Q: Tell me about A+I and why you started it?
A: My sister Anna and I are both registered nurses and work in hospitals, and I’ve been a nurse for about 13 years. I work in the intensive care unit and the number one complaint of every patient that I’ve ever taken care of is ‘Why won’t someone redo these hospital gowns?’ And it’s so true! The gowns are awful – they’ve been washed hundreds of times and worn by hundreds of people and there are holes on them and EKG stickers stuck to them – and it’s just not fair to the patients. My sister and I have always talked about how fun it would be to redo the hospital gown and do a direct to consumer product. We didn’t have any experience in manufacturing or fashion, so it was a big learning curve. It was after the birth of my second son that my sister and I finally decided to do it. We started from there! We began with fabrics and patterns and researching manufacturers. Since them, we’ve mostly been selling them online.
Q: Tell us a little about the history of social media and Annie + Isabel?
A: We started a Facebook page before we ever became official. Mostly it was just friends and family that followed, and then eventually other people started trickling in from our friends and family. It was so cool to watch! It’s definitely been the number one driver to our site – we’ve tried a lot of different things but this space was so new to us. It’s been super interesting to see what works and what doesn’t. We’ve had a couple of things that have really gone viral and it’s so shocking and amazing! Thousands and thousands of people have seen it. That’s big for us – we’re a small company. I think there was one that had 20,000 views! And really, at the end of the day, we just want to tell people about us.
Q: Can you elaborate about your philosophy in social media? What’s the coolest thing that has happened because of social media?
A: We feel that everyone has a voice with social media and I think that it’s been great for us because people can ask us questions and we can get right back to them. I also think it allows people to have an insight into who we are and what we stand for – it gives us personality. It’s been really neat for us because we care so much about the people we’re selling to. As I’m sending out gowns to customers I’m always thinking about the person and what they’re going through, whether it be cancer or surgery, and it makes me feel like we’re a part of their story. I feel like social media has really helped us get that information from us customers. It’s created a relationship with us and our customers that I don’t think we would have without social media.
Q: Which social channel is most valuable to your brand?
A: Most definitely Facebook!
Q: Which social channel do you see as a growing importance in 2013?
A: I’ve been hearing that Facebook isn’t as popular as it used to be, but I still feel that Facebook is our most valuable resource because it reaches all ages. It’s been incredibly valuable for us – it’s the channel that we seem to use the most. We have a Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest, but I can’t keep up with all of that! We’ve also had some great success with influential bloggers so I think we’ll be partnering with more bloggers and making our way into the blogsphere.
Q: If you had a magic wand, you would be able to use your fan content from your social channels to do what?
A: What ReadyPulse is about basically – if you could put something on your site that was a running feed of what people are saying about you – that would be amazing! I think people believe what other people say more than what you say as a brand. The best advertising is when someone is talking about you, not you talking about you. Sometimes I don’t even know what people say about us – if we could get all of the information from people and display it all in some way, then it really gives your company a good reputation.
Q: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in social as a small business?
A: To just be patient. It takes a while to get your fans, but if you truly believe in what your company stands for and really believe in the mission, then people will like you on Facebook and follow you on Twitter. We don’t post every day, but when we do, we make sure it’s something of interest. I like to post stories that pertain to our business. I also think you need to take risks – we’ve learned a lot about people through taking risks.