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Thingtesting's Social Is Refreshingly Straightforward
Featuring an interview with Natalie Sportelli, Head of Content at Thingtesting.
Before we dive into today’s interview, I have a quick favor to ask! I created a Link in Bio Reader Survey that I’d love for you to fill out. In order for this newsletter to be even more educational, entertaining, useful, cool, and fun in 2023, I need your feedback. It’s anonymous so please be very honest! Thank you in advance and I can’t wait for even moooore Link in Bio next year!
Today’s interview is with Natalie Sportelli, Head of Content at Thingtesting, a site dedicated to researching and reviewing online brands. My interest in Thingtesting’s social media stems mainly from their Instagram grid. It’s a jarringly simple strategy—products shot or comped on a white background paired with reviews in the captions. It definitely doesn’t obey current “best practices”, yet it’s a refreshing and calming presence amidst the loud Reels, busy graphics, and eye-catching colors of so many other accounts. It reminds me a lot of popular single-topic accounts like Matchbook Diaries and Dad’s Cans.
I wanted to hear first-hand from Natalie on how this strategy was working for them. How do they think about Reels, a decidedly less calming medium? What kind of audience are they building through this strategy? Why is like count hidden? You can find the full interview below!
But first…an ad from our friends at Dash Hudson!
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Rachel Karten: First, can you tell me about your current role and any past social (or not!) roles you've had?
Natalie Sportelli: As Head of Content at Thingtesting, I lead our content strategy and plan editorial coverage. I edit and produce our newsletter, oversee all of our social media accounts, supervise and write copy for our website and user communications, and work on brand building efforts and special projects. My previous roles as an Associate Editor for Under 30 at Forbes and as Director of Brand & Content at VC firm Lerer Hippeau both included running and growing social media accounts. Social media management has been an important part of every professional role I’ve had in my career and I’ve seen firsthand how content, brand, and social all work together when building a strategy for your business.
RK: How would you describe Thingtesting's social media strategy?
NS: Thingtesting started as an Instagram account and we’ve more recently spent a lot of time on TikTok, while staying active on LinkedIn and Twitter. We’ve experimented a bit with Pinterest and YouTube Shorts as well. Our goal on social media is to build brand awareness of Thingtesting as a trustworthy place to research and review online brands. We do this through brand photography that helps users discover brands to review and videos where we share our honest reviews of brands on Thingtesting. We want to explain what we do and our value to consumers through all of our content, and social media is a huge part of reaching new audiences.
RK: And how would you describe Thingtesting's Instagram strategy, specifically? What's your goal on that platform?
NS: Instagram is a great place to interact with brands (and get in front of their audiences) and reach consumers who are unfamiliar with Thingtesting. On Instagram, we share a lot of original brand photography, Reels, editorial content recaps, and UGC from our community, all with the goal of helping followers, and Instagram users in general, learn what we’re about. It’s exciting to see Reels really take off, for example, and to see a lot of Thingtesters share things they’re testing out in their own stories. Instagram is about encouraging people to go to our website to read and share honest reviews, of course, but it also does a lot of work for us in terms of community building.
RK: I think we're in an age of information overload on social, so to look at Thingtesting's very neat grid feels almost jarring. How did this aesthetic choice come about?
NS: Since our founder and CEO Jenny Gyllander originally launched Thingtesting as an Instagram account, we’ve always had a really clean aesthetic. She shot her own photography using pastel backgrounds and we keep that going, but now use a white background that mimics our website. We think this decision allows the product to stand out without the busyness that often comes with product photography.
RK: I noticed you have like count hidden. Is there a reason for that decision?
NS: I think it leads to unfair comparison between posts and doesn’t offer a lot of value to followers.
RK: How would you describe the Thingtesting audience?
NS: Our audience loves to be the first to know about and test out new brands. They are passionate about brand discovery and put in the work to research and read reviews of brands before buying anything. They love to see things they’ve never seen before and learn about real innovation from consumer brands. They are a curious bunch who enjoy learning from each other and sharing their reviews, perspectives and experiences with brands and with each other.
RK: How do Reels fit into this more “clean” aesthetic?
NS: We have been posting Reels for the last few months. We find that Reels do really well for us because they get across the reviews and product testing components that support our work on Instagram, which is helping our users discover new brands they can research and review on Thingtesting. In that way, we find that our main grid and Reels work together to get our value out to users.
RK: Talk to me about your TikTok strategy a little bit. How does it differ from your Instagram strategy?
NS: Our Instagram is a mix of brand photography, editorial stories, UGC and Reels. Our TikTok is fully focused on product review videos. Once we found our style and visual identity on TikTok, we’ve seen a lot of growth in followers. People appreciate our honesty and the fact that brands can’t pay their way into a TikTok (or into any of our other content). Our goal here is really to reach new audiences and spread the word about our value as a trustworthy destination for product reviews.
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RK: What do you love about working in social media?
NS: Social media moves so quickly and it can be overwhelming for people who aren’t constantly online. I love working in social media because it does often feel like its own secret language. Working in social media is kind of like being in an extended community of people reading the internet and picking up on things that might make zero sense to the outside world. Social media professionals are so smart, savvy and hard working and I love to share tips and tricks and commiserate on the various algorithms together.
RK: Any final thoughts?
NS: Understanding your “why” on social media and what your goals are will always help you keep a sense of direction and deliver consistently good content to users. Make it about your followers and giving them value, not you.
There are a few very exciting updates to the Link in Bio Job Board!
First, I launched something called the Link in Bio Talent Collective. It’s basically a way for companies to find talented social pros—and for you to find your next role. If you’re open for work (or are even very casually looking for new opportunities), you can apply here. (Yes, you can set your profile to be anonymous if you're currently employed somewhere but open to looking.) Once accepted, your profile will get put in front of companies who are looking to hire talented social media professionals. Companies like Shopify, Dropbox, and more use this tool to hire, so it’s an easy way to get in front of some really cool companies who are already looking. Apply (for free!) here!
And if you’re a company looking to hire talented social media professionals, you can head here to get access to the Link in Bio Talent Collective.
The goal of the Link in Bio Talent Collective is really to make it the best, most curated place to find social media job opportunities. I’m excited about it.
Finally, we’ve got some great new job postings on the job board like:
Social Media Manager (Full-Time, Remote) at Sundays for Dogs, a company making air-dried dog food that’s meant to be healthier and tastier than other options. Seems like a really great opportunity to design and implement a social media vision from the bottom up. You’ll get to help determine everything from content segments to brand voice. Check out the job posting here.