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How Great Clips Does Social Media

Authors: Jay Baer Aaron Grote
Posted Under: Social Pros Podcast
Hosted By
Jay Baer

Daniel Lemin

Convince & Convert
Jay Baer

Hannah Tooker

Jay Baer

Leanna Pham

Convince & Convert
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Aaron Grote, Digital Strategist for Great Clips, joins the Social Pros Podcast to share how a brand with 4,000 franchies locations integrates social for customer care, attraction, and retention.

Great Clips. Great Social.

You would think that a brand whose bread-and-butter comes from making you look good would focus their social on style. But with upwards of 4,000 franchise locations, Aaron’s experience has shown him that it’s better to focus on convenience of arrival than how you look when leaving Great Clips.
Style reflects personality, and it’s important that you leave looking exactly the way you want, which is why Aaron focuses their campaigns on the ease of repeating that great look wherever you go through Clip Notes.
By aiming social at the technology that sets Great Clips apart from the competition, he adds depth to the brand and ensures repeat customers that double as advocates online.
He also prioritizes individual posts over platform themes which allows for a more flexible and responsive strategy that can include a variety of social outlets. At the end of the day, it’s about what sets the brand apart from others and for Great Clips that means focusing on what makes them different and being open to opportunities with unexpected audiences in different social spaces.

In This Episode

  • Why successful social for a style brand doesn’t always mean a focus on style
  • How a focus on individual post cohesion instead of platform themes leads to a broader, more inclusive social strategy
  • Why attentive social customer care sometimes means putting off resolution of an issue
  • Why making the best use of social platforms sometimes means not using them at all


Quotes From This Episode

“It’s a lot easier to make content that has kind of an Instagram aesthetic work in Facebook than vice versa.” —@atgrote
We focus on our convenience driving differentiators on social media and in a lot of our marketing. You’re going to look at reviews, you’re going to ask friends, you’re not necessarily going to take our word that we do great haircuts.” —@atgrote
“You need to catch someone’s attention right away. It needs to be engaging. It needs to be entertaining, and you need to be able to convey what’s actually a weirdly complex concept quickly and clearly.” —@atgrote
“Instead of just trying to say the same things we’re saying on Facebook to a small number of people on Twitter, we really tried to focus on a specific audience there.” —@atgrote
“Now that we’re paying to produce content and Instagram really has a richer set of high converting features on it, user generated content isn’t as big.” —@atgrote
“When it comes to trying to get specific with who we’re targeting, we reserve that field for what is a very rich CRM type platform.” —@atgrote
We're not differentiating by platform. Every platform can do all of the things we want it to do. Click To Tweet
“We really want our franchisees to have confidence in what we’re putting out there, to know that it is working, to know that it is driving traffic to their locations. And that doesn’t happen automatically.” —@atgrote
“You learn from the maturation cycles of other platforms that in the end, organic isn’t going to be a long-term thing, even if you can make it work at the beginning.” —@atgrote
We're making a conscious choice not to reach a resolution with them in that first exchange. Click To Tweet
“I want to make sure when we begin doing customer service on Instagram, we’re doing it right and really meeting customer expectations.” —@atgrote
“The skills and experience that the Marine Corps gave me, are weirdly transferrable to what I’m doing right now.” —@atgrote
“It’s really rich with opportunities to tell amazing stories and make a difference in people’s lives.” —@atgrote


See you next week!


Jay: Welcome everybody to Social Pros, the podcast for real people doing real work in social media. I am, as always, Jay Baer from Convince and Convert, joined, as usual, by my special Texas friend. He is the Executive Strategist at Salesforce and Marketing Cloud, he is Mr. Adam Brown. Adam, what do you know today, my fine friend?
Adam: Well, I know a lot. I know that I am busy this week and next as we kind of get ready for some PTO for you and for me. I know I am also in desperate need of a service that we are going to be talking about a little bit today. Some would call this, from a colloquial stand point, me needing to get my ears lowered but I like to think of it as getting …
Jay: I thought you were going … I thought this was a Tinder kind of an episode or something like that.
Adam: Oh, wow, no.
Jay: I was going to get real concerned about Mrs. Brown there for a second, I wasn’t really sure where you were heading with the segue.
Adam: Well, I’m glad-
Jay: It was scandalous.
Adam: That was a little cliffhanger there, ladies and gentlemen.
Jay: It really was. We’re going to edit that to, like, a 30 second pause and get people really wondering what’s happening there.
Adam: That’s right. That’s right. No, but I’m serious about this. This is not just as part of a teaser for our next guest, but I need a haircut.
Jay: You do need a haircut and our guest on the show today, Mr. Aaron Grote, who is a digital strategist at Great Clips may not be able to handle that personally. I don’t know how good he is with scissors, but he’s damn fine with a keyboard. Aaron, welcome to Social Pros.
Adam: He sure is.
Aaron: Thank you, Jay, thank you, Adam. Adam, are you a haircut procrastinator?
Adam: I am. I am and it was really hitting … As I said, I’m about to go on PTO and I’m … My girlfriend and I are about to go to Nashville and see my folks and, of course, my folks every time they see me it’s, “Your hair is too long.” They’re fairly conservative as it relates to the grooming department. Living here in Austin, Texas, you know, keep Austin weird, keep a little hippy. They’re not big fans of the hairstyles.
Aaron: Nice.
Jay: Aaron, you … I think we should do it this way. I want you to describe for the Social Pros audience just how large Great Clips is, because when I was doing research for this episode, I knew it was big and you guys have a NASCAR and everything else but it is a big company. Why don’t you frame that out for folks?
Aaron: Yeah, actually, we get that a lot, Jay. So we have about 4,200 locations across the US and Canada. We’re a hundred percent franchise owned, so those are all franchised locations.
Jay: So that’s, like, as many restaurants as Burger King has, or more. You’re like Burger King with scissors, that is a serious operation, a billion dollar haircut empire, and tell us show it works. You know, the franchise operation is always interesting because you in corporate can do some things and then, of course, franchisees do some of their own things. How does it work with social and digital in terms of what you do versus what they do?
Aaron: So, we try to do a lot on the corporate side. I mean, you know the three of us sitting here talking and you guys having a weekly podcast, that covers … That’s strictly dedicated to social media says a lot about how complicated it can be to do social media marketing right, so we do try to take on as much of that as possible for our franchisees, in terms of driving brand awareness, consideration, affinity and actual measurable results. What that kind of frees our franchisees up to do is put the local face on the brand and that’s really what we focus on enabling, so that they don’t have to try to figure out how to be a brand on social media, how to drive direct response, how to really convey our differentiators, so that’s kind of our approach.
Jay: They don’t have local accounts then? There’s not a Facebook account for the Great Clips at 13th and Q? It’s one brand account across the channels?
Aaron: So, actually, we do have one brand Facebook page, for example, but we also use the Facebook parent/child page relationship, so all of our locations do have their own location Facebook page, which franchisees or their delegates can have access to if they request it.
Jay: Do you syndicate content for them to put on that page or do they kind of go it alone?
Aaron: So we do currently have it set where our brand posts our publishing to pages. We’ve kind of played with a few different strategies there, as different Facebook capabilities or different third party tools have kind of come in and out. Our mindset right now is what we want to happen is brand content goes to your location page at least frequently enough to be a backstop. We know a lot of times for local business owners, maybe at first it seems like a great, effective idea, then you figure out that this takes more time than I thought, or maybe you had a really great manager and now you’re kind of training in a new one and you don’t want to dedicate that time, so we really want to make it possible for franchisees to experiment, to make up their mind and to kind of come in and out as, you know, even as content becomes available. There’s, for example … It’s going to be easier for a lot of small business owners to come up with local content in the summer because that’s where more community activities are happening and things, so we really do want to provide them with a backstop but give them the space and freedom to post as they please.
Jay: One of the things that you mentioned in the pre-show conversation is that you come at social from an Instagram first mentality and I think that’s really fascinating. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Aaron: Yep, so when we’re publishing our brand content, we do work with an agency of record to produce most of that and what we’ve found is that it’s a lot easier to make content that has kind of an Instagram aesthetic work in Facebook than vice versa, so when we’re producing content, we are producing it for Instagram but then, as appropriate, we are also publishing it to Facebook.
Adam: And to that point, Aaron, I can assume that as you focus on your marketing and promoting, it’s kind of a tri factor, if you will. I mean, it’s the intersection of style, convenience and value, right? Are those the kind of three key messages that you’re trying to share around Great Clips or is, for example, your activities on Instagram more about style and, maybe, perhaps on Twitter more customer service and then Facebook, maybe you’re talking about convenience. I’m curious how you kind of reconcile the social property with the message or is it a consistent message everywhere?
Aaron: That’s a good question. So, we actually focus a lot on our convenience driving differentiators on social media and in a lot of our marketing, we need to communicate our capabilities around delivering great haircuts, consistently great haircuts every visit but, to be honest, you’re going to look at reviews, you’re going to ask friends, you’re not necessarily going to take our word that we do great haircuts. You can find that out for yourself and you’re going to, so while we do talk about that, it’s an important message for us, a lot of our differentiators are around convenience, whether it’s saving you time with online check in, whether it’s making sure you can get a consistent haircut from location to location with our Clip Notes technology, those kind of things.
Jay: Aaron, Clip Notes. That sounds amazing. So what you’re saying is you can say, hey, I can go to a different great Clip Notes location when I’m on vacation or when I’m traveling for business and there’s some sort of database that tells each stylist what kind of haircut want? I’ve never heard of that. That’s amazing.
Aaron: Yes, you’re actually pretty much right on. When you come to a Great Clips salon, they’re going to ask you for your name and your phone number, and that sort of creates a unique ID for you in our database. One thing that happens, is at the end of your haircut while you’re checking out, the stylist actually enters in technical language what it took to give you the haircut you asked for. So when you come back the next time, no matter what Great Clips you’re at, you can get the same haircut. And it’s stylists communicating to each other in their technical language, so you don’t have to have that anxiety around, ‘OK how do I tell her what I had last time.’
Right, ’cause that’s a real thing for people, that anxiety. But if you know, and she’s actually holding a piece of paper in her hand exactly what to do to get the same haircut last time, then that really relieves that anxiety.
Jay: What number? Like am I number four, five? I don’t know what my number is. You know? It’s your job to know that number. I love this technology. I’m fired up about it.
Aaron: Yeah, you absolutely shouldn’t need to remember that, Jay. And that’s really the approach that we had when we built it. One interesting thing is we’ve spent a minute talking about it, right? And I’ve been talking kind of quickly. So the challenge around conveying what it does, how, and the value prop behind that, is how do you do that on social media? Very quickly, and in such an engaging way that it stops someone from scrolling. You need to catch someone’s attention right away. It needs to be engaging. It needs to be entertaining, and you need to be able to convey it, what’s actually a weirdly complex concept quickly and clearly. So that’s been fun and challenging to play with.
Jay: You have said that you are spending less time on Twitter now, than you have in the past. Do you feel like that’s because the dynamics of the platform have changed, or what your audiences want have changed. What’s sort of been the driver of that?
Aaron: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, I’ve been with Great Clips for about three years right now. For us, Twitter has never had the penetration of Facebook or even Instagram within months of when it came out. So for us looking at how we can make the most use of it, customer service has always been important on Twitter. But in terms of reaching an audience besides customer service with Twitter, we kind of looked at who’s using it and where that overlaps with what we do. And for us, that was NASCAR.
We have had a longtime sponsorship of Kasey Kahne, a driver in the Cup series, and that has a disproportionally large reach, into Twitter as a disproportionally large reach, into NASCAR fans. And so, instead of just trying to say the same things we’re saying on Facebook to a small number of people on Twitter, we really tried to focus on that audience there, and that’s been our approach with Twitter.
Jay: I guess I didn’t realize that Twitter was so popular amongst NASCAR fans, disproportionally. That’s an interesting finding. Has Kasey Kahne always been a driver for Great Clips? Has he always been your guy?
Aaron: Yep. We’ve had other drivers too, but we’ve been with Kasey for a long time. And actually, we just kind of announced at the end of this season, we’ll be stopping that program. But it’s been a great thing for us, really active fans, really loyal fun to be a part of.
Jay: Do you get to work with him and his team in the off season? There’s not much of an off season in NASCAR, but do you get to work with him to create some social content, to do some Twitter video, or things among those lines?
Aaron: Yeah. We have. We really try to focus around some of our core campaigns. Some of the funnest things have not necessarily been consumer facing even. For example, Stylist Appreciation day. He always does something fun for us and when they get their haircuts, they’ll take videos from within the salon. We also used NASCAR as a big partner platform, so for a few years we’d partnered with the Discovery Channel in Shark week. They were looking for a quick in and out of NASCAR to promote Shark Week. There were some really, really fun, really dynamic partnerships that came out of that with Kasey diving with sharks in his Great Clips dry suit.
Jay: That’s awesome. It seems like, because your haircut as Adam talked about in the open, is so personal right? It’s part of your brand identity in a very meaningful and obvious way. Adam wants his hair to be longer ’cause he lives in Austin. Adam’s mom wants his hair to be shorter because she doesn’t like that sort of thing. Is there a big opportunity here for user generated content, for people to be taking selfies of their new Great Clips haircut? Is this part of the story here, or do you feel like hey, let’s do more of a cultivated set of images where we know the hair looks good and it’s perfectly quaffed, etcetera?
Aaron: So, we have played with user generated content a lot. Right now it’s not a big part of our platform. Right now we’re really trying to focus on the differentiators like online check in and Clip Notes. Partly because we know through testing kind of with direct response format ads, that it converts well. Right?
User generated content was great when we didn’t necessarily have a paid strategy on Instagram, but now that we’re paying to produce content and Instagram really has a richer set of high converting features on it, user generated content isn’t as big. It isn’t really a big part of our current social strategy.
One funny note is that a lot of the times, you get user generated content, it’s got pictures guys are taking in their car in the parking lot. Which is less than useful. So guys, next time you take that haircut selfie, don’t do it in the car.
Jay: That’s good advice right there from Aaron Grote, Digital Strategist at Great Clips. For all your selfiers out there, do not take your haircut selfie in the car. But I can completely understand that, you’re looking in the windshield or in the rear view mirror and like, ‘Yeah man I look pretty good. I should selfie that.’
Aaron: That’s exactly it.
Jay: That’s fantastic. Aaron, on the show we talk a lot about pay because it’s so important now, and we’ve had several conversations in the past few months about using lookalike audiences to increase the number of people you can reach in Facebook and Instagram, and to a lesser degree Pinterest and now LinkedIn. Does lookalike targeting work for you? If you’ve got a customer base that you can upload their email addresses using custom audiences, and you’re like, I want to reach people who are similar birds of a feather to this. Does that work? Do people who know one another, or are connected to one another on social, does that give them a higher propensity to go to Great Clips? Or is that type of targeting not valid for an organization like yours?
Aaron: I believe it would be valid. When it comes to trying to get specific with who we’re targeting, we actually sort of reserve that field for what is a very rich CRM type platform. We’re actually a very broad-reach brand. Psychographics, demographics, geography. There’s a lot of different people who get their hair cut from us. So, we don’t always need to get very specific. But we do have a high performing, very rich CRM based system that doesn’t kind of give it’s way to lookalike, but not through Facebook’s tools.
Jay: Is that sort of email direct mail primarily?
Aaron: We are using Display and social media for that. We’re not big on email.
Jay: Interesting. Cool. Good to know.
Adam: I think one of the other interesting things, Aaron, about haircuts, is the recurring nature of the service. You need a haircut about every month, and I know one of the things we were talking about a few minutes earlier, was you looking kind of at the intersection of the content. Talking about style, convenience, value, all those other messages. But I’m curious if at when you’re creating your marketing and social programs, you’re also looking at kind of the goal or objective.
My guess is, because of the recurring nature, you want to make sure that you keep people who are coming to Great Clips now, continuing to come about every month. You’re probably always trying to create new audiences and new customers who are maybe using a different salon or a different kind of barber shop or somewhere in the middle. And because you mentioned that you’re a franchiser and have over 4,000 franchise-owned stores, you’re probably always trying to recruit new owners and new potentials. How do you kind of look at your objectives in those areas, and are you using different social platforms kind of to serve different functions?
Aaron: Yeah, you nailed it. So everything you said, Adam, is right. What we’re not doing is differentiating by platform. Every platform can do all of the things we want it to do, broadly speaking. That’s not 100% true. We’re not doing consumer marketing on LinkedIn. But with paid social and dark posts, we don’t necessarily need to focus on one thing in any given platform. For example, we can have a cohesive Instagram feed while using dark posts to do kind of niche things with it, whether it’s direct response price point based ads, we can do that on Instagram without having them live in our profile.
So we don’t necessarily differentiate by platform. We just try to do the best thing for each objective we have. Sometimes we have seasonal campaigns early in the year. We’re doing a lot of sports based advertising with traditional media that we tie into with social media really heavily. They’re heavily integrated campaigns. At the same time, we kind of have our ongoing day to day social media content that’s being published alongside of that, but that also continues after the sports campaign marketing is done.
Back to school’s a big time for us, so we’re tying into a broader campaign there while still continuing our day to day strategy. All of those things require different content, themes, different formats, whether it’s direct response or video or image just for awareness. So our ap downloads for our online checkin app, we just try to do the right thing with a post instead of limiting ourselves to any one thing on a platform.
Adam: And you’re kind of at an interesting spot. While your focus is certainly social media and digital, but being part of kind of a tight cohesive marketing team there at Great Clips, my guess is you’re having to make a case for more budget or allocation coming towards you. So, curious how you kind of make that rationalization, and also dealing with in this case thousands of franchisers or franchisees, do you have any learning or trainings that you have to do with them to help them kind of understand where social is and what social is driving? Or have they pretty much immediately grasped the value of what you’re doing and the value of those social channels that you described?
Aaron: Yeah, you brought up two really interesting and important points there, Adam. So I’ll kind of start with the first which is working with the broader marketing team. You’re right, as Digital Strategist, social media is just one of the things I’m responsible for. We have a pretty lean internal structure, and we all work really closely together which is really helpful when you’re trying to make the best decisions for any one campaign or one objective.
There’s not, what I’ve kind of noticed is the usual gimme gimme kind of budget battles in our company, which is a huge blessing. We really just work well together as a team to say, okay, here we are, here’s what we’re trying to do, here’s who we’re trying to talk to, here’s the time frame, here’s the context. What is the best thing we can all do? And as long as everybody at the table genuinely means it when they ask that question, you kinda get outputs like we do. Where yeah, sometimes it’s going to be heavy on social, sometimes it’s not. And I’m good with that. I just want to do social when it’s the right thing to do.
And then second, you brought up the dynamic with having franchisees and you’re absolutely right, that communication is key for us. We really want our franchisees to have confidence in what we’re putting out there, to know that it is working, to know that it is driving traffic to their locations. And that doesn’t happen automatically. You do have to work to that. Communication internally has to be a big part, from the beginning, from concept of how we work.
Adam: You’ve talked a little bit about what you’re doing, certainly on Instagram and Facebook. And you noted that Twitter is more of a customer service oriented platform for you. I’m curious, as you look at kind of the next year of those evolving social channels. Jay and I, we’re so lucky to have Elisa Meredith on the show last week who is an expert, not just on Instagram, but also Pinterest.
I bring up Pinterest because I can harking back to the days when I was a kid in the barber shop, and they always had those big books. They always had dozens and dozens, or even hundreds of haircuts in it. You would go in, thumb through the book, and say that’s the haircut I want. Haircut number 407B. And I started thinking, gosh, I bet there’s some Pinterest board somewhere, that are just haircuts. And then that becomes that correlation with social to the old school. So I’m curious how Snapchat. I know you’re doing some interesting things on Snapchat. How’s the use of Snapchat and video and things like that, are those things that you’re considering with Great Clips? And certainly with Snapchat, are you having success with it?
Aaron: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, I’ll start with Snapchat and then move to Pinterest. For us, Snapchat is not an organic play. When we’ve used Snapchat, we’ve used Snap ads and we’ve used sponsored geo filters. We have liked that. We’ve always done it as part of a broader campaign. So whether it’s college basketball playoffs or football playoffs, the content we’re producing for Snap ads is tied into those campaigns.
We have been happy with it; they’re not the cheapest impressions you’re going to get. And their reporting is less mature than some of the older platforms like Facebook and Instagram, but we’ve been happy with it and I see us doing it again. But like I said, that is not going to be an organic play for us. You kind of learned from the maturation cycles of other platforms that in the end, organic isn’t going to be a long-term thing, even if you can make it work at the beginning. So we’re really just focusing on the paid with Snap.
With Pinterest, it’s changing fast. A lot more ad formats, a lot more reporting abilities. And its demographics are changing.
Adam: They really are.
Aaron: Guys are getting into it more, so Pinterest hasn’t been a big platform for us. It isn’t right now. I’m always looking at it and kind of keeping an eye on when the scale we can achieve with it would justify the costs that we’d need to invest to do it right. So it’s definitely on my mind. Not currently doing it.
Adam: I think a lot of folks, a lot of our listeners, are probably thinking about that too. Like you said, the demographics of the Pinterest user are dramatically changing. Pinterest is offering new and really exciting paid placement opportunities, and that was one of the things that Elisa talked about last week. I do want to talk about one more thing, and that is the Twitter and the customer service before I hand it back over to Jay. It’s a topic that Jay and I often talk about here. I know it’s a specifically interesting one for you, being kind of in a franchiser/franchisee type of relationships.
Last week, I had the lucky fortune to being with one of our Salesforce social studio customers, a large quick dining leisure restaurant chain. They deal with hundreds of queries and questions that come in with customers over Twitter, and because they’re a franchiser like you, there are things that they can or can’t answer. For example, they can’t talk about employment of people in the individual stores. There’s federal laws kind of regulating that. So, they have to kind of create that protocol that allows them to talk to the individual franchise owner, who then gets it down to the General Manager and the Manager and the actual employee.
I’m curious, in your situation, how you kind of manage social customer care on behalf of the Great Clips franchisees, and how that work flow looks like when you have people who either, you know, customer complaints or compliments.
Aaron: I’m really glad you brought it up. Customer service is a huge focus for us. It’s a huge part of my job. When you’re a franchise, there’s kind of two important aspects of customer service that are almost at odds with each other. On the one hand, you want to be as convenient for the customer as possible. If it’s possible, make something a one stop issue where they can send a couple of tweets or couple of Facebook messages and get it done. That’s the ideal.
At the same time, it’s our approach that a customer connecting with a person that owns that location around a customer service issue, that’s the most effective way to do it. They’re going to feel so paid attention to when a owner is talking to them, and so but what that does, is it adds this delay onto it. We’re not going to have every franchisee using the Great Clips brand Facebook page messenger account. So, do you get things done as fast as humanly possible for that customer, or do you give it a little bit of a delay and connect them with that owner?
Our current approach is to connect them with that owner. So we definitely want to make sure no one feels like they’re just being put off or talking to a robot. We need to be empathetic and we need to set expectations with them. At the same time, we’re making a conscious choice not to reach a resolution with them in that first exchange. And that’s always a hard decision to make. We’re always looking at it and questioning that. That’s where we’re at right now. I’m pretty happy with it. I’m always looking for ways to make that resolution faster and more convenient for customers, but I don’t ever want to lose that really personal touch of talking to that local owner.
Jay: Aaron, you talked about Instagram being a big part of your program on the marketing side. Are you seeing an increase in Instagram customer service opportunities as well?
Aaron: Yes. What I don’t have is a way to really effectively handle that on our current tool that we’re using. For example, if someone’s commenting on one of our posts, we’re 100% capable of seeing that, and within our monitoring tool replying to that. That’s not how a lot of them happen. With something as visual as a haircut, people are reaching out to us with unique posts. They’re tagging us in their post, and that kind of engagement isn’t something our current tool can bring in and handle.
Jay: Pick up on.
Aaron: Yeah. So what we’ve done is not actually engage on any customer service on Instagram, cause if we can only catch 20% of that, we don’t want people to cruise our Instagram profile, see customer service comments in our posts, and expect that if they tag us in a photo we’re going to be able to find it and reply to that. That’s a false expectation we’d be setting. So we’re just choosing not to engage in customer service on Instagram right now.
That’s a hole for me. It’s a tool problem. Tools cost money. And so, it’s always something we’re going to be trying to fix. I want to make sure when we begin doing customer service on Instagram, we’re doing it right and really meeting customer expectations.
Jay: Well Adam said that he needs a haircut, and he’s got some tools, so maybe you can work out some sort of a barter program.
Adam: Hey, I like this. My mom will like this, I’ll tell you that.
Jay: Yes, yes. Salesforce Marketing Cloud not so much, but your mom’s going to be siked. I’m a connector. I’m here to help. That’s what I do.
Speaking of Salesforce Marketing Cloud folks, want to thank them for their sponsorship of Social Pros, the podcast now in season 6, 275 episodes. You can get all of those at All of the archives, all the audio clips, all the links to great resources including the new e-book from Adam and his team at Salesforce Marketing Cloud “50 Standout Best Practices for Social Media Marketers” talks about ways to do social listening better, talks about ways to measure your progress better, talks about ways to create content better, do better paid etcetera. Go to This show this week is also brought to you by our friends at Yext, the leaders in mobile marketing solutions.
Not too long ago, myself and Jeff Rohrs, who’s the CMO of Yext, collaborated on a new e-book called “How to Become an Everywhere Brand.” Everywhere brand is what we’re calling the circumstance now that we find ourselves in, whereby our brands, our companies actually live in hundreds of different places online, well beyond our own website, our own apps. Your brand is being represented in a lot of different places, some of which your probably not even familiar with, and you need to keep your story straight and your data straight in all those places. This new e-book will show you what that’s all about. It’s going to be a big trend in the next year. You should grab it today for free at That’s offers dot yext dot com slash everywhere brand.
And if you’re driving or mowing the lawn or figure skating, you missed some of those, just go to Look for Aaron Grot, G-R-O-T-E, that episode and you will find all the resources you need.
Adam, back you.
Adam: Jay, thank you so much, Aaron Grote, Digital Strategist for Great Clips. It is great to have you on the Social Pros podcast today. Thank you so much. I kinda wanna dig into your past a little bit. You have a distinguished past. You were formally active, I know you were never a former Marine, but you’re a formally active Marine for the United States, so thank you for your service to our country.
But I’m curious in your role, I think you were an MP, curious how your experience with the Marine Corps, your experience in that organization helped sort of hone your certainly your discipline and things like that, but more importantly your communication skills. Certainly the way that things are discussed and shared in a military setting are probably very different than in a corporate or more conversational setting that we’re used to in social media. But my guess is, you probably picked up some amazing skills and insights from leaders that you worked there in the Corps with.
Aaron: You’re right, and thank you Adam. You actually nailed it on the head. The skills and experience that the Marine Corps gave me, are weirdly transferrable to what I’m doing right now. A lot of it is through communication abilities. When I was in, I was in a very active experienced unit, so a lot of what we did was training people in other countries to do what we do. I had opportunities to do that in Ukraine, in Iraq, Morocco and Uganda. And what you end up getting into, is situations where it’s you with a pretty complex idea, whether it’s a strategy or a tactic or a way to organize your team, or to work together. So, some pretty complex things you need to communicate, and oh by the way, these people standing in front of you probably don’t even speak English.
Maybe you have a translator, maybe you have an informal translator who speaks what I’ve come to think of as MTV English. So, you’re talking to these people and it’s through visual communication, through body language, through verbal, written and spoken communication, trying to convey complex ideas relatively quickly and very clearly. Earlier we talked about, for example, how difficult it is to convey the idea to Clip Notes in a social post. It has to be engaging, it has to be fast, it has to be clear. And that actually, the experience I had in the Marine Corps, training people who don’t even speak the same language as me, in complex ideas in a relatively limited period of time, really helps me wrap my head around that challenge.
Adam: I never really thought about it like that, but you’re exactly right. The point of being articulate, of being concise, of brevity is so critical for any marketing and communications and certainly, with social media. As you mentioned, being in different parts of the world, did you have any opportunity to kind of understand how they interacted with social media, how they interacted with marketing types of messages, and any comparisons to kind of what you see at least here back in the United States?
Aaron: So in my military travels, not so much. When I traveled with the Marine Corps, I guess I would say maybe the places I went to didn’t have a thriving consumer market. They had the kind of stability that we’re trying to achieve there-
Adam: Is Pinterest really not as huge in Uganda is what you’re saying?
Aaron: Well, yeah. It’s just, I don’t think there’s quite as much spare change floating around in people’s-
Adam: No doubt.
Aaron: Lives there. You know, in personal travels, yes. That’s not so much the kind of qualities I derived from my travels though.
Adam: Sure. One last kind of question around that topic before I hand it back to Jay. Certainly, I know one of the things that’s near and dear to your heart, and may even stem from some of your military service, is causes. And cause marketing. I know that’s something that Great Clips has been very avid in, and it sounds like you as well.
I’d love for you to talk about some of the things you’re doing in the philanthropical realm around cause marketing, and even social cause marketing. And the social being a kind of double entendre for social as well as social media. I know Great Clips does a lot with the Greatest Generations Foundation. I’d love to hear a little bit of your discussions about that.
Aaron: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Thanks, I’m glad you saw and liked that. You’re right, it is important to me, it’s important to our company in a real way. We really value that partnership and the opportunity to work with them. So, for those of you who haven’t heard of the Greatest Generations Foundation, it started as an organization dedicated to WWII veterans to give them the opportunities to, number one, get their stories told and archived. And two, actually bring them back, like fund trips to the places that they served like the beaches of Deity.
For example, around our last veteran’s day campaign, it was the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. And we had the honor of sponsoring a few dozen veterans of that attack returning to the really elaborate ceremony that our country had to honor them and thank them and remember that day. So that’s been a long partnership, an ongoing partnership for us. It’s really rich with opportunities to tell amazing stories and make a difference in people’s lives.
Adam: What an amazing story, and an amazing program. And I think, Jay, I don’t want to speak for you, but we should definitely create a link to the Greatest Generations Foundation in our show notes, because it is a fantastic program. And for a generation of respected people, who are not going to be with us forever.
Aaron: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And they are transitioning to try to do the same thing for veterans of other conflicts. They used to be the Greatest Generation Foundation. Now they’re the Greatest Generations Foundation, and so really excited to see how they can bring that value to other people.
Jay: Aaron, you have wanted to do this for a long time. You’ve wanted to be in digital, and you made some great personal sacrifices and some difficult decisions to get into this industry. I want you to talk about that a little bit, because it is a pretty amazing story and one that we don’t typically hear on this program. Somebody who said hey look, I’m going to take step back in order to take a step forward, and create a career for yourself in this industry and you’ve certainly done that.
Aaron: Yeah, thanks Jay. You know, it never seems like that when you’re in the middle of it, but once that transition has happened, you kind of look back and you think, ‘oh my gosh, what did I do?’ So I had a good job with good people at a good place, and it was paying well. It was in recreation and hospitality. So I liked it, and it met all of my needs. What I knew though, was that it wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do forever.
So actually after a little bit of experience in a political campaign that I volunteered on, I realized wow, this is a really dynamic, fast changing, exciting, interesting field that I really wanted to get into. So I kind of just started. After learning kind of on the volunteer job in that political campaign, I pretty much just opened a few browser tabs and went through Chamber of Commerce webpages, cold calling business people. And I think after my third entire Chamber of Commerce list, I got to someone who said yes. And then I just kind of went from there.
You just keep learning, keep doing good work, which really starts with listening. Eventually just kind of through word of mouth, built a healthy side freelance career, but I hit the point where I knew that working a lot of hours and a lot of unpredictable hours in recreation and hospitality there, was really limiting how much I could grow my career in social media and digital marketing. So I had to make a decision.
What I decided to do was get a job where I could dedicate more hours to it, where I could have a more predictable schedule. But my wife was going through her master’s degree program at that time, so I also couldn’t take a pay cut. So I needed to make as much money working better hours. Turns out, the best way to do that is to get a job that not necessarily a ton of people wanted to do, which was being a jail guard.
So I quit a job I liked with people I liked doing something I liked where I liked, and became a jail guard. Was working nights there, which really let me dedicate the daytime to building my freelance social and digital marketing career. Eventually, that led to some connections that brought me to Great Clips which is a perfect company for me. It’s a values based company, it’s a growing company, it’s a very dynamic internal culture. So I’m very lucky that happened. I like to tell people I’m glad I was a jailer for a couple years. I’m glad I wasn’t a jailer for longer. I have a ton of respect for people who can make a career out of that, who have the emotional and mental endurance to do that. I did not.
Jay: Ironically, a place where most haircuts were the same, was the place that actually propelled you to a career at Great Clips. It seems hard to believe. Thank you for sharing that story, Aaron. And you and I actually have something in common. My last job, before I got involved in the internet, was as the spokesman for the Department of Corrections. So we’ve both spent some time. I was never a guardian; I was making sure the media knew the true story, but I spent a little time myself and that was my last non internet job as well.
Aaron: That’s fascinating.
Jay: I think that has the effect on people, once you’ve spent a bunch of time in prison. You know what seems awesome? A laptop right, a career online seems amazing right about now. And here we are. Aaron, I’m going to ask you the two questions that we’ve asked every single guest on this show since the very beginning.
The first one is, if you could give people one tip, people who are looking to become a social pro, what would you tell them?
Aaron: I always like listening to people’s answers to this question on your podcast. For me, it would be be useful to as many people as possible. I’m talking about people within your team, I’m talking about to people in other teams in your company, I’m talking about useful to your customers, to organizations you partner with. Social is just a pervasive part of our culture. For me, you can only know if you’re being maximally beneficial to your organization if your usefulness is also pervasive.
Jay: Man I love it. Well said. And last question for you Aaron. If you could do a Skype call with any living person, who would it be and why?
Aaron: Hmm. I would say Sundar Pichai. Pichai. The CEO of Google. I would like to have a conversation with him around the premise that, so we create our tools, and then our tools create us. And for him, what are the ethics around that for him personally? After you’ve settled on that, how do you push those ethics to a company the size of Google. And then, kind of conjunctionally, how do you handle the weight of that responsibility personally? I think this could apply to Mark Zuckerberg too. How do you deal with the fact that you’re really shaping-
Jay: Everything.
Aaron: Yeah, long term. Like the actual structure of our human race? How we work?
Jay: You know it’s funny. You think about the big companies now in tech, Amazon, Facebook, Google Alphabet, even the second tier folks Snapchat, Pinterest at some level, really are shaping everything. Apple of course, Microsoft. And you wonder, was that true in a different way, a generation ago? Did the people at CBS or Ford or General Electric, feel that same kind of weight and responsibility? I think no, because they weren’t quite as pervasive, but I wonder.
There’s a book in there somewhere that somebody should write.
Aaron: Yeah, I know that Google at least at one point had a position called Chief Ethicist. That’s such a deep topic to me. I would love to hear his thoughts on it.
Jay: That’d be a cool episode of the show, just talk about social media ethics. We’ll have you back on, Aaron, and maybe we’ll do a round table discussion and do it via video on or something like that. That’d be a fun format when I come back from vacation. We’ll be in touch about that.
Aaron: I would love that.
Jay: That’d be great. Aaron, congratulations on all the success at Great Clips. Man, more than 4,000 franchised locations. I can’t imagine checking your inbox. I don’t want any part of that at all, when someone in Tuscaloosa isn’t happy with your Facebook ad, god bless. Not an easy gig. But you’re doing an amazing job. Thank you for the time on the show today, and best of luck.
Make sure you hook up Adam with his new haircut and he’ll get you some tools.
Adam: I’m looking forward to that, thank you.
Aaron: Thank you both!
Jay: You bet. Our pleasure. Ladies and gentleman, this has been the big Social Pros podcast. I’m always Jay Baer from Convince and Convert; he is Adam Brown from Salesforce Marketing Cloud. We will catch you next week.

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