Model and entrepreneur Ashley Alexiss launched her swimwear company Alexiss Swimwear a year ago with the hopes to create clothing that empowers and boosts the confidence of women of all sizes. Oh, and also to make money. So far, she’s found success on both fronts.
The company sold more than 2,000 units this year and regularly receives heartfelt notes of gratitude from customers that have its CEO in tears. “I tear up at least four times a week,” Alexiss told Entrepreneur. "Hearing women tell me that they've never been in a bathing suit and I've inspired them to order one … honestly, I created Alexiss for that exact reason.”
Alexiss credits her company's success to two things: Never, ever sleeping (getting your MBA while running a company tends to get in the way of catching zzz's), and utilizing social media to get products and messaging out. “I talk to other entrepreneurs all of the time,” Alexiss says, “And I am always shocked when I hear about people not utilizing social media. They’ll say, ‘We have a Facebook page, but we don’t really use it.’ I want to shake these people and scream, ‘You are cutting yourself off at the knees!’ Why not take full advantage of marketing platforms that are easy and completely free to use?”
With a combined business and personal social media footprint of more than 6 million followers, Alexiss has learned not only how to create a following, but how to convert portions of that following into paying customers. Here are some of the biggest lessons she’s learned along the way.
1. Social media forces you to be your best you.
"Customers reach out to you to let you know when they love something and when there is a problem. Those comments and questions are out there for everyone else to see. So how you respond defines who you are and lets everyone know how you treat your customers.
"It’s exciting for a customer to have positive interactions with a brand they love and believe in. Using Lane Bryant as an example, if someone writes about how great its clothes make them feel, it feels amazing when Lane Bryant replies back. That interaction heightens brand loyalty.
"If there is an issue, you can handle it right away and show customers that you care about their concerns. With Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, those conversations are there for everyone to see. So it not only serves as an advertisement for your product but also for your customer care. It forces a brand to be the best that it can be."
2. Tap into the power of influencers.
"I’m in a unique position in that I’ve worked with influencers for my brand, and I am also an influencer that brands reach out to, so I see both sides of this. There are great rewards in it. I just had Renee Graziano from Mob Wives and Celebrity Big Brother wear one of our swimsuits and within hours, we had 20 new orders for it. It was intense! All she did was tag us and say that she loved it. Again, it was a way for us to tell the story we wanted to tell. Cross marketing is wonderful. It can either be accomplished through money, or a lot of times, by giving products. It’s a great way for companies that have complimentary messages to reach each other’s audiences effectively and organically."
3. Keep tabs on the competition.
"I like to check out other brands to see what they’re doing, right and wrong. And it is so easy. It’s all right there collected on their pages. Contests, events, sales, reviews. Get inspired or learn from their mistakes."
4. Use it as covert testing grounds.
"Every company needs to use visuals to sell their products or services, and the instant feedback you get on social media is invaluable. You don’t need to tell anyone what you are doing, but you can test colors, fonts or visuals without anyone knowing what you’re up to. Throw stuff up there and monitor the likes and shares and it becomes clear very quickly what works and what doesn’t. It’s free! When you are an entrepreneur, you need to save in any way that you can."
5. Battling writer's block.
"Some people worry that their posts aren't funny enough or interesting enough and just stop posting. I just say to play to your strengths. Don’t try to be something that you’re not. Be your authentic self on social and people will respond. If you’re stuck on what to write for a caption, just imagine that you’re talking to the person you’re showing the picture to. What would you say? Boom, there’s your caption. Sure, there are advanced tricks of the trade, but overall, just be yourself and trust your judgment. If you think it is interesting, someone else will likely agree."
6. Remember, it's quality over quantity.
"You don’t want to clog up someone’s feed. People will unfollow you or hide your posts and then they’re basically a ghost follower. It doesn’t matter if you have 200,000 followers if they aren’t seeing what you’re posting.
"Minimally, I’d say you should post at least once a day on business days. I don’t personally post much on weekends, but that’s just my schedule. Posting three to five times a day is ideal in my opinion. It forces you to edit yourself a bit, and only put out the photos and captions and content that you love, as opposed to just anything that pops into your head. It conditions you to get better, which equals a better reaction and better sales.
"I would say between 10 and noon is great for a first post. People are settled at work and maybe taking a break. I’d say between 3 and 4 p.m. when they're taking a coffee break, then 8 o’clock. These aren’t scientific, but they’ve worked for me. On occasion, I’ll post five times, but only if it is something special that I wanted to share. Like we had a great testimonial from a girl who said she never felt good in a swimsuit until she wore ours and I just couldn’t wait a second to put that up.
"The point is: post when you feel it adds value. Don’t sit on something that’s great and in the moment, but also don’t force yourself to post if you're not feeling it that day."
7. Make it personal.
"People love stuff that touches them on an emotional level. One of the things we do is post casual pictures with the products and we'll have an inspirational quote over it, like, 'Confidence is the sexiest thing that you can wear.' I love quotes like that and they really touch our customers, who screenshot and share them. It gets a great message out there and our brand is connected to it. It’s the best marketing you can ask for."