Social media marketing is opening doors for small businesses
TikTok star Bryn Sato of northwest suburban Round Lake has made a name for herself online by garnering 1.7 million followers over three years.
Sato, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, keeps herself incredibly busy on a day-to-day basis by attending classes in the morning, making content in the afternoon and then attending track practice in the evenings.
“Obviously being a student comes first, and then also being an athlete comes before the TikTok videos … I just tried to manage my time with what I’m prioritizing,” Sato said.
Sato began her TikTok career as a sophomore in high school during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sato focuses on lifestyle content, often highlighting her daily routines, fitness schedules, and style recommendations
“I was posting two videos a day when they started to gain popularity and people started to follow me and see my videos more,” Sato said. “I guess that’s what motivated me to keep going because … this could turn into something … and I never expected to be where I am today.”
Sato’s rise in TikTok fame drove her to venture into selling stickers. Sato designs and sells the items, which she believes are a reflection of her overall brand. Most of the stickers offer messages of positivity, coupled with pastel tones and sunny visuals.
“I use Procreate [a digital design app] to design the stickers,” Sato said. “I just looked at Pinterest for inspiration of what I wanted my stickers to kind of look like and how I wanted them to match my vibe … and then I asked my family and friends for feedback.”
Her following attracted brands to conduct advertising deals, offering substantial compensation for promotion. Most products she promotes follow her lifestyle brand of content – oftentimes clothing from different online boutiques.
@bryniebooo perfect for on the go!!! @casetify ♬ Notion – The Rare Occasions
Working independently with these companies has allowed Sato to allocate some of the money towards her college tuition.
“I worked with Casetify [a phone case company] from August until December. So that was like 12 videos and then they just paid me at the end of the year. [Casetify] paid me $9,000,” Sato said. “And then, like other companies that are smaller, they pay between like $500 and like $1,000 per video-branded content. It just kind of depends on who I’m working with.”
Sato explains how most brands contact her for a promotion through email or an Instagram direct message, then she decides whether or not she wants to work with them. If she does, they will send items or a promotional code for her to advertise to her audience through brand-approved content.
Sato does most of her business deals by herself with occasional oversight from her mom, and highlights the hard work that goes into creating and maintaining a successful solo internet presence.
“I always say things don’t work unless you do,” Sato said. “If you want to achieve a goal or accomplish something, just like anything else, it takes practice. It takes hard work and dedication.”
Sato has found that having confidence in yourself is equally important to dedicating time and energy to the craft.
“Just have fun with it,” Sato said. “Be yourself. Just do things that you love and maybe it will get on the For You page.”
@bryniebooo College queen hehe #uwlax #uwlacrosse #college ♬ Riptide – Vance Joy
Happy Soul Sisters, a clothing brand selling athleisure and custom tie-dye pieces Sato has promoted on her socials, works on the other end of social media marketing.
Happy Soul Sisters co-owner Kayla Elko explained how her brand began on social media and grew exponentially after working with online workout and fitness influencer Libby Christensen.
“We still only had probably, like, 1,000 followers on Instagram [in March 2020]. We sent her the outfit, she posted it and the next morning we woke up with like 500 [direct message] requests asking to purchase what she had,” Elko said.
The emergence of social media as a means to create and maintain a business is exemplified through Happy Soul Sisters’ success in the clothing industry. Working with influencers like Sato allows for exposure and a loyal customer base. Elko mentioned a 46 percent customer return rate due to their online presence and marketing.
“For anybody starting a business, definitely focus on social media because that’s what helped us grow the most,” Elko said. “Our Instagram following grew crazy just through influencers, and just getting lucky hitting the Explore page and people seeing our clothing.”
The brand now has a website, an app and over 48,000 followers on Instagram.
“Start with something that you really have a passion about, you love and you want to do that like as your full time job,” Elko said. “You want to wake up every day and want to be able to promote what you do.”
Header illustration by Magda Wilhelm