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How To Build Your Own League Of Devoted Social Media Followers

Tiffany Loh
Smarter Writer

Tiffany Loh is the Smarter Business™ & News and Digital Editor, with varied writing experience always looking for a unique story

Tiffany Loh
Smarter Writer

Tiffany Loh is the Smarter Business™ & News and Digital Editor, with varied writing experience always looking for a unique story

Cameron Parker, Black Milk's head of marketing, shares his tips for growing your business just by using social media.

From starting on founder and designer James Lillis’ kitchen table, the Brisbane-based online retailer Black Milk has grown into a multi-million dollar success with over 150 employees in its four short years of operation.

The business, which is best known for their patterned leggings and Star Wars and Lord of the Rings printed swimsuits, credits their strong social media presence to the business' rapid growth.

The man behind Black Milk's Facebook Page which is followed by a massive 425,000 fans is their head of marketing Cameron Parker, who was also one of the company's first employees. 

Ahead of his appearance at the Online Retailer Conference and eCommerce Expo, we caught up the marketing genius, who shares how you, too, can grow your customer base using social media - no marketing budget required!

black milk founder in the street


Think of Your Customers as Friends

While this may not initially seem related to overcoming hurdles like the inability to try on clothing and delivery lags, in a digital age where online friendships are not unusual, see your customers as friends and they will do the same. It's important as an online retailer to build trust. If your friend tells you, “Yes, this will fit, and we’ll get it to you as fast as possible” and they mean it – you trust them. You believe them. And you buy the clothes. 

By forming honest, genuine friendships with our customers we can talk them through their doubts. Be accessible, reply as quickly as possible, and do for your customers what you would do for your friends.

Thousands of ‘Sharkies’ – what we call fans - from around the world use product hashtags when sharing a photo on Facebook or Instagram. We pull these pics and show them off under the products, we love to show our appreciation for their support and they love seeing their image up on our site. We create a friendship, we see them as friends rather than customers.

Focus on What You'd Like if You Were the Customer

Cool clothes, fast turnaround times and customer service, that’s what our customer genuinely cares about. When Black Milk first started we had no money to market our products. We use our social media channels to build an incredibly loyal following, who in turn become a global sales force wearing and showing off our unique products on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

Anywhere Your Customer Is, You Should Also Be Present

We use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and Pinterest to make sure we’re having a conversation with our customers.  

Rather than trying to market our products or attract engagement, we see our social media platforms as an avenue to show our fans what we think is cool, and chat to them about anything from what size they should get to their favourite type of cake.  

We open our door and show them the people who make their clothes. We like to think the more they know, the more they care.

Storytelling is Incredibly Important

We have a team who manage the our social media pages. They are fans, they wear the gear, so there is a genuine relationship with each conversation with our customers. 

Our founder and designer James joins in on the conversation when talking about new products. Customers love the fact that they can talk directly to the designer and tell them what they like (or don’t like) about our designs. 

Social media is where we listen, gain a great understanding and insight into what we should do as a brand. Many of our top selling products have been direct requests from customers.  

We inspire customer loyalty by storytelling and creating genuine online friendships with every step of the way - from the confirmation email which really shows off the Black Milk voice, rather than a stock email, and the product descriptions to the swing tags. At every point of the customer experience we tell a story. After purchasing a piece they are now part of a club affectionately known as “Sharkies”.

There are over 60 meet groups around the world where our customers can talk about their special piece and share their experiences. These groups foster ‘enablers’ where one girl might have purchased a piece, fallen in love with it and has told everyone they HAVE to buy it. She’s posted a ton of pics wearing it to show how amazing it looks. 

We have lots of activities, from brunch sessions to mothers group meetings, to make sure we foster this tribe of women. We value our customers as real friends, so they know they’re going to be looked after with us. We always try to go above and beyond with every interaction.

You Need to Constantly Create, Release, and Refresh

We’re constantly creating new gear, releasing a new range every month of about 40 to 60 pieces. 

There is always something new to look at on our website. We’re lucky that everything is made right here in Brisbane so we don’t have to order huge amount from overseas, China specifically. We do very limited and exclusive runs so our customer knows they have something special and unique. 

Our website is very close to a complete refresh, which is actually long overdue. The new website will focus on showing more of the Black Milk story and bringing the team to life, and will include lots of new features customers have been begging for.

Make Sure Every Employee Is the Right Person Doing the Right Job

It’s important to us that everyone takes great pride in their work, and shares the Black Milk vision. 

When you have a quality team whose goals are aligned, hurdles like maintaining your brand personality and dealing with hectic workloads are a lot easier to overcome. It hasn’t been easy starting a fashion label in Brisbane where there hasn’t really been an industry here. 

Some of our greatest achievements include the success of our Star Wars range and we’re really excited about our upcoming Harry Potter release. We bought the rights to use images print them on our swimsuits, and the hype for their release is already building.

Reach Out and Ask for Feedback 

We get two groups of people to trial new products before they’re released. The first being our employees - they’re are all fans of the brand and they all wear our gear. They’re perfect fit models as they’re all different shapes and sizes, just like our customer, and have wealth of knowledge about our product and know what to look out for when testing.

We also use social media to show sneak peeks of pieces we’re working on, that very quickly lets us we know if we’re on the right track. The ‘Sharkie’ groups are also a great opportunity to send new gear to wear and test. They love the opportunity to see it first and provide feedback. It’s one of the massive benefits of having such a close relationship with our customers.

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