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The key to selling on social media and connecting with your community

Interview with Katie Jacobs, Owner of the Cheeky Peach

Katie Jacobs, owner of Cheeky Peach clothing boutique in Athens, GA started out in photojournalism, had a few odd jobs, and just couldn’t find her place. It wasn’t until she started working for a wholesale jewelry company that she started to plant the seed of owning her own business.

With a small loan from a local bank, she opened Cheeky Peach in August 2010, and since then, the brick-and-mortar store with the goal of empowering women with a personal shopping experience has grown exponentially. Her customers know her for her try-ons. Katie will physically try on the new clothing and accessories that have come to the store, talk about their fit and feel, then make suggestions for how you could style it. 

“We are a people company,” Katie says, “my goal for opening Cheeky Peach was to connect my community with products that I really love.”

When she started using Facebook Live, Instagram, Instagram Stories, and Instagram Live to sell her products, she says this “unintentional pivot” was something that became really vital as well as exciting for her business.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about how you got started using social media (specifically Facebook and Instagram) to sell your products? 

A: “The weird thing about social is that it really started with just me. It was born out of necessity.”

Back then, Katie’s now three-year-old was really colicky and needed to be carried around by his mom. 

“So I would come into the store,” Katie says, “wear him in a carrier, walk around, and style people.”

They went on Facebook Live, which was relatively new at the time, to show Katie’s styling to their social audience. 

“And, I’m in a hat, I have bedhead with my son strapped to my chest, and I just started talking about the clothes. It was completely organic and it makes a lot of sense in hindsight, but in that moment I started making these connections. 

“We saw that people were connecting with me as a mother, holding my baby and selling clothes, it was relatable.”

Q: Is social media a good medium to show off the different ways your audience can style your products?

A: “It’s a great way to show different styles, and we like to mix it up. We’re always working to innovate within the social space. It’s easy to get boxed in to try on clothes. We like to keep it fresh and make it a mixed bag.”

Katie says, “we really try to maintain the authenticity of what we enjoy because that translates. Some days I’ll come in and say, ‘let’s pop off.’ And I’ll just come in and rip open a box and see what’s in it and start talking about it. I’ll tell the story of the clothing and then tell the story of how you wear it.”

Q: What’s the difference between how you sell on Facebook Live vs. Instagram vs. Instagram Live?

“There are limitations with each platform,” she says. And, some people are more comfortable on one platform vs. another, so you have to try new things on each channel and see what works for your audience.  

“What we really try to do is go omni-channel and use the strengths of each social channel and apply it to what we’re trying to do that day. I’m really comfortable on both channels because we’ve done a lot with both. But, it took a lot of trial and error. 

“I would just say have fun with it. That’s really how we got to where we are — we just had fun, and we did what felt right.”

Q: How does your audience actually purchase a product through Facebook or Instagram?

“They purchase directly through us — we send them an invoice. We have a process we’ve worked hard on that’s somewhat proprietary.” 

But Katie says, her goal is not to sell just that one product on Facebook or Instagram. 

“My goal is to not have a customer be a one-hit wonder,” she says. “I want to have a relationship with you. I want to be a part of your life.” 

And, social media helps bolster that relationship.

“I don’t want to just sell you one pair of jeans, I want to know more. I want to say, ‘Is there anything else I can help you find? Is there a great sweater you’re looking to wear it with? I have a couple personal favorites. We just got these tops in, they’re under $30 bucks, I love this bracelet…’

“That’s really what this social selling is based on, not people saying what they want, but how we’re building a relationship together.”

Related: Update your social media strategy for the new normal

Q: Why do you think people like shopping this way? Why do you think social selling has resonated with your audience?

“I’ll start by saying it doesn’t resonate with some people. I think the person that this resonates with wants that relationship — they want a personal shopper. They want you to care that their brother has cancer or that they’ve lost their job. And, those are two examples I can think of of customers sharing some really deeply and personal intimate details with us. We can act as a support system.

“Notice that I’m not really talking about the clothing. The people this really resonates for are people who are looking for a place where they can find their sense of style where we can help them see trends. We can help them look in their closet and figure it out and find that connection that feels like they’re in a store.

“The authenticity of Cheeky Peach, telling the story, hearing the story back, and connecting my customers with the product is what it’s all about.”

Q: How else do you use social media for your business? Do you post sales or offers on your platforms? Do you use social ads?

“We’re totally organic, we’re very word-of-mouth. We’ve run a few ads and boosted a couple of posts, but I would rather get 10 new customers this week who really want to engage with us then show 100K followers on Instagram who aren’t engaging with the brand.”

She says that the key for small business owners trying to sell on social media is “looking for organic followers who are going to engage with your brand. That’s just my personal belief. We’ve been having significant growth so far and i’m really enjoying it.”

Q: Many businesses can get bogged down with spending money and feeling like they have to buy social ads. What do you think your business model says about organic social and how it can work for brand engagement? 

“I do see people who are getting into social and getting really bogged down in advertising. And, I think figuring out your voice is more important than that because you can waste a lot of money without knowing what the heck you’re trying to do.

“It’s like we say in entrepreneurship, ‘Get open.’ Start selling the cookies on the corner, and start figuring it out. Don’t worry about the minutia — just sell the cookies, jump in somewhere.”

Q: What is one key tip you would give a small business owner who is just starting out selling on social media, or who might be afraid to jump in?

“First thing I would say is think about your person, your customer. Think about the person sitting on the other side of the app. What do they love about what you do in your store and how can you translate that? (Or what do they love about what you do online and how can you translate that?)

“Everyone’s business model is different, everybody’s customer is different, everybody’s personality is different. Spend some time thinking: ‘What does my customer look like? What do they want? What do they sound like? What are they talking about? What’s important to them?’

“I spent a lot of time on that, and I think with social that’s just what resonated. I did what I do best in-store on social. 

“The second piece of advice I have: don’t spend a ton of ad money before you know what you’re doing. Get a flow or feel to what you’re getting a response to. Start to get a response, then push it.” 

Q: Finally, we want to address an issue on the top of many business owners’ minds — handling the process of reopening. Can you talk a little bit about how you’re guiding your customers through the reopening process so they feel safe shopping at your store? 

“I feel a huge responsibility to my employees, my family, my community. And so, the precautions we took were: we got the entire store sanitized front to back, top to bottom. The next thing we did was decide that if we can just be the safest version of ourselves that’s what matters. 

Related: Helping businesses consider reopening safely or staying closed during COVID-19

“We’re asking our customers to be masked, we are masked. We’re wiping down everything, We’re steaming everything at 200 degrees that have been tried on. We’ve just put every failsafe in place to protect our community, and I feel like the way we’re doing things is smart, careful, and caring. 

“We’re only letting 6 people in our store at once, limiting the flow of traffic. We have limited our hours so we have some time for people who don’t want to be in the store with anyone else, they can come in in the morning and make an appointment with me.  

“We’re a people company, and we had to get open, but we also had to do it in a way that felt authentic and true to who we are while keeping everybody safe and comfortable.”

For more resources during these challenging times, go to OpenWeStand.org.