Working with a limited marketing budget has never been an easy feat for any brand. But, thanks to social media, this obstacle has become much more manageable in recent years. Organic beverage brand Suja Juice, which got its start in 2012, is active proof of that.

Instagram, in particular, has emerged as a highly effective channel for the brand. In fact, Sam Swensen, Online Brand Manager at Suja Juice, counts Instagram as one of the brand’s biggest marketing assets, explaining that the platform has an organic quality to it that just can’t be beat. “As we try to increase our Instagram followers, we realize we don’t have to pay to get them,” she says. “We’re also finding from the comments on our posts that Instagram is where our most loyal fans are.”

sam swensen suja juice

After establishing that Instagram was a low-cost way to foster relationships with consumers, the next step was to monetize those positive sentiments from fans. We asked Sam to share how she and her team identify their most loyal followers, and how they nurture these relationships so that they steadily lead to revenue for the brand. Here’s what she had to say.

What’s the significance of social media to a brand on a small marketing budget?

Being a small company, we don’t have the money that bigger brands have to put toward advertising. We rely heavily on social media to attract new consumers and connect with existing ones. To be honest, I’m not sure we would have it any other way!

We’re a vibrant, passionate, transparent company, and social media has been the perfect place for us to showcase that.

What’s your favorite campaign you’ve run on Instagram to date?

My favorite one to date was our #SujaSelfie contest, in which we encouraged fans to upload a photo of themselves drinking Suja. We noticed a lot of people already doing that, and thought, ‘Why not incentivize others to join in?’ It got our fans interacting with our product in a fun way, and we saw over 300 entries over the course of the campaign.

We’ve also run a few contests with like-minded brands like [organic nut butter brand] Justin’s, where we encourage our followers to comment and follow both brands to win.

Partnering with like-minded brands is a great way to gain new, relevant followers.

You’ve mentioned that Instagram is a way to communicate with your most loyal fans. How do you identify and reward your biggest influencers?

I search our Suja hashtags at least once a day and also use tools like Curalate to monitor conversations around our brand. I love reposting fan photos and sending juice to our top influencers to encourage them to keep spreading the Suja love.

How difficult is it to tie efforts on Instagram to revenue?

Most brands would say that the toughest part about social media is that it’s tough to measure ROI. We have an ecommerce presence, but we rely heavily on our in-store sales. It’s been hard to say we are putting all this time in our social networks and it’s producing ‘x’ results. Curalate’s Like2Buy closed an important gap for us, and everyone on our team is pretty excited about that.

What are three pieces of advice you’d give to a brand just starting out on Instagram?

1. Have a plan

Think about your brand and your content strategy before you start posting. There are tons of brands on Instagram, so you need to think about how you will cut through the noise. Whether it’s behind-the scenes photos, product giveaways or education around a specific topic, think about what you want to offer your fans before you start posting.

2. Engage

Take 30 minutes to an hour each day to engage. I’ve found that this is the best way to organically grow your audience. Search hashtags relevant to your brand, and don’t be afraid to like, comment and follow when it makes sense.

3. Don’t over-promote

Some of my favorite brands on Instagram only promote their product a few times a week. Keep the 80/20 rule in mind: Use about 20 percent of your content to promote your brand, and dedicate the other 80 percent to content that really interests and engages your audience.

Driving Mobile Sales Via Instagram

The Suja Juice team found that Instagram is perfect for cultivating loyal relationships with consumers, putting the brand in the optimal position to increase mobile site traffic and sales. Download our Success Story on Suja Juice to learn more about how you can turn Instagram into a revenue driver too.