioned a specific role for her brand, Marlow: that of a big sister, where people can ask intimate questions about periods and reproductive health in a safe space.

“We’re focused on building a community around our brand,” says Ladak, co-founder of the period care company along with three friends.

Similarly, the founders of DOUBL are developing more than made-to-measure bras. “We want to be a place where women feel comfortable sharing the good, the bad and the ugly, and to feel comfortable asking questions, being themselves and being listened to for the first time,” says co-founder Jessica Bosman.

Both companies have focused much of their marketing efforts on social media, which offers a dynamic way for entrepreneurs to cultivate engaged communities and create shared experiences, no matter where users are physically located.

“When you see our videos, you feel like you’re hanging out with us in your living room,” says DOUBL co-founder Bryn Davis Williams. “We focus on the woman who is our customer and community member and make sure they’re at the pinnacle…Once you have that north star, it makes everything easier and they are more incentivized to follow along.”

Marlow also publishes relatable content on social media and their blog, racking up 100 million views and 12 million likes in the process—more than large brands in the same space. Based in Canada, they’ve organically built a large community outside the country, particularly in the United States and UK.

“It shows [we’re producing content] people are searching for,” says Ladak. “As a smaller brand, we can be authentic with our community. People know the leaders behind Marlow and that helps build extra trust, especially in the women’s health space where it’s such an intimate product.”

How entrepreneurs can use social media to expand beyond their region

We’ve outlined five steps to expand outside your region, province or country via social media.

1.    Test the waters.

Use social media to evaluate if there’s a market for your product or service.

“Test ads in certain markets to see if there’s interest, or use it as a way to conduct research on who the players are and who may need your services,” says Katrina German, founder and chief executive officer of Ethical Digital. “Take the time for experimentation before entering a new market.”

2.    Know your audience.

When sharing content with geographically diverse audiences, consider your messaging to ensure it will resonate with local markets. German recommends enlisting people in the region to review the materials for subtle nuances. “Look for a second set of eyes where possible and try to avoid phrases that may be regional.”

Understanding the audience(s) allows you to explore other channels simultaneously, ensuring a well-rounded marketing strategy. “Talk to people in the potential market to see how they’re getting their information already,” says German.

3.    Develop authentic, high-quality content.

On TikTok, DOUBL prioritizes entertaining, educational and relevant content focused on women sharing their personal stories.

“We took the time to think about our voice and how we wanted to present ourselves, which was based on in-person conversations where women were coming up to us and saying, ‘This might be too much information, but…’ and talked about motherhood, perimenopause and other personal topics. [We thought,] ‘How can we bring that into social?’” says Bosman.

Through experimentation, the Marlow team has refined their strategy to prioritize content that contributes to their goal of building community. “Our content buckets range from educational true-or-false posts to asking people to vote on packaging designs,” says Ladak. “We’ve seen success being authentic and transparent on social media.”

4.    Build and nurture relationships.

Developing relationships on social media requires patience, but it can enhance the likelihood of followers converting into customers. Whether prospective or current users are near or far, show up consistently and engage in meaningful interactions to nurture budding connections.

“When creating social media content, make sure it’s shareable to your network,” adds Bosman. “We send content to our personal networks and they’re willing to share it on social or in newsletters, which creates a snowball effect. Showing up across multiple channels [helps us] authentically connect with our customers.”

5.    Evaluate the return on investment.

There is an age-old marketing theory (‘the Rule of Seven’) that people must see a message seven times before purchasing. Now, some experts believe it could be as high as 12.

It’s critical to monitor analytics to see if social media brings a return on your time (and money, if you’re running ads). “You can’t expect an immediate return, especially in a new market,” says German. “Give it some time and make sure you’re not throwing money into new markets.”

More than a simple marketing tool, social media offers opportunities for entrepreneurs to expand their brand presence through powerful storytelling, education and dialogue.

“Community-building will always be a key component for us, and social media plays a huge part in that,” says Williams. “It’s really going to be the cornerstone of everything we do.”