Content That Sells: How To Convert A Social Media Audience Into Customers With Emma Tessler

TLEP 73 | Content Marketing

Special guest Emma Tessler is the Founder + CEO of Ninety Five Media; a digital marketing agency that builds results-driven marketing strategies for scaling brands. She and her team help brands connect with ideal clients, build community, and convert audience members into paying customers. Learn more and connect with Emma at https://ninetyfivemedia.co, https://ninetyfivemedia.co/, or on Instagram @ninety.five.media.

Emma discusses content marketing and building strong connections with your audience. She explains the different definitions of live shopping, from in-app shopping to shopping from a social media post, and emphasizes the importance of converting viewers into paying customers. She also outlines the Ninety Five Media method, which involves setting goals, creating a strategy, executing that strategy, and analyzing data. She stresses the importance of data in marketing and explains why it is crucial to look at data on a weekly basis.

What is Live Shopping?  Live shopping gives consumers the opportunity to purchase as they watch video streams. With social commerce, retailers can broadcast live video streams and engage with consumers in real time. eStreamly’s video commerce solution enables brands to host live shopping events across multiple channels. From shoppable live shows on social media to hosting video commerce events. Live shopping is the future of retail. Live streaming shopping apps, shoppable videos, these are the tools successful retail brands will need. eStreamly’s white label solution gives brands shoppable videos. As live streaming shopping gains momentum eStreamly is empowering retailers to leverage these Live streaming shopping apps and shoppable videos to drive higher conversion rates. Connect with today’s mobile first consumers. 

Emma also discusses the concept of content pillars, which include education, validation, and vulnerability. She explains how vulnerable content, which involves speaking about your brand journey and showing up as a human, can build deep connections with your audience. Additionally, Emma talks about the benefits of user-generated content (UGC) and working with influencers. She emphasizes the importance of building content around a goal and creating a 90-day marketing plan. Finally, Emma predicts that the future of marketing is video and discusses different approaches to building relationships with your audience, such as being authentic and relatable.

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Content That Sells: How To Convert A Social Media Audience Into Customers With Emma Tessler

Welcome to Live eCommerce. I’m Whitney Lauritsen. My cohost Nicolas is not here because he’s at Shop Talk as he spoke about in a previous episode. He’s there doing lots of things and meeting lots of people in person. I was hoping to go myself but ended up staying back in Los Angeles. I’m with our special guest Emma Tessler who is the Founder and CEO of Ninety Five Media, which is a digital marketing agency that builds results-driven marketing strategies for scaling brands. She and her team helped brands connect with ideal clients, build community, and convert audience members into paying customers. That is something a lot of people tuning in to this are looking for, Emma. I’m glad that you’re joining me.

Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to dive into everything.

It’s always nice to have an enthusiastic and experienced guest like yourself because you have your own podcast. Before we started recording, you and I were talking about how there can be some different definitions of what live shopping means. I was grateful that you brought this up because sometimes you can get so caught up in your bubble of knowledge and experience. You forget what information is not clear to other people or terms that somebody has never heard of before. Considering that live shopping is a constantly evolving space, I think it would be helpful to start off with your different definitions of what live shopping means, Emma.

We work with a lot of eCommerce brands that don’t necessarily do your traditional live shopping. The reason they hire us at Ninety Five Media to come in is to help them build their content marketing to help them get more exposure as a brand, and ultimately to convert their audience members into buyers on the social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, etc. For a lot of our clients, the way we typically talk about live shopping is that you want people shopping at the moment as they’re consuming your content in the app.

In-app shopping is still a relatively new feature. It was released maybe a couple of years ago on Instagram. When we consider whether someone is shopping from a post because we’ve tagged the product in that piece of content or they are waiting and not shopping “live in the moment, that’s the difference. For us, a lot of the time, it’s whether this post is converting to a purchase which to us is live shopping most of the time, or it is a future buy. They’re going to circle back and they need more content to warm them up to the sale.

That’s how a lot of people have been looking at social media for so long. Influencer marketing is such a big part of the marketing plan for many modern brands, whether that’s a product or a service. Retailers are looking at this information. The content creators or the influencers themselves are aiming for the same thing because if they can get a return on investment for their brand partners, sponsors, and affiliate partners, it’s a win-win for everybody.

Influencer marketing is a big part of the marketing plan for many modern brands, whether that's a product or a service. Share on X

Given that we’re trying to look at different types of people that might be tuning in to the show from the hosting side and the content creation side, as well as the people who are developing and marketing their own products, this is super valuable. I would love to know some things or maybe a big tip or example of how people can convert or warm up their audience to convert in the future.

It always comes back to strategic content marketing. What that means is you’re not approaching your content on a day-to-day basis. You know for the upcoming month what your content is looking like. It doesn’t mean you have to have it all nailed down, but you have the outline, the concepts, and that information because you have a strategy.

We work off of what we call the Ninety Five Media Method. We begin by understanding goals. Step one is what your ultimate goal here is. If that is making sales or if that means more downloads of your podcast or more website taps, whatever that might mean for you, your goal is going to impact what your strategy is. That’s why strategy is not a one-size-fits-all, and content is not one-size-fits-all either.

When you understand your goal more specifically, you can then move into step two, which is developing your strategy, understanding your content buckets, understanding the type of content that your audience wants to see from you, and you can best present your product or service within. You then need to execute.

Once you understand your goals and you’ve built out the strategy, then you begin to execute. This is ongoing. You’re always going to be executing. The piece that a lot of people forget is step four, which is your data. I talked to so many owners and founders who know that this data is out there but never look at it, which kills me because every platform is going to give you data. Without that data, you don’t understand or know what is hitting and what is connecting with your audience.

At the end of the day, what you want to identify from your strategy as you execute it is what worked and what didn’t. You want to take the things that are working and you want to start splicing them up and create more of the same in different versions and leave the things that didn’t work behind. Without the data, you don’t know what that is.

TLEP 73 | Content Marketing
Content Marketing: You want to identify from your strategy what worked and what didn’t. You want to take the things that are working and start splicing them up and creating more of the same in different versions, and then leave the things that didn’t work behind.

I always recommend looking at the data on a weekly basis, as well as monthly and quarterly. Those are the reports that we like to send out. Let’s do a zoomed-in snapshot of last week. Let’s zoom in on 30 days, then take a big zoom out on your quarter. Look strategy-wise at what worked during your execution, and then implement from there.

That’s helpful. One thing that comes to mind as a question is what tends to work. Since you’re looking at so much of this data with your customers and your clients, what are you seeing that is working for them most frequently?

It’s so different between each brand because everyone’s audience reacts differently to different types of content. One thing that we like to implement across the board is the three content pillars, which is a great guiding factor if you’re stuck in the beginning stages of, “I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to my content.” The three content pillars that are applicable to every business are education, validation, and vulnerability. What I mean by that is educational content is where a lot of service providers like to live, where you’re saying like, “Here are three ways to create great content, or here are three pillars” or things like that.

Even with a product, you can say, “Here are three benefits of using our Stir Master” or whatever it might be. Education is great and it’s so needed but it’s important to not get stuck in that one content pillar because that is not going to always be that converting factor for you. Where you start to see more conversions are in validation and vulnerability.

Validation content or validating content is the type of content where you are validating your audience’s journey and their struggle, and presenting your product offer whatever it might be as the solution. I was speaking with a matchmaker. She was saying, “I don’t even understand how the heck I validate content as a matchmaker?”

One example we discussed was you talk to the people. You say, “I know dating apps haven’t worked for you. I know you’ve gone out on a million dates this year and none of them have been successful. It doesn’t need to be that way. Here are ways that you can get out of that funk or get out of that lack mindset of not being able to find your person, and step into the best version of you and find your match,” and she’s able to help them do that.

Vulnerable content, the last one, is the one that everyone gets like, “I don’t want to do that because it’s scary.” It sounds scary but it’s not. It’s not like we’re talking about our failed relationships on social. We’re getting vulnerable in the sense of speaking about your brand journey and the path that you took and showing up as a human. Especially for those of us who are the face of our brand, it’s important to remember that people buy from people.

You can get on a live stream and you can sell your product all day but if people don’t understand you and don’t understand what sets you apart from other people who are doing the exact same thing, it’s difficult to stand out in your space. When you get vulnerable and you tell more about your story and it can be very small things. It does not have to get deep at all, but it allows you to be a person to your audience member. That can be the deciding factor between going with you or someone else when they’re deciding to purchase.

People buy from people. You can get on a live stream and sell your product all day, but if people don't understand you and what sets you apart from other people who are doing the same thing, it's difficult to stand out in your space. Share on X

That is incredibly helpful as a framework. Especially that last part because it applies to our definition of live shopping here on this show and with eStreamly, the service that Nicolas and his cofounder provide to the world. Our definition of live shopping centers around doing a live video and selling to people in real time. They’re purchasing on the screen. They don’t have to leave your website. They don’t have to leave their social to go anywhere else. They’re in the moment with you.

That vulnerable content that you’re talking about is what we found works well. You are showing up as a real human being, flaws and all because we tend to make mistakes when we’re doing something live. I think so much of the content we see on social media is very edited. We’re taking out any sort of fumbles, filler words, pauses, and maybe something we wanted to rephrase. With live content, you can’t do that. All you can be is human. To show up well on live, you do need to be very vulnerable. That’s why live shopping can be so incredibly powerful.

One thing we’re finding is sometimes the brands themselves are being a host or they’re hiring a content creator, an influencer, or an on-camera personality to be the host of their live stream, they have to work on being vulnerable. The brand has to be comfortable with that vulnerability even if they’re not the host because they have to encourage and give permission to their host to not be perfect.

That can be a hard transition for the brand, as well as the on-camera host, whether they are experienced influencers or maybe have a background in being on camera. A lot of us are aiming for perfection and polished content. Maybe live shopping feels scary for that reason. How do you help people overcome those mental obstacles so that they can show up more vulnerably and sell better as a result?

I love everything you’re saying because it’s so true. We all want to be the best versions of ourselves when we get on video and on camera. The reality is we build the deepest connections with people who show up imperfectly. Proof of that is looking at TikTok. Why did TikTok blow up? How did it blow up so fast compared to every other app? It’s truly because we saw people beat their most vulnerable selves mid-pandemic in their basement, in their pajamas, doing weird dances, and were like, “Yes, this is it.”

As a collective, we decided that we loved it. We’re still seeing that now. As we’re recording this, get-ready-with-me videos are incredibly popular on TikTok, especially with live selling. I’ve seen a lot of makeup brands getting ready with me. When we think about how can we get more comfortable with video cameras, I would recommend doing more of it and doing it before it’s comfortable. If you wait until it’s comfortable, you are never going to do it. You’re going to avoid it until the day you die.

The reality is it’s not comfortable and we think, “The longer we do it, the more comfortable we’ll get.” I’ve been recording video for five-plus years now and there are still times when I look at my camera and I’m like, “Why did I do that? Why did I say that?” There are always going to be those imperfections but it’s also the best part. It’s the parts where you mess up. It’s the parts where you fumble and you don’t know the next thing to say. That makes you real. We tend to forget that there’s so much curation online, as you touched on, Whitney. Everyone is polishing their content and we want to do full hair and makeup but it’s the few people who show up not that way that is going to stand out in a great way.

Any influencer who’s popular has come to popularity because they are real and they show up without makeup. When you can start to reassure yourself like, “The person I love following online does her makeup with me in the morning. I see her getting her kids off to school in her pajamas.” All of the things like that can begin to be reassuring that you don’t need to be this most perfect version of yourself and you can be who you are.

Any influencer who's popular has come to popularity because they are real. They show up without makeup. You don't need to be this perfect version of yourself. You can just be who you are. Share on X

Thank you for backing me up on that. That’s a message that we’re always trying to get across to people, but it feels like we have a long way to go with that. Maybe it’s because influencer marketing for the past ten-plus years has mostly been about curated content. One thing I wanted to speak with you about, because you often focus on this in your work, is the difference between influencer marketing.

Whether that’s just hiring someone to partner with you and you’re guiding them towards something. Hopefully, they’re doing a live-stream shopping event with a platform like eStreamly, versus user-generated content also known as UGC. Can you help us understand the difference between those two and also how they can work together to support one another in reaching a brand’s goals and an influencer’s goals too?

There’s a huge difference between UGC, user-generated content, and influencer work. Sometimes they’re confused. It makes sense to start by defining them. UGC is content that is created by “users” of your product or your service. These are people who have purchased what you’re selling, used it, consumed it, love it, and they then post about it to social.

UGC started organically since the beginning of social media. Let’s say I loved my blue light glasses. I loved wearing them and so I took a photo of myself wearing them while I was working. I posted it to social. I tagged the brand. That right there is a piece of user-generated content. What has come to fruition over the past year and a half or so is people identifying an opportunity to monetize UGC content as creators.

We’re seeing the rise of a whole new industry, the user-generated content creator industry, where brands will actually pay people to create fake user-generated content for them that looks very organic. The difference between that and an influencer posting about a product to their feed is that a UGC content creator is not sharing it to their feed. They’re sending that content directly to the brand and the brand owns that content.

That’s a big plus for brands because you don’t need to get the royalties. You don’t need to pay the influencer every time that you are producing that content, sharing it to an email, your website, etc., which you typically do need to do depending on your contract with an influencer. The benefit of working with an influencer is that you are getting in front of that person’s audience. That is a huge plus because that increases your brand reach by millions potentially, depending on that person.

It usually comes down to your budget as a brand. Do you have the budget to work with an influencer or can you negotiate products for content, which many influencers are open to? What is your goal at the end of the day? Do you want to own a lot of content? If that’s the case, you’re going to want to look at UGC content creators or do you just want to own 1 to 5 pieces of content featuring someone well-known? There’s no right and wrong. There’s what your brand can do financially and what your ultimate goal at the end of the day is.

That’s such a big consideration because a lot of people are either on a limited budget or looking for ways to cut back, especially with where things are financially. What are some of the downsides of the two? What would you say are things that might not work so well or could bring disappointing results with both UGC content and influencer content?

Honestly, in my opinion, there are more downsides to influencer content. This depends on the influencer that you’re working with. I’ve worked on both sides, so I can speak from both ends, as the influencer, and as the brand. As a brand, you oftentimes don’t get to review and edit content with an influencer prior to posting. It can be yes or no but it’s part of your negotiations.

An influencer might want you to pay more in order to review and edit the content prior to posting. Versus night and day with a UGC content creator. Usually, you are putting out a brief. You’re saying exactly what you want to say in the video, put the product placement here, show the label here, I want you wearing a purple shirt, etc. You can get specific with UGC content creators because you’re paying them in exchange for the content. You’re paying them a lot less than you’re paying an influencer but the influencer has the clout. They have recognition and a lot of opportunities. The reality is you’re knocking on their door to have them create content.

TLEP 73 | Content Marketing
Content Marketing: You can get really specific with UGC content creators because you’re paying them in exchange for the content, but the influencer has the clout. They have recognition and a lot of opportunities.

There are downsides with both but it goes back to do you want to sacrifice some things in order to get in front of a large audience that the influencer can provide you with, or are you looking to have that significant control over your content and work with someone who can pump out this content for you and you can own it at the end of the day after you’ve put your two cents in and edit it?

Thank you for going over all of this based on your experience. It’s helpful because you’re making it feel pretty simple. Going back to that three-step or four-step method of approaching how you’re going to get the most ROI from these content partnerships. One thing I asked you before we started is whether there are examples of UGC and live shopping. At first, it seems like no because UGC is generally somebody taking photos or videos and editing them, and sending them to the brand as you’ve outlined.

I was thinking, “Maybe UGC can be one-off work with talented people who love your product or even just people that you don’t even consider “talented” in the traditional sense. If they love your product, they’re going to be able to talk about it enthusiastically and honestly. Maybe they’re selling just because they feel so real and vulnerable like we were talking about before.” Maybe there’s a way you can position UGC within live shopping. Emma, you also brought up a great point about how you can use UGC to warm up your audience for a live shopping video event. I would love to hear more about how you envision that working.

For us, when we’re building content for brands and we’re thinking big picture strategy, we’re always looking at how can the content lead the consumer to take the action that we want them to take. Going back to what I was saying in the beginning, sometimes it’s just website traffic. Sometimes it’s buying in the app and listening to my podcast. Depending on what that CTA is that you want someone to take, you build your content around that goal.

TLEP 73 | Content Marketing
Content Marketing: Depending on what CTA you want someone to take, you build your content around that goal.

If your goal is to have more people join your live-selling event, then you can absolutely utilize UGC to build hype, brand awareness, and brand reach. Ideally, all of these are going to result in more people tuning into your live event. Especially thinking about we need to see the product or a brand 7 to 10 times before we buy.

That would only increase the conversion of purchases from your live event if people have seen your product in action from other people who look like them, act like them, and have similar life experiences as them. UGC allows you to present your past and current buyers in a way that says, “People like you are buying this product. Tune in. I’m going to tell you more about the product at the live event.” Once they get there, the chances of them converting are a lot higher.

That is a phenomenal way to approach this and something that we’ve been trying to highlight from the beginning of the show. When we first launched this, we were thinking, “How can we help brands, influencers, and live hosts market themselves, and draw an audience to their live stream?” That’s one of the biggest pain points that people have. Maybe they even feel fully prepared to do a live stream.

Maybe they don’t mind getting vulnerable and they’ve got all their equipment set up and their backgrounds. Everything feels good and they go live and no one shows up. That’s either a fear or a reality for some people. Maybe not as many people convert as they were hoping. You wrap up the live event feeling like a failure even though you thought you had everything in place.

You need to market your event and what you’re outlining is a long-term strategy to get there. As you said, it could take exposure 7 to 10 times. You could try to accomplish that in 7 to 10 days but it probably takes a little bit more time. Thus, planning comes into play. You need to plan who you’re going to work with. You got to have to do the research. Which UGC creators do you want to hire? As you mentioned, what is even your budget for that?

You need to give them time to create that content and take that content and schedule it out. What would you say is a good timeline for planning something like that? Let’s say you have a live shopping event that you’re aiming to do. You don’t have a specific date in mind yet but you want to go live sometime soon. You want to use the UGC strategy that you just outlined. How much time should a brand account for to build up its marketing hype?

As much as possible. We work with a lot of brands that launch new products or launch new services. We always like to say, “A 90-day marketing plan is going to yield the best results for you.” That might sound like a lot but at the end of the day, 15% to 20% of your audience is even seeing your content. When you take that into your consideration, you need to be creating a lot of content consistently in order for them to get that 7 to 10 times of seeing it before they are ready to buy. If it’s not 90 days, then at least 30 days.

We launched a new offer for podcast production at our agency and we were talking about podcasting, which felt like out of the blue on our end because we had never talked about podcasting. We did it for 30 to 45 days before the offer even launched. Once that comes to fruition and we’re like, “We’re now offering this great service.” It’s like, “Of course, she is. She’s been talking about this forever.”

You don’t realize as the consumer how long someone’s been talking about something. You just know that you’ve heard it over and over again. You’ve seen them do this thing or have this product, whatever it might be. When it can feel like an organic transition for your audience to say, “They’re selling this? That makes perfect sense.” That right there is your goal. As many times as you can talk about it before your event or before your launch, the better.

Even though 90 days might seem a bit intimidating, it’s good to know. If you’re tuning in to this episode and starting to work on your plan, see if you can give yourself that 90-day leeway. It’s also nice to know that you could still get some good results within 30 days. We still have months left in the year. It’s about April when this episode comes out. There’s still a lot of time to build up to the holiday season, which is one of the best times of the year for people to promote products, launch new things, offer discounts, and do some experimenting.

Maybe start now, thinking about at least 90 days out so that you can plan all sorts of things for the rest of 2023 or whatever year it is that you’re tuning into this episode. Maybe it’s already 2024. The last thing I would love to touch upon with you is what you think is going to happen in the future. If you were a fortune teller or if you were making a prediction, what are you hoping for? How might live stream shopping and selling fit into that vision where brands and influencers can find more success and return on investment for themselves?

What a loaded question. Way to throw that at me at the end. The future is video. Everyone can say confidently that video has taken over and it is not going anywhere. The beauty of live shopping is that it is a video and that allows us to build connections. In my opinion, it is going to come down to who is building a personality for themselves.

Video has absolutely taken over, and it is not going anywhere. Share on X

To give a parallel example, for a lot of our clients getting on Instagram Stories is intimidating. They don’t know what to talk about. They don’t know who to show, what not to show, and how to not get too personal. The way that I always recommend approaching your Instagram Stories is to build characters as if you were a TV show. It’s not just about you.

Let’s say you’re an online coach and you sell workbooks or something. It’s not just about you and the workbooks that you’re selling. It’s about building out that TV show of your life and the characters in your life. Maybe you’re single and you don’t have kids. It could be your puppy. It could be this new puppy you bought. You love him and he destroys your stuff, and it is what it is. If you’re married and you’re a bit older, you have your kids and you have your three cats and your husband, and your mother-in-law that lives with you. You have all these characters in your life and that builds on who you are as a person.

It builds more connection points for your audience. Someone might not have a puppy but they might have a crazy mother-in-law who lives with them in their garage and she drives them crazy. When you can start thinking about who are the characters in what I show as my life online, you are giving people an opportunity to build connection and to build more, “I know her. She is the person I want to buy from. She’s the one that I want to support as a small business even.”

The same factors can be applied to live shopping and streaming because when we think about, “Who do I want to tune into? Who do I want to spend the next 45 minutes listening to them talk about a product?” We’re going to do with people who we relate to and who we want to spend time with. When you can almost approach it like building a friendship with your audience, which might sound a little corny but at the end of the day, you are trying to build that relationship with your audience where you want to grab a glass of wine. You want to sit down with your girlfriends on a Friday night and talk about your week.

Going back to influencers, that’s how a lot of influencers have grown. They give you snippets of their life. They talk about things that polished people are not talking about online, but it allows you to build connections and relationships with them. I truly believe that the future is video and it is going to come down to who can you build a connection with and build relationships with because that’s going to ultimately be a deciding factor for a lot of consumers on who they want to buy from.

TLEP 73 | Content Marketing
Content Marketing: At the end of the day, you’re trying to build that relationship with your audience where you want to grab a glass of wine, sit down with your girlfriends on a Friday night, and just talk about your week. That’s how a lot of influencers have grown.

I couldn’t have said it better myself, Emma. You’re so eloquent. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you because you have such great answers and perspectives and examples. It feels very encouraging and inspiring. I couldn’t agree more. This is the power of live video streams. Because they feel vulnerable, you have an opportunity to connect.

What if you could think through live shopping from the perspective or the methods that Emma has shared here, where every live video is building upon the previous one? What if it’s an ongoing story? Thinking about your favorite TV shows is such a great way to look at them because you can provide a little bit of entertainment, some education, vulnerability, and validation. Validating the customer journey along the way. Maybe doing that through validating your own journey. People will see themselves in you. The more honest you are, the more authentic you are.

I think live streaming is one of the best ways to do that. Plus, after your live stream, you can create repurposed short-form content that you can post on social. We have a guest who’s coming to the show soon. He’s going to talk all about it. For the audience, please stay tuned. We have so much more coming your way. Emma, this has been delightful. For those that are interested in learning about Emma, you can find her on social media and on her website NinetyFiveMedia.co, which are in the description, as well as over at eStreamly.com. There’s lots of information. If you want to review this episode, get in touch.

We’re also hoping that Emma joins us in our private community where the audience is invited. We have amazing show guests. We have experts in live shopping that are there to connect and learn from each other like you’re sharing. Connection is so important. Building that through a community can be amazing because we can all learn and grow together just like we do each week on this show. Thank you again, Emma, for being here, sharing all your wisdom, and doing it in such a nice way. It’s been such a great flow with you. For the audience, I hope to see you again for our next episode. Bye for now.

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