I want to start off by thanking everyone who has helped me through this journey. Friends. Family. Mentors. Investors. Entrepreneurship is hard. Everyone has an opinion. Advice. It’s really up to founders to understand his or her startup as much as possible and make informed decisions. It can be nerve-wracking and exciting which is why I try very hard to make sure I enjoy the journey.
When we launched Socionado around summer of 2018, my partner Will and I knew we were solving a problem that we and many others had. Hiring top-tier social media managers was hard. A lot of people think social media is easy. It feels like it should be right? Post cool pictures. Have a witty caption. Be consistent. Grow a following. Become famous! Ha! Obviously it’s not that easy and for many companies one of the most difficult aspects of having a social media brand is consistently creating and managing content. Some companies learned the hard way by hiring social media interns and then complaining about the quality of work or even the consistency. Don’t get me wrong, it’s ok to have social media interns. Just don’t set the expectations so high. Then let’s not forget about how expensive social media agencies can be and how difficult it can be to source social media managers from Upwork.
So we set on a path to develop a managed marketplace that matched top-tier & vetted part-time freelance social media managers to companies to work with on a monthly basis. We used our skillset of sourcing influencers that we did for a previous startup and used that to source phenomenal social media managers across the United States. We found their profiles on Linkedin or Instagram. We interviewed them. Checked their references. Spent hard time and effort to add 2000 of them on our platform. At the same time we reached out to potential customers that we thought would understand the value of what we were providing. Early stage startups. Small and local businesses. Creative agencies looking to outsource work. Even professionals like dentists and plastic surgeons (yes this is a thing on Instagram).
One thing that I love to talk about is how we would find companies on Indeed, Monster or Ziprecuiter that were hiring part-time social media managers and then reach out to them in creative ways as well. One customer we had for a year was because we saw they were hiring on Indeed and I visited his gym in Santa Monica to explain that I had seen his job post and I believed that Socionado would be a great option for him to showcase his workouts. We were having fun. We hit $54K MRR for a period of time.
We started to encounter some issues that scared us. I want to say Li Jin wrote a wonderful article here about managed marketplaces and things to consider. Well, we learned the hard way.
We built a premium service for customers that didn’t necessarily value or appreciate the effort it takes to provide this premium service. Most of our customers were small businesses or early stage startups that are in cost saving mode. They also knew the importance of social media but didn’t really understand what makes social media difficult or why such a limited amount of entities even have high quality social media brands. Even if they themselves struggled to find high quality social media managers they didn’t care about the work Socionado did to add qualified and vetted social media managers to our platform. They didn’t care about the time it took to match them on our platform to the best candidates for their projects. They constantly argued with us about our service fee. They would hire our social media managers and then question what value did Socionado provide besides connecting them to top-tier social media managers. But the part that stung was when they would try to go around us and work with our social media managers directly.
DON’T HATE THE PLAYER HATE THE GAME
How could we be mad at our customers? We didn’t provide any other useful tools or insights for them and honestly once they were matched with a Socionado they had no real incentive to continue working with us directly. It was a sobering lesson we learned. We continued to push through and fight to get customers but honestly didn’t like our growth and our churn.
We kept searching and searching for ways to improve. We really believed that we could be the 99 Designs for social media management. But then, something interesting started to happen.
We started to get inquiries from companies that needed help from us but in a different way. They wanted content created about their company culture, workplace, diversity and people. They wanted this content to be managed on job hiring sites, Linkedin and sometimes even Instagram or Youtube. The funny thing is that we didn’t close any of these deals at the time but it piqued our interest. What was the reasoning behind this focus? All of these companies were established companies and willing to pay us north of $7-$10K a month! On average previously, our deals were $1800/month.
The world of employer branding became an obsession for us!
As two black co-founders who have worked for various companies, company culture has always been important to us. Understanding the how companies incorporated people onto teams all geared towards one mission was fascinating. Now we began to enter the realm of external employer branding. How can companies creatively showcase company culture and workplace? How would we initially even assess a company’s culture to know what direction to creatively go? Do our current Socionados even qualify for this type of work? What about remote companies? Who are our target customers now and how will our customer acquisition tactics change?
We’re still learning and we’re still growing but what we are working on now is more exciting. We now customize and match freelance creative employer brand teams to companies to work with on a monthly basis to create content showcasing company culture, workplace and people. We have over 250+ employer brand teams each consisting of a creative director, project manager and creative lead (photographer, videographer, etc.). We are targeting companies that are typically either Series B funded an onwards, over 25+ employees and hiring for at least 10 more job positions and large enterprises. We love to scout Glassdoor and try to find companies with poor reviews as well.