For many new business owners, the process of advertising on social media can seem deceptively simple. Just post some shots of your products and you’re done! Unfortunately, there’s more to advertising on social media than uploading a couple of photos. The content you post on your business’s social media accounts should not only promote your products, but also reflect the story and values behind your brand. So, how do you create effective Instagram and Facebook posts? In this episode, Jon Aidukonis and Gene Marks along with special guests Matthew and Asia Moore, share their strategies for producing engaging and authentic social media content.

Executive Summary

0:47—Today’s Topic: What are the Most Effective Social Media Strategies for Small Businesses?

4:23—Professional quality photographs can significantly improve a customer’s visual experience on your Instagram page.

5:59—You are more likely to attract people into your small business if you can provide a space or product that enables your customers to create their own content.

7:26—While influencers can certainly help you build your following, you should only collaborate with individuals who reflect the values of your business. Most viewers can sense if a partnership is inauthentic.

9:36—Posting video content on your Instagram account can create an even more personal relationship with your viewers because it allows them to meet the real people behind your product.

12:13—Don’t get so focused on using social media to convey your brand and your story that you forget to include your business’s basic information.

13:49—Remember that the more money you invest into your social media accounts, the more time you need to spend maintaining them.

15:26—Because social media has become our primary means of communication, every business needs to have some sort of an online presence if they want to engage with their client base.



Gene: Hey, everybody and welcome back to the Small Biz Ahead podcast. This is Gene Marks talking from the Marks Group, and I’m here with as my co-host and friend, Jon Aidunkonis from the Hartford. Hello, Jon.

Jon: Hello.

Gene: Glad to be there. Jon and I had a conversation about whether or not we should have chit chat on this podcast and we’re like, you know what, we don’t have anything to talk about. We just want to get right to the nuts and bolts of right.

Jon: We’re the least interesting people in the room.

Gene: Yes. The most interesting people are the guests that we have on today. That’s Matt and Asia Moore from Mad Donuts in White Plains, New York. Before I introduce you guys further and ask you guys to just describe what you’re doing, we’re going to be having a conversation about Instagram and Facebook with Matt and Asia, and we’ve got a lot of reasons to learn from them.

Gene: I mean, on their Facebook account had almost about a thousand followers. Instagram has got almost 2,700 followers, which is really dynamite for a donut shop. Is it a donut shop? Matt and Asia tell us a little bit about Mad Donuts, just a little history, how you got it started and what you guys do now and a little bit about the shop.

Matt: Yeah, sure. Hey, I’ll give you that intro. The donut concept started late in 2017. It was just an idea. Asia was encouraging me to think about other things to do just to be a little more fulfilled I guess you could say.

Gene: Or filled.

Matt: You know what? I love donuts.

Gene: Yeah. That was a donut joke.

Matt: Exactly. This was one of the ideas that I thought because I love to cook, I love to bake and I actually grew up having donuts that my grandmother would make for me. So it’s like a childhood thing for me. It was something that I’ve always enjoyed it. So I thought, well let me work on a recipe and just start selling donuts at the farmer’s market, which is the White Plains farmer’s market here in our town.

I started that and had no real expectations of where it would go. My ultimate goal was to provide White Plains with a better option for donuts. My wife and I lived in New York City for about 10 years or so prior to moving the White Plains. During that time I enjoyed a lot of great food, including donuts. Once we moved to White Plains, it was a little disappointing that the Westchester area, north of New York City, did not have as many options.

That was a really big motivating factor for me to try to create an option that I wanted to have where I live. Also, just to provide another place that the community can go to for a great coffee and donuts. We did a farmer’s market and then eventually in November of this past year, 2019, we opened up a storefront in the Westchester Mall, here in White Plains.

We had a really great working relationship with the Simon Properties, which is the owner of the mall and they’ve really been great partners in helping us open this space. Now, we’ve been there since November and we’re continuing to look on ways we can be more sustainable, open up other places in Westchester, so we can continue to provide this as a good option.

Gene: Awesome. Well congratulations on the new location. That’s exciting.

Matt: Thank you.

Jon: That is cool. So I was, I was just checking out your Instagram feed. Your product’s looking incredible. I want to come and try all of them now. What I noticed is it’s more than just kind of highlighting really beautifully made donuts. It seems like you’ve done a lot to kind of tie back to, you’d mentioned your farmer’s market in the local community. I noticed some influencer partner events as well as even culturally relevant social doughnuts like things you put up during pride month, but it just looks like you have a really kind of thought out curated approach to how you guys think about social.

It’d be great to hear about how, when you have a product like food that’s usually kind of a give me when it comes to people like pictures of food or they like to see people enjoying it, but you have a very unique style to yours and kind of hearing about how you think about creating that feel on social and really creating that brand on social I think would be interesting to learn a little bit more on.

Matt: Yeah, I’ll give that one to my wife. She’s the brains behind that operation.

Asia: I think if you probably look at our Instagram and go back into the archives, it’s definitely been a journey over the past year or maybe two where it started out pretty informal as we were making donuts, initially, in our home kitchen and selling things at the farmer’s market. You’d see a lot of iPhone snaps pictures from friends who were taking pictures of their food. We professionalized commercial space and also our retail locations I think became really apparent that if you want to convey that kind of professionalism that you need to have professional photography be a part of the visual experience on Instagram.

Luckily, we had a close friend who has a photography business and really let us, kind of art direct our own shoots and kind of explain what our vision was for the donuts and the experience. We did a lot of collaborative photography with him so we did have more stylized photos when we wanted to promote special events or special holidays. I think those are usually the posts that get a lot of engagement and people really respond to them when it’s an extremely high quality, high resolution photograph accompanying information that’s interesting to them that they want to interact with.

Jon: What I also noticed is, it looks like your space is really designed to be a background for people capturing their own content, as well. So I’m noticing the ‘donuts and chill’ sign on the flower wall.

Asia: Yeah. That was definitely a conscious part of our culture today is part of just what people do. I do it myself in my personal life, when they’re out, something’s interesting, you’re constantly looking for your own content, your own food, your own experiences to share with your following. I think we knew – we hoped that our space would be inviting and Instagrammable.

If you do come into our shop, you’ll see that that corner of it is always kind of sought after. People always want to sit there. Sometimes people don’t even buy donuts. They just want to kind of come into the store, see what it’s all about. It’s Instagrammable, but it’s also, I think when you’re in the shop, it feels comfortable and it feels inviting. So it’s kind of best of both worlds.

In addition to the signage, we also have purchased a lot of local artwork, people that has influenced us musically, culturally in the food world and the art world, music world, and kind of all of those things combined with the food and create a lot of moments that influencer, families, people come into the store to kind of create their own content, which is cool.

Gene: That’s very cool. Asia, tell me about, you mentioned influencers. How do you use influencers? Do you use influencers? What impact do they have on the business? Do you find that it’s a worthwhile thing to engage with influencers?

Asia: Sure. I mean, I think this is where a real partnership comes into play in terms of Matt and I, because he’s the face of the business. He’s the one who’s out meeting people, making connections, making relationships, and he’s done that with the influencer community. Some of our local food bloggers, local food groups on Facebook where they’ve really embraced him and our products. He’s been responsible for maintaining that.

Then I kind of take the baton carry that forward on social, make sure that we’re interacting with the right influencers and that it’s really an authentic experience because I think that’s really what social media is all about is people are getting pushed a lot of images and a lot of messages. The only way that you’re going to be successful and cut through all that is if you’re authentic, your brands authentic and you’re having, not just the right image put forward, but an influencer is saying that your product is good because it is and because they really think that not because you guys are both in it for likes or some kind of just image conversation.

Gene: No, it makes sense. And yet strangely there are no police officers among your influencers, which I thought, they go hand in hand with donut shops. Just something to-

Asia: Actually, one of my close friends is a police officer. He’s been instrumental in assisting us. We both had a lot of fire department work.

Gene: Fair enough. That’s close enough.

Asia: Thank you to first responders.

Gene: It’s just trying to come up with some more ideas for you.

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Gene: You have mostly photos, but some videos. What recommendations do you have for people that are on Instagram, balancing between photos versus videos? I’m sure you’ve experimented with both. What have you found?

Asia: Yeah. I think video is hard and it’s harder, but it’s definitely a direction that people are going in and probably something that we’ll have to spend more time on going forward. I think you’re always trying to find the right mix of how much do our followers want to see us, that Matt and the kitchen and people in the store and customers and hear out voices and do they just want to see the donuts and do they just want information, hours, menu.

Would our account benefit from transforming more into giving a lifestyle flavor because we are a family owned business and that is a question that we got a lot. Are you a chain? Then we have to kind of say, no we’re not. We’re a family owned business. We are the MAD and explaining our story.

I think video is a way to do that and we haven’t figured out the right mix of it, but I think it is something that’s becoming more important, whether that’s Instagram live, people moving out of YouTube channel trying to figure out TikTok, there’s a lot of ways to go with video. I don’t think we’re necessarily there yet, but we’re experimenting.

Gene: Well, it’s interesting, too. You just mentioned that you’re a family owned business so I get the M and the A, but who’s the D in MAD?

Jon: It’s got to be donuts, right?

Asia: No, it’s Daisy. That’s actually our daughter. She’s six and, yeah, so it’s the M, the A and the D. My mother thought of the name and she’s so pleased with herself that we actually listened to her idea. We are the MAD and that’s why there’s also a little daisy in our logo.

Matt: That’s why there’s flowers in the concept in the store, as well.

Gene: Nice. So she’s, she’s part of the business.

Asia: Absolutely. She tells everyone about daddy’s donuts. So she’s actually, she’s an influencer.

Jon: Right? The best advocate you can have probably. But I think that goes back to your point too about really trying to stay authentic in your content because I think there was a common theme through your website, through your story even to how your idea came about was this family moment when you were younger or it’s kind of bringing together what you’ve created as a family now.

Jon: There’s definitely the theory or essence of artistry throughout the products that you have in the design of your bakery. I think that to me it feels like a really big invitation into the brand and into your story and something that can be really accessible for folks they probably rarely want to get behind quickly. I imagine you have a lot of fanfare in your community and probably a pretty loyal fan base.

Matt: Yeah, I would say so. I would say there’s a lot of loyal people that are in our fan base. I think we’re obviously trying to grow that fan base because even though it does look inviting, we still get questions that we feel like we answered. It’s always a challenge to try and create a message that’s clear, concise, people get it the first time around. It’s a constant work in progress.

I think there’s always going to be questions and there’s really not much you can do about it. I mean really basic stuff like what are your hours? Where are you located? Not even so much, I mean, this is just scratching the surface, the brand. I mean they’re not even really getting much to the brand, but people have such basic informational questions but we use social media to try to answer them.

People see the great pictures but then they’re not getting that basic information. I think from my perspective it’s: what’s the best way you convey all of that information? Not to mention just getting the brand in the background across. How do you just make sure you’re kind of getting the right information across? I think it’s still a challenge.

Gene: How much effort do you guys put into this? I mean, there’s so many other things that you guys have to do to run this business and running around and here you are taking photos, posting on Instagram and then, I’m assuming, responding to comments. Do you have any outside help? Are you guys doing this all internally and what type of investment, either dollars or time is being made here?

Asia: The thing with social media is the more time you put into it, the more time you have to spend on it, right? The more you’re doing, the more comments you get, or I’ll do something kind of on a whim. If I have the spare a few hours I’ll say, okay, let’s do a Q and A and open it up in our stories so people can ask questions and really interact with people.

I underestimate how many questions I’m going to get or that I can even answer them and Matt won’t be home and I’m like, wait, I don’t know about where this flour came from or the ingredients in this specific recipe. Then it becomes something that him and I need to collaborate on. We both have quote unquote day jobs and this still is a considerable amount I think of both of our times.

So we’re definitely spending 10 hours a week planning out content, planning out post. Also doing some, in addition to the photography sessions, you also need to do some design on the posts themselves. If you’re rolling out a new menu. Figuring out the right apps and software that you need to design the post though. Yeah, I think between the two of us we definitely spend a lot of time on it, but we get a lot of benefit on it as well.

Gene: Well that, yeah, that brings up just sort of the follow on question. You’re spending 10 hours a week on this between the two of you guys and I was just going to ask you, is it worth it? Say you shut down your Instagram account tomorrow and you just didn’t spend the time doing that. Do you think that would have an impact on your business? Has there been substantive benefits?

Asia: Yeah, I mean absolutely. Not just Instagram but we’re also active on Facebook. For example, I think we’re members of Westchester Foodies, which is a local group that has a lot of food enthusiasts participating in that group, not just as a brand, but as individual people contributing content that isn’t donut related because nobody just wants to have you pushing your brand down their throat all day, right?

You have to be an authentic member of a community in order to have them embrace you back. During our first week of business we had the amount of people who came through the doors who said, we’ve heard about this from Foodies, we’ve been following your journey through the Foodies group. They’ve been repeat customers. We’ve also followed up on that relationship with coupons and trying to give them special discounts to enrich that relationship.

I think not cultivating Facebook and Instagram channels or not putting the time into it would definitely have an impact on our business because we also don’t do a lot of other traditional marketing or advertising. We’re not in circulars or doing a lot of advertising and so social media is a way that a lot of people found out about us customer wise.

Also I think media, there’s been a lot of, the local media has been really supportive. The local newspaper or Westchester magazine, local magazine found out about us through social media and also have then written up our story and also kind of followed different journeys with us. It’s all been relating.

Jon: Awesome. Well thank you for sharing your story with us and I’m excited to eventually … I drive through Danbury and White Plains a lot so I’m going to have to detour next time.

Asia: Awesome.

Jon: Better watch that.

Gene: I’ll do just a quick recap for our listeners as well. So if you’re thinking of jumping on Facebook and Instagram and a lot of our conversations it was on Instagram only because you guys, do such a great job on Instagram. Really, it’s a great account. Be professional and be authentic. Use high quality photography for example. Don’t take this lightly and don’t be amateurish when you’re on any social media platform.

I mean, you want to leverage your space. You guys have a great space in a specific space in your shop and you’re using that for photos and videos which is great stuff. Also leverage influencers where you can. I mentioned authenticity only because during this conversation that word got mentioned a lot and I think both Matt and Asia, you guys are big into making sure that your communication messages are authentic to your community and that’s really important.

We talked a little bit about videos and you guys mostly take photos mainly because videos are harder than photos, which is a great point. It should be known for anybody that wants to take videos, it can’t be just a thing without putting some thought into it and again making it quality.

Remember that, like Asia reminded us, the more time that you put into your social media platforms, like an Instagram account or a Facebook account, the more time you’re then going to need to spend on your social media platforms because it evolves and grows and, and draws up resources. But like you both said, you spend about 10 hours a week combined and you say provides a lot of benefits to your business and increases your brand in your community. I think that’s really a great thing.

Did I leave anything out? Is there any other takeaways that you think our audience should know about succeeding the way you guys have on both Instagram and Facebook. Matt, Asia?

Asia: No, I think you covered all of them. I mean, I guess you initially mentioned some of our partnerships and then a partnership we’ve done with other businesses and with the community and I would just say anybody else looking to increase their social presence, when you are entering into a partnership you also have to discuss that aspect of it with the people that you’re partnering with. Is that a goal of theirs? Are you going to do shared posts? What are those posts going to then look like? If it’s going to be a focal point for you individually. It also should be when you’re looking at the partnerships and expansions because it’s would be important for that as well.

Jon: Sounds good. Awesome. Well, thanks again for spending your time with us today. It was great learning a little bit more about Mad Donuts. For the audience out there, thanks for joining us for another edition of the Small Biz Ahead podcast. For the latest on small business trends, visit The Hartford’s Small Biz Ahead blog. You can check us out at and we’ll see you next time.

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