Michelle Thames is an award-winning blogger turned Online Business & Marketing Strategist who has helped catapult companies like multi-million-dollar beauty brand MIELLE Organics, from a startup to becoming a household name by leveraging organic social media and digital marketing strategies.
Learn how Michelle pivoted from health care to marketing, and what she did to support MIELLE Organics with their eCommerce strategy. Find out how going live was instrumental to marketing success and what types of campaigns help shoppers buy. Get encouraging tips on standing out amongst the competition in the market. Uncover the surprising benefits of attending local events and authentic connection with new people. Discover what organic social media means for a brand strategy and how collaboration is a powerful technique for small businesses. Gain an understanding of consistency and patience and how it helps an audience know, like, and trust your company. Hear Michelle’s marketing trend predictions for 2023 and how to evaluate what’s working (and what’s not).
Take Michelle’s advice: “Go live!” If you’re feeling unsure about this, keep listening because she offers a simple starting point that accounts for common concerns.
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Standing Out On Social Media Organically With Michelle Thames
Our special guest is Michelle Thames. Michelle, we are thrilled to have you here. Michelle is an award-winning blogger turned online business and marketing strategist. She has helped catapult companies like multimillion-dollar beauty brand Mielle Organics from a startup to becoming a household name by leveraging organic social media and digital marketing strategies. This is a subject we are looking forward to getting into. Michelle has a wonderful podcast all about this. Before we get into that conversation, Nicolas has a brief update on what’s going on over at eStreamly.
We are super excited to have you, Michelle. I’m especially super excited about your podcast and we’ll talk about this. To update on eStreamly, we released the eCommerce app integration. Any brands that are on eCommerce can get onboarded with eStreamly in a matter of a couple of clicks. They can start doing livestream on their website across social media and have shopability across all those platforms and social media, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, as well as your eCommerce. When I say your eCommerce, it’s your payment process.
We are pretty excited about this because this has been something that we felt was easy to do, and end up being complicated and took much more time than we were expecting. We’re super excited about that and I think we are the first public app doing livestream shopping and video shopping on eCommerce. We are pretty proud of being the pioneer in that sense.
That’s super exciting, Nicolas. Congratulations. I know you work so hard. For the audience, if you haven’t subscribed to the weekly newsletter, we send out two a week. We have one that anyone can sign up for, and another one is more for people that are invested either literally or emotionally support-wise in the company. I love reading your updates, Nicolas, because it shows the behind the scenes of the business and how hard you’re working to move everything forward and share your accomplishments.
Speaking of accomplishments, I feel like a good place to start with this conversation with Michelle is around Mielle Organics, which is part of your bio. It seems like a big success. I know you’ve worked with a number of businesses, Michelle. I’m curious why they were highlighted in your bio and if you could tell us a little bit about what you did with them as a case study example.
I have a background in healthcare. My background isn’t even in marketing, but I started out in this space as a natural hair influencer. Back in 2009, I started a blog and a YouTube channel. I got some traction online. People started to notice what I was doing. I started to build a community. Unfortunately for me, in 2016, I was fired from my healthcare job. It pushed me into my purpose of marketing and helping other people with their marketing as well. I had all this background and knowledge from building a blog and being online.
I put out on social media if anyone was looking for a social media manager. I met the owner of Mielle Organics at an event. Luckily, she was looking for someone to work for her company. This was a startup company, so it was in the very beginning stages. When I started with the company, they were around for three years before I started. I got the chance to help them build that social media foundation.
The reason why I highlight them is because that was the first brand that I worked for as an employee on the team. It was a startup team. I helped to build their social media and digital foundation from the email list, what was posted on social media, the copywriting, working with influencers, and building out the first influencer marketing program because I was an influencer. I was able to bring that to them and bring all the things that I learned being an influencer, like how to communicate with influencers, invoicing, and all the things. I was able to build out that program as well as brand ambassador programs.
I got the opportunity to travel with the brand to different trade shows. At trade shows, we’re showcasing the products and do hair styling demos. I’m doing social media. It was a great company for me to get all of this amazing experience, and be able to help the brand reach over 500,000 followers on Instagram alone. They now have almost a million followers on social media. I helped them to build that raving fan base. I think it is important for eCommerce brands to build that raving fan base.
That is why they are on my bio because I’ve been instrumental in helping them to build their digital and social foundation. I’m excited that they have grown. It was such an amazing experience, but sometimes it tugs on you and it’s like, “You want to build your own business.” That was great for them and it was their dream. I wanted to continue to build my personal brand and build that. That’s why I started our social media agency and continue to build my personal brand.
That is such a cool background. Thank you for summarizing how you got to where you are now. Since you had so much success with them, if you had to summarize it or even narrow it down to one thing that works for building up on social media, was there something that stood out for you in terms of that success? How could you best describe it if it was a number of different things that worked well?
It was a number of things that worked well. Planning marketing campaigns and actual campaigns is very important, and knowing who’s responsible for what. I’m talking about running a multi-six-figure eCommerce business at that point. Who is in charge of the emails? Who’s in charge of social media? Being able to have all of that together in one piece. Not only that, going live was instrumental as well. We went live a lot.
If the tools available now would’ve been available then, I would’ve had more fun, like the live shopping. I could have talked about the products, but I was doing that already. I was already doing the QVC talking about the products. We were bringing other people on the live to talk about the products. We started that. When you go live and show up on video, that helps build that like, know, and trust with your customers. You can show them the texture of the products or how it works. You can go deeper. That lives were instrumental, as well as email marketing.
Email marketing was the number one best thing that any brand can do, especially eCommerce. Build out your email list, test out your different funnels, and test out your different stages. What does your abandoned cart look like? How many people have interacted within the last 30 days? What kind of campaigns are you going to come up with for them? I spent a lot of time figuring out what type of campaigns will help these people jump back in and buy. Should we go on social media and do a post telling more people to join the email list? It was a lot of things, but I will say that lives, as well as email marketing, and having a marketing campaign to build off of is important. That was helpful in the success
There was a LinkedIn post about a brand I follow. It was a female-owned beauty brand and they were shutting doors. It was not a small brand. It was a medium-sized brand. They were shutting doors because it’s very difficult to get on retail and get to Target, Walmart, and all that. You have to spend a lot of money and they didn’t have that money. Online, it was very difficult for them to be economically viable and stand out. What you’re saying is that creating those marketing campaigns is what makes us stand out.
On the other side, we also see that it’s getting super hard to stand out with the iOS release, all the privacy concerns, and all those things in the market. With the email list, are people still reading as many emails? How many emails are we reading today? Your podcast is almost biweekly where you go into very specifics of how to do one specific task. I love the fact of that. In your perspective, if I am a beauty brand today and I am at this moment of this sphere where I’m like, “I can’t stand out online,” what other things will you tell me to encourage me to keep fighting and give me that hope and light? What other things do you think I should look at differently or approach differently to get back on track?
It’s going to local events and seeing if there are any local trade shows in your area that you can be a part of. I went to an event in my local community. It literally was across the street from my home and they had some vendors there. There was a vendor there. She had a natural hair company. I talked to her and we ended up having a call. When you go to those events, you never know who you’re going to meet. When you’re there, then you can tell people, “Follow me on social media,” and still create this atmosphere or this network outside of social media. That’s one of the things that the brand Mielle Organics did do very well. It’s to be involved in a lot of events.
There are free events and paid events. There are so many different types of events, but you have to let everybody know about your company and what it does. You have to figure out creative ways to get out there. There are local events. There are even library events that you can possibly be a part of to showcase your business to the local community. Being there, and then also seeing how you can capture those people, either getting them on your email list, maybe giving them a 20% off coupon or something so they can check out your products, and then having them follow you on social media.
I do believe that Instagram now is a pretty hard place to stand out but if you are consistent, people will see you. A lot of people give up after five times. In reality, people have to see your product seven times or more for them to even know about it. You have to keep being consistent. I’ve been doing this for thirteen years. I probably go live every other day or every day if I have to. I send an email every day. I want to show up in front of the people. I’m using organic social media. I’m not using ads yet. I may get into that one day but right now, it’s all organic. You just have to show up. Consistency is key.People have to see your product seven times or more for them to even know about it. You have to keep being consistent. Click To Tweet
That is one of the biggest takeaways. We did an episode about what we’ve learned from our guests, and that consistency is one of the top recommendations, especially when you’re going live. Nicolas and I have shared how going live is a journey. You have to do it a lot to find out what works. You have to have that confidence to show up even when there’s not a big audience there. I would love to hear more about what your definition of organic social media is, Michelle. Talk more about what that means for you and how you approach organic. Does that apply to the companies that you work with or your clients?
For all the clients that I have worked with, we have done organic social media. With Mielle Organics, I wasn’t in charge of the paid ads. We consulted another company for that because my specialty and my wheelhouse are organic. When I say organic social media, I mean we’re not spending money on Facebook ads. Everything is organic. You’re putting out posts, you’re putting out emails, and you’re going on podcasts. You have an organic strategy.
I’m on your show. This is a part of my personal brand strategy to get my business and what I do to be known by more people. Going on other people’s podcasts is a part of my organic strategy. Sending emails is a part of my organic strategy. I’m in the DMs with everyone. Whoever sends me a DM, I’m in there with them. I talk to people because I don’t know. Maybe one day they might be interested in something I’m talking about and I can send them the link to that.
I spent some time sending a link and a flyer to some other influencers and creators that I know. I was asking them, “Would you be willing to share this with your audience? I’m hosting a free webinar. Can you share this with me?” Collaboration is another great way that I utilize organic marketing. I’m utilizing other people’s audiences so that they can be a part of my audience, swapping audiences, and those types of things. Everything that I do with our clients, as well as the agency that we have, is organic marketing. What I help my clients with in my membership program, coaching, and things like that are all organic.
I’m organic all the way, but I am going to start using ads on something that I’ve learned about that will help to add more people to my email list. Organic marketing does take time. I’m now in the stage of my business where I want to accelerate it a bit more. Ads are going to be the way to do that, but I won’t be going over the top. It will be on specific freebies and things to get people on my email list.
I love that you say that because one of the things that I personally constantly hear when I’m talking to brands and solopreneurs or smaller companies is when you think about organic social, it’s something that people want to do, but then they realize it’s a lot of work, time, and effort. The paid version sounds easier because, in the end, you create a post and you put a payment on it. It then comes down to the return on ad spend.
What would you say after a brand creator, a solopreneur, thinking about getting in the space and saying, “I need to stand out? My time resources are crunched?” Would you recommend going on the paid or do you say, “No, you have to build your organic strategy first, and then from that, once you start getting the ground, then that’s when you start putting the add-on?” I would love to hear your perspective on that because I feel that there is so much being said on that and it’s confusing out there.
You should have somewhat of an organic foundation built because for those ads, who is the look-alike audience going to be if you don’t have an audience? There’s a lot of misinformation online like, “Just use ads. They’ll work,” but will they really if you don’t have a foundation? I’m not saying you have to have hundreds of thousands of people, but if you want to utilize ads on your email, you have to have at least a thousand people on your list.
I do think that you should have an organic foundation first because those are your fans. You’re building that like, know, and trust. These people are like rah, rah, sis, boom, bah for you. This one person bought three things one time when I was on live. The same person bought three different products, and I look at the people who buy from me and it’s a lot of the same people.
Now I’m like, “I need to come up with a different type of product because these people are going to be at a different level now if they’ve started utilizing the stuff that I’ve been sharing. They may be at a place for a mastermind or a group think or something like that.” The organic foundation works because you want to have those real people who have been following you that know about you as that buffer. When you start to get those ads and you start to get in front of new people, that will mix together well. Those people will see that organic foundation, and those people who have been rooting for you will say, “I want to sign up.”
I love your approach to all of this, Michelle. You do it with so much enthusiasm and it keeps coming back to the people when you’re connecting with someone, whether that’s in person at these local events you mentioned or online and honoring someone. Certainly, that makes them more likely to show up and engage with you and to buy because they know, like, and trust you. That’s at the core of so much strategy.
It has been very tempting to do things rapidly. Nicolas, you touched upon this with the ads, like take that easy route. A lot of people feel overstretched and burnt out. They’re trying to do so much and they want to do the easiest thing when it comes to social, but that can result in you missing the mark in a lot of ways. One of the episodes of your podcast, Michelle, that you released was around upcoming trends for 2023.
I didn’t listen to it yet because I wanted to hear it from you on this episode. Given that there has been a bit of a trend of people not valuing their audience or they’re so focused more on the metrics, that has been my perspective, do you think that’s going to shift? What other things do you expect to happen in the next year?
Everybody does want this quick, fast, get rich quick. To be honest, there is no online business that’s a get-rich-quick scheme. Everything is going to take time from drop shipping to digital products to creating a coaching business. If you are not willing to put in the time, then it’s not going to work. That’s the truest thing that I can say because you have to put in the work in the beginning. You can create a digital product today and build it. That’s it. You still have to promote it but you’ve built it. You do have to put in some type of work. You do not need 500,000 people. You need at least 1,000 people. I read it somewhere that you need at least 1,000 raving fans for a great business. You can utilize those people over and over again.
The get-rich-quick thing is not going to work. Even with the podcast, it’s going to take time. I’ve had my podcast for two years. I put time into it. It’s something that I know that can help in the long run. It has helped me get paid speaking engagements, paid people in my programs, people leaving reviews, and people referring me to people. You have to be in it for the long run. I think 2023 is going to be interesting with Instagram. I don’t know. Adam said that the videos and the photos now hold the same weight. You can mix up your strategy some more. Don’t just post so many Reels because I don’t think they’re as effective as they used to be. Now you have so many people using Reels, so it may not be as effective, but that still needs to be a part of your strategy.
Carousels explained in detail more things to educate people. If you’re a coaching consultant and course creator, what is your product? Have it in there and a call to action. eCommerce video is going to be driving up more. I know you know, but the for the audience, I don’t know if you all have checked out Amazon Live, but it’s a whole thing. They bring on influences and they talk about the latest tech or beauty or clothes. It’s all categories. Anyone can sign up too. That is a great way for you to build your like, know, and trust with people.
YouTube even has this now. They will be coming out with eCommerce, as well as Instagram. They have a feature where you can go live and someone can purchase the item. You can talk about it and at the bottom, it will come up and say, “Such and such has put this in their cart.” I think eCommerce is going to be another great avenue, as well as AI. We see that this is constantly a thing. It’s definitely going to be on the rise. Those are the things that are going to be top of mind in 2023. There is no get-rich-quick.
The get-rich-quick, especially in this time of recession, is what people are trying for. I am a big fan of consistency, showing up, being there, being consistent, keep on making the noise, and keep on telling your story and everything. Going back to the organic social, I have one last question for you. Building that 1,000 fans can take a long time. How do you know whether you are on the right track? At the end of the day, when you are an entrepreneur, you have two things to worry about. You have time and your money.
At some point, one of them is going to run out. Time is difficult to run out, but you may run out of money. As an entrepreneur, you can stretch yourself if you know that what you’re doing is paying off. When you are looking at organic social, this is very difficult to measure. How do you know that it is worth continuing to put that time into that? There will be some future potential results that are still very hard to measure at the moment you do them.
The number one thing is knowing who your audience is and who you’re talking to. That’s going to save you a lot of time in the beginning if you understand your audience. Poll them and ask them questions. I think that will be helpful. I know it’s hard to look at organic and it’s not working, but look at your analytics because if people are coming from a certain area that may say, “People are coming from Facebook. Let me lean into my Facebook strategy more,” or “I create this great lead magnet. I see that this lead magnet is the one that most people are downloading.” Look at your analytics to help guide your strategy so you’re not feeling like, “None of this is working.” It is working.
I know people are always like, “I only have 100 followers,” but if you were going to a room with those 100 people, would you be ready to serve them? A hundred people is a lot. You have to look at that as “I’m building this thing. I know that right now it may only be two people that show up on my lives.” Sometimes five people show up on my lives and I still convert. You have to look at it in a different way. Everyone on the other end of social media is a person. When you treat it like that, it gives you that thought, “These are people, and no matter how long it takes, I’m going to reach my goal.”Everyone on the other end of social media is a person. When you treat it like that, it makes you think, 'These are people. No matter how long it takes, I’m going to reach my goal.' Click To Tweet
I love the fact that you bring on live. For me, I always felt that live is probably one of the easiest ways to build an organic audience. As you say, you were going live almost twice a week. It’s also the opportunity to know who your audience is because during a live, you can ask questions, and people can respond. They can ask the questions that matter. You can quickly learn about how to phrase your narrative, your product, and your business based on that initial feedback and grow from there.
We had a few people on the show talking about how you become a live streamer, and then a professional creator that wants to become a streamer. They generally all started the same way. The successful one day live every day for one month. They built a good base. From that standpoint is when they started to scale down their live streaming, but then continued feeding the whole ecosystem that they started to build. Consistency and the fact that you have that instant feedback is fascinating, and it’s helping for building.
We were talking about how you convince a brand about this. People are like, “You are telling me I need to do a live twice a week. First of all, who is going to do my live and I’m afraid of going in front of a camera,” and all the different million things that come to mind. How do you approach that specific problem? What do you tell brands? Do you recommend they go live by themselves? Do you recommend they work with a creator? How do you go after that?
I beg my clients to go live. If the client or the brand doesn’t have a representative or the owner or founder doesn’t want to go live, I always suggest, “Do you have brand ambassadors?” Building a brand ambassador program is great, and you can utilize your brand ambassadors because most likely a lot of them are creators. They want to go live. They want to do this.
I do have a client right now who is leaning heavily into utilizing their brand ambassadors for going live with them. That is an excellent way to do it. I have a case study about this brand. They’re letting me do a case study, so I’ll be able to show how their consistent going live has helped, and how also tapping into their brand ambassadors has helped them even build more community. Now they’ll be reaching more people when you go live with seven people or however many you can go live with. That is an option.
For the people who are camera shy, you need to get with an influencer or creator or someone who can be a spokesperson for your brand and can go live consistently. Start out with once a month and see how that works. To be realistic, you probably should go live every week if you want to gain traction. If you want to get a lot of people to follow you, you have to go live weekly to start out to even see something. Start out with once and then see how that goes, and then keep adding and keep being consistent because lives convert. I think that they’re great.
I know there are people who don’t want to show up on camera or who feel that it’s stressful. Have someone who’s a brand ambassador that can represent your business. People love the story. I’m always going back to that. If you are a founder, people want to hear your story. Think about it. It’s not as bad as you think. People will be signing up for your products and services, and then you’ll be making all the money.
It made me think about something. I was talking with someone in our community. That person is doing live on Poshmark. She was telling me, “I can’t believe there are 5,000 people on this website at any given time. I do my own live and maybe I get twenty people to watch me. Out of the twenty, maybe I get a couple of orders.” I say, “That has been working fine with me.” She was like, “I’m so concerned about doing it on my own website because I don’t know how I can drive 5,000 people on my website.” I say to her, “At the end of the day, people that are on Poshmark are here to maybe shop your product, but they are also maybe here to hang out or to shop for someone else or some other product.”
The people that are on your own website, you don’t need to have 5,000 people. We had a live where it was the first live for that lady. She put her website up and running. There were twenty people on her website. It was not their mom or brother or us or anything. She still had a pretty astonishing number of sales. I was literally shocked. The thing is that people came to her site. They came to engage with her product and know about her and her story. They have not diverted all the content anywhere. They are focused on you, so your conversion is much higher.
We compare sales on social media versus sales on your website. On the live social media, what we’ve seen so far is if you get 1% conversion, you should be happy. If you are on your website, if you get less than 10%, there’s probably something you can improve on your live because typically, you should be closer to 15% during your live.
That’s the benchmark we’ve seen. You don’t need as many on your website. One piece of encouragement for the audience here that is considering going live and thinking through that process, don’t focus on the numbers. Focus on who are the people coming. If you know those people or if you are engaged, they are going to convert. I completely agree with you.
I love lives. They’re so amazing.
We’re so grateful for you adding that external perspective to all of this, Michelle. That’s what this show is about. That’s what eStreamly does. Having someone like you with all this experience and who has witnessed it for yourself and your clients, you’ve done such a great job encouraging. As you said with your show, you’re simplifying the steps and you’re giving people a starting point. You did such a brilliant job here with us. I feel absolutely thrilled about that. What a better advertisement for your podcast too.
For those of you who haven’t checked it out yet, one thing that stands out about your podcast, Michelle, is that it’s short. We were talking about being time-strapped earlier. Sometimes you want to have something that not only won’t take a lot of time to take in but also won’t take a lot of time to act upon. You do that so well. Your aim is to give people one piece of advice that they can go and implement right away after listening to your show.
Hopefully, our audience got lots of ideas from this and even more. You are coming up on 200 episodes of your podcast, Michelle, which is such a great offering. You are walking your talk too. You’re leading with the value and you’re connecting with people. It’s a wonderful thing to witness. Thank you for spending your time with us.
Thank you for having me. This has been amazing. I love podcasting. It has been an amazing experience and I love the quick, short, and to-the-point episodes. It’s my jam, so it’s exciting.
Before we wrap up, since you love podcasting so much, my final question is, what is the number one thing that has worked to market your podcast? We are always looking for different strategies with the show, but we also have a lot of podcasters coming on the show, and tuning in to the show. Your final piece of advice, what do you recommend for podcasters to promote their show?
Your title matters. Since my podcast is on social media, a lot of people search social media on Spotify, and so it comes up. That has been great for me as the title portion, but I do promote my podcast to anybody and everybody who wants to listen, family, friends, cousins, and network. I promote it to everyone. I utilize my digital ecosystem as well, like my Instagram and my social media to promote my podcast. I’m always telling someone about it. I keep consistent with that.
One time, my podcast did get picked up by Later.com to be on their top 11 podcasts that you should listen to. That also helped to get more listeners to my podcast. That was exciting. Keep going. Anything could happen like that. They found me on social media through hashtags. The writer was looking for someone with a social media podcast and it so happened to come across my social media post.
Do you remember what hashtag you used?
Probably a social media strategy. This can be a whole other episode because hashtags are not as effective as they were. They’re better to get your content categorized. They’re not necessarily to help you grow per se.Hashtags are not as effective as they were. They help to get your content categorized, but not necessarily to help you grow per se. Click To Tweet
I’m so glad that you dropped that in there. There’s power in a lot of this, but you have to keep experimenting and figuring out what works because that worked in that case, but that doesn’t mean that it’ll work for everybody. There are so many nuances. That’s probably the biggest takeaway with social media in general.
There is no one size fits all. You have to figure out what works for you and be consistent in your efforts with it, just like we say with doing the lives too. Thank you so much, Michelle, for your wealth of knowledge and for sharing that with us. It has been lovely having you on the show. We’re working on our social media strategies, so we would love to have you as part of our social media community. That’s under at @eStreamly. If you look us up on social, you’ll find us there. We’re trying to add more value there, and people like Michelle have inspired us.
Lastly, one other thing that Michelle said to us before we started is to ask for reviews. I want to put out that ask to our loyal audience. If you are enjoying this show and you found value in this episode and the episodes that we release every single week, we’d be so honored to have a review from you. You can do that in Apple Podcasts. You can rate us on Spotify. You can spread the word. Any reviews on social media, whatever works for you, we’d be absolutely thrilled to receive your feedback. Thank you for being here. Thanks to Michelle and Nicolas. We’ll be back with another episode of this show. Bye for now.