Anyone and everyone can be an influencer these days, but few creators can cut through the noise and build an incredibly engaged, loyal, and cult following.
One TikTok creator who’s doing so and taking the DTC world by storm is Dulma Altan, who goes by @IAmDulma on the app, building what she calls the “TikTok B-School for women.” She’s amassed 2.1M+ likes on her content. Her videos span from deep dives on the Erewhon smoothie strategy to the Goop and Poosh collab. Plus, she recently launched her podcast “Due Diligence” (highly recommend).
As more and more people accept TikTok as a shaper of culture and discourse, we sat down with Dulma to get her POV on getting started on the platform, leveraging creators, and what’s next for DTC.
Dulma’s TikTok Origins
Dulma’s TikTok journey first began in September 2021. Simply put, she started posting on a whim, experimenting with the platform, and learning the algorithm.
Then, she challenged herself to post once a day for 100 days straight. At first, she followed trends, and by week three, she found her niche: posting about business, specifically academically dissecting celebrity-backed brands.
She leveraged the Kardashians to make business more approachable, and her TikToks blew up. One of her most popular videos dives into seven embarrassing Kardashian business flops. Since her 100-day challenge, Dulma has continued to lean into analyzing celebrity-backed brands, such as Skims, as well as unpack what Emily Weiss stepping down from Glossier means for the brand.
Now, she’s one of the biggest creators within the DTC/ecommerce space.
“I’m an accidental TikToker. On TikTok, virality can happen accidentally, whereas, on YouTube and Instagram, you have to work for it.”
Prioritizing Energy & Enthusiasm
TikTok is built for our short attention spans. Keeping that in mind, “The hook is everything,” says Dulma. Once you nail down the hook, it’s about cutting out the fluff and rambling. Ruthless editing is key.
“Focus on the 80/20 rule when you’re getting started. Then, build on what works and make little adjustments along the way,” adds Dulma.
Above all else, “Talk about the things that energize you and light you up. TikTok responds to that energy,” says Dulma.
Ideally, the person creating content on TikTok loves the platform itself. Taking a social media manager and throwing them on TikTok doesn’t work. The platform has its language, set of nuances, and weird, best practices. For brands looking to hire a creator, “You have to be good at talent spotting,” explains Dulma. “That’s why so many brands hire people straight out of college or even interns.”
“The key: Can you bring enthusiasm and energy to the platform? TikTok responds to that.”
Finding the Balance Between Entertainment & Education
It’s easy to ramble on TikTok. Honing a succinct, eloquent narration style—like Dulma—takes time.
The key: find a balance between entertainment and education.
“Fundamentally, TikTok doesn’t call itself a social media platform. They call themselves an entertainment platform like Netflix,” says Dulma.
Finding the balance between insight and entertainment takes time and practice. The hardest part is finding a way to synthesize all the key information into a three-minute video or less.
So, what does Dulma’s content creation process look like?
She spends a good chunk of researching, and then she outlines her key points in Notion. She prefers outlining over scripting. Additionally, she tries to use casual language as if she’s talking to a friend or nerding out with a business-y friend.
She doesn’t use a ton of cuts (impressive, right?). When she uses cuts, she groups them by bundles of insights. That way she knows the cuts ahead of time and what insights go into each one.
“Find a process that works for you. It looks different for everyone.”
Where to Start
Not sure where to start on the platform? Experiment!
Dulma recommends picking three different strategies and testing them for 90 days. For example, one strategy could be using TikTok’s greenscreen. Another strategy could be creating education-first videos.
Once you start posting, pay attention to:
“Comments are the best. They’re practically free suggestions and ideas,” adds Dulma.
To find actual content ideas underneath each strategy, Dulma suggests finding other, similar pages—either ones that have a similar audience, tone, or approach. Look at the questions and comments on their pages and leverage them to see what’s useful and what people want to know.
Comments and questions are especially helpful because it’s tricky to understand what level of knowledge people have on the platform. Are they new to the DTC space? Do they understand attribution? Do they need more hand-holding, or are they more advanced?
That’s yet another reason Dulma says, “Experiment. Experiment.” She’s often surprised at how little people know and how much people know. Plus, every TikTok post gets pushed to a different audience.
In Dulma’s case, she’s attempting to reach a business audience (the industry) while making business more fun and engaging for the average viewer. She strongly believes that everyone should have some sort of business literacy in today’s day and age. To make business digestible, she uses this Trojan horse of Skims and other celebrity-backed brands to make venture capital and business more engaging.
Dulma uses consumer brands with a ton of brand recognition to reach a larger audience. She focuses on mostly beauty brands because 85% of her followers are female and she’s an avid beauty consumer.
“It all comes back to your purpose and your intention for the content,” says Dulma.
“A lot of brands think you have to follow trends. You don’t. Instead, follow trending themes and topics. Then, insert yourself into the conversation.”
How to Leverage and Partner with Creators
Ready to partner with creators? Remember: It’s not only about quantity. It’s about quality and engagement as well.
Dulma doesn’t have millions of followers. Rather, she has a mighty group of incredibly engaged followers. They search for her name every day on TikTok. They’re loyal and know what to expect from her.
“Look for signs of genuine engagement, loyalty, and retention in creators,” recommends Dulma.
Generally, brands are too heavy-handed and prescriptive when working with creators, notes Dulma. “I don’t think enough brands understand the mindset of the creator,” she explains. “Creators want the partnership to work. They want to get as many conversions as possible.”
Sometimes, it’s best to step back and let the creator work their magic. “There will always be brand talking points,” says Dulma. “When brands are too prescriptive, they shoot themselves in the foot.”
The creators know their audiences better than anyone else. Plus, they have a vested interest in helping brands succeed because all creators want long-term partnerships. It’s equally as beneficial for them as it is for the brand.
So, what’s the best practice? “Send the creator high-level concepts and talking points, and then let them work their magic,” says Dulma.
“DTC brands need to have retention. Creators also need to have retention.”
What to Watch in DTC
Taking a step back and looking at the DTC landscape as a whole, Dulma is most excited about the brands that are “doing something genuinely innovative.” She’s currently admiring scientifically-innovative brands, such as K18. “They have breakthrough hair bonding technology,” says Dulma. “That’s a real moat.”
“There are so many headwinds in DTC. Hype over substance is hard to sustain,” notes Dulma.
As we all know, we’re heading into a recession. Who will come out on top?
“The brands that have a true moat around their product will win.” Is the product something that deserves to exist? Is there no other brand working on this type of solution?
Dulma sees the recession clearing out all kinds of brands that don’t need to exist. So, every brand needs to be truly differentiated—whether the clear point of differentiation is scientific innovation or an incredible, cult-like community.
The product has to be good. The brand story has to be there. The visual identity needs to be cohesive. Increasingly, price matters because we live in an inflationary environment.
“The recession will instill discipline into brands,” she adds.
Nowadays, Dulma notes that celebrity-backed brands are increasingly challenged. “A celebrity attached to a brand is becoming more and more of a liability,” says Dulma. “Sure, their initial fan base will buy the product, but will they have retention? Will their growth taper off? Plus, so many people are now skeptical about influencer or celebrity-backed brands. The bar is much higher?”
Most people forget how long it takes to build a brand that stands the test of time. Take Clif Bar, for example. The brand was founded in 1992. It was only this year that Mondelez International bought the bar company for $2.9 billion.
“You can create the illusion of building a strong brand in a short amount of time, but that’s not the same as having the foundation of a strong brand,” notes Dulma. “You do it by building cult loyalty over time. The brands that are disciplined and patient will succeed in whatever vertical they’re in.”
“The recession will force brands to become good at long-term brand building. If you’re not good at that, you’re not going to last.”
- What to pledge
- How to improve
- Which tools will set you up for success
I think the most important thing brands can do in 2023 is to better manage their customer data—both ethically and effectively. There’s an opportunity for brands to know their customers better than ever before—a clear benefit for both the customer and the brand. When you manage your data correctly, you’ll create stronger and more personalized ads, creative, site experiences, and so much more.
This is a classic: Let the data guide you. Go where the buyers for your products are and communicate with them on a personal level (i.e. by persona and funnel position) and nurture those relationships (past, present, and future customers). It’s possible—all through data.
We recommend that Shopify brands analyze and update their websites using data-driven decisions. Using analytics tools such as heatmaps and scrollmaps can help brands better understand how customers are interacting with their store.
Store owners tend to make assumptions about the way customers interact with their website. Most never go back and analyze their design choices to find pain points or areas of opportunity. By using heatmaps and scrollmaps, they can see where real customers are clicking and concentrating their attention. Leveraging this data, brands can start to iterate on design and make their online store experience streamlined and intuitive.
Hotjar provides a simple way to implement heatmaps, scrollmaps, and recorded user sessions on your site, helping you acquire incredibly informative user data. Additionally, it gives you the ability to create on-site surveys, which allows you to obtain direct and often critical feedback from users about their experience.
Test various attribution models and analyze the impact on your business. At Fifty Six, we are always here to help our clients identify and optimize their approach—a critical step in any successful marketing strategy.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times–Customer Lifetime Value. And even more importantly, Future Lifetime Value (FLTV). With the ever-growing importance of first-party data, it is crucial that brands take a good look at their CRM and FLTV metrics.
Stop allocating budgets to low-hanging fruit that doesn’t move the needle on conversion. Think about what’s really going to improve your CX and the return of undertaking different initiatives—not just on what’s top on your list of bugbears on the site!
One of the best ways to understand your customer behavior is by using HotJar. Their heat-mapping and screen recording tools shine a light on where customers are navigating to and from on your site, where they're rage clicking and experiencing frustration, and where conversion is dropping off within real life customer journeys and flows!
Understanding your customers’ pain points via data and analytics , will allow you to work with your CRO/CX Agency to solve customer frustrations and improve conversion.
Rewind backs up all product, customer, and order data for Shopify sites—essential since Shopify itself doesn’t provide this solution. It's saved so many of our clients time and money from administrative accidents.
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33% of customer service inquiries are pre-sale questions. What does this mean? If you’re not investing in customer service, you’re missing out on revenue-generating opportunities.
The benefits of elevating your customer experience:
- 10% to 25% increase in AOV for customers who engage with live chat pre-purchase
- 21x higher conversion rate for customers who reach out via Live Chat or SMS compared to other site visitors
- 87% of customers who have a great customer experience will make another purchase
- 72% of customers share positive experiences with 6 or more individuals
Gorgias is our favorite Helpdesk platform. They can reduce costs by 35%, primarily by decreasing the average ticket handle time. Their machine learning algorithms are trained on millions of ecommerce-related interactions across Gorgias’ customer base and provide accurate, automated replies for the most common ecommerce inquiries. This helps our agents resolve tickets faster, which provides the customer a seamless experience.
Trust your agency! Agencies do the same things across multiple brands and niches, so we see the trends and have the practice and experience!
Don't be afraid of data and insights. If customers aren't clicking on your emails, try a new CTA. If your ads are driving good metrics at a small spend, start scaling. If your customers are complaining about a product, look into QA! If the data tells you something isn't working, let it go and try something else!
I'm supposed to say Tydo, right? 😉
Double down on differentiation. There will be a lot of headwinds this year and standing out from the crowd will set you apart.
A picture is worth 1,000 words. A video? Probably millions. In ecommerce that value translates into engagement, acquisition, and retention—everything you need to impact your bottom line.
At soona, we've seen the we've seen the impact of creative and the continuous split testing of it yield results. Our resolution is to challenge ourselves and double down on innovation and creative optionality so that each brand we work with can distinguish themselves in a crowded sea of D2C ecomm. We'd love to see our brands share this resolution and keep pushing the creative limits.
Klaviyo. We're using it to power our email and newsletter at soona too!
Optimize your returns strategy! This can lead to valuable customer insights, enhanced user experiences, and increased revenue and customer loyalty.
Brands need to dive deeper into understanding their customers to set themselves up for success. Conduct research to gain insights into customer needs, preferences, and behaviors. By doing so, you can develop targeted strategies that will enhance customer experience and boost overall retention.
Right now I would say Gorgias. Having a good customer service tool is crucial to building strong customer relationships.
Start paying heavy attention to data, specifically around retention. We see a lot of effort put towards acquisition with the assumption that once someone buys, they are your customer forever. Instead, get to know your customer, understand their needs, and analyze their behaviors once they are on-site and judge their sentiment after they have visited. Work with a retention focused and data-driven agency to implement tools that contribute to repeat business and customer delight. It will pay dividends.
When surveyed, about 80% of ecommerce merchants think that they are delivering a great experience to their customers. However, when the same customers are surveyed, only 8% of those customers think that they are getting a great experience from the merchant. Now, more than ever, retaining loyal customers is an essential part of any online business and you should spend time with your customers to judge their experience with your website and products and offer improvements based on that feedback.
Tydo's report cards are an essential tool, along with Klaviyo for email and SMS, Recharge for subscriptions and memberships, Okendo for reviews and surveys, Rebuy for AI driven collections and upsells, Loop for self service returns... each tool is great on their own, but their strength as the ultimate tool comes from when they are used together!
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