The State of Organic & Paid Social Media Marketing with Alison & Karin of Umai Marketing

Have we already seen the best years of social media marketing? With privacy changes, Facebook's constant changes, and Instagram trying to be the new TikTok it can feel really overwhelming to dip your toe in the organic and paid side of social media.

Fear not! Alison and Karin from Umai Marketing join us on our latest episode of Ecommerce Marketing with the Pitbulls to discuss the state of organic and paid social media marketing.

Are you planning on investing time and money into social media marketing? If your answer is “yes”, we give a recap of some important stats that you might need to know about the landscape of the social media market for e-commerce and CPG brands.


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Andy and Lindsey sit down with Alison Smith and Karin Samelson, co-founders of Umai Marketing, a digital agency based in Austin, TX, focusing on CPG brands both eCommerce and retail. They offer done-for-you services as well as a consumer goods growth course. (Note: Andy personally recommends this course!). Alison and Karin work with brands from $0 to $12 million in revenue using their Core 3 Method: social media marketing, social advertising, and email marketing.

Why did you decide to niche down to CPG?

We worked together in Austin until Alison moved away. Karin got a job working in CPG for local retailers and was a storyteller at heart. Alison moved back and got involved in eCommerce and advertising. Karin sold beautifully packaged products and Alison’s focus was digital. We got together and decided to start our own agency helping the local food brands that needed help.

What would you say is the hardest part of marketing for CPG? What makes it different than other products?

It is so multifaceted. You go to the store, see a product on a shelf, decide it looks good, and decide to buy it. There’s a lot that goes into making that happen! Also, supply chain issues. There has to be flexibility. When there’s little to no inventory, someone has to make the decision to lower or stop ad spend.

Food and beverage items need to be replenished frequently and are tied to a lot of the things we do. Then there’s selling it; you have to taste it, so there’s a lot of trial. We focus on a lot of DtoC and eCommerce because that’s where the world is going, but founders still want their products in retail stores. Sometimes it starts with building a community online and focusing on brand awareness.

Tell us about your Core 3 method.

Founders wear a lot of hats and we wanted to simplify that. Defeating overwhelm is part of our mission. We try to simplify marketing with our course and our services. Plus, we never pretend to be experts in areas where we’re not. For example, PPC, we would refer to people like you for that. 

Social includes the influencer, content creation, paid and organic advertising, and community-building. Then there’s the OG of marketing: email. Many people forget about that, but it’s really where the hottest leads are.

Many founders either do not see the value in building community online, or it scares them. Can you talk about what it looks like to build community online?

Building community, putting a face to your brand, having founder-forward content, and making connections is paramount! It’s difficult to do; not everybody is good at making personal connections with other people. Find brands that do this well and watch what they’re doing. This is so important because people will support you because they like you. Everyone talks about “know, like, and trust” and this is how you build that, with community and personal interactions.

What would you say to a founder who doesn’t want to put their story out there?

It’s very vulnerable to put yourself in front of a camera and many people struggle with that. But honestly, all founders in new companies are content creators these days. Biggest recommendation? Prepare. Do research. Find the brands you like and apply some things to your brand. Find brands you don’t like and make the decision not to do those things. Plan out your content. Use a spreadsheet with columns for title, hook, key points; maybe even write a script. It gets easier over time.

What’s working in social media, and what isn’t? What kind of trends are you seeing?

Let’s talk about Meta - Facebook and Instagram. We know everyone hates giving them money, but right now it’s still working. We start with both and then niche down as we learn where each brand plays better. We also like to create on mobile, then upload to TikTok first. Then using the same video, upload using Instagram’s native text. Lean on the trends you’re seeing on TikTok.

TikTok is more for top-of-funnel: video views, brand awareness, and follower campaigns. Then use Meta to retarget and prospect for new customers.

Tell us how you use curated assets rather than just product-based catalog information.

Video is queen. Across the board. We use a lot of UGC (user-generated content). It should look very native. A customer is not going to stop on a sales-y ad, but if it looks like something a friend or family member would post, they’re going to engage. We’re into pulling from TikTok, making mashup videos, having the video change every three seconds, having a strong hook, using testimonials, and showing product benefits. The key is to keep changing the video because it’s the only way to keep people’s attention.

Do you think there’s something to be said about keeping Instagram photo-focused? Or should brands just go for video across all platforms?

Video allows you to tell your story. So, from a paid perspective, definitely video. With a static post or carousel, the only way you get more reach is through hashtags or shares. With video content, there’s the opportunity to reach more people just because of the way the algorithm interacts with it. For bigger brands with a community and following, they can post static content and still get the engagement. For a new brand, that video content is the way to reach more people. Get creative with it: find a relatable tweet and put it on a video background, put a photo up with music and text overlay.

What’s your take on putting yourself out there, paying for every impression, and then getting negative comments? Can you just turn it off?

People troll all the time. It’s just normal. What you want to look at are your KPIs, like clickthrough rate. If you’re not getting the CTR, you’re paying too much for the ad, maybe it’s not a good ad. But people troll all the time and the negative comments are normal. Have someone stay in front of it: delete negative comments, engage with the community, block when necessary. On the other hand, a lot of people leave really helpful comments that can then be turned into organic advertising.

How do you feel about constructive criticism or feedback?

We only block complete trolls. But if it’s someone with a real problem, it needs to be addressed. Try to take it off the ad, but definitely respond. This is your community. If you’re not willing to accept the bad with the good, then you’re not really being a good leader, are you?