Modern Retail Events   //   October 19, 2023

‘Social media is not community’: August co-founder Nadya Okamoto on growing a period care brand with the help of TikTok

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August is using its social media prowess to talk about period care.

Over the past two years, August — which sells organic period care products — has grown from an idea into a national brand selling at stores like Target. It has been able to grow that quickly in part because of its TikTok following. Co-founder Nadya Okamoto decided early on that she would grow August via TikTok and while she didn’t have a following in 2021, today she has 4 million followers.

“I was not on TikTok at all,” she said. Okamoto was a featured speaker at the Modern Retail DTC Summit this week, and her interview is this week’s Modern Retail Podcast.

One of the big things she focuses on is making relatable content — and a lot of it. During the early days, “for like six months I posted 80 to 100 videos a day, personally,” she said. This was both so that she could train herself to be a good TikTok personality — but also because audiences evolved and August wanted to be constantly testing and changing the content it produces. And the company has found that real, unvarnished content that talks about periods is what usually resonates the best.

This strategy helped propel both Okamoto as an online personality, but also August as a brand — and she is quick to note that she built August so that its content and its branding would stand on its own. “I don’t want it to be Nadya equals August,” she said. “I wanted it to be like I am top-of-funnel — I’m the August number-one fan.”

But there’s another layer to August’s digital strategy to goes beyond engaging millions of followers. The company has had an online community built on the platform Geneva since it started. This, according to Okamoto, was a way to grow its power users and make a space for the company to directly connect with customers. Today, the group has more than 5,000 members.

One big thing she constantly keeps in mind is that even though her brand is very prevalent on social media, it needs to understand that the community aspect goes much deeper.

“Social media is not community to us,” she said. “[It’s] an audience.”

But for that audience, August is focused on making sure it is staying true to its authentic roots — talking plainly and openly about period care and menstrual issues. But that it isn’t going too far.

As Okomoto put it, it’s about “making sure that we’re not provocative for the sake of being provocative.”

Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

On realizing TikTok was a brand building tool
“I think people see me now — and I have 4.1 million followers, the brand has like close to half a million across all socials — and I think that there’s this assumption that I was a TikToker and then I created a brand. But it was actually quite the opposite. Like, we were going to start this brand, we raised about $2 million pre-revenue, pre-launch; we had quite a bit of pressure of like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna do this, this is going be a real company, we need to get to a point where we can get a seed round preempted or something like that.’ So actually, I was not on TikTok at all [before August launched].”

August’s community strategy
“The goal is not to scale it crazily. These are our super fans. A lot of them, when we have events or otherwise, will encourage their circles to come in. But I would also say when a topic comes up [we talk about it]… Before we launched, when the presidential debates were happening, I was posting on social being: Does anybody want to live chat about this? And I think it kind of came at this perfect time where social media does feel very overwhelming. Also, a lot more social media platforms — TikTok and Instagram mainly — they’re mostly based on looking at an explorer page. So it’s not really cultivating relationships with people you directly follow.”

Finding the right balance with social media content
“One thing that we talk a lot about — especially as a brand that doesn’t shy away from showing period blood or showing used products, because we want people to see how it works — is also making sure that we’re not provocative for the sake of being provocative. We’re thoughtful in wanting to start conversations. We talked a lot internally about how do we make sure we’re not just edgy — but we’re intentionally pushing the boundary. So I think that a lot of it is making sure that things that we do aren’t just for the sake of going viral, but that they have an intent behind them.”