Tapping into Consumer Needs to Build a Modern-Day Content Strategy: An Interview with Alyssa Santoli of Vitamix

Alyssa Santoli is the Manager of PR and social media at Vitamix and has over 10 years experience in social and digital marketing. She has brought insight from many different industries to her current role at Vitamix, including social and content marketing experience from her time spent in the finance industry. She is currently strengthening the social and content marketing practices at Vitamix and shifting how the brand comes to life by putting a focus on social media when it comes to their marketing, brand and customer experience efforts.

We had the opportunity to ask Alyssa a few questions about her career and the session she’s presenting on Feb. 5 at the Social Media Strategies Summit, “Trending Topics: Tapping into Consumer Needs to Build a Modern-Day Content Strategy.” During the session you will learn how to leverage consumer insights to build a social brand content strategy, monitor and identify trends, and create a plan for “on-the-fly” content on social.

What is your definition of a modern and approachable social media identity for brands?

For me, this is really all about making sure that you’re striking a balance between giving your consumers what they’re looking for from your brand and the values that the organization holds dear. When you do both of those things, I find that engagement on social channels is naturally high and your audience is generally happy.

I also think a brand’s approach to social customer care is critical here. If you come across robotic or seem to not care about the challenges a customer might be having with your product or service, that instantly takes away the approachability of the brand on social. We hold customer care in high regard across the board at Vitamix, so translating this to social is something that came naturally to us as a company!

What are some tips you have for social media marketers starting to look to their consumers for trends and insights?

My biggest tip is to find a tool that can act as a partner in finding that valuable data and making it readily available to you. Otherwise, you could be stuck digging through anecdotal feedback for months! At Vitamix, we leverage Sprinklr, which uses a mix of AI and manual tagging on inbound messages to tell us what people are talking about on our social channels on any given day, week, month, etc.

Another tip that we often use in all of our marketing content creation is to tap into consumer feedback from our contact center. They are a wealth of information on some of the major questions they get on a regular basis from the people actively using our machines. That insight has actually been the basis of two large-scale content campaigns for us: Tips & Tricks and My Vitamix 30. Both of these were based on feedback that many users weren’t going beyond smoothies with their Vitamix for a variety of reasons. Both of these campaigns are among our most successful in the last year or so.

Can you walk us through a day in the life in your role at Vitamix? Are there any must-have tools that you use regularly?

Oh gosh, this is a tough one! Most of my days start by checking in with Sprinklr to make sure that we’re not overwhelmed by customer messages and are staffed appropriately to handle all the cases coming through. Knowing how powerful social care can be to brand health, my team and I are constantly checking the pulse of that to make sure we’re being responsive and engaging with our owners on social media.

In addition to the social care opportunities, I also spend a lot of time digging into our post performance and seeing if there are any good engagement opportunities for social or PR, which I also manage. I’ll often come in to the office to a post or DM from someone notable (one morning it was Antoni Porowski!) and figuring out our approach to a response can take time.

From there, a lot of my time is spent collaborating with my team and other groups within marketing at the company. We are constantly brainstorming new ways to be creative with our brand on social media (and of course, other channels!) and making sure that we’re all talking about similar topics across our brand touchpoints. Staying connected in a world that moves so quickly is half the battle!

Are there any examples of “on-the-fly” content you’ve created that you’re especially proud of? Are there any situations where an idea fell flat and what you learned from it?

One of my absolute favorite posts that we pulled together in about 30 minutes was one in response to the #10YearChallenge that took over Instagram and Facebook early last year. I had only been at the company for a few months when one of our designers sent me a post on the topic. We messaged over Skype about how we might approach it, I dug into the archives (we’re nearly 100 years old!) and found an even older photo and she threw that photo into a side-by-side shot next to one of our newest models. That post is still our best-performing one on Instagram to date!

In terms of trending content that fell flat, I would have to say one that we tried on Instagram during the Super Bowl (err, Big Game, I should say) didn’t do as well as I thought it would. We pitted our Not-So Cheese recipe against our Salsa recipe and because we couldn’t explicitly call out the Super Bowl or tap into that chatter, it didn’t take off like we thought it might.

How have you seen social media and PR best practices evolve through your career, and where do you see the marketing industry in the new decade?

Social media has changed so much over the last decade! It’s unreal; when I started my career social media was a scrappy marketing channel that got little to no love from marketers. It was really incredible to start watching social “come of age” in my first couple of years working in marketing. When I transitioned from the non-profit world to banking, paid social had just started to emerge and algorithms became something to really pay attention to.

Before 2015 or so, there were trends towards posting as much as you could, not monitoring social customer care comments/posts, and simply re-using other marketing materials on social media in a resized format. Today, the opposite is true: you strategically calculate your posts and cadence, diligently monitor and respond to customer service needs, and create content unique to social. It’s been a huge 180 from being almost an afterthought to leading the pack when it comes to marketing.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?

I absolutely love my job, so this question is a tough one! I think in terms of general social media challenges it’s really a lack of expertise among stakeholders and partners that make it more difficult than you’d imagine. Because almost every person in an organization or department uses social media daily, there is often a misconception that running brand social accounts is “easy” or that social teams just “sit on Facebook all day.” . They often don’t understand the vast amounts of work and manpower it takes to build a strong brand social strategy and create the content necessary to actually keep it alive. It’s still viewed as the “silver bullet” of marketing, which can sometimes be frustrating.

What’s something you wish you knew when you started in this industry?

When I started in the social media world, I had no idea how big and all-consuming the channels would become. I wish I would have known how many options there would be out there and how popular they all would be. Understanding that the boom of organic social wouldn’t last would have also been nice!

Catch Alyssa Santoli at the Social Media Strategies Summit in San Francisco from Feb. 4-6, 2020.
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