It's all about personality

Photo of Sarah Timmerman from Beginning Boutique

Case study: Beginning Boutique

Online business entrepreneur Sarah Timmerman doesn't baulk at an opportunity. In 2007, when her parents offered her the choice between a gala 21st or a trip to Paris, she jumped straight on a plane, jetting off on her dream holiday and a rendezvous with business destiny.

As a young woman exploring France's retail delights, Sarah was struck by the uniqueness of her shopping experiences. They offered something different from the generic department stores in her hometown of Brisbane. Sarah was especially impressed by the skill of Parisian sales staff and their dedication to creating a 'cool shopping experience'.

'I wanted to do that in Brisbane. I started looking for a shop space ... but it was all so expensive. My friend suggested going online,' Sarah said.

Sarah saw a niche for an online shop that not only offered affordable, fashion-forward clothing and accessories, but the essence of a cool customer experience. And so Beginning Boutique (BB) was born.

For an online store whose main customers are tech-savvy women aged 18-24, it's not surprising to learn that social media has played a key role in BB's rise to 'raddest online store in Australia'.

'Social media has played a valuable part in achieving brand recognition. BB spends a lot of energy engaging, satisfying and - most importantly - listening to our customers,' Sarah said.

For Sarah, creating a cool experience for her customers is all about 'building a community' - an ethos that is reflected in her business's marketing plan and vision statement:

'Our most important value for Beginning Boutique is being a family.'

To harness this sense of community, Sarah uses the full spectrum of social media - with Facebook and Instagram the main tools that champion BB's personality and connect with customers.

'There's nothing more boring than following a channel that is just spitting out bland, uninteresting posts. You need a personality that's vibrant and real. Consequently, Beginning's personality is very resonant of my own personality. I'm a pretty normal girl for my age - I like fashion and holidays, good food and inspirational people - which fits with our brand and speaks to our customers.'

But cultivating a distinct personality and tapping into your customers' needs does take a lot of work.

'I think some businesses underestimate how much effort social media can take. I run our Facebook and that probably takes 4-5 hours a day. One of the girls at work is paid 5 hours a week to look after Instagram, and then we all kind of pitch in around all the other social media,' Sarah said.

'Listening to your audience is probably the most important part of creating a community and what takes the most amount of time. Pretty much everything we post is a question, and you have to really focus on what people are saying and answer their questions.'

Sarah describes BB's Facebook schedule as 'intensive', with 12 Facebook posts per day (starting at 7.30am and wrapping up at 10pm).

'With Facebook we do 50% inspirational posts and 50% product posts. Business doesn't always have to be about selling a product.'

Sarah's creed that the business of social media should be fun is based on a carefully defined strategy, and this has led BB right to the front of the online retail queue.

Sarah's social media tips:

  1. It's all about personality.
  2. Be consistent.
  3. Be original.
  4. Listen to your audience.
  5. Decide on a posting schedule.

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