For the upcoming Social Media Strategies Summit in Chicago, I’m at work putting together a full speaker line-up of brand marketers coming to share their stories of how they’re packing a real punch with their social media and content strategy. One of these speakers is Stacie Grissom, the head of content at BarkBox: the company creating a next-generation brand for dogs and dog people through their monthly subscription of dog goodies. She let me pick her brain about what it’s like working at BarkBox and how her team sets themselves up for success in video.
Tell us a little bit about your journey at BarkBox. You were employee #3 in 2012. BarkBox has seen tremendous growth since then. How has your role changed over the years as the company has expanded?
The company is 350 employees now with an office in NYC as well as Columbus, Ohio! When I joined the company we all fit into a tiny windowless room in Chinatown, NYC. My role back then included everything from running to the post office to answering customer support emails while I got the beginnings of our content and social media plans off the ground. Today I run the content team that produces our social, video, and copy content for BarkBox. It’s been such a fun challenge for me to try and keep up with the growth of the company as it’s evolved over the years, the pace definitely pushed me beyond what I ever thought I was capable of over 5 years ago.
Engaging content is at the forefront of the BarkBox marketing strategy. Can you tell us about the structure of your marketing team, and how that has enabled your content initiatives to thrive?
At BarkBox we have a bit of a unique approach to the structure of our content and marketing teams. The content team is a completely separate group from marketing that reports up to the founder, Henrik Werdelin, who is responsible for all things creative.
From the beginning, we’ve operated under the philosophy that for people to be interested in our message or products, our strategy must focus on entertainment over selling. If you look at the entire landscape of content that we put out in the world, it’s around 80% content completely unrelated to BarkBox and 20% content involving our product. We rarely post promotions on our organic channels and reserve that for paid channels that the marketing team runs. I believe this is a huge part of our success because we’ve been able to create a party atmosphere where an audience wants to hang. The content team is the DJ, the marketing team is the party promoters.
Your team produced the catchy Dog Mom Rap in May of last year, Dog Dad love song in June, followed by the Holiday Anthem in December. BarkBox clearly has a good grasp on their target audience. How does the BarkBox team work to leverage customer insights to produce video ideas like these?
A huge part of our success in our more viral content is that I’ve always prioritized hiring dog-obsessed comedians over more traditional writers or folks with a marketing background. Humor is such a difficult yet powerful tool to connect with an audience and since I think dogs are the funniest creatures on the planet it was a natural direction to pursue in our content from the beginning.
When we set out to write something like our musical comedy pieces, we pull insights and successes from the 100+ pieces of micro-content that we put up each week. (Micro-content includes things like pictures, user-generated community videos, and dog stories that we produce.) If a piece of content performs well and connects with folks as a small moment, we will produce something higher lift around that insight and it usually pays off.
What are your top 5 social media tools, marketing blogs or resources that you couldn’t imagine living without?
- Simply Measured for tracking engagement data week over week
- SocialFlow for scheduling posts at the appropriate time
- Google Sheets for keeping everything organized
- Crowdtangle for recognizing trending content
- As for resources, I love Later.com’s blog for Instagram info and Newscred for content marketing news.
What is one of the biggest challenges BarkBox is tackling right now in terms of content strategy?
I’d say that our biggest challenge at the moment is definitely being at the mercy of social media platforms all the time. I’m not sure what Facebook’s latest algorithm announcement means for us but it’s just another moment that shows how important it is that my team stays nimble and able to change strategies quickly and efficiently. As a team, we must stay curious and catch ourselves the moment we get set in our ways because our jobs can change in one algorithm update.
What are some of the most exciting shifts you’ve seen over the years in how consumers interact with your content?
One of the most exciting things to me is watching the performance of our original content start to pick up some traction and make an impact for our engagement and overall reach. While telling dog stories from our community and network will always be our bread and butter with things like subscriber features and uplifting dog moments, it’s always been a challenge to get our produced stuff to work as well as a video of a beagle stealing chicken nuggets from a toaster. I feel like we are starting to understand our larger audience of dog people and their tastes for humor and silliness and that is so exciting to me.
Don’t miss Stacie’s presentation in Chicago, where she’ll share the story of how BarkBox uses video to engage with a passionate community of dog people. Check out details here.