My name is Lukasz Szyrmer. If you are new here, I am the author of the book Align Remotely. I help teams thrive and achieve more together when working remotely. Find out more at alignremotely.com. In this episode of the Managing Remote Teams podcast, we have a deep dive into remote creative collaboration and how it connects with the rest of the company.
I’m speaking with the co-founder and CEO of a social media automation and scheduling tool called Loomly, and digging into how it works for their customers, ties to other functions in the company, in order to tease out how his opinion on how remote creative collaboration works. The discussion is interesting on its own, but also as a mirror for all knowledge work being done remotely.
In part 1, you will discover:
Thibaud Clément is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Loomly. Together with his spouse and business partner, Noémie, Clément has launched four successful e-commerce, agency and technology businesses. A self-taught programmer, Clément initially developed Loomly’s collaborative marketing software as an in-house solution to help his team streamline digital content creation and publishing.
Encouraged by feedback from clients and peers, Loomly grew into a standalone entity in 2016. The distributed company, which has operated with a fully remote staff since its founding, currently serves over 9,000 marketing teams worldwide, consistently achieving a triple-digit annual revenue growth rate.
Why remote creative collaboration is different with Thibault Clement
Thibauld, welcome to the podcast. Can you tell us a little bit about Loomley and how you got started with Loomly?
Of course. Thanks for having me on the show. We could say it’s a pleasure to be here. Yeah, ultimately it’s a company that I co founded in 2016 with my spoon Nomi.
We’ve been working together for over nine years now and it’s actually the fourth company that we are building together. And before only we had an advertising agency operating both in France and in the us. And we were helping both, very large clients like L’Oreal, we were managing five brands for them online but also, very fast growing startups and And we had this process in common with all of them where basically we had to create content for them and manage what we call editorial calendars and all of that was happening inside of Excel.
And it was just, not a very effective process, so we try to streamline it. And when we look for existing options that, were on the market already, we can only find two different types of tools to families of tools, one where a generic project, modern software, which is great for collaboration, but doesn’t help with publishing content or social media schedulers, which are great to publish content, but are not especially designed for remote creative collaboration.
When decided to take the measure in our own hands. And basically, we started building our own product and not an engineer. I learned every single night I own then back in 2015, I wrote the first line of code and we started using the prototype with our clients and they loved it. I really liked the to, think about the fact that when client even told us that he would fire us, if he had to go back to using Excel after trying a platform, which was a good proof of concept.
And so we opened up the platform in privy. Perfect. Better. Sorry. And from hearing from there, it got out of hand but in the right direction we, we’re now getting close to 6 million in ARR and we serve 9,000 clients marketing teams around the world. We’re growing about a hundred percent per year.
And the product that, started as a very simple remote creative collaboration tool where all you could do was basically upload some texts and some images, it would generate a mo-cap of your Facebook post or Twitter posts. And then you could send the link to someone that you wanted to get their approval.
And then they would say, yes, I agree with this post or no, please change the code and the visual and so on and so forth. And that was it. And so from there, I evolved into what it is now, which is a full fledged brand success platform where you can manage your assets. Create content get it reviewed and approved by your team.
Of course, this is still a big chunk of our value proposition. And then of course you can publish to social media, respond to any comments that you get and measure your success within that it takes so that you can iterate and get better with every new publishing cycle.
what makes collaboration work, at your client’s sites or in your own experience online? For example, what features within the software either initially or now are most responsible for getting the collaboration to work?
We’re talking about content production and we are talking about, marketing teams. So in this very specific context it seems that what helps is actually to have some mock-ups of where the posts are going to look like, so that, you can actually, if you are the manager or if you’re the client, you can actually see what your post is going to look like.
You don’t have to imagine it, and then you can approve or reject or ask for any change. And all of that is also, listed in a history. So you see all the different versions of the posts and what happened. And so this makes it very efficient because one What is what you get.
As we say, that’s number one, again, you don’t have to imagine, which is what you had to do when you were using an Excel file. So you would see in one cell you would see the copy next to it. You would see like a tiny sum. Now, then you would see the dates and you would have to figure out what it would mean once it would be published on social media.
And it was tricky. And I if that’s what you’re doing, Was your entire day. Maybe you don’t understand why they could be shorter on Twitter or why there are so many hashtags on Instagram, but when you see it, then you understand what the actual final product is going to be. And that helps a lot.
So I would say visualization is extremely important too. All these, very easy workflows to reject or approve any changes or any version I’m extremely important. And then the history, like I said, it’s very important because it, that is what builds trust. In case there is an issue we can always revert to, whatever was said and say, Oh yes, the, these posts has been viral, not for the right reasons, but it was approved by you on that day so that, it kind of fosters ownership.
And I believe that all these things are great for remote creative collaboration.
How do remote marketing teams think about scheduling when they aren’t all physically together, is there any difference with when they are in the office?
It’s an interesting question. With the pandemic, we have seen basically two major digital transformation trends. One is we’ve seen many smaller businesses who were operating offline, move online. And they needed to get equipment and get tools and workflows in place. And so for them, when it was an interesting tool, so that was one digital transformation trend.
The other digital transformation trend that we observed is from larger companies who use to work together in meeting rooms, meet in person and, brainstorm and share ideas and maybe review some kind of Mo cabs and things like that live in the same room. Then all of the sudden, because no one could go to an office, everyone had to switch to some kind of remote work flow. And that is what I believe, we’re helping with and what switching to an asynchronous workflow is enabling. And so once you start thinking in an asynchronous way, then, , that works for content production.
It works for review and approval, and it does work for scheduling because you may be like, Oh, okay. Maybe we can work in batch and we can actually plan our storytelling for the next few days and weeks so that, we have something consistent over time and use that to realize that this is actually the way to go and that it’s the most efficient way to work.
And surprisingly, it’s also what usually delivers the most value to your audience. Because again you are building a consistent story for your brand and we believe that consistency is more important than creativity. Actually, we like to set a consistency if it’s creativity every time.
Speaking of stories, in a narrative sense, how do brands actually use scheduling or let’s say the content calendar to do that in your experience?
First, actually planning your story in a calendar with our tool or any other one is it’s already a big win because you are not, like you’re not looking at your watch and saying, Oh, okay, I need to post in 20 minutes and I have a blank canvas. What I’m going to say? No that, that doesn’t work. That’s not how you tell a story.
The way you tell a story is you look at the next few weeks or months, the view you look at your business goals, you look at your company, milestones, you new CAD, any kind of product announcement or sales, and you cannot, pull all of that onto your timeline.
And you decide what you want to talk about, how you’re going to structure everything, for instance, for any kind of marketing events. Do you need to have any kind of teaser how do you engage your community before we launch and these kind of things and all of that actually is much easier.
Once you look at it from a timeline perspective, because you can just pinpoint everything. And then in a subsequent step, you’re able to actually build the content for each point on your timeline. But the most important thing is to actually structure and plan the story ahead of time. So once you’re able to do that, then the next thing you can do is you can say, okay, I have a, those very essential milestones to cover in the next few weeks and months, but I would like to publish a bit more.
So then one of the next steps, one of the next things that you can look into is you can start looking into. Some kind of Holy days like events usually you could say 40 events and movies yet to release, but these days it’s a bit more complicated, but still, whatever is happening in the world that you can use because there is going to be a conversation around those events.
And what you want to do is you want to take part in this conversation as a brand to sound relevant. You don’t want to hijack the conversation, but you want to show that you are aware of what’s going on and that you can bring a fresh perspective on it. So this will give you some, additional ideas to add into your timeline in between your company, milestones and product announcements and launch.
And then last but not least, you may have some evergreen content that you want to share. Maybe some things that, you can reuse over time. And so this is what you can use like the fillers in your strategy. And once you do all of that, you end up with, again, this timeline or this calendar, and you have a good number of post ideas.
They’re not content yet. They’re just concepts, but they’re also associated with the dates. So you see how the story unfolds and you are able to see whether it’s consistent, whether it makes sense, whether it’s on-brand and whether over time, as your audience gets exposed to it, whether it conveys the ideas and the values that you want.
So that’s how you would do it. once you have all the ideas, it’s pretty easy to move on to the next step and then start crafting the content. You come up with the copy, you find some visuals. And then, you craft the post and again, regardless of how you do it, whether you do it with a spreadsheets, with a regular project management or with something like lonely it doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that you have the correct workflow in place where you work. Exactly. Like I said, where you basically, start with the ideas. Build your timeline. Then you build content. Then you get, your team to review everything and approve, then you schedule. And so I believe this is the way to work, and this is what is the most efficient way to approach this because you can do it indeed in an asynchronous fashion and you can do it remotely with remote creative collaboration.
Yeah. Yeah. It’s the thinking that matters, not the tools. In your tool, it’s mostly top of funnel kind of short form bits, or do you also point to say longer form things? Or how does just out of curiosity?
Yeah, no, it’s a good question.
So we started with trial form content for social media. So short form in the sense that it’s restricted by in a format that is supported by social media. So usually some assets and some copy. And so that’s what we started with. And so in 2019, so not last year, the previous year, we actually exactly, we actually Enable the same workflow, but for social media ads, because again, it’s the same idea.
Yeah. You come up with an idea and the timeline, then you find the co-PI and then you determine which assets you wanna use and then you run it, you get it approved by your team. Of course. And then you run it. And then, more and more as we keep improving our platform, we see that, we can actually offer the same comfort for remote creative collaboration, to marketing teams for other forms of content, BH, so long form content such as blog articles or newsletters, but also, e-commerce products because it’s always the same idea.
You have to define what you’re going to say and when and then you have to build the content, then you want to approve it, and then you want distributed and all of that, it’s always the same approach, the same workflow for a marketing team. And interestingly, when you are a marketing team, you are in your own social media.
Chances are you are going to run a couple of social media ads. Chances are, you may have a blog or a podcast, and chances are, you may have an e-commerce website. So there is also a lot of synergies based on what our audience wants. And so that’s what we want to accomplish in the future. Not there yet, but getting there.
One thing I wanted to get a little bit on is the approval process. what are the dynamics in terms of who approves, in terms of how your clients typically use your tool? Certainly in software development, that can be quite important. So I’m curious how it works in marketing.
Yeah. Actually, yeah. Thanks for saying that. One way that sometimes we explain what we do to people who are not in the marketing field is that we are like get hub, but for marketing teams on get hub, , an engineer is going to upload their code to the platform.
Then they’re going to open a pull, request, someone who’s going to review the code and approve it. And then the code gets deployed with some kind of CIA CD workflow or something else. The idea is exactly the same for marketing and for what we do. Someone in the marketing team is going to create content is going to upload it to our platform.
And then it’s going to generate a mockup. So it’s not opening up pull request. It’s just, creating a post , the post is going to be assigned to someone else in that team, that person, or this person, because it could be a couple of persons. We’ll take a look at it, review the content. And then you will, they will approve it. And then once it’s approved, instead of the code being deployed, it’s the content being published to social media. And you find similar workflows as well, for instance, in design. If you think about, how product teams work with envision or, female.
So it’s really the same idea.
So once we know that about the approval process when we started with, and even when we were working as an agency a couple of years ago, the way it was working is usually you would have, a sub team of content producers. So it could be a freelancer, it could be an agency, it could be an in-house social media manager.
Who would be producing the content. And then you would have either, a manager, if we are talking about an in-house marketing team or a client, if we’re talking about a consultant brand relationship who would be reviewing the content and approving it, what we see these days is that the number of people who are involved in the entire content publishing cycle is a rapidly growing up, both on the content production side sites, because, it’s not only just a one person job anymore. Now we have copywriters who take care of the copy. You have designers and photographers taking care of the assets. And you have brand managers who may be actually involved in determining the storyline and all of these things.
And then on the approval side it’s very interesting what we are observing now because the top performing teams are what we call cross-functional teams in the sense that you no longer involve on leader marketing team. it’s no longer, only the job and the responsibility of the marketing department to approve content and to decide what’s going to be released. It’s actually many more people in the company and many more departments. And you may have product people who will bring some interesting insights to the table about how the product actually works or does not work.
You may have the sales team who may be able to share some insights from the field saying, Oh yeah. Customers ask about that a lot or no, this is not something you know, that we see on how people use the product or something like that. You can also have HR involved, if you are trying to build your employer brand, you may have legal involved. If you want to make sure that you are compliant with, the regulations of your industry.
And you may even have finance involved, for instance, if you are in a publicly traded company and that, that, anything that you put out there may influence the price of the stock. And actually we do have one of our largest clients that I’m not able to disclose by name where we know that for instance, the CFO actually has the final say on whatever the marketing team has come up with.
Because again, this may have an impact on the stock price. In terms of approval, it’s becoming more and more important to make sure that anything that you say and publish is on brand doesn’t have any typos it’s compliant and just, above all, it makes sense for your brand.
Another reason why this is becoming even more important is because social media and digital , has become one of them biggest component in most. I would say communication campaigns for a one now digital has taken over the majority of budgets. And so you understand why anything that, you say on social media, especially with basically to the, anyone being an influencer and being able to retweet or re say whatever you said it makes it a high stakes thing with every single post.
So this approval is key.
Yeah. It’s funny. It’s almost like it’s the message is socialized within the company before it goes out. Absolutely. Yes. Yeah.
That’s a very good summary. Yes.
So how, in terms of. Approval. I get it. But then what about the actual teams of people working on it and how do your clients organize it? The actual work amongst the people that are creating it?
What do we see is that, there is more and more I don’t want to say automation of the workflows, but there is more and more structure in the workflow is in how marketing teams are able to determine who is in charge of what and when and who needs to create content who needs to basically review it. And when, and so what we’re trying to do is support this kind of work flow.
So for instance, we help them with rules that will, automatically assign a post to a specific set of people when a post reaches a certain state.
So a good example of that is let’s say you’re an agency, you work with a client and, anytime you will move a post from draft to pending approval, it will automatically be assigned to everyone in the client’s team. So this is the kind of thing that, saves you a lot of time, because there is no value in you actually assigning people manually.
What is important is that you focus on creating the content. They focus on approving it when they are ready and before the scheduling deadline. So that would be, One thing that we see and an other pattern that we see is that, and something that we had to develop based on the use cases that customers were sharing with us is there are some times when you want the approval of either a specific person or a specific set of persons, or you want at least one person, or, a group of person to approve a post before it can go and be live.
And so for that, and we had to develop what we call GWAS, which is basically a set of rules, again, that you can define where you say, if you know these persons that could be the CFO in my previous example has not approved the post, no matter what you do, it cannot go live. It cannot go and be published. So I would say that these two scenes are patterns that we’re seeing where there is a needs, there is a will to make, the workflow more robust so that, you can rely on it to save time, be more efficient and deliver a better result.
So one of the things I wanted to ask about the cross-functional teams aspects, a previous guest on the podcast, Cassie Solomon, was talking about cross-functional teams in the context where for example, roles get unclear or like it being a little bit too loose in terms of exactly who does what so it’s, it sounds like this functionality you’re talking about helps nail it down a little bit in terms of at least a certain order. Is there any other way that you’re dealing with, let’s say roles of people or any roles, specific things that you’ve basically your clients have asked for.
Absolutely. Yes. And there, there are, there is a couple of ways that we actually in doing that, the first thing is going back to the kind of triggers and GWAS that I was referring about, to the rules is that you will receive a notification when something is required from you.
So for instance, again, going back to my example of this CFO, he will not receive a notification. Every time you update the photo on the post or something like that, he will only receive a notification when the post requires his approval. So that, once he received a notification, he knows what he has to do because it’s written black on white.
Please approve this post. This post is pending approval from you. So it’s very easy because there is no, there is no there’s of options. Yeah. It’s basically, do you prove it or not? It’s like Tinder is yes or no. So basically what it is, it’s very easy. So that kind of, removes the confusion about, what action is requested. And I believe this is indeed a big time saver because it cannot get rid of any potential of decision paralysis. So that’s number one.
The other thing, and, you mentioned it very relevantly is the question of roles and permissions. We offer a different set of default roles in our application. For instance, are you an editor always full permissions? Are you like a client where you only see the, the end results of the process are you contribute or you can create content, but not publish it or are you just a few words who’s here just for audit purposes, you don’t do anything.
But on top of that, we also have developed custom roles where you can basically define a very granular set of permissions for each person. And that also is very helpful because it prevents mistakes. I don’t know if people are deleting a post or a calendar by mistake or, making changes that are not supposed to, or again, publishing some content that are not supposed to.
And so all of that is very helpful because again, it forces you to think about the workflows of your team, who you want to do, what, and when and then the tool is just mapping that, you have to think about it up front and that’s, probably another thing that you enjoy talking about it’s, it always comes down to the culture.
And what did you find it from? And the conventions in your team, and again, defining your expectations about who needs to do what and when and I believe this is probably the most important thing.
Yeah. I’m just thinking as you’re speaking that it, it sounds like a lot of these Functions are all related to converging on a certain moment at agreement across a large number of people. So it’s not really brainstorming, which is what people would associate with marketing and advertising.
What do you say is brilliantly on point. Because usually when it was more in the early days of lonely still to this day, it’s still true. We explained that the goal of our tool, what we are here to do is we’re here to help marketing teams going from a blank canvas. Two 20 Facebook post published on their Facebook page as fast and as efficiently as possible.
That’s what we had to do. We’re not here to build the content for them. We’re not here to automate any content production. That’s not what we do. What we’re doing is we are offering them the tools to come up with original, high quality and consistent content in the most efficient way possible. And so the best way to do that, it’s not to do it for them because they know everything better than we do about their brand, the base with do it, we think is to provide them with the tools, to manage all their assets in one place so that they know which kind of images and videos they can use and cannot use give them some ideas that they can choose to use or not to use help them with the entire content production workflow.
Make it easy for them to review the content and improve it as a team and in publication and everything I described, but we believe that the most important thing is providing the structure so that teams can build on top of it, these kinds of scaffoldings. And then it can do that job in there, giving them both the freedom and the structure that they need to go from nothing to actual content published as fast as possible.
So it’s exactly what you say. It’s how do we take, these group of people who need to go from nursing to something and kind of, put them in some kind of fun, or it is a kind of funnel so that, we have the best outputs in the fastest and most efficient way possible.
Tune in next week for part 2 of the interview.