Quick Facts and Stats
- Managed INTENSE Cycles social media for three months
- Created Instagram story highlights for entire bike lineup
- Increased Facebook average reach per post from 3,906 to 12,901
- Grew Instagram following from 116 thousand to over 123 thousand in less than three months
About the Work Experience
Graduating in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak was certainly not what I anticipated and made the job search more difficult for me and everyone else in the class of ’20. My strategy was to throw on my hustle pants and jump into full time freelancing.
In addition to ongoing work for Sea Otter Play and developing the new Riverbend Forest website, I took on another fun project: INTENSE Cycles social media management. Working directly with a manufacturer, especially one with such rich history, was a huge privilege. I was honored to meet founder Jeff Steber who is still in the fab shop almost every day and also got to collaborate with some INTENSE athletes to curate content.
My job, however, was not to be starstruck by the mtb legends I got to work with. I had to make things happen! First, I cleaned up our Instagram bio with story highlights that gave key specs on the entire bike lineup and provided links to more info and the web store. See the screen recording to catch a quick look this project or visit the INTENSE Instagram to click around for yourself.
After making this initial bio change, it was time to develop and implement a social media strategy. The goals of INTENSE were to build the brand image and increase audience size and engagement. Although web traffic and sales were important, the prior goals were the priority.
After speaking with the INTENSE marketing team, my initial approach was to craft content that highlighted several main topics throughout the week: products, history, current athletes and innovation. However, I constantly adjusted this strategy and made improvements.
One thing I quickly learned was that studio images performed better on average than action or lifestyle shots. I incorporated this finding into the content strategy moving forward, yet still made sure to show real people riding INTENSE bikes. This, along with other changes to dial in the strategy, allowed both Facebook and Instagram to improve significantly over the course of three months.
Under my management, the average Facebook post reach per post was 12,901, up from an average of 3,906 in the three months prior. I also steadily grew Facebook followers and likes from June to September. Both went from around 89 thousand to well over 91 thousand.
Unfortunately, Instagram does not hold onto data for more than the past week, but I did record our following at 116 thousand when I jumped on board at the end of May. By the end of August, it had grown to more than 123 thousand, averaging over 2 thousand new followers each month.
Another key metric is engagement rate (average percentage of followers who engage with posts by liking or commenting). Using Phlanx.com, I took a snapshot of the Instagram engagement rates INTENSE and five competitors. By the end of August, INTENSE was within just 0.04% of the highest performer in this group of the best mountain bike manufacturers in the US, and comfortably ahead of the bottom three.
What I Learned
Just as with any experience, I think it’s important to reflect on what I learned in order to be better in the future. Here are just a few highlights of what I learned about social media and branding.
Customer Service in Social Media
Social media management is often thought of as content creation that reaches and engages as many people as possible, driving metrics and increasing sales. At least, that’s what I thought of until this experiences. However, I soon learned that I overlooked an important aspect: customer service.
Social media is the easiest point of contact to brands for many customers. I found loads of questions or comments in direct messages and under posts. Whether it is providing information on bike warranty or just being stoked for INTENSE riders, I spent lots of time communicating directly with folks; maybe more time than actually creating content.
In order to deliver high-level customer service through social, I think it is best to have a full time employee doing it. I found that it was much more difficult for me, an outside contractor, to pull this off.
Branding Requires Excellent Brand Understanding
Having someone full time also helps on the content creation side as well. One thing I constantly harp on is branding. To me, branding is making sure every piece of content is carefully crafted to tell the story of a brand. The audience should come to know the brand after any interaction.
In order to create this type of content, the creator needs to have a deep understanding of the brand themself. For me, this was difficult. I put in lots of research for each post, making sure I understood INTENSE products and services, much less the brand voice. Over time it got easier, and it certainly helped to demo a Primer 29 for a few rides, but I advocate for in-house social media management after this experience. Overall though, I am incredibly thankful to INTENSE for giving me this opportunity.