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In this interview series, we are talking to founders, CEOs, and ecommerce business leaders about how to use social media to grow your ecommerce business. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Chris King.

Chris King

Chris King

Chris King is director of integrated marketing at online retailer RealTruck. Prior to his time at RealTruck, King spent a decade as a brand manager within the CPG industry, focused on leveraging consumer insights into actionable go-to-market strategies and new product development for both category-leading brands and disruptive fighter brands.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

This story may start all the way back to childhood. I was always a tinkerer with a natural draw to anything mechanical, fast, or loud. That ultimately resulted in a lot of my free time being spent building, fixing, and enjoying just about anything with four wheels as I got older. Probably missed a calling for engineering, but I was drawn to marketing due to the ability to flex my creative problem-solving muscles. 

I started my career in consumer-packaged goods and worked with some of the biggest and most well-known brands/properties in the world, which provided a lot of great exposure and understanding within the traditional “brand management” world.  

After nearly 10 years in the space, I read an article about a company that would ultimately become RealTruck and was shocked that it existed locally. Sensing an opportunity to combine a space I was personally passionate about with my career, I reached out to the owner on LinkedIn and said, “I want to be a part of that.” The rest is history.

Can you share the most exciting story that has happened to you since you began at your company?

Given that I’ve managed to figure out the dream combo of personal passion and career, there have been a lot of exciting moments. 

One that stands out to me is a campaign we ran several years ago that culminated in us bringing one lucky guest along with us to SEMA, which is generally a bucket-list trip for any automotive enthusiast. 

Unfortunately, it’s trade only, so it’s very much out of reach for most. Tapping into that desire among fans, followers, customers, and potential customers led to a very successful campaign for RealTruck. On top of that, being able to share the experience with someone who wouldn’t have ever had a chance to do something like that on their own was quite powerful and rewarding.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t know that I have any that are particularly entertaining, but, just like anyone, I’ve made my share of small and large mistakes. Emails that go out early, social posts that generate an unintended reaction, etc. 

My most memorable mistake was very early in my career. The company I worked for at the time put a lot of faith in its team members, including those that were still relatively new. Within the first few months of this new job (right out of college), I was working on setting up a seasonal display unit that was being shipped to all Walmart retail locations, with some locations getting multiple units. 

My newness meant I overlooked one small but critical component when setting up the bill of materials for production, and this omission wasn’t caught until the displays were in several thousand stores. It was just a pair of hooks, but without them, the stores had no way to merchandise the displays, and the program would tank (if you know what a sell-through guarantee is, you could understand my concern). 

I sprang into action, packed hundreds of envelopes full of hooks, and broke the bad news to our broker team that they would have to physically send reps to each store to get them the needed components and set the displays. I thought for sure that was my last project with the team.  

Thankfully, the leadership team knew that mistakes happen, and the important qualities they recognized were a) owning the error, b) presenting a solution, and c) acting immediately.  Not hiding it, blaming others, or freezing under pressure. I also worked with a few cross-functional team members from marketing and production to add layers of quality assurance for our new product setup.  

In the end, the program was successful, and the error was quickly forgotten—though I’ll likely never forget the heart-sinking feeling that first phone call gave me!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

We recently launched “The Trucket List,” which has been an incredibly exciting and rewarding project for the team. We started with the premise that we wanted to work with our athlete investors, who are members of various professional sports teams across the county, to identify and celebrate members of their hometown or team’s hometown—people who were highly influential to them and devoted to improving their own communities. 

Building that premise in a way that was relevant to our business and mission of inspiring truck owners with “what’s possible,” it was decided that these community leaders would receive a truck built specifically to help them achieve a bucket list dream and “The Trucket List” was born.

We found that the combination of compelling storytelling and our athlete investors’ celebrity reach helped us achieve what we couldn’t do without a much larger spend—connect with people at scale and show them what we can do to enhance their own truck ownership experience. The results have been great so far, especially in terms of social media due to the athletes’ large following.

Photo of Chris King of RealTruck

What are traits about yourself that you feel helped fuel your success?

Don’t waste time being negative (and have a little fun): I don’t have the time or mental energy to waste getting stuck in the rut of blame or negativity. It never solves anything and can really bring teams down. Throughout my career, I’ve always tried to focus on things we have in front of us, things we can control, and what we’re going to do about it. A positive attitude is just as contagious as a negative one, so keeping your head up and having a bit of fun can really bring a lot of benefits to teams and collaborators. 

Keep looking forward: A culture that spends its time looking backward can often lead to negative impacts on morale and future success. Yes, it is important to analyze for the sake of understanding cause/effect and root cause, but once that’s determined, it’s time to focus on what you’re going to do about it. I HATE the blame game. Mistakes happen, it’s a part of life. I always encourage the team to learn and keep moving forward.  

What was your original vision for your ecommerce business? What pain point(s) were you trying to solve for your customers?

Our leadership team worked hard ahead of our recent rebrand from Truck Hero, Inc. to RealTruck, Inc. to create a thoughtful and meaningful mission, vision, and corporate values. 

Essentially, we want to help people realize how a truck can be more capable and useful than the day it rolls off the lot in your possession. A truck is like a Swiss army knife, but we want to help owners build the version of that multi-tool that is optimized to support the things they enjoy doing the most. Perhaps it’s just adding utility to the truck bed, or it’s getting the family into the backcountry for an extended camping trip. 

The great thing about trucks is that they are a blank canvas to build on, and we want to help owners explore the possibilities within the space that will create something they can’t live without.

How did social media help you grow your business? What were your strategic objectives, and how did you implement your social media plan?

Through our social media presence, we aim to educate, inspire, and entertain through aspirational content, encouraging our fans to get out in the real and do more with their vehicles! We work with influencers, our RealTruck Crew, to help build our community on social even further and spread our message to new fans.

As we’ve grown our follower base, we’ve prioritized understanding what our audience is interested in and creating content centered around their passions, pain points, and truck goals. We’ve seen success because our team is involved and engaged in the same conversations as our fans, and we connect through shared passions for trucks and the outdoors. 

Whether evergreen content or larger campaigns, our objectives are vastly different depending on what we are trying to accomplish over a period of time, and we work closely together within our department to align on the best approach for each unique initiative.

Which social media platforms have you found most beneficial for ecommerce specifically?

It depends on the goal. Each platform seems to offer specific benefits depending on where people are in their ownership journey and what demographic we’re trying to reach.

For lower-funnel activities, the tools within Meta (Facebook) seem to drive the best results for us currently. Other platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok, are great for us to utilize for top-of-the-funnel, inspiration, and brand-building activities (as evidenced by “The Trucket List”). 

Ultimately, success for us seems to be reached by staying true to what each platform’s core/original vision was and not forcing content out where it doesn’t belong.

What social commerce trends are you closely paying attention to, and how are you preparing to leverage them for growth?

We’re still seeing a lot of opportunities for leveraging the right partners and relationships. To be fair, it’s still somewhat new for us. That said, we’ve seen and continue to see a lot of momentum by finding true brand advocates and authentic partners to work with that help amplify our voice and add a layer of social proof to our message.

Outside of popular or common modifications that we don’t have to work hard at creating demand for, there are so many accessories that people truly LOVE and that many other people don’t know about or that people are skeptical of. There’s no better way to share these than through real owners who can help make these products and modifications relevant to those that they share interests with.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen when companies try to use social media to promote ecommerce? What can be done to avoid those mistakes?

Being obsessed over vanity metrics is probably number one. Consider the goals that matter (hint, followers aren’t always the top priority)!

Based on your experience and success, what are your top 5 ways to use social media to grow your ecommerce business?

  1. Tell compelling stories: Build communities, convey a lifestyle, and don’t hammer “buy now” all the time. We’re here to connect with people that cherish the same things that we do.
  1. Leverage authentic partners: Find those who share your interests, vision, and goals. They’ll be more compelling than you can be. Customers aren’t stupid, and the second something seems inauthentic, they’ll be sure to tell you.
  1. Focus on metrics that matter: Ensure you’re measuring success with metrics that drive decisions and the outcomes you want. Vanity metrics can matter, but they can also be a trap that develops actions that are often unsuccessful and may have a negative impact on your business.
  1. Focus on channels that matter: It’s easy to fall into a trap of chasing shiny new objects.  The question is, will it drive value for your team and organization? And what value are you forgoing by chasing it? Take the time to really understand where your customers and potential customers live and focus your resources there. Not every platform is for every business. And for that matter, platforms can serve different goals based on how people use and interact with them.
  1. Know your audience: Even if you know where they are, if you don’t know the underlying motivations and needs, there’s no amount of content, no post cadence, and no ad that will ever resonate with them.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the people, what would that be?

If I could start a movement that would bring good to others, it would just be to spread the message to be kind. If we treat each other with respect and kindness, a lot of good will go back into the world. 

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Francois Marchand
By Francois Marchand

Francois Marchand is passionate about helping and educating business leaders, ecommerce professionals, and digital marketers grow their skill sets to stay ahead of the competition. Francois holds a BA Specialization in Communication Studies & Journalism from Concordia University (Montreal, QC) and 20+ years of experience in ecommerce, marketing, traditional and digital media, and public relations, including The Vancouver Sun, National Post, CBC/Radio-Canada, Unbounce, and Vancouver Film School.