Kelsey Van Der Merwe Talks About Social Media Marketing & SEO
Welcome to the Marketing Lego Thought Leader Interview. Today, we will speak with Kelsey Van Der Merwe, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of UNTAMED Creative Society, about her journey and how she came up with her marketing agency. We will also discuss valuable insights on social media marketing campaigns, SEO, and more.
Hi everyone. Welcome to today’s marketing legos. My name is Harshit, and I’m the Director of Business Alliances of two brilliant marketing SaaS tools, RankWatch and WebSignals. We’ve Kelsey Van Der Merwe today. She’s the co-founder of a marketing agency, UNTAMED Creative Society. Hi, Kelsey, welcome aboard. I’m so happy to have you.
Hi, Harshit. Thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited to be here and chat about everything about marketing.
Perfect. So, Kelsey, your journey has been quite fascinating. I would love to hear your story and your journey so far. You carried many years of teaching as well as marketing experience with you. Please share with me more about it.
Cool. Yeah, my journey has been an interesting one. The exciting thing is that even when I studied, digital marketing wasn’t a thing. We had the start of social media and that thing. So, even where I am today, I couldn’t have studied what I do now, which is super interesting. But obviously, I have a marketing background. I did my Masters in marketing, which is how I fell in love with people. That’s the big thing for me. I love trying to understand behaviour, predict behaviour, how people engage and interact, and that thing. While I was studying, I started to work in different companies and different spaces. I did much freelancing along the way, which gave me experience in the marketing field. But obviously, education is a massive part of my passion. And so, after we found it, UNTAMED, it was a thing for me to keep closing the gap between education here in South Africa, what people learn in the classroom, and what they will do in business one day. Much of my experience is bridging the gap between those two.
We’re a fully-fledged digital marketing company. We started just as a social media agency. We found that people were looking for more, and there was a gap in the market to say, Hey, all of these elements are important, but we can help people bring them together. That’s how UNTAMED went from social media into a digital marketing agency. We can do web design and branding and all of that, and people are looking for it. That is a little bit of our story. I’m still involved in education in different tertiary education institutes in South Africa. It’s important to constantly create a curriculum and try to help develop education and make it relevant. That’s a big thing for people studying and finding the bridge between when they start working. We love education as well as UNTAMED, so it’s cool.
That’s brilliant. Let’s talk more about the service offerings of the agency. As you mentioned, you started with social media expertise, the agency’s core, and then built the agency into a so-called stack marketing service offering. Let’s talk about it because there’s so much you do.
Yes, our services have been like this for the past two years because we’re about to be two and a half years old. Part of this thing was going through what we offered here. In digital marketing, it is not easy. There’s so much to it. It cannot be easy to define precisely. With our services, we focus on digital marketing as the overarching thing. We have a marketing strategy, which has been artworks in which we have SEO strategies and social media marketing management. That’s a big one. We have website development, brand development, and creative and consulting. We love consulting. We love partnering with small businesses and educating people because, frequently, we find that businesses have a marketing person. However, they need to learn how to do digital marketing, or they need to learn how to implement things into social media. Frequently, we’ll set up consulting contracts to teach and train the people already in place to do their jobs. In a tiny nutshell, that’s what we do, and it’s worked in many different ways, but those are the core services we offer.
I got you. What is the typical customer journey in your agency? What processes are in place, and what is the agency’s current hierarchy?
In terms of the process and the client journey, the nature of who we are, most of our clients we find online, or they find us online. But how it goes is we’ll have a discovery call or a meeting with the customer. It’s always essential for us. We want to determine the client’s needs and whether we can fulfill them. In the years, we’ve said yes to many things and figured it out, but now we know how best to meet a client’s needs. That discovery call or meeting is to try and figure out precisely what they need, which frequently it’ll take one or two consulting sessions to get out of them because, a lot of the time, they don’t know how to put it into words or precisely what they need. However, they’ll think, Oh, our social media, and we need to figure out what to do or what we should post. We spend a couple of consulting sessions with them to figure out what they need so that we can pull time and resources into where they need to go.
Then we start from there. We’ll go through weekly check-ins. We create all the content. We work mainly on Google, so everything is there. Most of our comms go through WhatsApp. Just because it’s quicker, we like to work quickly. If there is something a client wants to know, they can then contact us directly, and we then share content strategies, all of that, and review that weekly and a meeting with them, which then gets shorter the longer they’re with us and the more we get to know each other. But that first month is probably the most; we always say it’s frustratingly beautiful because we have to figure everything out together, and we’re constantly bugging, Okay, we need this, we need that, that thing. But as you start to find synergy, it becomes more accessible, and obviously, meetings become less frequent, and we then review and constantly measure with clients.
What’s the nature of the clients again? Is it more or less agreeing to the revenue cycle for the agency and the clients, or is it much more involved in the one-time services?
No, it’s more consistent. We’re huge on organic growth, and for that reason, sustainability and it’s a very long-term thing. For most of our clients, we’re okay to do a one-saw, but they must understand that organic marketing is critical to sustainability. The last thing we want to encourage them to do is do a once-off, spend a ton of money on paid ads or whatever it is, and then flop at the end. With us, we’re constantly trying to build a long side and explain the importance of actual sustainability for the long term. Because many people want to go viral, they want now; they want these things, but there needs to be sustainability in the long run.
You’re doing so many things. There must be one favourite digital marketing niche that you love working with. What is that?
It’s content marketing. That’s partly because that’s really what people engage with. That’s what you tend to see when people fall in love with content. That way, I can also be educational. I work mainly with social media marketing in our company, but content marketing is my favourite thing to work with. It is also really challenging because content is constantly changing. Same with social media; it’s just a constant thing. It also pushes my creative side to say, How can I engage and relate to where consumers are?
Perfect. That’s the love for HubSpot also. Hubspot partner as well.
Let’s talk more about how you keep your team educated with the new changes because digital marketing is usually social media that is frequently evolving. Once TikTok came in. Now, it’s one of the biggest things. How do you keep yourself and your team informed about the new developments in this niche?
You can only operate in the digital space if you are up-to-date. It is quite evident. I’ve explained it once, and sometimes it feels like you’re just running on a treadmill, but the treadmill speeds up. That’s digital for you because things are just constantly going on. But for us, it’s essential. We focus on staying current through specific channels and following certain people. The head of Instagram will tell us first what the changes will be. We have certain accounts that, just from the get-go, will constantly follow, and they are high in our algorithm because we do, I want to say, respond, but we do go there often. For example, Adam Missouri is the head of Instagram. Without a doubt, I’ll constantly follow him. I’ll follow Instagram creators. When something happens, I’ll look for critical people I know; they will tell us it’s here first. That’s important, and finding it on different platforms to say these are the accounts to follow.
My business partner is Brazilian, and she gets news in five minutes. It’s one email; it’s all the digital news packed into it. It’s in Portuguese, so I can’t understand, but she relays it. That’s every day. We are constantly researching online. Part of what many people need to see in digital marketing is the amount of hours they will research. For us, we spend hours researching. I start my morning going, Okay, what is the news? What is happening? How are things going? Because it changes so quickly, you can’t know. That’s practical, knowing whom to follow, where you’ll find the most accurate information, and where you’ll find it first.
Okay, fine. There are so many things related to social media. You have worked with multiple brands over the years. I would love to know the most successful social media campaign you have run organically. What were the excellent metrics that helped you decide that this worked well for you? That way of doing it?
For us, one of the accounts is a coffee shop. When we started with them, they had zero budgets. They didn’t have a budget for anything. And so it was a project that we took on. We grew their account organically, but grew to about 4,000 people within. It was about two or three years. But the fantastic thing is that those 4,000 people were actively engaged with the brand. And I’m cautious of numbers. So, metrics for me, my engagements, and based on how many followers I have, what my engagement looks like, that’s far more important for me. And for them, what we saw is just like the people that followed them; those were real customers like they converted. We see the changes. That was cool because that was from the ground up. Besides that, we see quite a bit of success with our brand accounts. So, people that are speakers or authors, that thing, where we just what we’ve managed to do is take all the content they have available and put that into a sustainable social media plan and see how that works.
Because then you start to see the sales of books or seeking events. For different clients, they’re different wins. If they are selling books, then that’s a win for them. But that’s not the case for everyone. The personal branding accounts; we have a few of those, and those are pretty fun to build and grow.
Kelsey, the point you mentioned is that the engagement rate is one of the primary tracks. That is so true… for the fact that just like the example that you shared, the coffee shop, the engagement rate is excellent because it increases the chances of repurchase from that reach. Many marketers ignore and change the number of followers. The engagement rate is much more significant and increases than the following.
Yeah, I agree. So often, if you don’t understand metrics, and this is what we have to explain to many clients because they want to know, Okay, why don’t we have thousands and thousands of followers? But I always say I would rather have ten followers and those ten followers are buying from you and engaging with you, and you’re at the top of their minds. Then hundreds of thousands will buy from you, and you’ll get a tiny portion out of it.
What are the primary tools of your agency when it comes to social media marketing? As you mentioned, the engagement rate is something that you actively measure. Are there any other metrics that are their primary marketing for clients?
We look at different reaches and that thing. We are big on Google Analytics; because we do SEO, there’s a lot of Google Console. We want to make sure that those analytics read. Anything really like we are constantly reading metrics on the website or social media, whatever it is. For us, learning to understand what you’re reading is essential. I see that all that is going to help. For example, if we’re looking at our audience to understand who to appeal to, or at least who we are appealing to if we need to branch into a new segment, those metrics are critical to us so that we know, okay, we’re hitting home on the audience, we should be, and not just putting out content for no reason. Then, in terms of social media tools, we love Later. Later is one of our favourite tools. They just set people up for a win. In terms of scheduling and that thing, but also in terms of what’s happening, especially on TikTok and Instagram, they’re great resources, and they are really for creators. Later is amazing. We look at metrics and everything on our Facebook Insights and use Creator Studio to create different content. And Canva is excellent.
We have Illustrators and InDesign, that thing. But for us, Canva creates a space where we can use what we have from InDesign and pull it into Canva to create something extraordinary, animated, fun, whatever it is. Then also, InShot. Inshot is excellent for quick editing for TikTok or Reel. It just makes for a quick editing. It’s one of the best quick video editing software there is.
Okay. Apart from this, because you’ve been working at the niche for so long, were there any horror stories where the train was mad or went mad? Anything that you would like to share with us?
In terms of horror stories, most of them will come out of brand development, interesting enough. Far more than anything digital marketing or social media related. When you’re trying to establish a brand, people often have ideas about what they want it to look like. We did one or two brand developments for clients, and we’d be nice and give them a discount. Those brands turned out to be the most demanding clients that we’ve had. I learned that it was not easy, mainly because we thought as a young company, when we just started, we were like, We’re being nice. We’re offering you a discount. They feel like they’re getting more. Anyway, they felt like that entitled them to our number one package. I learned early on not to give discounts but to watch your words throughout because when we have tried to create a deal or help someone, those points were frequently the most difficult. Be very careful with discounting services.
Kelsey, since you’ve been way too involved in SEO, one of your areas of expertise has always been social media marketing. How vital do social signals are, and how do they impact? As you know, much debate goes on with marketing, whether it impacts marketing or not. I’ve seen it with my own experience. That is something that works and triggers. But I would love to know your experience as well. What do you think?
Yes. With most things like SEO or marketing, there’s always a debate. People are constantly debating something. And with social signals, I think that the likes, comments, engagement, share, that thing. It might not directly impact your SEO. In other words, Google has a Google algorithm. They have rules they have in terms of trying to keep up with where Google is. But I still think it helps. I’m 100% one of the people who think it impacts your SEO. It is the way that you can… We always say you can’t look at anything in isolation. So me, social media, and SEO, I can use social media to the best of my ability to boost my SEO. Thus, the social signals that our content is receiving can help. It is a powerful tool. And if you understand how everything integrates, it could be silly not to ensure your website is linked with whatever you’re doing on social media. Social signals are super important.
All right. We’re coming to an end. I want to ask you the very last question of this session. Please share some valuable tips for a new business, especially. What are the beginner’s things that they can use and benefit from? When it comes to social media.
Yes. The first thing to say to small businesses is that you have to start somewhere. In social media, people overthink things a lot. I understand why because the digital landscape is like that. You don’t know, should I do this? Shouldn’t I do this? My encouragement is always to say, start somewhere. You’re going to have to start. As opposed to waiting for the perfect post, etc., start. You’re going to need more time to be ready. With that, follow the helpful pages. As you begin, follow helpful pages to help you grow where you are. It’s not easy sometimes, but like I always say, find tools like your Later, your Hootsuite, HubSpot, and Planoly; those sorts of apps will help you focus on what’s possible. Small business owners can see people posting five, six, or seven times a week, and one expert will say you have to post twice a day every day. Another will say, no, you don’t have to. For me, consistency is the most important thing. For a business owner, I always say do what you can.
Instead, post twice a week rather than not post at all. Yes, there’s optimal posting and that thing, but for a small business, we are a small business; we understand that it’s only sometimes possible because you’re focusing on your client. Focus on what’s possible: Take a couple of hours once a week or monthly, and plan your content. As far as you can, I always say we had a client where it was the same thing. We said to her, You know what? Start on a Monday, book out the morning, and schedule your content. Spend the Monday doing that. Plan it out, schedule it, put it together. She did it week to week. She said It’s so much effort. I said, I promise you, now it feels like effort, but in a month and a half, you’re going to tune around and thank me. It just became a weekly rhythm for her. She eventually came back, and it’s so much easier now. I said Because you’re planning things. After all, you’re putting it together and scheduling in advance.
Yep, that’s true.
It costs money to find out what the heck is going on, right? And so sometimes it’s a simple fix that we can discuss from that diagnostic and they’re good to go.
But at a minimum, they’ll know at the end what the real issues are. A lot of times customers don’t know the true issue and the impact. Like I tell people, with your health, maybe for a few months, yeah, I’ve been kind of tired and I’m falling asleep after work. I’m kind of sore, kind of stiff, and I don’t know. You don’t think anything of it. You think maybe it’s stress or whatever, you blow it off. But once a problem has persisted long enough and you can’t find an answer, right? Because you don’t just run to the doctor one day you wake up and you’re tired, right? You’re like, well, let me try going to bed a little earlier. Oh, maybe I was drinking too much. Let me cut out alcohol for a week or two. Maybe let me change my diet. Yeah, I have been eating bad and nothing improves it. Then you’re like, oh, when the customer can’t find their own answer, then they reach out. Now the doctor can diagnose. They listen to your heart, your x-rays, whatever. Oh, hey, you got some blockage. You might need surgery. Oh, no, but at least you now know the answer.
But if you as the patient, just call the doctor and say, hey, I need you to prescribe surgery for me. What are you talking about? I’m not doing that. I don’t even know you. But that’s what we do as consultants, right? We let the customer call us. Hey, yeah, I need more visits to my website. How much are you going to charge me? How do you know that’s what you need? And really, literally nobody needs more eyeballs on their website. What they want and need is more customers. Because the reality is very few people are converting even to leads, let alone customers. So I’ll ask them, I’ll say, let me ask you something. If I reduced the number of visitors to your website by 50%, but I grew your sales 100%, would you be mad? No, that’d be awesome. So, you don’t really need or want more eyeballs. You want more customers. So, let’s figure out how to do that. Maybe it is, you need more traffic, but I’m not going to let you prescribe to me what to diagnose and prescribe? No, you’re calling me. So, I’m in charge.
Kelsey, one of the problems that the new business struggles with whether it’s the post ideas. They only get so much inspiration to create new posts to add or build up their calendar. Any tips for that as well that could be helpful?
Again, I love Later, but Later always offers excellent blog posts with content, inspiration, and things to do. I always encourage people to go to Pinterest because you can search your niche on it, and it’ll give you many ideas. It’ll give you visual things. You can Google content ideas. There’s a website called titlegenerator.com, and there are about seven hundred content ideas, and all you do is put in your niche. We’d say digital marketing, which would give us seven hundred content ideas as a heading, but it’s a place to work from. Those are the little things that I always say: Start with Google. I use Google as a content idea. I use Pinterest as a search engine for content ideas. Most of the time, you’ll be able to find your niche within that or take an idea that someone else has and adapt it to your specific niche.
Perfect. Even looking into your competitors, you can use tools that can give you competitive analysis data. Try figuring out yourself to see what exactly they are, to make that. Try building something better than that.
Yeah, exactly. Definitely.
Perfect. Kelsey, with that, we are coming to an end now. Are there any final words you want to share with our viewers about you?
Yeah, to say thank you. It’s always great to have conversations with different people across different places and spaces. We love that we get to be a part of a digital world. As difficult as it can be at times. I love that this is an opportunity that we’re afforded. I want to say thank you. I am always keen to connect with people and keep building relationships. It’s important to us.
Thank you. Thank you so much, Kelsey, for all the time. It is beneficial and outstanding to share the news.