Created on Instagram and raised on a steady diet of likes and shares, this unique diaper bag company knows its way around social media. Here’s what we can learn.
It all started, as most great ideas do, with a problem in need of a solution. Beav Brodie was preparing to welcome his second daughter to the world, and decided he couldn’t take another tour of daddy carrying around the standard-issue frilly pink diaper bag.
Necessity being the mother of invention, he came up with a new type of diaper bag – one that borrowed not only the tactical styling of military gear, but the rugged durability as well. He called his fledgling business Tactical Baby Gear. Four years later, the business he started on his laptop has gone global, with a full line of diaper bags, backpacks and accessories and more than a hundred thousand followers online.
So how did Tactical Baby Gear get from there to here and what can we learn from it? Here are some key takeaways for anyone looking to build their brand online.
Know your Platform
While Tactical Baby Gear was born on Instagram, its number of Facebook followers is nearly triple its Instagram fanbase.
“It’s been a steady buildup over the last four years,” said Brodie, adding, “Social media was the only thing I had going for me initially in the business plan.”
As social media was such a keystone of his business, Brodie approached every platform strategically, using Facebook as more of a transactional platform and Instagram has one more geared toward customer engagement. “It’s just easier for people to engage there.”
“The Instagram demo is just a little more engaged. People on Facebook tend to be scrollers,” he said. “They’ll look at something, but not like or comment.”
Adding to that disparity in engagement is Facebook’s algorithm, designed to create a better user experience but with the perhaps intentional side effect of limiting the reach of content posted by businesses. (Unless you pay to promote your content of course.)
“There are strategies to get people engaged there,” said Brodie. “I think it’s important to know it’s okay to ask people to share things because the more organic engagement you get on a post, the more it will spread… The big problem people have with Facebook is they have a business page and a few thousand followers, but they get one or two likes. That’s because Facebook displays that post to a percentage of your followers initially to they see how much they engage with it. If it doesn’t get that much engagement, they feel like no one likes it so they don’t display it anywhere else.”
The key to getting around that being just asking your followers to like, comment and share. “If it’s a post people like, one that gets 10-20 likes in the first hour, they’re going to display it to more and more of your audience because clearly people are into it.”
Think Outside the Post
While product shots and reader contributions have kept the businesses’ social media presence chugging along, some of its greatest gains have come when Tactical Baby Gear went beyond a simple post to truly engage.
There is, for example, Free Patch Friday, a weekly contest that has proven to be immensely successful in driving customer and fan engagement on Instagram. Every Friday, Tactical Baby Gear gives away one free patch, designed to fit on not only their products but any number of tactical-inspired bags and apparel, to one fan on Instagram who tags three friends in a response to their photo. That tagging has been key to the success of the contest.
“Each person is tagging three friends, and they’re going to tag three friends and so on. Each week we get a few hundred comments from people who’ve tagged thee people,” said Brodie “As you can imagine, we’re getting a ton of reach and a ton of people.”
And it’s all for the cost of a patch – something that costs the company $7 at most.
Another way the company has driven engagement is through a web series giving fans a peek behind the scenes called “The Weekly Dump.”
“I did not think when I started out I’d be doing a weekly web series,” said Brodie. The videos, generally between 10-18 minutes in length, vary from week to week. Some episodes focus on Brodie’s home life, some show insight into the company’s inner workings and some just give the company a platform for sharing advice and parenting tips. Their purpose, according to Brodie, is to help Tactical Baby Gear stand out from the competition, drive engagement and bring more value to the customer.
“It’s more a long-term plan. No one’s going to watch a video and buy a bag. We don’t even talk about our bags in the videos much at all,” said Brodie. “So many people want to do something now and see returned on that tomorrow, but we’re trying to build brand alongside revenue.”
Don’t Count on Virality (Just Capitalize On It)
Over the course of four years, Tactical Baby Gear has built its fanbase using a more slow and steady discipline. Appropriately enough, they are tactical when it comes to building out followers, preferring to cultivate followers who will actively engage and convert. And while they haven’t necessarily relied on those big viral moments, there have been a few.
One of the first was a bump from social media Rockstar Austin Weiss, a friend of Brodie’s, who helped kickstart Tactical Baby Gear’s online profile in the early years with a single post.
“Within hours I had thousands of followers,” said Brodie. “I forget exactly how many, but it was between 3-7 thousand followers I got from a single post he made for me. And that really primed the pump, built some awareness and got things rolling.”
But their big viral marketing moment came when their video on how to build a tactical Nerf wall blew up. “It got 150,000 views over a week or two, which was a big moment for us and got a lot of traffic to the website,” said Brodie. “It didn’t necessarily build our social following so much, where all the sudden we get tens of thousands of followers, but the video got a lot of views and drove a lot of traffic to the site.”
Know Your Followers
That last bit lies at the heart of Tactical Baby Gear’s strategy: it drove a lot of traffic to the site.
While the company was built for social media, they’ve been very careful not to mistake a huge fanbase for a huge customer base.
“It doesn’t matter how many followers you have on those platforms if none of them are your buyer,” said Brodie. “It sounds like common sense, but when everybody starts a page now they just want to get as many followers as they can.”
The followers Tactical Baby Gear has were gained by a disciplined approach to cultivating them through targeted content aimed where it might find the most receptive audience. While there are plenty of options online for those looking to artificially inflate their likes and followers, Tactical Baby Gear has preferred to let their fanbase grow organically.
As Brodie said, “If you have a page of 300 followers and every single one of them will buy from you, that’s more valuable than a page with 100,000 who won’t buy from you.”
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