When it comes to social media and content marketing, The Goulet Pen Company leaves behind most businesses.
And I’m not talking just small businesses here; you can safely include many large companies and organisations as well.
Goulet is a US-based online retailer specialising in fountain pens and accessories such as ink, paper, wax seals, notebooks and the like.
The company first came on to my radar some three years ago and I’ve been watching them closely ever since. I covered their story back then and thought it was time to update my knowledge of the brand given the terrific success they were having.
The result is the video interview (below) with company co-founder Brian Goulet.
It’s seriously jam-packed with great tips and strategies around not just social media and content marketing but also customer engagement and building a community of committed fans and advocates for one’s brand.
The Goulet Pen Company personifies what small business best practice should look like when it comes to social media and content marketing” – TREVOR YOUNG
BUT FIRST, SOME BACKGROUND …
The Goulet Pen Company started life seven years ago as a bootstrapped startup in Brian and (and wife) Rachel Goulet’s dining room.
They had little money and a young baby at the time, so times were challenging. They also had no formal marketing training but did have some experience in social media from a personal perspective, having grown up with Facebook in college at a time when the network was just for students.
When Brian and Rachel started the business, social media was the only avenue they had to get word out about their brand, so they focused their efforts on niche forums and blogs that were in the fountain pen world, and networked and connected through there.
They started spending more time creating content. As they learned about the products they were selling, the Goulets would put out a video about them; this led to engagement with customers, which in turn gave them input into which products they should be carrying, and thus began a cycle that has continued with success for seven years.
FAST FORWARD TO TODAY …
The Goulet Pen Company employs 43 people, seven of which are heavily involved in the creation of content.
The seven staff that make up the Goulet ‘Media Team’ includes two photographers, a dedicated videographer, three community coordinators (who help produce content and write blogs as well as being responsible for engagement on Goulet’s various social platforms) plus a manager of the team. Along with Brian and Rachel, there’s a total of nine people contributing to Goulet’s social and content efforts.
All up, roughly one-fifth of the company’s human resources are dedicated to the development, production and publishing of content for the business and its social channels. Soak up that number folks because it’s pretty significant and shows that to make a dent with your online communication efforts you need to make a commitment in terms of time, effort and resources.
Brian agrees: “It’s quite a team. For our size company is a pretty solid dedication to it (content) … rather than investing in a lot of pay-per-click advertising and banner ads … we do very little of any of that, it’s mainly producing content.
“So we’ve just basically taken our entire marketing allocation and just put it all into our people, into producing content.”
It’s not eyeballs or views or conversions, it’s people … it’s all people” – BRIAN GOULET.
In terms of social media, the company has experienced solid growth in follower count across its various channels, particularly Instagram which has exploded by 9300 per cent!
- YOUTUBE – – 57,900 subscribers and 12.7M views (versus 9200 subscribers in 2013)
- TWITTER – 17,400 followers (compared to 4000 followers in 2013)
- FACEBOOK – 23,000 ‘likes’ (compared to 6050 ‘likes’ in 2013)
- INSTAGRAM – 56,600 (compared to 630 followers three years ago)
- PINTEREST – 11,880 followers (compared to 624 followers in 2013)
BLOG + YOUTUBE + EMAIL LIST
While Goulet does well across all of its social channels, it makes the biggest impact with its blog, YouTube videos and subscriber email list (and subsequent weekly email newsletter)
The company blog continues to go from strength to strength and today, racking up a growing audience with its archive of 1600+ blog posts dating back to 2010.
In terms of a publishing schedule, Goulet puts out on average 230 articles per year, or 3-4 per week; many of the articles are accompanied by high quality photography that captures the imagination and greatly enhances the story being told.
The jewel in Goulet’s content marketing crown is a weekly YouTube video show called Goulet Q&A Open Forum” – TREVOR YOUNG
While the blog has become an invaluable digital asset for Goulet, its treasure trove of 1100 online videos, which are published on the blog as well as to YouTube, is what really sets the company apart from its competitors.
“The amount of viewership that we get on YouTube in about a four-day span (today) is equivalent to what we got in that entire first year I was producing videos, so it’s definitely an accelerating curve in terms of viewership and comments and likes and shares and all that quality engagement,” says Brian.
I talk often about the power of recurring sub-branded content property. This is content that is produced regularly under a ‘sub-brand’, a podcast for example. Such a property allows people to identify a topic that’s of interest and relevance to them and engage with your content on a regular basis without necessarily having to check-in with everything you produce.
The Goulet Pen Company does this with its weekly Goulet Q&A Open Forum video series (see above).
These are videos that run on average for one hour in which Brian answers people’s many and varied questions around fountain pens (and sometimes other topics as well). Each episode attracts between 5000 and 7000 views and comes with extensive show notes that acknowledge the people who send in questions (via various channels including email, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the blog).
Brian had produced, at time of writing, 148 episodes of Goulet Q&A – that’s a lot of questions answered, and goes to show the level of engagement Goulet has with its growing community. Oh, as an aside, many brands talk about having community but it’s not until you see what Goulet has managed to achieve that you get a real understanding of what a community really looks like.
Still on videos, apart from the Goulet Q&A hour-long episodes, the brand also produces:
- Goulet Q&A Slices – repurposed short-burst content (single questions)
- A Goulet Life – taking people behind the velvet rope of the business
- Goulet Products and Tutorials – for all things fountain pens and nibs!
- Tips and Tricks for the Writing Enthusiast – “neat little tricks that will help you to learn what I (Brian) had to learn the hard way!”
The company has even produced a video that explain its seven core values. I’ve embedded it below but I urge you to check it out on YouTube so you can see all the positive comments people have left on the page. And it’s been viewed some 10,500 times. When was the last time you saw a ‘corporate video’ attracting even a fraction of those views?
If you’re interested in making social media and content marketing work in a big way for your business, please do check out the interview above with Brian; granted, it’s long at 55+ minutes, but Brian shares so much ‘gold’ I guarantee it will be worth your while 🙂
The Goulet Pen Company has build a solid and engaged social media platform consisting of:
- blog (content hub)
- opt-in email list (weekly newsletter – very informative!)
- YouTube channel
I see that Brian and his team’s marketing efforts work because they are:
- relentless with the quality and consistency of the content they produce;
- useful and helpful in everything they do, and this is reflective in their content;
- accessible and transparent – their videos especially allow them to put a ‘human face’ to the brand;
- responsive on social channels – they hold up their end of the ‘two-way engagement’ bargain better than most, and are exceptional at acknowledging people’s questions and comments;
- great community builders – it’s one thing to build a large following of people on social media, it’s another matter entirely to turn those people into a genuine community of advocates and raving fans!
So if you’re after a best practice benchmark of a content-driven social communications program that is purposeful, intentional, sustainable and ‘human’, look no further than The Goulet Pen Company.
I’ll leave you with a video treatment of how the image at the top of the post came about. It’s a great example of two things – the power of repurposing content and what ‘going the extra mile’ with your content looks like in action!