“There is no one-size-fits-all plan for social media strategy.” with Jen Estill and Candice Georgiadis

Effectiveness really depends on your target market and intended goals. For example, nothing beats Facebook when it comes to promoting events and motivating users to share and amplify your content. Still, you need to acknowledge that Facebook exposes you to an older audience as compared to Instagram. On the other hand, if you’re trying to position a person or a brand as an expert, Twitter is helpful. And when it comes to developing an aesthetic or developing a brand’s voice, it’s Instagram for the win. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for social media strategy.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jen Estill, principal and creative director at Redhead Design Studio, a multi-disciplinary marketing, branding and design studio in Lansing, Michigan. Jen started Redhead Design Studio in 2000, out of a spare bedroom with $200 and a Macintosh. Since then, she’s grown the business to work with more than 200 clients at statewide and national levels. Jen is also co-host of The Speak Easy Podcast, which includes honest advice and conversations for entrepreneurs and those in the creative industry. In her work, Jen strives to combine clients’ business goals with creativity and innovation to help them develop messages that are heartfelt, humorous or inspiring — and always smart.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’m pretty sure I landed my first job at an advertising agency because I knew AP Style and how to read proofreading marks. I had earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University, but by the time I graduated I realized I was more in love with designing the page layouts than crafting the words themselves. So I landed in the design department of a full service agency, and I learned a ton.

But at a certain point, it became apparent to me that the glass ceiling was real, and I wouldn’t have opportunities to grow there. The creative director was a man and there were no women in the upper reaches of the creative department.

So, I struck out on my own to start a design shop which grew into a strategy, marketing and creative development studio. I quickly learned that marketing has an incredible power to change the world for the better. I was hooked, and have been since. Strategic planning, compelling content, and excellent aesthetic are a trifecta that can really move needles.

Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about Social Media Marketing?

Marketing changes as culture changes, and social media literally grew into existence as my business was growing. Therefore, we got into it organically. Our strength is helping clients craft channels that resonate with their intended audiences. That means being clear on voice, personality and aesthetic. We help clients develop social media and marketing plans, then establish new channels or refine existing channels accordingly.

On all of our social media projects, I’ve noticed one major common theme: it’s all about reaching your most relevant audience. You can have aesthetically pleasing content on Instagram for days — but if your target audience isn’t seeing it or engaging with it, there is very little ROI. When planning and executing social media plans, we first help the client determine their target market, and we then motivate these individuals to follow and engage rather than casting too wide of a net.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

Picking a favorite client or project is like picking a favorite child. I just can’t do it. When we’re in the middle of a campaign or a channel launch, I fall in love and it’s all I can think about. Almost every client is my favorite when we’re in the creative stage. Truly, there is so much opportunity to make great, compelling content that really benefits users — the only limits are time and budget.

One project that I would highlight is the Get Real About Breastfeeding campaign we planned and executed for the Ingham County Health Department in Michigan. The campaign aimed to normalize breastfeeding, support families and combat misinformation through a series of social media posts, billboards and display advertisements. When planning social media content for this, research was critical. We talked to numerous mothers and recorded their thoughts on societal judgement toward breastfeeding as well as messaging in existing breastfeeding campaigns. From doing so, we were better able to understand what the audience needed to see: a down-to-earth reflection of the realities of breastfeeding that would spark public conversation. This goes to show the strategy behind social media; without this research stage, we wouldn’t be able to strike the emotional chord that we did.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

A few years ago we launched Love Lake Michigan, an advocacy campaign for the Delta Institute. The call-to-action was simple: sign a pledge committing to protect and appreciate the lake, and get a sticker. We did not anticipate the overwhelming flood of responses we’d get. People love stickers, man.

Because we didn’t plan for the manpower it would take the client to respond to all of these requests, the client had to shut down the sticker component of the campaign after a month. I guess we were too successful. Oops.

Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?

Effectiveness really depends on your target market and intended goals. For example, nothing beats Facebook when it comes to promoting events and motivating users to share and amplify your content. Still, you need to acknowledge that Facebook exposes you to an older audience as compared to Instagram. On the other hand, if you’re trying to position a person or a brand as an expert, Twitter is helpful. And when it comes to developing an aesthetic or developing a brand’s voice, it’s Instagram for the win. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for social media strategy.

With our Get Real About Breastfeeding campaign, Facebook was a channel on which both the models and the target market were comfortable and active. Our models were able to reshare the client’s content — photos of themselves — easily and add their own voice. They had a lot of pride in the photos and in their role, and therefore became brand evangelists to help spread the message. Further, our billboards were attention-grabbing, so members in the community shared images if the boards on Facebook. In the end, we achieved a high amount of organic mentions and watched a few posts attain viral results.

Let’s talk about Instagram specifically, now. Can you share 6 ways to leverage Instagram to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Use targeted channels to send a strong message.

Our client, United Dairy Industry of Michigan, came to us for a campaign geared at teens (primarily teen girls) who are likely to forgo traditional milk in favor of alternatives like soy or almond. The message? Drink your milk because your bones need calcium.

We developed a whole new campaign and language tailored specifically at the target market, and launched a new Instagram channel solely devoted to that market. While the client did have an active Instagram account, the content mostly revolved around farms, fields, and cows. Not exactly to stuff that inspired teen girls.

The new channel, Conquer, offers health tips, daily inspirations, celebrity engagement, and a positive online community for young women in Michigan. Using targeted channels is much more effective than trying to talk to too many markets in one channel. Your content becomes watered down and does not serve anyone.

2. Keep your captions intelligent and goal-driven.

Many of us consider Instagram to be the platform that will establish your visual tone, which is true. But that doesn’t mean you can forget about the caption. For example, I co-host The Speak Easy Podcast, which includes honest conversations for entrepreneurs and those in the creative industry. For the podcast’s Instagram account, we invest time into writing each caption with a central theme, which ties back to the current episode’s topic. This way, it’s able to spark interest in a couple of paragraphs and lead the audience to listen to the full episode.

Before posting, ask: how is this helping us generate leads or express our offerings and services? Thoughtful captions are a part of what separates a personal Instagram account from a business’s.

3. Be strategic with your hashtags.

This should go without saying, but Instagram hashtags should never be random. Do your research on which hashtags will best reach your target market, rather than the hashtags that will simply reach the largest market. There’s a significant difference between reaching a large number of individuals and reaching the people you actually want to talk to.

4. Keep your content calendar flexible to accommodate timeliness.

We advise our clients to keep an editorial calendar or queue of social posts that are pre-scheduled to go out at optimal posting times. But it’s important to be flexible with this. Did a breaking news story just come out that affects your industry? Prioritize a post about that timely event rather than strictly sticking to the content calendar. And, on that note:

5. Keep visuals consistent and on-brand.

Remember to keep your photos in line with your brand guidelines and personality. Across your photos, use the same filter and do your best to maintain a consistent color palette. For example, if you’re sticking to warm colors, throw a red flower in a post showcasing print materials. Small nods to the color palette make a big difference when audience members look at your feed holistically.

6. Engage, engage, engage.

Follow partner organizations and members of your target audience and engage with them on their content. This can be as simple as a like or a short but thoughtful comment on their post. Not only can this inspire more engagement on your posts, but it can help you stay on top of what your audience is up to and help position you as an industry thought leader.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would use marketing to inspire America to dump money into public education like our lives depend on it. To change perceptions, to increase funding, increase staffing and support for teachers, increase access for families who struggle and increase equity in education. And I’m talking the whole arc — 0 to 20 — from infant care and early childhood education through a college degree.

No family would ever have to wonder how they were going to find the money for childcare or for college. No school would ever had to make hard choices about which books to buy this year or which repairs. No teacher would have to dig into their own wallet to make sure their classroom has supplies. I’d inspire Americans to hold a secure and excellent education for every child as a moral imperative.

If there’s any granting organization out there who wants to fund that work — give me a call. (Ha ha. But really.)

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’ve been reading about Sojourner Truth recently. If I could travel in time, I would love to hear her talk about what it was like being an abolitionist and advocate.

Thank you so much for joining us!

“There is no one-size-fits-all plan for social media strategy.” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.