This week we spoke with the co-creator of the Twitter account @VodkaVendettas, Katy Wellhousen. A marketing manager and social media strategist by day, she found her passion for social media during her college years. She still moonlights as the driving force behind the brand’s eCommerce efforts on www.vodkavendettas.com.
We think Katy is cool, smart, and talented because without even meaning to, she and her partner found a career doing something that didn’t exist 10 years ago–let’s keep in mind she started this Twitter account 5 years ago with her best friend while drinking Four Lokos poolside. That’s clearly the most collegiately ambitious thing ever accomplished while getting sloshed on a fluid that was deemed illegal and unsafe by federal authorities. Check out her story:
Tell us a little about yourself and how VodkaVendettas got started.
I moved to LA 4 months ago from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I grew up in New Orleans and South Alabama, then I went to Troy University, where my I met my partner for VodkaVendettas, Caitlyn. We started VodkaVendettas in April 2011 while we were friends in college.
Wow, when you put it in relative terms, that’s a long time ago in terms of media years, just how it’s evolved and aged so rapidly.
Yeah it seems like yesterday and also 5 years ago at the same time.
So what was the moment that sparked the idea?
I think we were at the pool one day in college probably drinking Four Lokos. We were talking about how people post the most boring shit on Facebook and Twitter and just social media in general. We talked about how we like to post stuff that’s engaging to get people to laugh. We always knew that was the key to getting more retweets, more likes, and more followers. Which is kind of ironic because now I do it for a living, yet at that time I didn’t realize that’s basically what I was talking about. Creating social engagement.
It was around the time that accounts like @whitegrlproblem, @sororityproblem, and accounts like that were coming out and doing really well. Basically, we were like, “we could do that,” but we didn’t really have a plan. I’m not really sure where we saw it going. We just decided to start it and came up with “VodkaVendettas” because we both liked the alliteration (and vodka).
So we started a Twitter account, then a blog. It’s kind of funny because the way we grew our following is not how I would suggest a client grow their following: we didn’t really retweet anybody else, we didn’t have any money to do paid marketing, we didn’t follow anybody else, we just put out good content and got retweets and grew from there.
And because our voice is like the upper-middle class, stuck-up, bitchy college girl that everyone knows it kind of went with our brand to not retweet people, not really reply to people because thats kind of the voice we had. Although neither of us think that way at all.
Where did that voice come from?
We kind of started out making fun of this stereotype, the way @whitegrlproblems does as well, but we ended up getting followed by that stereotype–you know the “basic bitch” image of Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte, and the Ugg boots, talking on her iPhone. I think those girls know that they’re like that, and they’re fine with making fun of themselves. In fact they even enjoy joking about it. By satirizing a stereotypical voice we found a built in audience.
When did the blog come in?
During college when we had much more time on our hands we were blogging a lot. A lot of our content came from being active on Formspring, the question-and-answer social network launched in 2009. We put out an advice column that drew a big number of questions. People would login and ask for advice and we would choose some to answer. It was crazy the number of people that would ask for relationship advice. We could pull a lot of content for our website, just by answering questions from our audience.
Now that I’ve moved to LA, away from Caitlyn it’s much harder to get content because neither of us really have time to blog.
And now that we’re getting older and so is our audience we have to question our content strategy. Do we keep current with college trends even though we’re not in college? It’s something we have to discuss. You have to address that question constantly if you’re going to have success.
How did you decide to branch into eCommerce ?
When we started we didn’t really have a plan of where this was going to go. I think at one point we were going to try to write an ebook but we decided it was a lot harder than it seems. Not worth it, really.
So we were just tweeting and watching it grow and getting more followers. Once we started getting a lot of engagement, we had this weird backwards problem where we had an audience but we’re not capitalizing on it, whereas most companies start out and they have a product and then have to worry about the audience and demographics.
So we figured out how to do T-shirts. We found this great company called The Printful that prints one-off products for you. They print and ship everything the customer orders. So the profit margin is a lot lower but there’s very little effort for the website or company so it worked.
How do you manage the responsibilities between you and your partner?
I manage much more of the business side — communicating with people, updating the website, fulfilling orders, designing. Caitlyn does more of the content. She’s the one who watches The Bachelor and live tweets it.
— VodkaVendettas (@VodkaVendettas) January 12, 2016
It wasn’t until I started studying marketing while doing all the social media for VodkaVendettas that I realized how important social media marketing could be from a brand’s perspective. Because for the first time in the history of advertising you could market a campaign or piece of content and find out in seconds what your audience thinks of it. I think it’s just incredible.
I then realized that people can get paid to tell brands how to do this. So I started freelancing and I’ve made a ton of great professional connections through the brand. This type of success really open doors for you.
What are some challenges that come with finding the audience?
There’s an interesting part as far as marketing ourselves moving forward because we have the word “vodka” in our name. We have to basically go by all the rules alcohol companies go by in terms of marketing. For example on Facebook we can’t market to anybody under 21 which is very frustrating for me. A lot of our shirts would be great for people who are 19 or 20, but I can’t reach them. Lots of the material is college age appropriate, but we can’t legally market to them on social media.
Another interesting thing is that sometimes we see our tweets on T-shirts and different products and because we didn’t copyright our tweets, we can’t do anything as far as suing for intellectual property. Some I’ve even seen in popular national chains. Thats the most frustrating part: seeing our original ideas capitalized on by some huge company with lawyers. I don’t have the money to sue them. And besides, to claim a copyright, we would have to trademark everyone of our tweets because we don’t know which ones will be popular, which again, we don’t have the money to do.
Any advice for people trying to follow a similar path?
*Interview edited for clarity and length
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