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Top 5 Free Tools to Improve Your Social Media Game

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Social media marketing is a must-have, must-do if you want to promote your business or talent in today's competitive market.

It's no surprise then that individuals and brands alike constantly look for new ways to secure people's attention. The more creative you are, the better.

But while the creativity is all from you, the free five tools below will help you be more efficient and consistent with your social media game.

 

1. Hootsuite

It'd be nice to constantly be present on social media and be able to update your accounts around the clock. But it's not so easy to make time or to juggle different accounts at once. 

Enter Hootsuite. It's a free social media management tool that lets you manage your social media accounts and schedule your updates in advance. You can even post one message simultaneously across several platforms. Be a social media maven with half the time and energy.

In the above GIF, I'm scheduling a promotion of one of the articles by writing the message and including a photo. The message will be posted simultaneously on Twitter and Facebook, so I don't have to go to each individual platform and repeat myself. Very efficient!

Other notable features:

  • AutoScheduling (Just queue up as many messages as you like and Hootsuite will post them up at the best times)
  • Multiple streams of your social media accounts in the dashboard for easier monitoring
  • Analytics for the breakdown of your social media performance
 

2. Canva

Not everybody has the time or money to learn complicated design softwares. But everybody needs good-looking graphics!

That's why Canva should be your new bestfriend. It's a free design tool that makes designing as easy as drag-and-drop. You can design everything from Facebook covers to posters to wedding invitations or enter your own dimensions.

Unsure about where to start? No problem. Canva has plenty of modern and professional-looking pre-made templates that you can customize for your own needs. 

Here I'm customizing one of the quote templates by changing the colour and font. I then saved the design in PNG to post it on Instagram (or anywhere, really). Now that you can create your own graphics, your brand (and you) will instantly look so much more trustworthy and reliable.

Other notable features:

  • Extensive library of design elements - fonts, icons, shapes and more
  • Various dimensions optimized for social media platforms
  • Ability to save in multiple file formats
 

3. Latergramme

If you take photos using a camera or design graphics using your computer, it can be a hassle to transfer photos into your phone just to update Instagram.

Say hello to Latergramme! It's a free Instagram management tool that lets you manage your content right from your computer. OK, it's not a pure scheduling tool because you still need your phone, but all the heavy lifting is done! 

Here I uploaded a photo, typed the caption and scheduled it to be posted at 10 p.m. today. When 10 p.m. comes, I'll get a notification from the Latergramme app on my phone and will just need to tap on the 'Confirm & post now' option to post. 

Other notable features:

  • 'Search & repost' function that makes reposting tagged photos a breeze
  • Bulk message uploader
  • A media library where you can upload all the photos you're going to be using later
 

4. Grammarly

Do you sometimes have a Tweet or Facebook update that's about to be posted but you have that nagging feeling that your sentences aren't quite right? Do you check with a friend or just hit post (and regret later)?

Regret no more. Grammarly is a free online editor that checks for more than just typos. It considers your style, punctuation, contextual spellings and a host of other factors to let you write with confidence.

I wrote "Facebooq is awesomeee" and the typos were then highlighted in red. The best part is the suggestion cards that appear in the right-hand corner, which you can choose to accept or ignore. Makes the whole process much more educational!

Other notable features:

  • Ability to upload Word documents right into the editor
  • Ability to save and store your writings in the editor itself (like Google Drive)
  • Chrome extension that checks as you write anywhere on Chrome
 

5. LICEcap

There are times where I need something that has more oomph than a normal graphic or photo, but is less hassle than a video. A GIF is perfect for these occasions because it's eye-catching and usually just a few seconds long.

It may have a less than savoury name, but LICEcap has been my best discovery so far. All the GIFs you saw in the above points are made using this free software. It works much like a screen capture tool (or the Sniping Tool on Windows), except that you can record activities on your screen.

I made this mini GIF presentation by inserting the photos on Microsoft Powerpoint, running the LICEcap software and going through the slides. You can do the same for a quick presentation on your products, explaining how to use your website and more. It's insanely useful.

Other notable feature:

  • Ability to adjust the recording size (small part or the whole screen)
 

Who doesn't want to be more efficient? When you're more purposeful with your time, your social media game will be much more cohesive and streamlined. The result is a professional-looking account that people won't think twice to follow. 

Which one of the tools is your favourite?

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4 Easy Steps to Promote Your Product Using Cross Promotion

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Every brand on Instagram or other social media has their own audience. A group of people who follow them, are interested in what they offer and are likely to buy from them. Your brand has its own audience, too.

How can you increase this audience? How can you get more people who are interested in your products and will possibly buy them?

The answer is by cross-promoting with another brand. 

 

Cross-promotion with another brand

Cross-promotion is one of the most natural methods of marketing a product. You basically promote another brand's product in your platforms, while that brand does the same for your product in their platforms. 

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You and your brand-partner create a mutually-beneficial marketing campaign that will help you:

  1. Reach each other's market. Their audience will get to know your brand and product, and vice versa. Both sides get to increase their audience. 
  2. Introduce some variety into your feed. You can post photos that aren't just about your products.
  3. Show how your product is used/can be used. You get to demonstrate just how great your product fits into the customers' lives.
  4. Build good relationships with other brands. Who knows, maybe you can collaborate again on an exciting project in the future?

The best way to cross-promote is by exchanging the actual products. Brand A gets Brand B's product and vice versa. This makes the cross-promotion more engaging and natural, instead of just reposting a photo. 

And because you get something in return, it's friendlier to your budget. Think of it like a business barter!

Now let's look at the 4 easy steps you can take to cross-promote your product.

 

Step 1: Brainstorm on other products and services that are related to your product.

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The first step is to find a product (or service) to be cross-promoted with yours. Brainstorm as many as you can and make sure that they go well together. This means that:

  1. The product is not competing with yours. That's just trouble, pal.
  2. The product is not indirectly competing with yours. Cakes and cookies may go well together, but those cookies might steal the spotlight. 
  3. The product's uses complement yours. If they can be photographed together, all the better!

It's better to get something that complements your product rather than something completely random, because it won't make the cross-promotion seem 'forced' or 'unnatural'. For this example, Brand A is going with ceramic plates. 

 

Step 2: Identify the brand that you'd like to cross-promote with.

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The next step is to find a brand that you'd like to partner with. Let's say that there are quite a few brands selling ceramic plates. Which one should Brand A choose?

Brand A should choose to partner with a brand that has similar branding or values. This common ground will make the partnership look 'right' and help Brand A attract customers that will be more likely to enjoy its cakes. 

Before you settle on a brand-partner, ask these questions:

  1. How does the brand describe itself? Do some of the words match how I describe my brand?
  2. Would I be happy to be associated with that brand?
  3. Does the brand have the type of customers that I want to attract?
 

Step 3: Contact the brand with your cross-promotion idea.

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The third step is to reach out to the brand with your cross-promotion idea. It's always advisable to email them first to gauge their interest.

In the email, you should mention that you're interested in cross-promoting with them by exchanging products. Other things you can include are:

  1. Why cross-promoting is a great idea. (Hey, you can link them to this article!)
  2. Why you chose their brand to partner with.
  3. Their exact product that you're interested in.
  4. Your product that will complement theirs. (Attach a nice photo!)
  5. Your contact information and social media profiles.

Tip: If you want to make sure that they don't overlook your email, drop a quick comment at one of their social media profiles saying you've emailed them. 

 

Step 4: Set clear expectations for both sides.

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Once they've agreed to your idea and the exchange has been carried out, set expectations that will make the cross-promotion a win-win situation. Both sides must come out happy!

By being crystal-clear about what you expect, you prevent miscommunication and ensure the cross-promotion gets carried out perfectly. Some of the details you'll want to be clear about are: 

  1. The social media platforms involved. Instagram, Twitter and/or Facebook?
  2. The frequency of promotion. How many posts in the span of 1 month?
  3. The features to be highlighted. What to mention in the captions? Any specific words?
  4. The social media profiles to be used. Give all the usernames so that there'll be no mix-ups.

Tip: If you're extra-cautious, set expectations before exchanging the products.

 

Now that the preliminaries have been taken care of, cross-promote away! Be creative and generous with how you promote the other product. After all, they're doing the same for you too. If the cross-promotion works well, it can open doors to further collaborations down the road. Maybe you and the other brand can work together to create a totally unique and beautiful product. My favourite collaboration of Malaysian brands so far is Nelissa Hilman x A Soap Affair, where they teamed up to create the Feet For A Queen soap

Which brand would you like to work with?

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5 Ways Blogging Can Increase Your Influence And Make Sponsors Notice You

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What do you feel a social media influencer (AKA a person who has a large following on social media) collaborate with brands you love? For me, I feel like I would use all three wishes the Genie can give me to collaborate with those brands too. 

When we collaborate with awesome brands:

  • We're able to access their market (or fans). People who follow the brands will know who you are.
  • We instantly look more legitimate and professional. It's like you're being approved by the brands.
  • We can develop a lot of content with the help of the brands. They'll usually sponsor you with things to feature in your social media. This in turn helps you attract more followers.

But hey, people aren't just magically discovered. They put in some kind of work that makes the sponsor notice them and consider them a good candidate for collaboration. 

In this article, I'm going to show you how and why blogging is the best way to increase your influence among followers and make the brands you love see you a good candidate.

 

1. Blogging shows how much influence and publicity you can bring to the brand.

The marketing people behind brands always monitor their brand's website traffic sources. This means that they know where the people who visit their website came from. If you link to the brand's website on your blog, you've essentially become one of their traffic sources. (FYI: also known as 'referral') Every brand loves referrals.

The more people read your blog and the more they click the links, the more visitors the brand gets on its website. The brand will be able to see how many people visit its website BECAUSE OF YOU. Social media has the same function -- like tags and mentions -- but as of now it's not possible for them to monitor how many clicked on their profile and from what source. Blogging remains the most accurate method of determining who brings the most traffic to a brand's website.

 

2. Blogging shows the brand if you're the kind of candidate that they're looking for.

Brands are businesses, so they just don't sponsor people out of the blue. There's usually a common industry, target market, topics and/or goals  that make the collaboration beneficial for them, too. For example, if your blog is popular among  women in their 20s, brands who want to reach those people will consider you as a prime candidate for their marketing campaign.

Through blogging, brands can thoroughly assess your suitability as their partner. From what you blog about to what your personality is like, they can find out if you'll be a good fit with their branding and vice versa. The bigger the overlap, the more 'natural' the brand will look in your blog. This is what they want. If you make this very visible and apparent through blogging, brands will have no qualms in putting you in their candidate list.  

 

New to blogging? Get the list of 13 more (free) tools that I regularly use!

This list covers blog writing, blog organization & planning, blog branding and blog post promotion.

All are tools I highly, highly recommend. They make the process of blogging so much more organized and manageable. If you want the list + links, enter your email address and I'll send it over to you!

No spams. Pinky promise.
 

3. Blogging makes you look 100% more serious and professional about your work.

Professionalism and the ability to deliver are the two things that all brands want from the people they partner with. They want to know that the goods or services that they will give you will benefit their brand too. They're looking for a win-win situation. When you blog, brands can see the time and money you invested and know that you're not just gonna grab the goods and disappear. 

In fact, you can even prepare a brand media kit and approach brands yourself. A brand media kit is a resume for your blog, which can include the number of blog posts you've written, how many people visit your blog in a week and their details (these two can be determined using Google Analytics, by the way). The brands will definitely notice you this way, and you will look so much more convincing and logical as a candidate for collaboration.

 

4. Blogging helps you promote the brand more thoroughly.

You can do a lot with a blog. You can embed a video, include multiple images and present the information in a structured manner -- all in a single blog post. This is great for posts on how to use the brand's product or how the product is good for the user (the kind of posts that brands like!). 

You can post about the brand on social media platforms like Instagram, but there's a lot of limitations that can prevent you from giving a thorough explanation. You could end up with a lot of "individual posts", instead of just ONE comprehensive blog post. Brands love the latter because they can point their customers and fans to a single place for all the information.

 

5. Blogging makes you a great long-term investment.

One of the biggest advantages of blogging is that each blog post has its own proper link. This means that you can use this link over and over again in more recent blog posts. The blog post wouldn't get buried no matter how long ago you wrote it. In contrast, the probability that people would read what you say about the brand on social media would decrease dramatically over time, as that particular post will get buried by many others.

 Because the link and blog post are always accessible, you can continuously bring your readers to the brand's website. That blog post becomes a continuous source of traffic to the brand. They LOVE this. They see that working with you brings them long-term benefits, so it makes sense that they would invest in you for a long time, too.

 

I'm not saying that you should give up social media in favour of blogging. In fact, the best strategy to use is to combine social media + blogging together to really show brands what you have to offer. Because blogging requires more work, time and money, it instantly puts you in a different category than other influencers who only use social media. And it will make them notice you as a wonderful candidate for them to partner and collaborate with.

P.S. Are you new to blogging? Enter your email in the box below and I'll send you a list of free blogging tools I use for my blog!

Get the list of 13 more (free) tools that I regularly use for blogging

This list covers blog writing, blog organization & planning, blog branding and blog post promotion.

All are tools I highly, highly recommend. They make the process of blogging so much more organized and manageable. If you want the list + links, enter your email address and I'll send it over to you!

No spams. Pinky promise.

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4 Reasons Why You Should Blog For Business

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Wouldn't it be nice to generate enough attention for your business all-year round? We're talking about a steady stream of marketing that can continuously keep people's attention, rather than the sporadic bursts that comes with seasonal promotions. 

Blogging is a great marketing tool for this very purpose. But before we go any further, let's bust a myth or two about blogging. 

 

Business blogging, not personal blogging

Business blogging is completely different from personal blogging. Let's do a side-by-side comparison.


How exactly does blogging work as a marketing tool?

Blogging falls under the category of content marketing. What this means is that you use content to market your business. The content you use depends on your industry, market and brand goals. For example, a photographer can use content relating to product photography, tips and tricks for the perfect photo, and camera reviews.

When you use content marketing, you're aiming to gain the trust of your customers. Trust is the single most important thing for your business if your brand is planning to be around 10 years from now. Customers who trust you will become repeat customers. They'll be the ones sustaining your business.

There are more than four reasons why you should blog to market your business, but I'm just going to highlight my favourite ones!

 

1. Blogging humanizes your business.

People like to buy from people, and people prefer buying from nice people. Have you ever preferred a store or business over another simply because the employees were warm and friendly? When your business or marketing is online-based, it's even more important to make personal connections with customers, especially since they don't know who's behind a business.

You can slowly introduce yourself and your employees through your blog posts. Once customers become familiar with your 'characters', they'll be more comfortable to purchase from you because they can put a name and face to your brand. Although it's not blogging per se, we love how LUSH connects its customers to its employees in their videos. Watch this video and read the comments!

 

2. Blogging is a relatively low-cost form of marketing.

Blogging is actually pretty easy to sustain, cost-wise. What you need is a free blogging platform (like Wordpress or Tumblr), a domain name if you want to make it look more professional (www.YourBusiness.com) and the tools you already use for your social media marketing (like your smartphone). Anything else is a bonus, but you can definitely do a great job with just these things.

As for the content that goes into your blog posts, you only need time and effort! There are tons of blog post ideas that don't cost a lot or even any money to write on. You don't need to travel halfway around the world to make your blog posts interesting. As long as they are relevant and useful, they'll be a hit with your customers.

 

3. Blogging drives traffic to your e-commerce site or website.

A blog is not an e-commerce site or website. It's a marketing tool instead of a standalone platform. It's your e-commerce site or website that showcases your products or services. So the thing you want to do is drive customers to your website or e-commerce site again and again.

After all, the more customers visit your website or e-commerce site, the more likely will they buy your products or services. So having a blog on the side and publishing blog posts daily or weekly is a great way to attract them even if you don't have new products or promotions going on.

 

4. Blogging is a stepping stone for more advanced marketing.

Everything starts with writing. The time and energy you invest in blogging will never go to waste, because there's this thing called repurposing your content. It means that you reuse the content you already produced as other forms of media. Instead of being single use, your content works double- and even triple-duty for you!

When you're about to record a video, do you just jump in front of the camera without preparing beforehand? At the very least, you'd have an outline of what you're going to say. You can use your blog posts as your outline. This way you don't feel too pressured to come up with original ideas for every single content you have to produce.

 

What if you're not a natural-born writer? Blogging can seem like a lot of work because you don't feel like you're good at it.

We hear you. A lot of people are concerned by their ability to sustain their blog because they don't think that they're good at writing. BUT, blogging about writing, not really. It's about sharing. If you overthink it, you're definitely going to have stage fright.

Focus on the sharing part. In time, you'll feel more and more comfortable with blogging.

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5 Critical Elements You Can Study From Your Competitor's Instagram

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Here's something we've heard all too often:

Ignore your competitors!

Don't be a busybody and copy others. Want to be a copycat ke?

Don't be such a jerk lah. Why do you want to follow other people?

And you know what? I'm hereby declaring that this is the wrong way of looking at it.

 

Learning is not plagiarizing

Learning from your competitors doesn't mean that you're cramping their style and copying every single thing they do. You're actually going to copy the principles and adapt them to your own brand.

A huge part of branding is about differentiating your brand from others. To do that, you have to know what they're doing. If you don't know what they're doing, what's stopping you from becoming just another cookie-cutter brand? 

In fact, you can't afford to not study your competitors. A thorough research will very likely reveal a gap in the market - an angle or potential that hasn't been capitalised on before.

So it's important to know what they're doing right, what they're doing wrong, and what they haven't done. If you want to save time, money, and energy in moving your business forward, then learning from your competitors should be part of your strategy.

 

Who are your competitors?

Your competitors can be divided into two categories:

  • Direct competitors: People or businesses who provide similar products/services, uphold similar qualities and charge similar prices.
  • Indirect competitors: People or businesses who provide alternative products/services. They could uphold similar or different qualities, and charge similar or different prices.

It makes sense to study your direct competitors, but why indirect ones? Indirect competitors are still in the same industry, so they could still be targeting markets that you are also targeting. For example, a vegan restaurant might be an indirect competitor of a normal restaurant. The vegan dishes are an alternative to normal, non-vegan dishes.

Make a list of your competitors (direct and indirect). Aim for at least 3-5 of each category, but the more the merrier! The best way to study them is through their social media profiles. Social media is casual and customer-centric, so it's advisable to study them there to know exactly how they appeal to customers.

For this article, I'm focusing only on Instagram, but you can apply it to other platforms too. You should compile their Instagram accounts, as well as their other platforms like websites and Facebook. That will make it easier for you to monitor them regularly.

Now, what to study?

 

1. Photography style and quality

Photography has always been an integral part of marketing. If I had to rate the critical elements, this would be at the top of the list. (Well, it already is)

People remember images easily, especially if they have managed to make an impact. Social media is all about images.

There are many photography styles that your competitors could be using. They are (but not limited to):

  • Muted (or vintage)
  • High contrast
  • Black and white
  • Monochromatic

Try scrolling through their profile and see the style that they consistently use. A consistent style is soothing to the eyes and makes a brand look streamlined.

You will want to copy this "consistent style" principle, but you don't have to copy the style itself. Is there a different style you can use to best showcase your brand personality and products? If the photos of other brands all look similar and then along came you with your unique style, it'd make a great impression.

Another important aspect is photography quality. The best competitors have beautiful photos, no doubt about it. They have good lighting, good angles and most importantly, they exude professionalism.

Nothing screams unprofessional than taking photos of your products on your flowery bedsheets in a dark room. A good camera is important, yes, but the intention you put into getting a nice photo will show the most. Pick the best lighting (natural, morning light) and background. 

There are tons of websites that can teach you how to DIY your own photoshoot, so never say you're not capable! It's easier than you think.

 

2. Captions and hashtags

Brands must have a well-defined voice. It needs to show a personality, preferably one that people like and can relate to. 

The best way to use this "voice" is through the captions. You will face your fiercest competition from brands that have great captions. Their voice isn't stiff and annoying. Customers will actually respond to these brands based on their captions. 

How long are your competitors' captions? Is the length dependent on the subject matter? We've found that there is no reason why you shouldn't write long captions if they're relevant. It's important to clearly explain anything that needs explaining. Otherwise, you run the risk of communicating the wrong message. 

If your competitors indulge in lazy grammar or emotional rants, it's a principle you shouldn't copy. Some customers might like or are indifferent to that approach, but becoming a household brand requires a different one. Always strive to present a professional face because it's classier, more sustainable, and will open more doors for collaboration.

Note the hashtags that your competitors are using as well. How many do they include per post? Don't hijack theirs. Instead, try to come up with your own and make them easy to remember. And never cheapen your own brand by using a hashtag like #sayajualmurah!

 

3. Subject matter of photos

What is the subject matter of your competitors' photos? This is the easiest way to study your them and gain insight into what makes them successful (or not successful). It's usually a combination of these things:

  • Products/services only
  • Products/services and other items related to the "theme"
  • Brand items like packaging and business cards
  • Other unrelated items
  • The business owner
  • Brand employees
  • Customers and products
  • Customer testimonials
  • Influencers or sponsored parties
  • Places
  • Other

Each of the subject matter has its own pros and cons, so it's critical to analyze your competitors' combos. Are those working for them? You can follow their combos or create your own. It certainly depends on the brand goals and personality that you want to pursue.

I've found that the most successful and well-known brands have photos that show a certain lifestyle, not just the products alone. Their photos say that "this could be you". People are inspired to buy the products because they want that lifestyle. Think Adidas and Rolex.

 

4. Frequency of posts

This requires a little bit more effort to study, but is still worth it because it could directly affect your sales. Analyze the frequency of your competitors' Instagram posts from at least a month back. What's the average in a day? You can also do this automatically using IFTTT, but it will only track future posts and not previous ones.

One? Two? Three? A number starting with 0. ? I've always advocated for at least one post a day to remain visible in Instagram's fast-moving feed. But because I'm focusing on our Diving Into Branding newsletter for now, I've decided to reduce ours to just a few per week. 

It's up to you. If your competitor's posting multiple times a day, you can take the playing hard-to-get route by posting only once a day. If it makes sense for your brand goals, why not? But don't sacrifice quality for quantity. All your photos have to contribute into making you appear like a great brand.

 

5. Interactions with audience

How you interact and engage existing and potential customers is also part of your branding. If the way you interact is friendly and helpful, then you'll be that kind of brand. And if you're more aloof and mysterious, that's how people will categorize you.

How are your competitors behaving with their own audience? You can spot patterns by looking particularly at the comments and captions. Are they:

  • Responding to comments?
  • Answering questions?
  • Responding to criticism?
  • Mentioning and tagging their customers in their posts?
  • Asking for feedback and suggestions?

Another method is by going through their tagged photos. Do they thank their audience for tagging them, or responding in any other way? A friendly and warm brand would go out of their way to comment on those tagged photos, while those that go for a 'premium' feel would not necessarily do so.

But no matter how what kind of personality you want to project, don't neglect customer service! Your customers are what makes your brand sustainable, so if the customers don't feel appreciated, it'll hurt your sales.

 

Competition is great. It forces you to create a better brand than what we have in the market. When you are focused on staying ahead of your competitors and making customers happy, you will never stagnate. 10, 15 years from now, you will still be here! So don't be intimidated or frustrated by the competition. They will be your best help after all.

Who are your closest competitors?

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