Instagram Tips + Inspiration

January 18, 2018



New year, new focus, right? So the first thing I wanted to tackle was making my Instagram feed attractive and really reflect me, my style and my philosophies. And to make it easy to do those things! I have developed a process and even though it may change throughout the year I am so happy with my efforts so far. I'm going to share with you what I'm doing so you can try these tactics out for yourself.

First, a shoutout to Rosemary Watson. To say she is the Queen of Instagram (at least in my book) is a bit of an understatement. She offers online courses and, best of all, much free advice that really, really works. I purchased one of her Instagram packages on Creative Market (a great resource for graphic designers) and used it as a starting point. That and her excellent, intuitive and detailed support were enough to get me started. Here is a link to her shop, check it out!

Then, I had to figure out how to get these gorgeous images uploaded to my Instagram. I checked out a half dozen ways and found the one that works the very best for me. I use Buffer, the free version, and I cannot believe I found such a simple, easy and comprehensive way to handle all of my social media! (Insert tiny happy dance here.) I can post pretty much anything to all of them (social media sites) or one at a time. Each post I prepare goes into a queue and you can set up the times you want Buffer to post them. Yes, easy and awesome. I love it is not an understatement!

Of course, being a graphic designer I do use Adobe for image preparation. But there are free sites out there like PicMonkey for Windows users and Canva for Mac users. Both of these sites offer lots of tutorials and you can find hundreds on Google and YouTube. One thing I like to do is keep my images square even though you can upload different ratios on probably all of the social media sites to give a uniform appearance (especially on Instagram.)

So... where can one find excellent, free images? That's easy. Unsplash is just amazing! You can find almost any image you might want or need and they are all FREE. Yes, free. And of course, you can find beautiful stock images on Creative Market and other sites, like Etsy to give uniformity to your branding which I think is essential. Mixing the two of these sources with your own photos is the perfect combination and gives everything a polished, professional appearance and makes you look like a pro to the world!

Do you have a favorite program, app or process for Instagram? Feel free to share it here and help the rest of our small business tribe be more successful. And if you have an Instagram feed you want to share we would love to check it out and get some inspiration from you!

Why You Need a Blog

January 16, 2018



Why add a blog? Will it help your business or will it just give you one more thing to do in your already too busy schedule? The answer is yes, because it adds the defining element to your personal branding that is so important to your business (i.e. sales) and especially to an Etsy seller.

Okay. You've decided to create a blog. Now what? Where do you start? First, pick a platform. There are several to choose from and I will give you a small breakdown of each with it's strengths and weaknesses from an Etsy seller perspective. For the sake of this discussion we will assume this is not a blog to make money from or be a full time endeavor but just a place to talk about your business and a bit of your life.

First, there's Wordpress. A wonderful platform, difficult to master. Unless you have a very fancy blog in mind with lots of bells and whistle (which Wordpress is awesome at) then you might not want to start here. Also, there is the aspect of price. The platform itself is free, but the hosting is not, which can add up quite a bit. Most hosting is around $15 a month and easily goes higher from there, so that would be a minimum of around $180 a year. There is a free version of Wordpress but it's a bit restricted in appearance and functionality.

Second, there's Squarespace. A learning curve for sure, but not as complicated as Wordpress. Cost is about the same as Wordpress but you can add a shop pretty easily once you learn how to navigate the platform. Customizing your appearance is a bit hard as the templates are very generic and it takes quite a bit of time to get your blog looking like you might want it to.

Third, Shopify. Easy to learn but unless you want a full blown independent shop it is costly. Starts at $30 a month and goes up from there. That's $360 a year and the blog functionality is a bit limited although still viable.

Finally, my favorite, Blogger. I know you hear lots of negative reviews of it, but they are usually from die hard Wordpress fans. If you want an elaborate blog with lots of added modules and functionality, then Wordpress definitely is for you. But if you want a pretty blog that can direct your customers to your Etsy shop, link to all of your social media sites, and let them see the process behind your crafts or service, then I think it's the best all around for that purpose. There are even blogs that have expanded enough for the owners to make a living off of them on the Blogger platform! Simple to learn, easy to post and completely free except for buying a template you love, and that is easily done from Etsy. Many of the designers that create Blogger templates are willing to help you get it set up and ready to post to which is all you need, right?

This blog is on Blogger. I have had sites on all of the above platforms, and finally came back to Blogger and it has made the task of blogging so much easier for me. I am still learning how to streamline the process and as soon as I develop my skills I will pass that info along to you. If you have tips to send my way I am eager to hear them!

One thing is for sure, blogging is part of your branding. If you only blog once or twice a month (regularly) you will increase your customers confidence in your business and that can easily translate into more sales. Plus blogging can be fun, seriously. So go to Etsy, find yourself a template, and get that baby online!

Branding Definitions

January 15, 2018



by Innes Donaldson

There is very little consistency in people's understanding, or usage, of brand terminology. For clarity, here are some common definitions:

Product: is something that is produced to function and exists in reality.

Brand: has meaning beyond functionality and exists in peoples minds.

Brand Qualities: are the thoughts, feelings, associations and expectations created by a Brand Identity.

Brand Identity: is the way in which a brand is expressed visually and verbally.

Branding: is viewing every customer related activity as part of the branding process and managing it accordingly. Everything a company does that affects its customer, affects the value of its brand.

Marketing: means making it easy and motivating people to buy your product--through product design, pricing, packaging, distribution, advertising, etc.

Brand Marketing: is pushing beyond product benefits to fulfill a strategic core promise. It means looking past the tangible to the intangible, accommodating buyers' practical needs while resonating with their deeper feelings.

Brand Strategy: means deciding which brands are going to be used to deliver which products and services to which customers. (This may involve usage of global brands, umbrella brands, megabrands, subbrands, flanker brands, brand extensions and brand families.)

Brand Equity: is the present value of the future combined purchases that are a result of the preference created, or the premium paid, for a brand's products.

Why do we want a brand?

All brands start by speaking to the needs and aspirations of an audience. The aspiration is the brand identity: that's a projection of how the brand wishes to be perceived by its target audience (as opposed to the brand image, which is the way the brand is, currently perceived).

Knowledge and appreciation of this core concept will allow the steward of the brand to develop the mission, build and nurture the market, maintain the brand philosophy, strategy, overall look and feel of the brand and, of course, the logo. What is the audience going to be satisfied with or disappointed by with the message coming from the brand? What is going to help build a strong brand identity (what would weaken it)? How can the aspirations for the brand identity be reached?

Who's Minding the Store?

The brand steward, usually senior executive from the parent company, must protect and cultivate the immutable core of the brand (about 50%) in order to ensure that the brand remains strong. The steward manages the part of the brand that must remain fluid (the remaining 50%) in order to keep the brand relevant and exciting. Typically we see a freshness and evolution in the brand's advertising and packaging, that's the part of the brand that is constantly evolving. The steward is responsible for overseeing the advertising agency's efforts to promote the brand, to develop brand segmentation internally (that is, the sub-brands) and to direct the packaging of branded products. The overall responsibility of the brand steward is to keep the brand on course and profitable.

Companies that have broad, strong brand recognition can diversify through their sub-brands more than narrowly focused companies. For instance, Brit Richard Branson, a courageous babyboomer, started his first business in 1968 at the age of sixteen and has cultivated companies in the entertainment area ever since under the umbrella, Virgin Group (www.virgin.com). First came Virgin Records. Ten years later Branson branched out to form Virgin Atlantic Airways, then a year later added Virgin Holidays. Two years after that Virgin expanded to include Virgin Airship & Balloon Company, Virgin Publishing and Virgin Hotels, among others. Branson, a highly visible and consistently strong leader, is the very essence of pioneer spirit and innovation. Consumers 'get' virgin's abstract brand identity because Virgin's broad target audience identifies with Branson and all he stands for: unencumbered global vision and maverick style. He is a self-proclaimed Virgin for life.

Durbrow offers this wisdom, "There is no long-term advantage to having a Brand Image that is greater or lesser than the brand really is. If the image is greater than the reality, people will be disappointed whenever they encounter the brand. If the image is less than the reality, the company will never benefit from all its hard work, i.e., the Brands won't command a premium or create a preference for the company's branded products."

www.amazines.com

Branding Mistakes



by Susan Friesen

There’s no denying consumers crave a deeper connection with the companies they do business with. And that’s why these days having a fancy website and logo isn't enough to define your brand.
Therefore, it's very important to thoughtfully create a personal brand that truly shares who you are and what you stand for. If a brand isn't appealing to your audience or not genuine, it can repel customers. But the process of creating a brand can be intimidating for some. So how do you avoid personal branding blunders when it comes to helping instead of harming your business?

Here are the biggest personal branding mistakes to avoid:

1. Thinking you don't need a Personal Brand. Whether you intentionally create a brand or not, every communication and experience you have with customers and potential customers is shaping your brand. That's why it's critical to create a positive brand communication. If you don't take time to define your brand, your message can get wishy-washy. That lack of clarity will hurt your marketing efforts.

2. Using Copycat Branding. Often when people start out in business they feel like imitating their top competitors is a good idea. Don't imitate, instead, innovate. Accentuate what makes you unique. Differentiate yourself. Show why your differences make you a better choice. Do this by creating signature systems, products and messaging that sets you apart.

3. Not Being Authentic. Some people take a dress-up approach to branding. They feel like they must be something they are not in order to attract customers. Authenticity in marketing matters more than ever before. Being honest and transparent builds trust. A brand should be genuine and always maintain consistent messaging that is in alignment with your personality and brand.

4. Lacking Consistency. Your personal brand promise and message should be clear with every communication.The more consistent your brand is, the stronger it will attract followers. So as you write blog posts, eBooks and social media posts etc., make sure the thoughts, opinions, and information shared is consistent with your personal brand. Every communication should reflect your brand personality and values.

5. Not Writing Your Own Stuff. Content marketing helps you develop leadership in your industry. Your fans want to hear from you – not the same old thing that everyone else is writing. Every time you write it's a communication that builds a relationship with your followers. They experience your personality and voice. Make time to write your own tips, checklists, guides and freebies for your content marketing efforts. Writing unique articles also boost your website SEO.

6. Not Defining Your Niche. No business can be all things to all people. It's really important to define your target market. Period. The more narrowly you can define your target market the better; otherwise, you risk confusing your customers and you’ll have a harder time attracting the right kind of clientele that you want to serve most.

7. Not Loving Your Tribe. Your tribe is a group of people where an unconditional love and connection exists. Raving fans will tell the world how amazing you are. That's why it's important to give special treatment to your tribe. Find your tribe. Love them - hard. Give them special offers. Allow them behind the scene's peaks. Share advanced notice about things coming down the pipes.

8. Forgetting Quality and Professionalism. The Internet knows all so if you make a mistake, someone's going to catch it. When you send a newsletter with typos or broken links it reflects poorly on your brand. When your customer has a problem and calls customer service, they want their issue resolved. Pay special attention to your appearance. Watch the language you share on social media. Your demeanor should be humble, not arrogant. Display ethical behavior when attending public events. Answer the phone professionally.

Take these lessons to heart and keep them at the core of your personal branding strategy. Even if you feel good about your branding efforts, it's smart to step back and take a look at your existing strategy and double-down your efforts to protect your personal brand.

www.amazines.com

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