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Social Media Marketing in the New Era of E-commerce with JR Curley of Fab Fit Fun

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Full episode transcript

Daniel Jester:
From Creative Force, I'm Daniel Jester, and this is the E-commerce Content Creation Podcast. Joining me for this episode of the show is JR Curley, Vice President of Brand Marketing for Fab Fit Fun. JR and I discuss Social Media In Today's E-commerce Landscape and why it's such an important part of any company's E-commerce strategy, everything from brand building to customer relationships, even forecasting and next generation of content will be impacted by trends in social media and digital behavior.

JR Curley:
Much like having a conversation through phone lines or on the internet, it really is a conversation where these brands can now truly understand what people want or forecasting what and try to respond to that proactively to really be there for their members, their buyers, their brands, you name it. I think it's going to keep evolving, but I think now it's becoming more and more transparent as the normalcy of engaging with a brand online is just baked into our DNA.

Daniel Jester:
Social media isn't as much an internet trend anymore, as it is simply the way we interact online. Let's jump in and take a listen. This is the E-commerce Content Creation Podcast. I am your host, Daniel Jester, and introducing my guest for this episode, JR Curley, who is the Vice President of Brand Marketing for Fab Fit Fun. JR, welcome to the show.

JR Curley:
Thanks for having me, very excited to be here.

Daniel Jester:
JR you and I had a conversation a few weeks ago about brand storytelling and marketing and that sort of thing, and we kind of got on the topic of social media and that's what I wanted to talk with you for this episode today about just the landscape of social media for E-commerce right now. We've been talking a little bit about it on the show, and there's been a lot of things that I've seen on LinkedIn about social media, and one of the things that I kind of would like to get your perspective on, I guess to start off the conversation is that for one thing, on this show, we've talked about how social media becomes a whole bunch of sort of mini-marketing channels that have their own unique needs in terms of content and that sort of thing.

Daniel Jester:
And the other thing I wanted to get your perspective on is, and I can't remember which sort of business influencer it was that said this, it might have been Gary V or somebody like that, but that we really need to probably stop differentiating between the internet and social media and that effectively social media is the internet for all intents and purposes. At this point, you are an individual on the internet via these, what we traditionally would call social media sites, and that's just how we interact with each other online. Can I get your thoughts on those two things?

JR Curley:
Yeah, I think it's really interesting, especially the varies from the internet and social media. One thing I was thinking about is when you think of the internet as social media or vice versa, I'll go backwards, especially due to the last year and a half we've had with this global pandemic and with what impact that it's had has kind of driven us to engage with other people and other companies in a really, really different way. I was talking to a friend of mine about this a couple of weeks ago, and I think it's real, is there are several people out there now who actually engage more social media than they actually do with human beings in real life, because of the way our shift has been where we've been staying at home more often, we've been engaging in things differently. And those are real conversations that people are feeling they are really having with brands and with different channels in the marketing space. Those conversations are happening in the same place, which is, as you just said, it's the internet.

JR Curley:
And if you kind of think about blurring away social media as to your point, these separate channels, it really is a single listening hall that brands use, but it's also a place where we have individuals who are going there, not just to learn about a brand or learn about marketing, but to truly talk to someone, it's their getaway, it's the way they can get away from everything that's happening and just engage with somebody, whether it be a brand or a real person. And I think that that's what is really interesting and kind of blurred this line between internet and social media being two separate things.

JR Curley:
I think that they all now live in a single verse of single place for us to begin to engage and talk to each other. I think these shifts are going to continue to happen, but I think we're going to get to a space where engagement with people on social media is just engaging with people the same way we used to talk to people in person. And then we went to party phone lines and back in the olden days, and now it's just ubiquitous, right? We can speak to someone on the phone or texting. You don't really think of it that way. You just start talking to someone. I think that's going to happen with social media as well. I think it is happening and it's been escalated in the last year and a half or so.

Daniel Jester:
You said the word listening a couple of times in there, and the last time that you and I spoke, you mentioned the idea of social listening as a marketing strategy, and I thought that was really interesting. You know, in the past marketing has been a lot about brands or retailers putting their message out there for people to absorb and there isn't a two-way street to that. And social media really enables this idea of a brand being able to listen to their customers as well as tell them what's going on with them. Can you give me some of your thoughts on the idea of social listening as a strategy for social media marketing?

JR Curley:
To me what's really interesting about the social listening is I think there's actually two different types of social listening, perhaps more, but the two largest ones, I would almost call inactive social listening, which is the listening that brands do through data and analytics as the leverage tools to look at information. They are not speaking one-on-one with people because there are so many individuals out there talking to them through social media, but the second is active where you're truly engaging with that individual through your social channels and having those open conversations to get some of this information.

JR Curley:
Brands have been using this for quite some time where they can look at social media trends and start to create a story out of that, and hypothetically if there's a massive event happening and you see hundreds of thousands or more people speaking about a certain color or a certain pattern or a certain need, you literally as a brand can say, "Hey, you know what?" our people out there who are engaging with us don't even know they want this, but by accident, they are sharing with us through social media, that these are the things that they want and would like to have, and we want to provide that to them. So we either create a product for them or create something that's very specific to them that almost precursors or an idea. It's a little bit of clairvoyance in a really weird way, but using data.

JR Curley:
So I think that's more of an inactive thing that as social media users, we don't always think about because we're just out there saying, "wow, hashtag great hat." What we don't realize is a brand is looking at that and saying, great hat, 40,000 times, this color, 50,000 times, we might have an opportunity to build there. The flip side is the active listening and we all experience that, and that's when we really actually engage directly with a brand regardless of the social media channel and you have that back and forth, and the engagement numbers are things that people really understand because it's right away where you can post to a company "I'm having a problem or I'm having a bad day." And some companies go above and beyond and will respond to you directly. And we all know that, that direct response from a brand or a marketing company or an influencer or a channel, it elicits an immediate emotional response.

JR Curley:
"Boom, wow, this person's engaging with me. They're talking to me. This is something really interesting." They both serve a little bit different purposes, but in all reality, the end goal of this listening is really for the marketing brands to understand how to better service their customers or their members or whatever it might be, which is a good thing.

JR Curley:
It's just, I think this listening is really evolving because we're realizing just how important it is, much like having a conversation through phone lines or on the internet. It really is a conversation where these brands can now truly understand what people want or forecasting what they want and try to respond to that proactively to really be there for their members, their buyers, their brands, you name it. I think it's going to keep evolving, but I think now it's becoming more and more transparent as the normalcy of engaging with a brand online is just baked into our DNA.

Daniel Jester:
That's a good segue into the kind of specific part of this topic that I wanted to touch on with you is the role of the social media manager. And I don't want to speak out of turn, but my observation has been on LinkedIn that a lot of companies I think still maybe look at the social media manager as kind of an entry level job, maybe for a younger person who is more active on social media and the last time that you and I spoke JR, you mentioned that you are giving a lot of brand voice control to a social media manager, we maybe need to think a little bit differently about the type of person that we hire for that role. Can you tell me a little bit about some of the risks involved in maybe hiring an inexperienced social media manager and also just kind of tell our audience a little bit about how mature this side of the marketing has really become and why you need to really invest in that role?

JR Curley:
It's a very interesting thing to dive into because if we again just roll back in time, internet, social media, is evolving at a rapid pace. And I would say that that pace has escalated greatly over the last several years or maybe the last five to six years have really picked up. Social media manager in the day could have had that perception it should be someone who's younger, more digitally native. And you know, they're just kind of talking to people. So they're managing cool accounts and I think I've heard many times, as a creative we hear this, and I think social media managers probably hear this too is, "oh, I have a friend whose cousin who does this too, and they're just starting in a college, are really great, they manage lots of accounts." That's not a bad thing. And that can truly happen because I think as people are growing up, they're understanding what that means.

JR Curley:
But being a social media manager now can be incredibly complex and it ties directly into performance for a company. So there's a lot of risk for the company depending on how they leverage the social media manager, that goes to that social media manager and the social media manager is really controlling the way your brand or company is talking to your members and people who don't even know you. It would almost be like, if we said, "Hey for you, we're going to hire someone to represent you, and we're going to fly them across the globe and talk to people you don't know yet." And every time they speak to that person, they're going to have to have the same positive reaction about who you are. That's a lot of risk and that's a really difficult thing to do to be able to speak to all these different people and different cultures and different tones of voice and language that resonates and feels correct and authentic and doesn't feel pitchy and salesy.

JR Curley:
And I think that that takes a lot of nuance and learnings, layer into that the analytics and data that we now can pull from this information and make sure we're making the right decision. It does become incredibly complex. And I think to the social media manager, that role is really important role, not just from skill set perception ability, but also I think businesses really take a look to understand how they can team with that role and elevate that role, because it is a very powerful, very strong role. And it is in an odd way the spokesperson for your company in many places, they can be your first brand touchpoint for almost all of your customers, members, you name it. And if you think about that and realize, wait a minute, this person has that authority control, then you should probably give them what's due to them and that is the ability to do these things the right way, the authority to do it the right way and also the resources they would need to make sure they're going to do this in a correct way.

Daniel Jester:
Yeah. I was going to say resources for sure, because as soon as you start talking about analytics and the complexity of just analytics from social media channels alone, that's like, I mean, you probably want to have a dedicated analyst just to parse through some of that information as well. A merchandising analyst is not an uncommon role to be filled at a lot of retail companies who pour through sales data. Why wouldn't you be hiring somebody to pour through engagement data as well to try to figure out what they can learn from them on some of those channels. You mentioned needing to use the right tone of voice and cultural considerations around, like for the social media manager, and that's not only true if you're a global brand who's dealing with a lot of different cultures and countries around the world.

Daniel Jester:
But that also is true of the fact that we have these different channels too, right? The way that you behave.

JR Curley:
Right.

Daniel Jester:
Or the tone that you use on Facebook is different than what you might use on Instagram, it's different than what you might use on TikTok. How do you figure out how to balance those things?

JR Curley:
You're right. Each channel does have its own approach, its tone of voice, the visual approach to it, the way it's digested, the way you're actually capturing the data. I think there's probably several of us out there who realized that even as we hold our own personal accounts, whether it be Facebook and then Instagram and then TikTok, it's funny because in the olden days, we would say Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat. And now we're saying Facebook and Instagram and TikTok. Snapchat is still there. It's just a different approach to things. I think the most people understand that those have totally different demographics. There's always some bleeding layover. I've always kind of made probably a pretty terrible analogy. They're almost like going to different types of restaurants. They're going to fill you up with food of some sort, right?

JR Curley:
You're going to have a good time there and you're going to get what you want and it's going to make you happy. But it's the difference between going into a sit down dinner that's going to have a catered approach versus going to a place where it's fast food and you just want a quick snack to feel good and step outside and go on your own way. There are different ways to deal with. And so you wouldn't want to walk into a fast food restaurant and then be told you have to wear a suit and tie because it doesn't quite match what you're looking for. You want to go in there and have fun and have something bright and flash and a quick meal, just pop out and enjoy it. It's the exact same way for social media now. That doesn't mean that you change the core message and the experience across those, but it does mean you want to make sure that your tone of voice, the approach you have, your visual approach as well matches what people want out of that channel.

JR Curley:
I'd say it's less about making sure it's right for the people, it's just making sure that it's right to you and right for what they would like to get from the channel. And I think that's always going to be evolving. It doesn't matter what the type of content is on those channels or how it's digested. It's really more about what that experience is going to be, and so if you have a system that comes out, has a very specific type of content, you just need to make sure there's an audience that's going to resonate well with and it's going to work with. And I think that that's just like a social media manager. It's interesting. They really need to understand how to have the approach that's nuanced to each of those channels and still maintain it. And that's not easy for a lot of people to do.

JR Curley:
I think that's sometimes an underrated skillset to be able to really be a chameleon, but in a positive way, because you are really making sure that everyone who's going to all these different restaurants are all happy with what they're getting and everything you're providing to them is what they want.

JR Curley:
And I think that going back to the analytics team, as you said, and having the resources, if you have one of these restaurants, you got to have people to back it up with the great content and great data and the great meals that people want to have when they go in there for whatever these bite sized snacks might be. And I think that that's one place a social media manager from the support side needs. But it's also, it's a learning experience for a lot of individuals to figure out how to make those messages resonate. Especially when you are a brand who's trying to get into a channel. That's really where I think you start to see some of the difficulties, especially if they try to rush into it in a way that doesn't feel real because they are missing the point. They're trying to go there because they think that there's people there versus saying, "should we be there? Do people really want to work with us this way? Oh they do." Okay. Let's move forward with that because it's actually right for both of us.

Daniel Jester:
You're really good at setting me up with excellent segues JR because you set me yet for another one.

JR Curley:
I have never ridden a segue, but I want to try one someday.

Daniel Jester:
Yeah.

Daniel Jester:
I want a one wheel. I thought a one wheel seems like a lot of fun, but I'm also old enough to know that I'll definitely hurt myself. This podcast is the E-commerce Content Creation. We tend to focus a lot on the studio side of things. And I want to talk a little bit about your perspective and your opinion on the importance of a healthy relationship between that social media manager, the social media team and the studio teams. Or if that sometimes maybe that loops through marketing and comes back down to the studio, but the content needs are so great. They're often quite specific and it feels like that relationship needs to be healthy and strong. What is your opinion on the way that our social media teams should be interacting with our studio teams to get the things that they need for their marketing channels?

JR Curley:
You know, in my experience, having the deepest integration possible between your studio teams and your social media teams is always the win. And I'll go back to that terrible analogy, not to beat it to death, but if you're creating a restaurant and you're the owner and you're trying to create a very specific environment and you don't have a hard, good relationship with the individuals who are building the restaurant or the individuals who are going to be making the food to individuals who are serving the food.

Daniel Jester:
[crosstalk 00:16:20]oh yeah thinking about food.

JR Curley:
It's going to fall apart. Right?

Daniel Jester:
It is, yeah.

JR Curley:
But, you know what I've seen really work well is not just the going back and forth between asking because I do think that there's still, I think one of the road bumps we still hit in our space today in the creative space is what I'm going to consider the old school thought process of being a service organization. From my point of view, the creative space, studio space, social media space, these are strategic organizations who actually create content together. And to have that synergy is really important because your social media individual is going to come to you with some really interesting data and facts and thoughts on how to approach things in a way that really will resonate well because they know what should be happening in that space. I think it's really important for the studio team to make sure that they understand what that is, but also have some of their own points of views and thoughts because in all reality, almost everyone in that room is probably going to be consumers of this content in one shape or form.

JR Curley:
And you want to make sure that they overlap and dovetail together really nicely. My personal gut check is the closer those teams can be, not just on working together, but also in the strategic impact they want to have together, the better that outcome is going to be. And it's going to feel more authentic and real because it's real for both parties. It's not just a request going back and forth. That's where I definitely have seen struggles and challenges is when you try to request back and forth versus really understanding because someone on social media side can understand what do we need to deliver that's going to resonate. And from the studio creative side, someone might say, you know what? I think there's a visual method for us to tell that story that would have even higher impact.

JR Curley:
And we can amplify both of our states here. We can make this more powerful together. And I think that that is not easier for everybody, but I also think that that's really where the magic can happen if you can have that strategic early integration moving forward, it should hopefully just ramp up and be stronger and stronger.

Daniel Jester:
It's occurring to me also that one of the key metrics that any organization would love to be able to draw clear connections between is your creative content on your website and sales information, and that's really hard to get to, right? Because you know, like we all know that it makes sense that you put a little bit of money and investment into your product imagery and you elevate that product imagery, that sales are going to be affected by that. But it's hard because there's so many other variables that are outside. You can't distill it down to those two things, but on social media, we can get to some pretty interesting engagement numbers that are around the actual piece of content itself. Some things on an Instagram post get tens of thousands of likes and some only get a few thousand likes. And you can start to maybe tell a little bit of a story there on like the impact of higher quality creative, right? Those relationships may start to kind of inform one another. I think that's a pretty interesting thought.

JR Curley:
I totally agree with you on that. I think that what's interesting too is through the engagement numbers, you can really start to look at ROI and data and see where engagement is transitioning to whatever your end goal might be, because your goals could vary. You could say, we just want to see really high engagement. We don't really mind if it turns into a sale or whatever, because we really just want people to enjoy being here with us. And you can track that data. And especially if you're social media team working with a really strong creative team and vice versa, the two of you can come together and really determine what your results want to be. What do you want to be hitting together? And you can always test, that's the beauty of social media, is it's so different than our old school traditional print magazine or static pieces here you say, "Hey, you know what, that post did not work as well." Let's try a different type of dog.

JR Curley:
Boom, right? Yeah. Skyrockets up. And you say, oh, you know what? Let's keep working on that. But we also want to be sensitive to exhaustion. So we'll just work on this a little bit. And when we start to see it flat line out, we'll move to something that's more interesting to make our members happy.

JR Curley:
Again, you know, it's one of those things where you can definitely pull data. I think that a lot of social media companies and design teams and studio teams now are really leaning heavily into data to make sure that their performance is based on what they're doing. And so I think a lot of powerful social media and studio teams really sit down not just on the strategy side, but also that data analytics side and will come together at the end of the day and say, "how did I perform?

JR Curley:
Can we try to do a little bit differently? And if it's the sales information, it's the same. How can we make those engagement numbers turn to something else down the line? And I think as long as the teams are engaged together to understand how they can literally help each other, make those numbers go the way they would like them to go, to provide a service for their clients or to make their members happier or to lead to different sales. As long as they are intertwined in that, I think that's where the success can really happen.

Daniel Jester:
That got me really interested in the idea of social media engagement being like, you know, I don't know the answer to this, if it's a leading or lagging indicator of some KPIs around sales information for the companies that have it really dialed in, can they may see the trendline between high engagement, like on a pre-release announcement on Instagram to like stronger sales figures? It's all very interesting.

JR Curley:
Yes.

Daniel Jester:
We got to figure out who's doing it right. So we can talk to them. I don't know. Maybe you guys are, Fab Fit. I don't know.

JR Curley:
Yeah. There's a lot of data that can be tracked in social media, and as I mentioned at the start, earlier that there's even companies out there that are literally forecasting, so they can tell through social media data and listing what will most likely be a success rate for some type of sale or product, just like I was joking about the hat thing, now if you and I create our own social media company, we did a whole bunch of active listening and social listening. We could most likely determine what do members or people out there and what are they missing? What do they really want? And we could probably even craft a product, and because we know how many people are engaging with us, we could probably forecast the sales numbers on that and come out of it saying, you know what, I think what we do is the right way.

JR Curley:
We can probably sell this many paths and make that many people happy. And if works really well and we'll watch the spread trail from that, the moment that starts to hit people and they put it on and share social media posts and stuff, we can watch an engagement amplify. And based off that, and the amount of people saying, "Hey, I want that hat too." We'll track that data and see if we can make those people want the hat get a hat. How can we make a new hat for them as well? The data is there. I think that they are different levels of how deep people go into data. There's different levels of how deep companies will dig into that data. I think that more massive global companies probably leverage data at a very different level than our smaller companies, but that doesn't dilute the actual power of the data.

JR Curley:
And it doesn't dilute the fact that, and this one I think that I think that's very powerful, the social media can do lot of good for people because it can allow us to get and find products that we wouldn't find any other way. In a weird way, it's a really powerful discovery engine, and I think we all see the stuff we sometimes don't want to see, but all of us stumble crossed up, we're like, wow, if we hadn't done this, we wouldn't have known. So I think that there's a lot of data there. I think there's a lot of room for improvement for us to gather data and to use data. But I definitely think that it's a very powerful tool that companies are using.

Daniel Jester:
The last few weeks JR, there's been a lot of talk about Facebook's move into, you know, their rebranding to Meta and this idea of AR and VR. We've had some conversations here on the podcast about that. And one thing that I think is very clear is that it's going to be the creative teams that help drive a lot of this change into this new era of content, whatever it ends up being. I'm curious to know what your thoughts on how E-commerce fits into you and how retail fits into these new universes that we're opening up.

JR Curley:
Yeah. You know, the Metaverse announcement was really interesting. I think on one end, it's clearly showcasing the fact that we have one of the biggest companies in the world is going to invest heavily in this forecasting, in this space they feel is really powerful and where we're all going to be. I think again the biggest challenge is going to be the barrier of technology and how people want to engage with things. I'm not sure what the forecast will be, but I can tell you that we've all seen the increase in AR and VR in certain ways of shopping. You can go online employee, any sort of reports and show that if you drive into these spaces and have a more virtual space, and if you have AR systems attached to your work, you might have more sales and higher interest in purchasing, and higher AOV and some other good stuff in there.

JR Curley:
The difficulty I think comes from the scalability of that. Facebook is also, it's a very specific platform. We spoke about it earlier and I kind of alluded to, we have Facebook and these other different areas. They're very specific to these target demographics, and the Facebook target demographic is very different than the TikTok or Snapchat demographic. So it is interesting to me to see them target a very specific space that has this on top of that, the AR/VR space to have meetings and engagement with individuals. You know, I think we've seen this for almost 10 years or so plus where we've seen, geez will go back to Second Life. Remember good old Second Life.

Daniel Jester:
Yeah.

JR Curley:
Where companies invested heavily in having, I was at a company and we invested heavily to do a deep exploration to possibly have our office in Second Space and allow clients to come to that space.

JR Curley:
I think it has good intentions. I think it's going to be a challenge because to your point about the creative side, moving into a space like that, that doesn't feel uncanny or odd and having the technology allow you to do that in an organic natural way is going to be a challenge. I'm eager to see what the challenge looks like. I'm uncertain how it'll work. When I first heard about it, I joked and said, geez, we have really powerful cell phones and still can't make really good calls. So I'm not quite sure how we're going to be able to all have the broadband to jump into these virtual spaces and have our work smoothly and seamlessly. Even now doing calls and podcasts like this, there's still some technical hiccups. So I'm very curious to see where it goes. I think there's potential there.

JR Curley:
I think that there's real interest in people to have digital real estate space. From a business point of view, my biggest question would be is that what we want as consumers? Because as we're finding coming out of these last two years, people are beginning to crave going back and having physical interaction in a weird place where companies were beginning to get comfortable with the fact that maybe we can actually reduce our real estate space, reduce those overhead costs and make a really big push in E-com digital space.

JR Curley:
And that is happening for sure. It's not a trend going away, however, going all eggs into the Metaverse is really curious. So I don't have much of an answer other than I find it fascinating. They're doing it. I think it's really cool that the company is trying to do that. We'll see how it goes.

Daniel Jester:
Yeah.

JR Curley:
I think from the E-com space. So I'm sure brands are looking to see what they can do with it. They're just not quite sure how it works for their members. Because it's got to work for you, not the company.

Daniel Jester:
Your point that you made there, it really echoes the way that I feel, which is, this feels a little bit like the product telling us that we want it as opposed to the market saying, you know, we want this thing. It's worth noting for the listener that JR and I are meeting virtually through Red Dead Redemption 2 online to record this podcast. We're both sitting on horses with cowboy hats right now.

JR Curley:
I take that, that graphic resolution. I'll be good with that.

Daniel Jester:
I think the guys at screen ranch or game ranch or something were having their team meetings in Red Dead Redemption online or something like that or Red Dead Online. I thought that was pretty funny. JR. Thank you so much for coming on the show and for talking with me about this, it's been a really great conversation. It's a conversation I've wanted to have and I think you were the person to have it with. So thank you for your time and your expertise and hope to have you back sometime soon.

JR Curley:
Thank you. It's an honor and pleasure to be on this with you. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Daniel Jester:
That's it for this episode of the E-commerce Content Creation Podcast. While JR and I didn't actually record this episode while hanging out in a video game, that's not a bad idea. Why sit in my studio on zoom when we could pretend we're part of a wagon train heading through the mountains. Maybe I am ready for the Metaverse. Many thanks to our guest JR Curley. And thanks to you for listening. The show is produced by Creative Force, edited by Calvin Lance. Special thanks to Sean O'Meara. I'm your host Daniel Jester. Until next time my friends.

About the host

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Daniel Jester is an experienced creative production professional who has managed production teams, built and launched new studios, and produced large-scale projects. He's currently the Chief Evangelist at Creative Force but has a breadth of experience in a variety of studio environments - working in-house at brands like Amazon, Nordstrom, and Farfetch as well as commercial studios like CONVYR. Creative-minded, while able to effectively plan for and manage a complex project, he bridges the gap between spreadsheets and creative talent.