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How The Bananas Do Marketing With Kara Heater

FFE 118 | Online Marketing

 

Online marketing can go a myriad of different ways because there are so many platforms and so many types of content that you can create. At the end of the day, having a foundational knowledge of what’s popular and what’s relevant goes a long way. Without this knowledge, you won’t be able to properly cater to your fanbase and get through to them, especially with the constraints of digital communication. Kara Heater is the Marketing Coordinator for the Savannah Bananas. Joining Jared Orton, Kara illustrates some of the most important fundamentals of online marketing that you should be aware of. The online sphere’s influence can make or break the way your brand is perceived, so don’t get left behind!

Listen to the podcast here:

How The Bananas Do Marketing With Kara Heater

We are going back to the marketing conversations on how The Bananas do marketing. I’m chatting with our guru of everything that goes on from the marketing side with The Bananas and that’s Kara Heater. Kara has been leading our marketing effort for years. The growth that we’ve seen on our social channels and how our website operates and some ideas that have been spectacular have come from Kara’s direction and her implementation. If you follow anything on The Bananas for the business side, Marie and Kara have been launching these social media challenges. They’ve been setting up calls with businesses and helping them audit their social media. They’ve been hosting webinars on how The Bananas do marketing.

There are lots of exciting conversations that are happening around this topic. We thought we’d put an end to this with this conversation with Kara. You’re going to learn some of the things that we’ve been working on, some of the challenges that we’ve had and how we continue to progress and come up with new ideas on this marketing front. We don’t spend any money on advertising. We used to spend tens of thousands of dollars. We maybe spend less than $1,000 on any direct advertising. It’s about creating this dialogue of conversation between the fans, us and the brand and eliminating this one-way marketing conversation. Here’s my conversation with Kara on how The Bananas do marketing.

Kara, what’s up? How are you? 

I am good.

We’re talking Bananas marketing. It is an extremely hot question that we get all the time, “What do you do for marketing?” We don’t see ourselves as “marketers” in the general term. You’ve been with us for years. You joined us in the 2018 season. You finished up school and you work with us during the summers and the seasons. You’ve worked remotely and we’ve seen such a ridiculous rise in the amount of followers we’ve had and the engagement and our campaigns and what we’ve got on our website. It’s been fun to see. I want to take people through that journey of where we have moved our marketing towards and where it’s at in the day. We’ve got to go back to 2018. What do you remember about Bananas marketing when you first came on and were a part of the marketing team?

We posted fun stuff. I remember the first big change we made was trying to hit that goal of posting every single day. For a while, it wasn’t particularly consistent but then we hit that goal of trying to post every single day. Once the season ended, we were at a loss in a way. We had a lot of events coming up. It was a weird time to come on but it was also a great learning experience.

Posting every day, I didn’t even remember that. Sometimes even not quality every single time, every single post isn’t going to be gangbusters, but talk about that consistency of posting every day and why that’s important.

It’s important from a scheduling standpoint to make sure that we know everything that’s going out and to get as much use of all the content we have because we have so much stockpiled pictures, videos, all that good stuff. It’s like, “Why wouldn’t you post every day if you have all that stuff?” Also, it’s important for the fans to know that you’re still there every single day. You want to keep The Bananas and your company in their mind. It’s important for all the algorithms, every single platform if you want to get buried, you post once a month. If you want to get to the top, you’ve got to post consistently and get that engagement and posting consistently is what we’ve seen increasing our engagement.

I know people get scared of the word algorithm and they think it’s some crazy brain trust that’s in the cloud but it’s true. What we’ve learned from workshops, online, conferences and our own testing, like you said, you get punished if you’re not playing into the way that they want those platforms to be played into. Part of that comes from posting consistently every day. There are brands out there that are posting twenty times a day. We’re not there yet. From your point of view, is it more about that consistency or do you focus on more quantity in general? Are you looking for super quality? Talk us through that because like I said, sometimes they all don’t hit. Talk us through a little bit about quantity versus quality.

Sometimes I truly don’t feel comfortable putting something of bad quality out. I don’t want to throw out a picture with a random caption on Facebook because that doesn’t fit Facebook. That fits more Instagram. Sometimes I can’t find content even though I said we had a stockpile, but sometimes it’s not the quality I want, so I won’t post it. I would rather not post and take a day to figure out good posts. I do sometimes favor quality over quantity because if you’re going to put out something that is going to get zero likes in a way, it’s not pointless because it’s still posting, but I would rather put out something quality. We have a good team that can create quality content quickly. That’s important. It differs.

If a business is reading this, it’s not just posting some random Facebook status every single day because that’s going to work. You’ve got to feed this platform of, “Do you have video? Do you have photos? Do you have things where you can ask questions?” It’s not like, “Check out my sales flyer for plumbing services.” You’ve got to think video, photos, engaging content. If you can start stockpiling that, pumping it out on a regular basis, that’s the only way to lift that engagement. That’s important. You started mentioning it. We went into the fall of 2018. We thought we were an events company and we started trying to market the most ridiculous events.

It's important for your fans to know that you're still there every single day. Click To Tweet

We had the Haunted House. We had the Beach Bash. There was a Field of Food Trucks.

We had three brand-new never done before events in the span of two months. Our season finished the first week of August. Before that, we were probably going heavy trying to market these things. Talk through the pain of trying to market all these events and sell.

I remember never posting Bananas stuff. There are seven days in a week, and seven of those days we were posting something about an event and trying to sell to people. I threw the numbers in Basecamp not too long ago, but we had spent $5,000 in that three-month span on advertising compared to those same three months in 2019 where we spent $300 maybe. That I can’t even remember. It was insane and we were seeing no results. We were not seeing a single thing. We are making these event pages, pushing this stuff and still creating fun content. The videos we came out with were funny, but they flopped because they were selling stuff to people. Nobody cared. Nobody wants to see that stuff. They wanted to see stuff from the season we had ended. They wanted recaps with the craziness that went on, but we were selling food truck tickets and haunted house tickets.

As you said, they were funny and they were good quality and we did good stuff but every single one of them was like, “A link was attached to it. Buy this thing, or Click here.” It’s what people shy away from. We are spending thousands of dollars, not only creating this stuff and trying to put it out there but all the time, energy, and effort that all of our team was trying to dedicate to this and they flogged. They want that Bananas content. They want who we are and not some salesmanship. I’ll never forget when people would come to those events, they were like, “We’re looking forward to baseball season.” We all were banging our heads against a wall like, “We’re giving them everything that they don’t want and that is not who we are.” You mentioned the shift between looking at that season of our life and this season. Take us through the transition. We did all that selling. Fast forward to this year or two years later, what has the difference been in trying to sell and then what we’re doing right now?

The first big shifts we made was cutting down those call to action posts. Posts where we’re not selling anything. If we have seven posts going out in a week, we only have maybe one possibly two with a call to action on them, which is incredible compared to the seven days a week that’s all that action posts. The biggest thing was we went from sell to creating value. We want to make the fans feel valued and make them feel like they’re truly a part of our family because they are. They’re the reason The Bananas are still here. They’re the reason The Bananas have always been here. We want to be able to give back to those fans and give them what they want, which is fun content that isn’t selling them a single thing.

I love that you mentioned that the ratio of not just that call to action ratio. It’s important. What do you feel like our tone is on social media? You mentioned the differences between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, our website and our emails. Talk people through how you change our tone based on what you’re posting and where you’re posting it. Even the website versus our emails versus Facebook too. Let’s start with Facebook. What’s our tone on Facebook?

Facebook, I like to keep it a little bit less sarcastic. Sometimes it doesn’t do well because we do have a bit of an older demographic on Facebook. Some of the pop culture stuff we’ll stray from putting on Facebook. If it’s more of a meme for Twitter or Instagram that will hit with the younger demographic. This is something that’s across all platforms but fun, positive and energetic. Sometimes I get into this rut of, if I’m replying to a lot of comments, I feel like I’m saying the same thing over and over again. I don’t want to ever feel like they’re talking to a bot. I want them to make them feel like they’re talking to a person, like a person is behind the screen responding to every single comment. That’s something I keep in the back of my mind is, what is something that doesn’t sound like an automated response? It’s definitely one of the biggest things for me.

That’s one of the things that’s probably been the biggest change in our strategy is the responsiveness. What’s our tone on Twitter?

Twitter is sarcastic. You can get a little bit wittier on Twitter and get away with it. You’re the king of that. It’s a little bit more sarcastic. You can snap back on people on Twitter in a fun way. It’s a little more competitive is a good way to put it. Twitter is fun.

Twitter is like the water cooler. 

You can let loose a little bit on Twitter.

FFE 118 | Online Marketing
Online Marketing: From a scheduling standpoint, it’s important to have a good knowledge of everything that’s coming out of your brand.

 

Unbutton your top button a little bit on Twitter. What’s our tone on Instagram? Our biggest growth is on Instagram, year-over-year.

Instagram took off like crazy. In a year, we doubled 90% something.

It was close to a 100% growth year-over-year. What’s our tone on Instagram?

I like to think of Instagram as in between Twitter and Facebook because you can go sarcastic and witty, but you can also bring family-friendly, like we’re at on everything. Instagram is that middle ground where you can go either way because that demographic can be young and pop culture heavy or it can be a little bit older. I like to think as Instagram of the middle ground where our tone is fluctuating the most between the platforms.

What about our website and our emails?

We try to keep as fun as possible and pretty much as short as possible, so people don’t feel bogged down by reading a whole essay. We want to keep it quick to the point and fun. A lot of the time we’ll throw a picture and then have a fun copy. One of the biggest things is also keeping that copy. I don’t know if you said it, but to a third-grade level to where everybody can understand it to where it doesn’t feel confusing in any way. Email copy we try to stay as positive and fun as possible by throwing in a few jokes every now and then.

Even the emails need to feel like a person wrote them not a marketing machine robot and not with all this long text jargon. It’s not with a ton of links like, “Here’s a message. Here’s what we’re asking you to do. Here’s something that you’re looking at. Here’s a video. Here’s a podcast. Here’s our ticket link.” Make it super simple and bring them to the point because nobody wants to read a freaking essay in their email inbox. Lastly, what about our website? What do you feel like our tone is on our website?

I don’t want to say professional because I feel like that’s not the best word to use, but it’s a little more serious because it is a place where people can get the most information. A lot of our news stories will go on our website. There is where you’ll find the longer, more articulate stuff. We keep that same fun, positive, straight to the point tone on every single platform. It’s pretty standard.

You’re right because while each of them has its own variations, the words that you’ve used over and over again are fun and positive. No matter how we’re communicating it, it’s still that fun and positive. They know it’s The Bananas. That’s powerful to not totally go like, “We’re a different brand on Facebook. We’re a different brand on our email address.” It’s like, “No, we’re still fun and positive.” It’s how we linked in those messages or use video or change the way that they’re delivered. Those are the key elements there. Go back into responsiveness to comments and messages and all that. I’m reading a book by Jeff Henderson called Know What You’re FOR. He talks about, “Social media is a dialogue, not a monologue.” Many brands think of it as like, “I’m going to post something and then forget about it.” Talk about the dialogue that you have with our fans on social media.

That’s one of the coolest parts of what I do is I get to build these relationships online with people before they even come to the stadium. Anytime we post something, I make sure I check it a few times a day. Whether it’s liking the comment or responding to it, they are going to get an interaction from The Bananas in some type of way. If they’re tagging their friend in it, but don’t say anything else, The Savannah Bananas’ like that comment. If they’re talking about how excited they are for the season, I’m responding back to them saying, “We are pumped.” It’s important for them to feel that there’s not a robot behind the screen and that there’s somebody who cares about these people and is wanting to have them have the best experience even online with us.

Like you mentioned that there’s not, if they’re asking a question and there are many times where personally we’ve been on social media and you ask a question to a brand’s page or are their messages and it’s silence. You’re commenting on people’s comments. Yes, we try to answer everyone’s questions to the best we can, but you’re commenting on people’s comments. Even further talk about when we go to other people’s pages, whether they’ve tagged us in something or they mention us in something and we start commenting on those because I don’t know if people think about that as much.

As much as possible, keep the same fun, positive, straight-to-the-point tone on every platform. Click To Tweet

Facebook makes it easy because it tells you when somebody has shared something. Those are some of my favorite things to look at because they don’t expect us to talk back to them. I’ll look at the shares and the video we put out, Dancing With Myself, the little dance music video, a lot of people share that and we’re like, “This is fun.” I went and I was like, “I’m glad you enjoyed it.” They’re like, “Whoa.” Giving them a like, even if they didn’t say anything and shared it, I like to give them a like. It’s fun. I know we share Twitter together, but one of our favorite things to do is go find people who didn’t tag us and surprise them in the tweets and replies. A lot of the time they’re talking about fun stuff anyways. Find that stuff and see who’s talking and get a part of that conversation.

On Facebook you can see, did people share your stuff? Did people tag you in a post or a picture? Go through your notifications and look at that. It’s the same thing on Instagram. It shows if you were you tagged in a picture. On Instagram and Twitter, you can go a little bit deeper and you can search, whether it’s #SavannahBananas. On Twitter, you can take the search feature and search Savannah Bananas. It will show you every post that if people have tagged you, it will show up or any posts where someone said, “I miss The Savannah Bananas.” You can go in and tag them and say like, “What’s up? We’re here.” They will lose their mind.

The platforms make it easy for you to respond to everybody. If you’re not taking advantage of that, what are you doing?

I’m trying to think if there’s a business who maybe is not getting mentioned or not getting that type of love. I’m sure they could still search for things maybe that are relevant to their brand. If they’re not getting mentioned like Savannah Bananas, how could they use that search feature to jump in on those conversations? Off the cuff, what would you think?

I would think looking up hashtags that are relevant to you. If we put in something like college baseball if we were looking to jump into a conversation, something that’s relevant to your company. Hashtags are meant for people to get interaction with people they don’t necessarily know. That’s why they’re hashtag-ing something. On Twitter, you can search anything and it will show you words that are in the tweets. Searching things that are relevant to your company and finding those conversations you want to be involved in.

I was thinking maybe even conversations that aren’t relevant to your company. I know on Instagram we follow a bunch of Savannah-based things. Maybe if you’re a Savannah-based company or if you’re in Austin, Texas and you’re like, “Nobody’s talking to anything about me. Nobody’s talking about my company, about my industry,” follow the Chamber of Commerce. Follow local hotels, local restaurants or people in your area and comment on their stuff. Get involved in their conversations and be like, “Cool picture. Love this and love your restaurant. Love this Downtown photo.” There’s so much where people can get off of their page and go into that conversation.

Getting involved in the local community is huge. I’ll comment on certain restaurants like, “That looks good, that burger looks bomb.” Next thing I know, they’re commenting on our posts, it works. You don’t want to build relationships with customers. You want to build relationships with the company, other companies in the area as well. They’re important.

That’s what makes social media social, instead of just marketing and advertising. You mentioned a little bit of us using pop culture. The one that always sticks out in my mind is when you posted the Jonas Brothers’ picture with their new album and you put Bananas’ jerseys over them. Everyone doesn’t have jerseys and baseball teams. How do we use pop culture to our benefit? How do you keep a thumb on what’s relevant and what people are talking about in pop culture?

I’m on social media all the time and I love it anyways. That helps a lot with figuring out what’s relevant. For a lot of times, you can go and scroll through your feed and you’ll probably see 2 or 3 things that are similar. I know every single person is seeing memes about Tiger King. You know that’s the relevant thing right now. What can we do to make it funny, make it somehow Bananas related or relevant to The Bananas and then putting it out there for people to enjoy? We had people thinking that Jonas Brothers were going to come to perform there.

I was like, “No, that wasn’t the plan.” One of my favorite things to do is look up the National days. Like National Banana Bread Day, we made a yummy music video of people eating banana bread. National Mean Girls Day. I put our players in pink uniforms and put them on the movie cover. You’ve got to put some effort into it. I feel like it’s simple if you scroll through your feed and take a second to process what’s popping up because then you’ll be able to see what is consistently popping up that’s a meme. How can we turn that into something our fan base will enjoy and put it out there for them?

You mentioned doing less call to action content and more giving positive content. When you think about our week in the content world, how do you start mapping it out? It’s not like, “I wake up this morning and I’m going to put out whatever picture.” How do you map out what our content plan looks like? What tools do you use? What strategies are behind it? Talk a little bit about that.

FFE 118 | Online Marketing
Online Marketing: It’s important for fans to feel that there’s not a robot behind the screen and that there’s somebody who cares and wants them to have the best experience.

 

I typically start thinking about the next week on Wednesday or Thursday of the previous week. On Thursday, I’ve got some automatic reminders set up through Basecamp that we use. Those automatic reminders are set out for the call to action stuff. That’s the first thing I like to figure out is what 1 or 2 calls to action things do we have to put out next week and where are they going to go? I like to make sure that they’re not back-to-back to make sure that there’s non-call of action content and breaking up the two that are trying to sell something. I like to crank those out first so the automatic reminders will come in on Thursday.

I’ll get those out of the way. From there, some of the stuff, then I’ll go into the reoccurring stuff. Right now, it’s our Facebook Lives that are happening every week and we’ve had a Facebook Live every Friday. I’ll know that there’s going to be a Facebook Live on Friday, I’ll plug that in. From there, I divvy up any one-offs that we’ve already had planned like any shorter videos, any pictures. When I’m like, “I don’t have something for Monday and Wednesday,” that’s when I’ll go into the pop culture segment and tries to look up articles about bananas or any fun, weird stuff about bananas or how to make something relevant to our audience.

Your first thought is, “What has to go out?” From a team global strategy like, “This Thursday, we’ve got to announce that whatever tickets are going on sale, or we’ve got a new merchant of this. What does that have to go out?” The second tier is, “Let me get into what’s available to us. What’s a reoccurring thing? Facebook Lives are always going out on Friday. We get this new trivia thing going on Tuesday. We’ve got a series of videos coming out,” whatever that’s recurring. You go into, “What pictures and videos and other generic content do we have?” From there you’re like, “Monday’s missing something or Sunday’s missing something. Let me get a little bit creative and think outside the box a little bit. What’s pop culture? What’s something ridiculous?” Is that how you’re seeing it?

Yeah. After that recurring thing, I like to go into the older content and try to plug stuff from that. That recurring content also is where I’ll plug in any new content as well. I’ll go into our old content and try to figure some stuff out.

That’s helpful because I’m sure people are thinking like, “What do I do every single day?” Am I like, “Call me?” Monday through Friday, “Call our office. Book us.” It’s powerful to see that lens of like, “Here are our 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th level. When in doubt, pop culture.” Where are you getting inspiration from on the marketing side? Who are you following that you’re like, “They’re killing it, this brand is next level?” Who are you getting some of your inspiration and ideas and learning from?

I like to follow Vans. Everybody knows I love my Vans.

What about Vans that makes it a good follow?

They have such aesthetically pleasing pictures and posts. One thing they do well is they always ask for people to send in their pictures to be featured on the Vans page, which is cool.

Have you been featured? 

No, I have not. I haven’t taken any sick Vans photos, but maybe in the future. There are so many. I love following music artists too. Something cool that they do is they show a personal side as well as a business side, which is what we do. Sometimes we like to show that raw behind the scenes but also produce good high-quality content at the same time too, a nice balance of that. Celebrities and music artists do a lot of that stuff well.

With Vans, you mentioned people shipping in their stuff. How much have we used of user-generated content that you’ve used in our marketing plan?

Getting involved in the local community can be huge for your brand. Click To Tweet

A lot of times, especially in the summer, people tag us in all their photos of us of them at games, wearing Bananas merchandise. That’s what we get the most is people rocking Bananas merch and that’s super easy to repurpose. Whether it’s a simple reposting them on our story to give them a shout-out and be like, “That’s cool that you’re rocking that.” Taking the picture and reposting it. I know we’ve made a few Facebook albums. We made one called Bananas Around The World because people were sending in many pictures of them like in Switzerland with Bananas merch on. Crazy pictures of them all around the world. We were like, “Why aren’t we using this and putting it out in a cool way?” That was something cool. I like to use it a lot and repost on Instagram. It’s super easy and people like to see that because they’re then encouraging other people to post pictures of them in it.

That immediate effect of once other people see the brand putting out fans doing things, they’re like, “I want to get featured on the Vans page. I want to get featured on such and such bands behind the scenes. Put me on that.” What do you think is next? What are we trying in the next months and year? What are we going to try that you’re like, “I don’t know how it’s going to work, but we’re going to try to go with it?” Talk about some of the new things you’re seeing out there and what we’re going to try out? 

TikTok, that’s my number one. TikTok is the rage right now.

If people haven’t heard of TikTok, why is it the rage right now? What is it?

It’s a short video platform where you can post 15 to 60-second videos. It’s got one of the best algorithms in all social media right now because anybody can go viral because the algorithm is good. When you’re looking on your, For You page, which is similar to your Explore page on Instagram, you’ll see posts with 100,000 likes and you’ll see posts with 200,000. They’re all relevant to what you’ve been watching, which is cool because they don’t just pull the popular posts. They’re also pulling some nonpopular posts. People make stupid short comedy videos and they do dances and it’s wild. The biggest thing on TikTok is challenges where people create a challenge, whether it’s a dance or it’s a try and throw a piece of the marshmallow into your mouth or something like that as high as possible. The trends are easily caught on there, reciprocated and repeated. TikTok is what we’re going to try to focus on or I’m going to try focus on getting started.

With TikTok, is it more about creating your own things or jumping in on challenges that you’re seeing or in pop culture things?

A combination of both for sure. It’s 50/50 because people create original content and it blows up and then that becomes a trend in itself. There are people who are creating content that they want to be a trend and they want to see people repeat and do. I would say it’s 50/50 because that’s what everybody is doing in a way. I don’t want to say everybody’s doing, but people are taking advantage of the things that are popular, which is important. Putting their own twist on it. Taking a trend and making it your own somehow is the key to TikTok right now. It’s a combination of those two is probably the best way to do it.

FFE 118 | Online Marketing
Online Marketing: Going on social media and exploring what’s popular can help you figure out what’s relevant and what your fan base might enjoy.

 

I’m thankful that you’ve been able to share all this stuff with us. It’s crazy that this little Savannah Bananas baseball team can consistently put these things out. As you said, it’s the consistency, knowing your tone, responding to people, being engaged, having dialogue instead of a monologue. What’s next? Keep trying those next things. You can’t get stuck on, “We only have a Facebook page.” You’ve got to be willing to experiment a little bit and get out there and have conversations with people. Kara, thanks for hanging out with us. Thanks for talking about all things Bananas marketing. We’ll talk to you soon.

Bye.

If anyone is interested and talking with us about their marketing plan or the social media plan or auditing your marketing strategy, give us a call. We’re happy to talk or shoot us an email. Marie, Kara and myself have been setting up these calls and talking through it with businesses, it’s free of charge. There are no strings. We’re wanting to have these conversations with people and allow people to ask questions on how we’ve tweaked and iterated and innovated on this marketing strategy. It’s been such a trial and error process because we went through so much garbage when we were trying to be one-way marketers pointing our fingers at the customer saying, “Buy. Look at us. Do this thing. Come to this event. Buy this piece of merchandise.”

It punished us and rightfully so, we should have been punished. As Jeff Henderson notes on his book, Know What You’re FOR, once we started being for the fans, celebrating the fans, celebrating the customers, celebrating people, putting the spotlight back on the fan, that’s when we saw the engagements go up, people responding and getting involved in this whole marketing conversation. It’s been powerful. If you have any questions, want to come to our workshops, want to get in touch with us, go to BananasForBusiness.com.

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About Kara Heater

FFE 118 | Online MarketingMarketing Coordinator who is experienced in social media advertising, community outreach, creating marketing strategies, and conducting consumer research.

 

 

 

 

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Jared Orton

Jared Orton

Because of a relentless focus on entertainment and ticket sales, the Royals were fortunate to see tremendous growth in attendance and revenue during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Jared is now taking those experiences, along with the experiences of Fans First Entertainment, to develop a value-packed, non-stop, entertainment experience for Savannah fans. Jared currently lives in Savannah with his wife, Kelsey.
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