Social Media

Build a Community, Says Sendlane CEO

Jimmy Kim founded Sendlane, an email, SMS, and reviews platform, in 2013. He believes the key to selling SaaS software is humanizing it. And for Kim that’s one-on-one engagement, often at in-person events.

“I always set a goal in an event of shaking everyone’s hand and saying hello,” he told me. “I’m not immediately after their business. I want them to think about me.”

In-person events are frequently Kim’s first step in building a Twitter relationship and a growing community.

He and I recently discussed those community-building strategies, competing with Klaviyo, and more. The entire audio of our conversation is embedded below. The transcript is edited for length and clarity.

Eric Bandholz: Who are you?

Jimmy Kim: I am the CEO and founder of Sendlane. We’re a unified email, SMS, and reviews platform for ecommerce merchants.

Bandholz: You’re active on Twitter. What’s your strategy?

Kim: I’ve had a Twitter account since 2009. For years all I did was garbage posts and retweets. I eventually quit the platform and rejoined in November of 2022.

Here’s my social strategy. Sendlane’s top competitor is Klaviyo. I produced our software and knew we could compete. But I didn’t know how to enter the market. Part of breaking into the market was gaining acceptance. I looked at Klaviyo’s platform. There was not a lot I could pick on. I looked at the ecosystem side; their partners love them. But there’s a third pillar — the community. It’s the content, education, brand, and the face of the company.

I saw that as an opportunity. I told myself, “That’s Klaviyo’s weak point.” That’s where my background came in. I used to be a content creator. I knew email marketing and once owned an ecommerce store. I can discuss this all day because I know how to do it. I decided to go into the market and start talking about it. The strategy was simple: get in front of everyone and make enough noise until someone recognized me or told others.

I started on LinkedIn, saw some traction, and then jumped to Twitter. I had more difficulty over there. You have to connect to others or get them to follow you.

Twitter has its own version of TikTok’s “For You,” and it just kind of feeds and populates. If you say something smart and a couple of folks like it or share it, suddenly the tweet takes off and shows up in others’ feeds. I got on Twitter and started to hammer down and get involved.

Bandholz: Then what? How did you connect with ecommerce folks?

Kim: I did the most rudimentary thing. I typed in keywords such as “email marketing,” “ecommerce,” “Klaviyo,” and “Shopify.” I started reading lots of tweets. Whenever I saw something relevant, I would like it and make sure I made a constructive post back.

I still do that today. It has become a habit. It’s not about original tweets. I do that two or three times a day, but the real goal is engaging with the community. Twitter users believe you through your responses, not your own tweets. That’s why engagement is vital.

You don’t have to do business or even like each other to be connected. You may think you’re talking to someone one-on-one, but many times there are a couple hundred folks reading those posts and lurking. It’s pretty cool how that effect works. I haven’t had a pivotal moment when I followed somebody. The pivotal moments were how folks found me.

I went to a Triple Whale event here in Austin earlier this year.  I paid my way into speaking on the stage because I knew it was a good group. They reserved me a spot around 4:00 p.m.

I needed to talk about something most folks don’t know enough about. I chose deliverability. I did a fantastic talk on that. Folks who were influenced in that room followed me on Twitter and started to repost about it, and everything started to snowball. This is how my social strategy developed in the last nine months — by attending as many live events and dinners as I could.

I always set a goal in an in-person event of shaking everyone’s hand and saying hello. I’m not immediately after their business. I want them to know that I came by and said hello. I want them to think about me.

That’s the goal. I sell software. It’s not a physical product or an impulse buy. It’s a huge change in a business. I humanize it and hopefully remove some of the trust barriers.

Anywhere you can create a place for others to communicate, that’s your community. Most brands do some level of community. But how do we make it better, more connected? Those are the questions I ask.

Every consumer or business owner has his or her own social preferences. Brands do, too. Some brands have huge Facebook groups — 100,000 members. It’s shocking. I could ask, “Who uses Facebook?” Well, 100,000 people do, all talking about this one topic.

Bandholz: Where can listeners support you?

Kim: Our platform is I’m @yojimmykim on Twitter. That’s where you’ll find me most.

Eric Bandholz
Eric Bandholz
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