Hailing from Chicago, Shantel Khleif was ready to launch her second wedding planning location in Atlanta when she stumbled into the social media circuit thanks to an opportunity…from delicious, mouth watering pie. Since then, Khleif’s Imagine Media has helped companies like Tin Lizzy’s and Ashley Furniture Homestore build their brands with likes, tweets, and double taps while simultaneously growing her own startup to a team of six. We sat down with the social media maestro over coffee to talk trends, her kick-ass team, and the pie shop that got it all started.
How did you get started and why did you decide to launch your own social media company here in Atlanta?
Prior to Imagine Media, I was wedding planning in Chicago. I owned a business there and about two years in I had a business partner and friends who were in Atlanta, so I started strategically thinking about the market here for that business and moved with the intent to open a second branch.
It’s funny how it ties together because it started with pie, which had become a really big trend in the wedding space as opposed to cake. I stumbled across a place called Pie Shop in Buckhead and as a customer, I was trying to figure out if they were open that day, what flavors they had, and where they were located, but I couldn’t find any of that information on their page. I also noticed customers writing things but no one was responding. I decided I didn’t want to go in because of the way they were promoting their brand online, but a few weeks later I ended up driving by and stopped in. I had the opportunity to meet the business owner and told her, ‘why don’t I help you get into the wedding space.’
I had also seen the value of social media from my own company and told her I that she should be building relationships online in order for her customers to become brand advocates which is a really strong selling tool. I ended up just asking her if I could handle her social media sites as well and she agreed. She didn’t have the time, bandwidth, or expertise to do it effectively so it really all started from there.
Within that first month, I had two other inquiries from her business page asking who was managing her social media and it was a lightbulb moment for me that there was this niche for small businesses to have a presence online which I could fulfill with a very personal touch.
How has Imagine Media grown since then?
I have six other teammates now and four of those were hired within the last four months, so it has been a quick learning process for us. I found that really honing in on and putting mindfulness behind what our core values are is important. We look strategically for teammates who will not only be the right fit for the role and a fit for the team long-term.
We have also been fortunate to grow our client base mostly by referral. I think that speaks volumes for the team and the work we are providing. We are currently trying to figure out the balancing act of how many people we bring on to support our current workload while also thinking how to scale as we continue growing.
What social media platforms do you find that people use most?
We build custom proposals for every client based on their industry and budget, but we have found the most success with Instagram, largely because of our wonderful photographer who takes great pictures – and a picture can speak volumes and tell such an awesome story. For our larger B2B clients we generally suggest a proposal with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We find that posting regularly on a majority of sites helps contribute to the SEO. Facebook is definitely the go-to people initially think of for social media, so having that presence there when someone searches for you is good, but we’ve seen so much success on Instagram.
How do you stay on top of emerging social media trends and are there any outlets that you think will be viable in the future?
Every Monday we have a “Pump Up the Jams” meeting and talk about social media news so we can all know what’s out there.
There are definitely some platforms on our radar, but none are catching on like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or Facebook. I have a feeling that with the Instagram changes in the works there will another platform that will pop up and promise to stay away from advertising which people will gravitate towards because they are over the amount of advertising happening on social media. I’m also very interested in seeing how video makes a play in the social media space. Video is definitely the future.
What are common issues you notice companies face with their social media presence?
Most of our business owners know they need to be active on social media channels but not quite sure which platforms their demographic favors. Once we guide them through the process and suggest platforms, the most common issue we notice is that they expect immediate results, regarding follower increase and engagement. It’s our job to educate our business owners throughout the process, set KPIs, and coach them on the importance of consistency and strategy. Everyone wants that ‘viral cat video’ moment right away and it’s important to stress quality, not quantity, and educate their team about the value of multiple impressions.
What are your tips for creating a better social media presence/ how can people strengthen their presence?
The first and most important step in the launch process is understanding their brand voice and customer profile. If they can answer the tough questions like, ‘what is your unique selling proposition? what sets you apart from the competition and who are your competitors, and where does your customer shop, drive, read, etc.’ they will be in a better spot and have a more clear vision of who they are trying to speak to and what message they are trying to relay.
I’ve also found these tips helpful:
- Test when your users are online and post content during those optimal times
- 80/20 rule: 80% of your content should be created to educate and inspire your reader, 20% can be product or service related. The harder you sell on social media the farther away your audience will retreat.
- Leverage partnerships, influencer campaigns, and cross promotions to help spread the word
Have you found that there are a lot of social media marketers here and if so, how do you stand out?
All of our competitors offer great services but we differ from them in a couple of different ways. We have a photographer in-house which a lot of people outsource, use Canva, or have their clients send them content. We create all our content from our imagery to our copy. We also have a small team and we don’t pretend to be a huge agency so they get that hands-on touch. They get 6 brains on their account, instead of maybe 1 intern and 1 senior account rep that has a million other things to do too which can happen in larger agencies. We are small but mighty!