Navigating paid social, with Phil Kiel, MD of Hello Earth UK

This article is an edited transcript from the podcast – Easy Being Green? Lessons in sustainable business. Listen to the audio version on AnchorSpotify or Apple Podcasts.

Welcome to episode three of Easy Being – Lessons in Sustainable Business.

Today’s conversation is with Phil Kiel, who is the UK Managing Director of Hello Earth, an ecommerce digital marketing agency with a conscience.

I have known and worked with the awesome humans at Hello Earth since before its inception, and now I’m so proud of the partnership that Earth Collective has with this forward thinking agency, which trademarked the term USSP™, which means Unique Sustainable Selling Point, to recognise just how important sustainability is to modern businesses.

Hello Earth really walks its talk. It’s a B Corp certified net zero business with a climate positive workforce that puts its impact strategy front and centre on its website.

Phil is an absolute guru in paid social. And along with myself, Phil is one of a team of experts that’s just about to embark on a brand new and exciting venture called the Green Growth Project. And there’ll be more about that at the end of this episode.

Phil and I cover a lot of ground in today’s episode, including:

  • What on earth was all that business with iOS 14?
  • How should we navigate Facebook audiences, especially now keywords like ‘sustainability’ have been removed from interest targeting?
  • The moral dilemma we all face when we see the likes of Patagonia boycotting Facebook advertising and what that really actually means.
  • Dealing with imposter syndrome and how to run your own race.
  • And – should we all be using TikTok?

And as with all of our guests, we end this podcast with the question I ask everybody: is there such a thing as a sustainable business yet?

I hope you enjoy today’s episode.

Navigating paid social, with Phil Kiel, MD of Hello Earth UK

Charli: Welcome, Phil. Thank you so much for joining me here today.

Phil: Thanks, Charli. Nice to be here.

Charli: Welcome to the Pod Lab from across the virtual Airways. So, I want to chat to you a bit first about Hello Earth. It’s a B Corp certified ecommerce digital marketing agency. And from what I can read on the website, you’ve generated more than £52 million in revenue for your clients, which are both really equally impressive facts. Really impressive achievements. So tell us about you. How do you fit into this and what have you done at Hello Earth until now? And what are you doing now at Hello Earth?

Phil: Cool. Thanks. Great question, Charlie Very sort of astounding facts to start off with, so I appreciate that. Ultimately, we started off as a paid traffic agency for brands. So ultimately what we’re doing is we’re putting ads in front of consumers and customers and trying to drive awareness, traffic and ultimately purchase and conversion for brands. And that ultimately starts with platforms like Facebook. So a couple of years ago, we were very focused on Facebook ads and managing that ad spend, the creative, the targeting of brands to maximise A) the profit for these brands, but then also ultimately help them reach their business goals, whether that’s – they want to sell the brand, they want to help a cause, they want to solve the problem in the world and whatever that is for that particular brand. A lot of the time it starts with reaching new customers on new audiences. In 2018 to 2022, the best place for that or the biggest opportunity for that has mostly been Facebook and Instagram.

Charli: That’s so interesting. So you work with clients, big and small clients, all sorts of sizes.

Phil: Yeah, definitely. Yes. So we’ve worked with brands that have come on, that have been set up in the last month, which obviously has both sort of challenges, but then also opportunities on both ends of the scale. And then we’ve worked on brands that have been running for a couple of years or businesses that have been around for sort of like 20/30 years, but in different setups, whether that’s bricks and mortar, and every different brand is different and whether that’s the position that they’re in on their journey, whether that has positives and negatives or hurdles and opportunities, whichever way you want to put it, that’s the same. Whether you were set up last week or 20 years ago – there isn’t really an ideal position to be in, because a brand has been going for 20 years, they’ve got a validated product, chances are they’ve got cash flow and a certain weight behind them to mean that it’s difficult for them to fail. But at the same time, it means they’ve  probably reached saturation point. They maybe have self-fulfilled ideas about what that strategy should be and maybe they aren’t as open to testing new ideas, but then at the same time, they’ve been doing something for 20 years, and now they’re at a point where they might need to try something new.

And then new brands can be the opposite of that. So cash flow, revenue, there isn’t necessarily a weight behind them. The risks are a lot bigger. But then at the same time, they might not have 25/30 staff on the books at 25/30 salaries and overheads. So they can potentially be a lot more nimble and react a lot quicker to what challenges and opportunities they face.

Charli: Got you. And what about you? So how do you fit into the puzzle? What’s your expertise?

Phil: Yeah, sure. So I graduated as a graphic designer, like 15 years ago. Yeah. So that’s where I trained up and then moved on to social media as that came around. And then a big opportunity on social media back in 2007 was advertising, and it was very different to what it is now.

So, my primary time is spent on managing ads, but then also managing the team and helping them ultimately service clients to the best of our ability. So whether that’s improving strategies and media buying and auditing accounts or looking at new platforms and new opportunities as well, and being that real key figure between the brand and then the person on the ground, the media buyer, who’s managing the ads.

Charli: Interesting. Great. So let’s talk about Facebook. Lots of people heard about this iOS 14 update last year that was going to have an impact on data sharing for paid media, for the layperson like myself or anybody listening who doesn’t quite understand what this all means and what on earth happened. Can you tell us what happened and if it had an impact, and if there’s anything that brands can do to navigate changes like this?

Phil: Sure. So I’ll try and explain as best of my ability. I’m sure there’s a lot of things that I don’t really understand and Apple doesn’t share with a lot of other people. A lot of iOS 14 conversations are around it being a Facebook problem. But it’s not just about Facebook. It’s basically around iOS 14 and Apple giving the user the choice to opt out of tracking, when an app or a website on your phone wants to track you. And the biggest impact is when it’s a third party track. So when that is Facebook trying to track you on a website, there’s three parties involved there. It’s not what we call first party, which is when Facebook is tracking you on Facebook, which is a different topic. So lots of different levels. So, yeah, you’ve now got the option to opt out of tracking, which is obviously great for the customer. We should all have choices and just like we have a choice to use Facebook and Instagram and any other app, we should also have a choice to what is personal data, just like you would want to potentially opt out with your phone number being available on the Internet or your personal details on the voters role, if you’re in the UK. So, yeah, that’s the big picture.

And then on Facebook and other advertising platforms that will use a cookie, which is just a small piece of code, basically, to identify you and track what you do, what it basically means is – these platforms can still track you, but to jump through Apple’s hoop, they now need to mask who you are and disable Facebook and other platforms ability to say, this is Charli, this is the website she’s been on, this is when she went on it – so the time, this is the product she bought, and this is how much she spent. So as you can see, there’s lots of different things there that Facebook now has to muddle up and sort of blur the lines of to stop media advertising from saying: “that is Charli, and this is when she went on the website, and this is how much you spent”.

So we’ve gone from having like 95% accuracy around tracking to around 50% if that person has opted out. If you’ve opted in to tracking which a large portion of people have, then we can still see about 95% of that information.

Charli: Interesting, people have been opting in. You’d think it would be the other way around?

Phil: Yeah, definitely. I’m not sure why people you would choose to opt in. Maybe it’s because we’ve become so accustomed to these pop ups, like these cookie pop ups on websites. And you just want the cookie to go away, don’t you? So you just click accept, you don’t read the terms and missions. You just click close so I can browse the website in peace.

Charli: That’s so true. I do that. I didn’t even look at what it says anymore. I just click, it’s fine.

Phil: I think the goal, ultimately, is – I want to live my life and I need to go on this website. And I suppose that’s a first world problem to have, isn’t it? Yeah, that’s where we are.

We’re still getting a good picture. Some of it’s a bit blurred. It caused some issues in media buying and performance, for sure.

Charli: So you’ve been working in paid media for quite a long time, more than a decade, I think it says in your bio?

Phil: Around that, yeah, I think so, yeah. It definitely feels like that.

Charli: You don’t look old enough, so you must have seen some changes in that time. Can you tell us a bit about what’s changed in the time you’ve been working in this space?

Phil: Sure. So I think there’s been a lot of changes for both the media buyer and the brand, and then also the end consumer and the person on that platform. Lots of new platforms have come around – Facebook, Snapchat, Tiktok, Instagram, and they’ve all changed individually. And that generated opportunities for both the Advertiser and the end consumer. Platforms, naturally, have just got more complicated, both for the media buyer and the end consumer. New policies, and that impacted both sides of the people using these platforms. But ultimately it’s got more complicated. So whether that’s – you’re not allowed to do certain things, and if that impacts for the benefit of the consumer, then that’s good. We all heard about the scandal with Cambridge Analytica. So it’s good that we’re not allowed to do things like that anymore, or brands that might take advantage of that, or governments even. So, yeah, more complicated and more tools and more tracking. And that’s made brands into unicorn brands. And I’m sure it’s made a lot of people very rich if they took advantage of those at the right time.

So, yeah, a lot of new tools, a lot of new tracking, the Pixel coming about, lookalike audiences, different creative formats, Facebook buying Instagram and then being able to advertise on that platform, brands trying to catch up with Facebook and Facebook ads, whether that’s TikTok – that originally starting off as a platform that you can’t advertise on and now, you know, very easily could run and add in a couple of hours.

So, yeah, a lot has changed and there’s been a lot of positives for both media buyers and consumers. But at the same time, it’s been a complicated time with policies and big brands and governments getting involved, for sure.

Charli: So it’s almost like there’s more kind of technology and software and ways to do more things, but then there’s also more policies that make doing those things more complicated.

Phil: 100%, yeah, that’s correct. And those policies are ultimately put in place for the right reason, and that’s to protect lots of different things, whether that’s data or freedom of speech or certain topics. Big platforms and institutions, they can sometimes get these things wrong and move quite slow. And that in itself generates headaches for both the media buyer, but then also for the consumer when there’s certain types of content on these platforms.

Charli: So Hello Earth works with – you’ve got some amazing brands on your client list. Really cool, innovative. I’ve spoken to a few of them as well. They are doing some pretty awesome things, and you’ve been helping them to grow and scale and do their thing. But I guess in all of that, there’s definitely some challenges that you’re facing and your brands are facing clients are facing. And I wondered what the most common ones that you’ve seen in recent years?

Phil: One of the most common issues that brands can face is being able to set targets and go for them, but ultimately still generate profit at the end of removing overheads and ad spend and other costs, and having enough cash at the end to keep this brand going and pay salaries and things like that. Those issues can come from platform updates, global events that might impact performance, changes in consumer behaviour – if your product is, the market is saturated and the goal that you have is no longer needed, or something like that. So over a long period of time it’s winning consistently, you may find certain wins throughout the year. Maybe that’s if you’re a “New Year, New Me” product, you might have this six weeks at the start of the year where you have this big win and then that performance might change. Or if you’re a very holiday or gifting-focused brand. You’ll have a great Q4, but what do you do the rest of the year?

I think that my biggest tip would be understand the market, understand the trends through the year and assign your KPIs and targets based on that. I think you should still have big targets and big goals and big dreams, but you’ve got to base those on a certain amount of information and truth.

We’ve worked with some brands that have had the goal to generate venture capital or be acquired, and a lot of the time, whether they’re pre funding or after funding, a lot of those targets can just be a straight increase in revenue throughout the year. And there aren’t many products or brands or sectors that just grow consistently throughout the year, especially as you go into the next year. Q4 will be amazing and Q1 won’t grow at the same pace as Q4. We’ve definitely worked with some brands that have had a great Q1, but that was never the plan and that Q1 – we had a certain product, a new product drop, we managed to land on some killer creative, but it definitely wasn’t the goal to scale out with Q4 and go into Q1, I think you’ve got to solidify your objectives based on common sense and some truth as well.

Charli: Managing expectations, I guess, is a big part of that as well?

Phil: Yeah, for sure. We’re not there for brands to come on and we’re just neg everyone out and say, you can’t do this instead, we’ll do this. Brands and agencies should have aim for the sky, but there’s got to be a case of ‘so, this is why we think we can get here and this is how we think we’re going to do it’. And if you can put a few bullet points in both those lists, then you’ll be in a pretty strong place.

Charli: Brilliant. So nice segue there. Into the flip side, what’s been working for brands maybe in recent years, what’s been driving the most success?

Phil: Sure. So I think the last three years have been pretty wild from an advertising point of view. There’s been a lot of changes, but then also around the world, I don’t think we’ve ever had two years that have been the same for many different reasons. So being able to adjust your targets and what you’re working towards quite quickly based on what’s working and also what isn’t working and pivoting based on that, but then also being nimble enough to react based on consumers platforms and then also outside influences. So whether that’s the product that you’re marketing or the problem that you’re trying to solve, or your messaging or your creative or your audience or the country that you’re selling into, having all those as flexible, or as many as possible, those are the brands that can really grow.

I know I’ve just said previously that don’t expect to do that, but those are the brands that can actually do that. I’ve definitely work for brands that do see a month on month growth in revenue and profit. But those ones that have been nimble enough to change and reactive enough, for sure.

Charli: I guess they keep saying we keep saying, don’t we? We’re just getting tired of all the once in the lifetime events that are happening in our lifetimes. And even when you’re a brand is doing something completely different, you still have to keep an eye on what’s happening in the world and be able to move with that. And I guess that the brands who have their finger on the pulse, for want of a better phrase, probably are better placed to be able to do that because you have to understand the people you’re talking to and what they’re going through as well.

Phil: For sure. And I don’t think that means – I mean as marketers, we generally do ruin most things. Read the room, is a very good thing to do. And that doesn’t mean spin every event into a marketing message. So whether that’s using the term ‘unprecedented’, ‘these are unprecedented time’, so please buy our toothbrush. That’s not what we’re talking about. And a lot of the times, the strongest brands might step out of a conversation. I think if you’re brave enough to do that and not do that natural knee jerk, which is like send an email about this topic to your audiences, because they’re probably consuming that information elsewhere and they might just want to come to your brand for that relief from real life.

Charli: Sometimes the best strategy is to stop and listen rather than have something to say. If you’re not the person to say it.

Phil: 100% definitely, I agree with that.

Charli: So we talked about success and challenges, but particularly success. And I bet there are some people listening today who are thinking, “that will never be me. I’m never going to get those kind of results. How are we going to get growth at all? It just seems to be doing worse and worse month on month. Or I’m never going to be able to create creative that people are going to engage with” or whatever it is that they’re feeling themselves or individual brands are feeling or the founders – a bit of imposter syndrome, maybe that no one, even that impostor syndrome of “who’s going to want to buy my products. Have I got the right thing out there? Am I sending out the right message?” So someone’s suffering with a bit of imposter syndrome right now, what would you say to them?

Phil: I would say you’re not the only one suffering from imposter syndrome. I definitely do from an agency and a founder a point of view. I think it’s natural if you care about something, that you look externally and think you are your own worst critic. So all of those things support the reason why you’re feeling like that. It’s natural to look at case studies on agency websites or read interviews from brands that have been acquired or generated venture capital and think, “wow, they’ve reached this many people, they’ve really created a market” or “they’ve solved the sustainability issue that I didn’t even think of and they were so ahead of the curve.” They created a sector and at the same time they owned it in the same breath.

You’re naturally just reading 5% of their story. So they started off at zero, just like you, they naturally faced a lot of problems. They’ve changed their strategy throughout the way. And you don’t read about any of those issues or stories. You just read about the positive. And with hindsight, if you look back and think, we did X because of Y strategy, but they might have had 15 of the strategies and ideas that fail, but you don’t talk about those.

So that’s how you deal with imposter syndrome with other brands and you ignore those. And I think it’s good that you read them and you try and pull out and bullet point what other things I can benefit from. And there’s probably plenty of things that don’t benefit you, which is how much money they generate. The founder’s a millionaire now. Just ignore all that.

My tip would be to focus on your own race. And if you’re at zero right now, how do you get to one? And then when you get to one, how do you get to two? So whether that’s one customer or one product or £1 in revenue, how do you double that to two? Or if you’ve got a one dollars cost per click, how do you get that down to $0.80 cost per click? Or if you’ve got a 0.5% click through rate, how do you increase that 0.8%?

So you might be starting at zero thinking, I’ve only generated £500 in revenue. This brand has generated £15 million in revenue. You can’t put those two figures together and expect to go from one to the other. You really need to focus on your product, your brand, your consumer, the problems that they’re facing as a consumer, and how you address those and the problems in the world. And how are you going to address those and move the needle ever so gradually, every day and over the one to two years, people will be reading the interview with you about your success.

Charli: That’s excellent advice. It’s like climbing a mountain, isn’t it? You take the photo at the top, but you don’t show the steps, you got to get there – it’s hard to compare.

So I’m going to get technical now and ask you for some technical advice. I know that recently Facebook discontinued interest targeting using the interest of ‘sustainability’ and other keywords related to sustainability, which is a big deal for eco brands. Right? Who are using Facebook as a platform to drive awareness and sales and revenue. What can they do about that?

Phil: Good question. Yeah. So it seems like the rug is being pulled up under you if you are using these targeting methods. But it’s not, because if I just roll back twelve months to a couple of years, for a long time, interest targeting is really just being a suggestion to Facebook about who you reach. So five to ten years ago, it was all around Page Likes. So we all went on Facebook and we liked Facebook Pages. I like this Page. I like that Page. And then you can then target people based on which Pages they like. That hasn’t been the case for a long time. People don’t really like Pages anymore. You just consume content and speak to friends and family. When you put a topic into the interest targeting box on Facebook, you’re really just asking Facebook to go out and find people who show signs of interest, that they are consuming content about these topics. And that will be both based on the Pages that they’re consuming content from, the post that they’re talking about. But then also the websites that they’re going on. Because if you remember, lots of different websites around the world have the Facebook Pixel on, Facebook gathers all that data and uses all those pixels to paint a picture about who you are as consumer.

So interest is just a suggestion. For a long time, Facebook has just been using the Facebook Pixel to go out and find people. So you’re asking for sustainability-interested consumers, but really Facebook is ignoring that and just going after people who are on similar website to yours and buying similar products to yours. So that is still happening. And that is ultimately what Facebook’s core product is, persona mapping.

So, that’s sort of a convoluted description of what interest targeting is and why you shouldn’t worry about it too much. But what we can do now, if Facebook starts to remove even more of these interest targeting methods is a couple of different techniques.

If you’ve got previous customers, they are sustainability-interested consumers, you could use that data to generate lookalike audiences. So you’ve got one pocket of potentially new customers there.

You could also do broad targeting, which is ultimately just not using any targeting methods on Facebook and allowing Facebook to find people. And if your website is optimised enough to tell Facebook that you want this type of customer, then it will find them.

And then third and most recommended strategy, which will probably move the needle the most, is by focusing on the creative. That’s creative that talks to sustainable audiences and copy that talks to the sustainable audiences. Use the messaging to find the customer. And Facebook will go out and do that. And a lot of ad accounts that we manage nowadays use very broad targeting, very big lookalikes, up to 10% lookalikes, completely broad targeting. So no targeting. And we just use the creative. And it works very well.

Charli: Yeah. Just using the words and the creative, which obviously – if you see something flash off on your Facebook feed and it speaks to you, you’re going to engage with it. And I guess that’s how then Facebook goes, okay, these are the people?

Phil: For sure. If you roll it back in 50, 60 years and you think advertising from years gone by, it was billboards, magazines, TV adverts, newspaper adverts. There wasn’t any targeting methods. Newspapers might have had audience profiles on who their readers are. But it’s just a bit of a guess. And you would use the messaging and creative in that advert to speak to your audience – so whether that’s car insurance or deodorant. If it was a women’s product, it would talk about women. If it was a male product, it would talk about men. That’s the targeting.

Charli: Nothing has changed, really. We’re still in the Mad Men era, have we?

Phil: Yeah. Just less alcohol during the day.

Charli: It’s interesting, actually going from the Mad Men era of advertising, where we look back on some of those ads back then and we think a little bit misogynistic or it’s not something that we’d have put out today, but social media for me especially, and so I’m assuming it can be for other people, can be a bit of a tricky moral conundrum for consciously-minded humans, shall we say. I have a love hate relationship with Facebook in that it has a lot of benefits for getting Earth Collective out there. Earth Collective is a very different brand from an ecommerce brand, being a content machine. But then I see the likes of Patagonia boycotting Facebook. And I guess recently, more recently, we’ve seen musicians boycott Spotify for not having what they perceive to be the right terms to prevent the spreading of misinformation. And so I was thinking about how smaller brands navigate this moral dilemma, because I was thinking, how – do I need to boycott Facebook? Being a sustainable publisher, is being on Facebook, going against our values?

I’ll tell you where I got you on this, and then maybe I’ll get your thoughts, because then it’s quite a big question. But for me, I feel like and for the smaller brands who don’t have huge advertising budgets, who don’t have huge budgets in general, who are just trying to get cut through the best way that they can, almost the responsibility lands on the bigger brands who have those big budgets and already have huge awareness, like Patagonia has massive awareness. Everybody knows the brand. Everybody knows the name. Maybe I’m letting myself off with this point of view, but the responsibility almost falls on those bigger brands to take on the behemoths like Facebook and Spotify and hold them accountable.

Spotify made changes because of that. It made changes to its terms and its terms and conditions. Now we’re on Spotify and you have to read the terms before you post a podcast. So almost all that responsibility for the big brands to go and ask for changes with those behemoths it falls on them. And then I don’t know if that just helps my moral compass to feel better about it, but it’s so hard for when you’ve got a small budget or you are a smaller brand to step away from the places that do work for getting your messages out to your audience.

Phil: Yeah, I do think it’s a great question, and I agree with your opinion on it. I do think we should push for change across everything. I think we should always be asking these institutions to develop up and push forward based on our rights and what’s right and wrong in the world and on the Internet. I think it’s always interesting when brands and celebrities do take a stance like this because they’ve ultimately got to where they are because of a combination of things, whether that’s a great product and a strong advertising message. They’ve spent a lot of money on ads. They then got to a certain point and then they stand, because they’re of a certain size, they can do that.

So they’ve almost they’ve used Facebook and Instagram to advertise, generate revenue, get a certain size, and then they’re using their position to push for change, which is great, but they’re not doing that before they get to where they are.

I think you should always have a note on that. And just like earlier when I said about running your own race, I think it’s irresponsible for you as a founder – if you’ve got overheads and if you’ve got salaries to try to run the same rates that Patagonia are doing, I think you should try and support them, push Patagonia to push for change.

But when it comes to your own race and your goals and what you’re trying to do with your brand and the change that you’re trying to make, there is a time and a place for compromise and sacrifices. And I think you’ve got to be smart about when you do those.

So if you’re not advertising for the first three quarters of the year, but then you’re using Q4 to really take advantage and really reach a big audience and you only advertise during Q4, that’s a great way to do that. Or if you’re only advertising on Instagram and not Facebook and you’re just trying to reach a certain audience on Instagram, that’s one way of doing it. Or if you cut your ad spend in half, that’s a way that you can make a change, but not compromise the success of your business and the ability to reach your goals.

Patagonia is still posting on Facebook and Instagram. So they’re still supporting the platforms by being on there, and they’re still posting, which means that their audiences are still on Facebook and Instagram. So their audiences are also consuming advertising and generating revenue for Facebook and Instagram. So it’s not as clear cut as Patagonia have impacted these platforms. They’re still using them to benefit themselves and their message.

I think a press release and these big headlines about Patagonia coming off and these other brands they’re abandoned in Facebook, it can be quite complicated about what is actually happening and what you should do off the back of that. But I do agree that it’s a moral dilemma. And I think it’s important that everyone does some soul searching and really understands where they are personally and try not to focus on the press release.

Charli: That tip of the iceberg and the tip of the mountain and all of it, isn’t it? What you see is such a small piece of the puzzle and there’s so much else going on underneath the water for sure.

Phil: I did some searching on how much was Facebook supporting Patagonia’s business. And I found a couple of articles that we can link to as our source. But one article said that in I think it was 2019, Patagonia generated over a billion dollars in revenue and during the same time they spent around 6.2 million on Facebook ads. So it’s not a large percentage of their revenue going on Facebook ads. 6.2 million over the course of the year. What does that mean per day? That’s $17,000 per day on Facebook ads. We quite easily manage brands that spend between 5K and 10K per day that aren’t generating a billion dollars. So their media buyers aren’t managing that much. We definitely come across accounts that have spent 20 to 30K a day on ads and they’re not Patagonia. So yeah, I would always take any message, any press release, any outstanding headline with a pinch of salt and say – what is the impact that this is going to have on Patagonia? And it’s probably not that much of an impact, probably more of a benefit because people are talking about them.

Charli: So interesting. I’m glad you found those stats, because I was reading some threads on LinkedIn about this and somebody did mention they said the percentage of what Patagonia spends on Facebook advertising compared to the rest of their media buying budget or the rest of their advertising budget is so small. It still blows my mind that they’re spending 17K a day and that you manage brands that spend $20,000 a day, that still blows my mind that’s such a lot of money. But when you put it in those terms of the billion dollar turnover, I guess it’s a tiny percentage.

So we talked a bit about Facebook and Instagram and you mentioned there using Instagram instead of Facebook part of the meta verse, isn’t it? But two questions here. What about other contenders like TikTok – it’s been around for a long time, but we’ve really seen – like podcasts have been around for a long time, but we’ve seen a real uptick in TikTok and podcasts over recent years. I don’t know if it’s because of what’s been happening in the world for the last few years, but that seems to have gone up.

So is TikTok a viable channel for small businesses that want to move away from the metaverse, or is it just a channel we should be using in general?

And the second part of this question is, what do you think is going to be next?

Phil: Good leading question. I’ll start with the first one, because that’s easier to answer. Yeah, TikTok is a lot like Instagram was sort of a few years ago when organic reach was naturally a lot higher. TikTok from an organic point of view can be a really great way to get your message out there. And we work with brands that have had a very good return on organic content. So posting on TikTok organically and generating sales off the back of that, which is pretty mind blowing that you can still do that without having to pay to serve these ads to the bigger audiences. So, yes, get on TikTok, use the organic and the free part of TikTok to AB test messaging, validate your product and your strategy, and then use the ad side of it to support that. Can we start with 5% of our ad spend going on TikTok? In a couple of months time can increase up to 15% to 30%. There’s definitely positives and benefit positives and negatives. The ad platform is younger than Facebook’s. It’s not as well developed, which is natural. The targeting isn’t as well developed, but then the cost to advertise there is definitely cheaper, so you can reach more people for less. But the performance of that spend might be as good as Facebook.

So, the opportunity is on TikTok. So get on there, but don’t take your eye off the ball. If something is working on Facebook and Instagram, don’t sacrifice that because of this new platform. This new shiny platform is there.

And then what’s next? I would be a rich man if I could predict that, because I would buy shares in whatever that was going to be. I think whatever is next – I mean, there’s obviously things around there, like NFTs and metadata, like you said, there’s weird and wonderful things that brands are trying to push us into. A number of those will die and fall off. I think crypto and those sort of technologies will always be here. And how they’ll be used for content and marketing and brand awareness, I don’t yet know. But ultimately, what happens is a small portion of consumers will use these platforms and it’ll grow from there. Just like TikTok, it started off with a very young audience and it’s grown from there, so whatever is new will not start off as the next big thing. It will be underground for a while and it may be it’s already there.

Charli: Interesting. Remember, the days of Vine. I miss Vine.

So the final question for you today – thank you so much for your time. We’ve talked longer than I expected but that always happens. We go off on tangents, but the final question for today is, the question we ask all of the guests on this podcast and that is, do you think there is such a thing as a truly sustainable business?

Phil: I think there’s definitely a good question. I think there’s definitely sort of like different levels to this. Any sort of consumption and use of materials and energy will naturally reduce how sustainable a brand is, even if that’s coming from a sustainable source and it’s hydro or solar, there’s always been some sort of consumption involved in making the solar panel or the wind turbine or anything like that. There’s headaches to be had there and that’s above my payroll to be honest to answer those questions. So I think there’s definitely an argument to say no and there’s an argument to say – but we can do better than what we’re currently doing and like I said, run your own race and don’t focus on, you know, starting zero and getting to Everest. We’ve got to be, we’ve got to look at where we are right now and try to become less fossil fuel intensive and more sustainable, 1% at a time and if we can look back in a year’s time and say, you know what, we’ve really moved the needle and we’ve gone from here to here, then that’s a win. That is my politician answer to that question. Yeah, that’s my diplomatic answer.

Charli: Brilliant. Thank you so much, Phil. It’s been a pleasure having you on today. I’ve loved talking to you. Thank you for your time.

Charli: Thanks Charli.

Thank you so much for listening to episode three of Easy Being Green? I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Phil. There were a few good pieces of advice in there, both for executing on paid social strategies, but also for life in general.

I mentioned at the start of this episode that Phil is part of a team of paid media and conscious content marketing experts that have just launched an exciting new venture called The Green Growth Project. So what is the Green Growth Project? Well, I’m glad you asked my friend. It is an education hub for founders, marketers and team members of planet-positive businesses to learn how to grow consciously, to be a sustainable business for themselves, for their customers and for the planet.

The Green Growth Project gives you the tools, education and support you need to drive forward your business’s triple bottom line through paid media and conscious content marketing.

So if you want to connect with Phil and learn more about The Green Growth Project, head to

Thanks for being here. If you liked this podcast, we would so appreciate your five star review, which helps people like you to find people like us.

And if you want to get in touch with me, Charli, your host and editor of Earth Collective. You can do that @weearthco on all social media channels.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with another episode. Until then, stay collected. Don’t forget to keep it green.

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Charli Ferrand Higgins

After a decade working for global and boutique PR and Marketing agencies in Sydney, with clients that included some of the biggest consumer brands in the world, Charli returned to her homeland of the UK in 2017 and decided the time had come to use her professional skills and experience for good. She has since split her time between supporting passionate, purpose-driven small and medium-sized businesses to grow through conscious content marketing, managing and editing the planet-positive content hub Earth Collective (, and hosting the podcast Easy Being Green? Lessons in sustainable business for SMEs.

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