The greatest marketing campaigns are the ones that connect with us, inspire action and leave a lasting impact.
Think Casey Neistat’s ‘Make It Count‘ collaboration with Nike, Airbnb’s ‘Belong Anywhere‘ or Patagonia’s ‘Fighting for Public Lands‘. Very few businesses ever achieve anything that connects with their audience like these campaigns.
In fact, I can probably count on one hand the pieces of content I’ve seen that have really made an impact on me over the past year.
And for many businesses, marketing has become more science than art.
It’s become about how many people you can reach, rather than the impact you can have. And sure, that approach can work, but if you want to build a truly remarkable, successful company, that your customers love — and employees want to work for — you need something more.
You need a mission.
To understand just how important a clear, defined company mission is and how it can impact your marketing, I recently interviewed Ryan Carson, founder and CEO of Treehouse and TalentPath.
How Treehouse’s mission fuels its marketing
The idea that Treehouse was founded on is simple: “I realized you don’t need a computer science degree to become a programmer. The whole mission of the company is based around that idea,” Ryan explained.
And on its website the Treehouse mission is explained very clearly:
Treehouse brings affordable technology education to people everywhere in order to help them achieve their dreams and change the world.
What the company was lacking, though, was a succinct, memorable way to express this.
Nike’s “Just Do It” and Apple’s “Think Different” slogans are perfect examples of what Ryan and his team were looking for. They wanted to take their mission statement and distill it down into just a few words that share the company’s purpose.
The Treehouse team toyed with a bunch of ideas until, eventually, in a meeting, someone came up with the idea of ‘Educate Yourself’.
“Yes, that’s the one,” Ryan proclaimed instantly. “It’s positive, self-explanatory, it applies to everybody and, importantly, it’s relevant to Treehouse’s overall mission.”
With the ‘Educate Yourself’ mantra firmly in place, discussions then turned to how Treehouse could take ownership of this idea and build a brand around it.
“Having a clear, concise slogan can help a company to ensure all of their marketing and communications are on message, as well as helping its brand to resonate and connect with people.”
Digital Marketing Strategist
Bringing the mission to life through content
“We started to realize that we should be creating content that inspires people to educate themselves and really champion people who are living up to the ‘Educate Yourself’ concept,” Ryan explained.
So, as someone who enjoys meeting new people and detailed conversations, Ryan played to his strengths and started a podcast.
The Educate Yourself podcast was a big success and social media played a huge part in the show’s growth, with each episode being promoted across channels like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
“It’s really what drives the interest in the podcast,” Ryan said. “We don’t do any PPC or ads to drive people to that content.”
“You have to tie your content back into something that you’re truly passionate about so that you can share authenticly. It really has to be something that matters to you.” – Ryan Carson
This experience led Ryan to start experimenting with more social channels and new ways to share the ‘Educate Yourself’ mission and help position himself as an expert in the tech education and jobs niche.
“I started to write on Medium to talk about what it means to educate yourself and how you can get technical jobs without a technical degree.”
LinkedIn has also become an important channel for Ryan: “For a long time, I thought it was very corporate. But the reality is, that’s where people are when they’re thinking about business, so if you’re selling B2B you have to be all over LinkedIn.”
And much of the success of Ryan (and Treehouse’s) content comes down to one thing: authenticity.
‘Educate Yourself’ isn’t a marketing strategy, it’s the heart and soul of Treehouse and a personal mission for Ryan. It’s something he deeply cares about.
“You have to tie your content back into something that you’re truly passionate about so that you can share authenticly. It really has to be something that matters to you,” Ryan explained.
For example, for a while Treehouse had some diversity issues within its team and Ryan realized that it was his job to fix the situation and build a more diverse organization. So when he took to LinkedIn to share how he feels current system doesn’t support people of all races, genders, and backgrounds equally, it generated plenty of engagement and discussion because it was genuine and something a lot of people can relate to.
Ryan and Treehouse’s content has been so successful because it shares authentic stories of people who had taken it upon themselves to learn new skills and change their lives. Their content doesn’t focus on Treehouse’s products, instead, it’s a way to share the company’s values and connect with like-minded people.
Digital Marketing Strategist
Building systems for social media success
Consistency is key to social media success. And in order to ensure Treehouse is constantly putting out great stuff, Ryan works with a few folks in his team to batch produce content.
“We pre-create up to 100 visual assets ahead of time. We choose our messaging and create posts of various sizes for each platform and then we use Buffer to schedule those out.”
“The reason it’s important [for us] to schedule ahead of time is that it takes time and thought to come up with a good message and content. It’s not something you can always come up with off the cuff.”
Though Ryan schedules most of his content, he also understands the importance of being-in-the-moment on social media. You’ll often find him replying to comments and interactions on his content as well as posting Instagram stories and longer-form videos on IGTV when he has a few spare moments in his schedule.
Measuring the impact of social media content
Treehouse sells to two distinct audiences:
Consumers/individuals who want to learn to code
Business who need help hiring and creating talent
On the consumer side, Treehouse sees a massive amount of organic signups that are attributed to social and owned content.
However, on the B2B side, social media marketing will rarely drive any leads or sales. That’s not a problem though. From a B2B perspective, social media is more about positioning Treehouse and Ryan as leaders in the tech education and jobs niche. And it’s working.
On a regular basis, Ryan will meet with new leads and prospects who will have seen Treehouse content across social media:
“At a conference I was at recently, someone came up to me and said, ‘I’ve seen you everywhere, Treehouse is crushing it,’” Ryan explained. And though these interactions are happening away from Twitter or Instagram, the content Ryan shares on social media is a key driver of these relationships that in turn help Treehouse to generate more leads and close deals.
For example, in the caption of a recent Instagram post about a Fortune 50 company that reached out about making a deal with Treehouse, Ryan explained that his efforts on social media are one of the key drivers behind the opportunity:
“Had something pretty amazing happen yesterday,” Ryan said on Instagram. “I got an email from a Fortune 50 company, asking if we could partner on a potentially massive deal. The reason they emailed me was because of two things:
1) Eight years of hard work we’ve put into our product at @teamtreehouse – they said they absolutely love our UX.
2) The hard work I’ve been putting in on LinkedIn, Twitter and Insta, to stay top of mind for folks – so when there is an opportunity, they think ‘Ryan and Treehouse!’ Just another proof point that having a long-term perspective and putting in years of work WILL yield results – you just have to stay patient.”
Had something pretty amazing happen yesterday. I got an email from a Fortune 50 company, asking if we could partner on a potentially massive deal. The reason they emailed me was because of two things: 1) Eight years of hard work we’ve put into our product at @teamtreehouse – they said they absolutely love our UX 2) The hard work I’ve been putting in on LinkedIn, Twitter and Insta, to stay top of mind for folks – so when there is an opportunity, they think “Ryan and Treehouse!” Just another proof point that having a long term perspective and putting in years of work WILL yield results – you just have to stay patient.
Ryan’s 3 pillars for social media success
When you boil down Treehouse’s success on social media it comes down to three things:
Patience: Social media success doesn’t happen overnight. “You need to have patience and understand that your social media strategy will be a long-term strategy otherwise it won’t work,” Ryan told me.
Passion: If you’re going to create great content, you have to genuinely care about the subject. “You have to be truly passionate about your business and message.”
Discipline: Creating content for social media can be difficult and time-consuming, but if you want to succeed, you have to ensure you’re consistently posting to your social channels. “Quantity is the way to stay above the attention line. So you gotta be consistent.”
Are patience, passion and discipline key factors of your social media strategy? How do you use content to share your company mission? Let us know in the comments.
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