5 Ways Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) Brands Can Exploit Social Channels

Josh Zhang
April 20, 2022

Part of creating long-lasting, iconic direct-to-consumer brands involves smart, innovative marketing strategies. These strategies capitalize on every possible growth hack that can get your eCommerce brand in front of more target customers at low-costs.

You've probably seen some of these growth tactics at play from the many DTC brands in your daily life. Warby Parker, Glossier, Bonobos, Dollar Shave Club, Everlane, and Allbirds are just a few noteworthy consumer companies that have harnessed the power of social media and raised brand awareness in so many successful ways.

DTC brands that have seen success usually have a smart marketer on their team. The smartest marketers typically have one of two traits:

  • They are “first movers” on new platforms understanding how to exploit them in an impactful way.
  • They “hack” platforms and capture attention in unique ways.

Early-adopters of new social media networks will be the first to reap all the benefits. In a platform’s infancy, it can be like the goldrush. Brands with a consumer model who get there first will be able to carve out their stake and leave their mark. They can create native content for the platform that other brands look towards as inspiration.

In addition, they can find and exploit loopholes on networks to grow a large following before algorithm changes take place. With Casper, the brand disrupting legacy brands in the mattress industry, and Outdoor Voices connecting with millennials through their social channels, DTC brands are getting their product line in front of their customers' eyes.

In this post, I’ll share how D2C companies can hack their social media growth and exploit emerging digital marketing channels.

1. Syndicate influencer content on TikTok

If you’re targeting a younger demographic, you need to be on TikTok. At first glance, you might think TikTok is only valuable for beauty products, eyewear, and skincare products. However, if you're targeting a younger demographic, it can be the perfect way to attract loyal customers.

TikTok is the most downloaded app of 2020 with over 30 million monthly active users in the United States alone. One key takeaway to note, though, is that you shouldn’t launch on a new social channel without a unique strategy.

Creating high-quality content for TikTok is different from any other platform you’ve probably published on. TikToks are all about entertainment—how your D2C brand can tell a story that keeps fans' attention over 15 seconds in a way that’s unique and memorable. Most TikToks are edited with added audio, overlays, graphics, text, and more.

For most brands, there’s a learning curve for publishing on TikTok. That’s why I recommend partnering with TikTok creators as you navigate the platform.  They’ve already mastered it. Not only will their posts drive traffic to your profile, but you’ll also see how their style of content drives fan engagement.

Proper Wild partnered with TikTok creators, who tried their new products and shared content on their personal accounts. This strategy exposed their brand and profile to new audiences while providing the team with great content to repost. Christian Glam Lopez’s TikTok featured him taping Proper Wild to his forehead and pouring it in a martini glass. The video resulted in 1.8 million views. It is the most viewed video on the Proper Wild page.

Proper Wild mixes original content with influencer content on their profile as they begin ramping up their creative efforts. If you don’t know where to start on TikTok, partnering with creators can alleviate some of the hassles of producing regular TikToks on a routine basis. As always, you can evolve your strategy based on customer feedback you get along the way.

2. Add trending audio to your TikToks

Bono. Madonna. Eminem. Adele. Celebrities known only by their first name are icons of their respective industries. The same goes for social media. Influencers snatching a first-name-only handle on emerging platforms get a competitive advantage. It’s easy to remember. Many people will search for it. It’s a foundation for a strong personal brand. Combine all that with an engaging personality and native content, and you’ve got a star.

Enter: @Cosette, the queen of TikTok who has 2.2 million followers.

It takes a special type of talent to get 2.2 million followers, so I asked Cosette to share one of her secrets for growing her fanbase. She recommended that brands add a trending audio track to their TikToks to improve their chances of being discovered by browsing fans on TikTok’s featured audio page.

“By putting a trending sound on low volume or mute in the background, your video now has another way of being discovered. The more ways your video can be discovered (through hashtags, audio pages, or tags), the more chance of success you have,” she says.

3. Publish branded GIFs on GIPHY

Brand awareness is a challenge for new DTC brands. When you’re first starting off, you need to capitalize on all available real estate to showcase your brand. GIPHY is surprisingly helpful for brand discovery, mostly due to its integration with Instagram.

To take advantage of the platform, create branded GIFs, and upload them to GIPHY. Make sure they’re listed as public. Tag brands, actions, and phrases that are related to your product. For example, Quip, the toothbrush brand disrupting oral health, can targeting "brushing your teeth" as a keyword on GIPHY. When someone searches for those keywords, they’ll see their GIF too. Now, you’re able to get your product directly in front of your target audience. And best of all, brand awareness is free.

For example, if you search for “Soul Cycle,” a GIF of a Hydrant drink packet will appear. But the magic doesn’t stop there. This isn’t just for those searching on GIPHY.com. If you open a new Instagram Story, you can GIF search for “Soul Cycle” directly in the app and you’ll see a Hydrant GIF-making your content available to be widely shared by fans in their personal stories and other user-generated content.

4. Create shareable content for dark social

One of the most important social metrics is shares. Shares show whether or not your content is resonating. When someone shares your content, they attach their name to it. It shows up on their wall or in their story. If your content links to a landing page, this is gold.

But what about the shares that don’t happen directly on a social media platform?

Dark social refers to the shares that happen off the platform—through text, apps, or even by showing content to your friend on your phone. Brands need to create content that is specifically designed to take advantage of dark social. When designing, think about how likely your fans share a specific image or video with friends. Ask yourself, “Would your fans want to show this post to their friends? Will they screenshot it and send it to them?”

Cha Cha Matcha shared an infographic that focused on small changes their fans could do to save the planet. This content was on-brand without being overtly promotional. It could be easily screenshotted and sent to a friend, pinned, or republished on another site. Once it is shared, the Cha Cha Matcha brand will be attached and natively woven into the conversation.

A dark social content strategy is an underutilized strategy across social media. Brands need to create more content that’s not only relevant to their followers but also something their followers could easily share with a friend—online or offline.

5. Answer FAQs in a secondary Instagram account

Instagram is no longer a nice-to-have platform for brands. It’s essential. Every brand should have its own Instagram presence, whether or not their only goal is using the platform to acquire new customers. In fact, it even makes sense to have two accounts.

Brands should use a secondary Instagram account to post informational videos that answer FAQs. Tag each FAQ explanation with a very specific #hashtag that no one else would use. When someone asks the question, link them to the answer by dropping the #hashtag in the comments.

This can be helpful when fans comment on ads with questions. You can have specific information regarding products at various price points, information on how to cancel your subscription service, and even which retailers and brick-and-mortar stores are carying your product. Instead of spelling out the answer multiple times, you can mention the corresponding hashtag, leading them to a grid with a couple of explainer videos. You'll be able to answer their question right there with a video, versus saying "DM us for info" or "We'd love to look into this for you." This enables you to create a frictionless customer experience.

Sharp-shooters on social

Brands need to be among the first movers to take advantage of new channels. By arriving first, they can lead the way with content, bypassing the middlemen, and connecting with new audiences immediately.

No matter what kind of business model you have, it's important to have a tested social media strategy full of social growth hacks to drive purchases online and in traditional retailers.

To take advantage of social growth hacks, brands can syndicate influencer content, add trending audio, publish branded GIFs, create for dark social, and answer FAQs with hashtags.

These tips, among many others, will drive growth for brands looking for low-cost ways to take advantage of the networks that their customers love.