Building a brand online

Navigating social media decorum

Through trial and error, local brands learn how to engage an online audience without being annoying.

Lauren Kroeker-Lee, co-owner of Fools & Horses, has done social media for the coffee shop since it first opened two years ago.

Though she wasn’t as into social media in her personal life, she says it is a free and valuable marketing tool, and it seemed silly not to take advantage.

In the beginning, Kroeker-Lee would scroll through other brands on Instagram and Facebook, then examine her reactions.

“Part of the process of figuring out how to do this was looking at how other people post, and being like ‘Okay, why do I like this? Why do I not like this? Why is this not annoying but actually something I’m gravitating toward?” 

She appreciates when brands have a clear sense of aesthetic and prioritized that.

“Amy (Bortoluzzi, co-owner) and I did a lot of design work and planning inside the interior of the shop,” she says. She wanted their social media presence to reflect their vision.

For visual artist Matea Radic, her personal and professional aesthetic reflect each other.

Radic began posting art on her own Instagram account and, though her brand has grown since then, she has not separated the two.

“I’ve thought about it as in like, ‘Should I?’ But I always came to the conclusion that I shouldn’t, because my life is my artwork,” she says.

Though Fools & Horses and Radic use their accounts differently, they both value authenticity. Kroeker-Lee is wary of accounts that repost or like a lot of the shop’s photos on Instagram without making their intentions clear.

“I was a little bit caught off guard when there were clearly people trying to start accounts, and I almost felt like they were courting us a little bit,” she says. “It can really easily slip into this weird grey area. Not like it’s ethically unsound, but it just feels a little swarm-y. Like we’re all just trying to ride each other’s coattails.”

Radic says it’s best for accounts to show off what sets them apart rather than excessive reposting.

“I would rather follow their link to the original post and engage with it,” she says. “I really like honesty in the social media space … just talking about real life stuff and the things we face every day.”

When Kroeker-Lee makes a more personalized post on Fools & Horses, she is careful to do it with the best of intentions.

“There are some instances where I think something we’re doing does relate directly to our mandate, and I want people to be aware that this is a priority for us,” she says.

While she wants to make their charity and community work visible, she does it minimally to avoid seeming self-congratulatory. 

Radic doesn’t have a set plan when it comes to when, what or how often she posts. She does not like when her feed becomes saturated by one person’s posts, though, and gives her audience space to avoid that.

Published in Volume 71, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 16, 2017)

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