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How These Entrepreneurs Made Millions Exclusively on Social Media

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Social media is a must for any business looking to get off the ground and sometimes it’s the first stop before opening brick and mortar or launching a website. Social media has made it easier to get to more customers fast — with Facebook ads and subscription groups, Instagram shopping, What’s App checkout and more helping brands go from local to global. Bottom line: There are many ways to monetize your talents without having to literally open shop. Here are a few inspiring entrepreneurs who got their start on social media — and how you can too.

Get Behind a Purpose

Three months before launch, the sisters behind LA-based fashion brand Doen, Margaret and Katherine Kleveland, took their brand to social media with shot-on-film, vintage-inspired photography and luxe, modern, boho dresses and blouses any woman would covet, and word-of-month spread fast. Through DMs and tags, the brand grew organically (and internationally) and their mission of female empowerment — a women-run fashion business with women-run factories in a male-led industry — became a story to tell. Three months later, at launch time, they were featured in the NY Times’ T Magazine.

“We use our social media platforms to hear from and engage with our customers in order to know what people are loving, how items are fitting, thoughts on fabric and so on. It’s important for us to be open with our customers and it’s allowed us to build trust with our community. Our customer knows they can email or message us online and receive a quick yet personal response,” they told Harper’s Bazaar UK last May. Last summer the direct-to-consumer brand partnered up with Net-a-Porter and recently opened shop in Brentwood, nearly five years after launch.

Partner Up

What started as a social action campaign for International Women’s Day in 2017 became a powerful digital movement that has impacted countless women and girls worldwide. Meena Harris, founder of the Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign, used her super skills in grassroots organizing (she is the niece of Senator Kamala Harris and was an organizer for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign) to sell ‘Phenomenal Woman’ T-shirts that would benefit causes close to her heart: educational and healthcare equity; criminal justice reform; gender parity in STEM; reproductive health; and political representation. She talks about how she used digital platforms to spread the word by partnering with several non-profit beneficiaries, getting celeb support (strategically) and thinking like an entrepreneur to grow in this Vogue Australia article. The fundraising initiative has since raised money for the organizations such as Girls Who Code, the United State of Women, the Essie Justice Group, Families Belong Together, Planned Parenthood, Native Voices Rising and the Dr. Maya Angelou Foundation.

Be an Original

Self-taught artist Jenna Rainey inspired a major watercolor comeback when she started posting time-lapse videos of her bright and colorful floral strokes in 2013. Her refreshingly down-to-earth and quirky personality helped define her brand and her willingness to share how she does it through online tutorials and workshops turned her hobby into a global creative powerhouse. She started up her own design studio in Southern California and became the best-selling author of a series of watercolor books. She’s also a YouTuber, host to several online courses (including three for Brit + Co), and licenses her art to brands like Target, Staples and Papyrus. She shares her licensing secrets in her popular Brand + Brand course.

Turn Followers Into Shoppers

Natalie Ellis and Dr. Danielle Canty, cofounders of BossBabe, a community for women in business, started out posting ambitious quotes on Instagram and turned it into a multimillion-dollar business. How? By cultivating their follower’s buying power. Ellis lays out her secrets to making the most of selling on Instagram stories and Facebook (“Don’t make your audience jump through hoops to buy from you”) in this Fast Company article.

Break Your Industry’s Mold

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I have pink and purple hair! 💜💕💜💕 The other day I realized how different my life is than most people’s now. It didn’t used to be that way. It was such a slow transition that I didn’t even realize it had separated from the norm so much. I’m about to talk about money and if that’s uncomfortable for you, it’s time for you to scroll on. One day Michael and I had finally earned what we inappropriately call, “[email protected]€K you money” (OMG I said it and tell me you watch Billions). That’s the amount it would take for you (specifically you, we are all different), to have enough money to live outside of the social norm — in whatever way brings you the most joy and fulfillment. To be able to use your money to no longer conform to what others want from you. And, dang if it isn’t expensive. Living outside the norm is NOT what most people do so it will invite the worst of others insecurities to come and play. It’s not what our government or society wants because people with their own ideas for their life don’t conform. Make no mistake, it costs money. And I, personally, love that M and I earned it for our family. Yep. I’m going here, too. We earned every single dollar and there’s not a thing that the people who tried to stop us can do about it. Not the people who hurt us in our past. Not those that wish us ill now. That success and mindset are ours to build on. We use our money to provide a lifestyle that feels like pink and purple hair in a blonde and brunette world. Our life looks insane to a lot of people. The way we live makes some (a lot) uncomfortable. We don’t send our kids to school like normal families. We don’t have a stay-at-home parent like normal. We don’t spend or invest like normal people. We don’t make choices based on normal criteria. It looks insane if you don’t know us and what we want out of our life. To us, though, it feels like bliss…even when it doesn’t. So here’s to being a physical representation of how I feel. I reject normal. I resist (not in the modern feminist way, let’s get that straight). If you’re made to stand out, it’s probably about time that you start. Stop wasting your life living by a standard you didn’t choose

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Lindsay Teague Moreno built a seven-figure income selling Young Living Essential oils using only social media (with three little ones at home) and now her sales are projected to bring in $250 million this year. She is the author of the best-selling book Getting Noticed, a road map for building a business from scratch and has a new book Boss Up! coming out in May. In this video on Entrepreneur she talks about how she broke from the mold when it came to selling essential oils in an industry that needed a refresh.

Behold the Trust Factor

Jenna Kutcher traded her corporate job as a health-and-wellness leader at Target to pursue a passion for photography. After running a wedding photog gig, she moved on to teaching others how to set up a photography business and how to market their business via email and social media. Her digital marketing know-how, never straying from her niche audience, and talking with brutal honesty on social (her heartfelt response to a body-shaming troll after she suffered a miscarriage went viral and her following grew 5Xs). A podcast, courses, and an online shop later, Jenna Kutcher LLC was projected to make $5.5 million in revenue last year.

When Algorithms Change, Try Good Old-Fashioned Email

Emily Ley, founder of the super-popular Simplified Planner, grew her Etsy audience by sharing her products and her personal story on Facebook and Twitter in 2008. She has since grown to 250,000 Instagram followers, 65,000 Facebook fans, and 10,000 Twitter followers but growing an organic audience online (as we all know) has become a challenge. “Social media algorithms have changed, so you don’t always show up in someone’s feed, but if you have someone’s email address, you will always show up in their inbox,” she told Inc. She uses MailChimp to automate her newsletters and set up a monthly coaching program with tips to help customers organize their lives. The win? It has shown to turn one-time customers into forever fans.

Have a social media success story to share? Tell us @BritandCo!

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Twitter Applies for US Licenses to Facilitate In-App Payments

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Twitter Applies for US Licenses to Facilitate In-App Payments

Twitter has taken its next steps towards facilitating payments in the app, with The Financial Times reporting that the company has begun applying for regulatory licenses in US states, the next legal requirement for providing payment services in the app.

Payments, which Elon Musk has a long history in, could be another way for Twitter to generate revenue, by enabling transactions between users, from which it would then take a small percentage. Musk has repeatedly flagged his vision for payments as part of his broader push to make Twitter into an ‘everything app’, which would provide more functionality and usage benefits.  

As reported by FT:

In November, Twitter registered with the US Treasury as a payments processor, according to a regulatory filing. It has now also begun to apply for some of the state licenses it would need in order to launch, these people said. The remainder would be filed shortly, in the hope that US licensing was completed within a year, one of the people said.”

From there, Twitter would also look to establish agreements with international regulators to enable payments in all regions.

As noted, payments are a part of Elon’s broader plans for a more functional app, which would replicate the utility of China’s WeChat, which is used by Chinese citizens for everything from ordering groceries, to buying public transport tickets, to paying bills, etc. WeChat has become such a crucial connective element, that it formed a key part of China’s COVID response, with authorities using the app as a means to manage COVID positive citizens and restrict their movement.

Musk isn’t ideally looking to use Twitter as a control device (I don’t think), but the broader concept is to add in more and more functionality, in order to both generate more income for the company, and make the app a more critical element in the interactive landscape.

Twitter’s already exploring several options on this front.

Several app researchers have uncovered mock-ups for Twitter Coins in the back-end of the app.

Via Twitter coins, users would be able to make donations to creators in the app, through on-profile tipping, but beyond that, Twitter’s also exploring options like unlockable tweets, paywalled video, and more, as it seeks to embed broader usage and adoption of in-app payments.

A big opportunity also exists to facilitate remittance, or sending money to family and friends, which is a key use case in many regions. Remittance payment services often charge processing fees, and various social apps have been trying to find new ways to facilitate such without the same costs, with the idea being that once people are moving their money in-app, they’ll then be more likely to spend it in the same place.

Thus far, social platforms that do offer payments haven’t been able to embed this as a use case – but maybe, with Musk’s experience, knowledge and connections, he might be able to make this work in tweets.

Elon, of course, got his start in payments, with his first company, an online bank called X.com, being bought out by PayPal in 1999, his first big business win. And while his focus has since shifted to electric cars and rockets, Musk has keen understanding of the digital payments space, and how it can be adapted for varied usage.

According to reports, Musk told Twitter investors in May last year, that his aim was to see Twitter bring in about $1.3 billion in payment revenues by 2028.

That would give the company a sorely needed boost. After Musk’s cost-cutting efforts, which have resulted in the reduction of around 70% of Twitter staff, the company could be on track to potentially break even this year, or close, but a lot has to go right to get the platform back on track. And with advertisers continuing to back away from Twitter spend, it’s not looking good, while subscriptions to Twitter Blue are unlikely to provide much relief, at least at this stage.

As such, the shift into payments can’t come fast enough, though it’ll still be some time before we see the possibility of in-app payments.

Also, while Musk has made it clear fiat currency will be the main focus of this push in its initial phase, cryptocurrencies could also, eventually, be included. The price of Dogecoin, Musk’s favorite crypto offering, rose to a 24-hour high after news broke of Elon’s expanded payments plan.

Will payments be the answer to Twitter’s revenue woes? Maybe, if Elon’s vision for billions in payments revenue comes to fruition – and with his previous track record, you can’t dismiss the notion entirely.

But it’ll take time, many approvals, and many more steps before we reach the next stage.

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Social Responsibility And Ethics In Influencer Marketing

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Social Responsibility And Ethics In Influencer Marketing

Chief Growth Officer (CGO) at HypeFactory, a global influencer marketing agency.

It’s no secret that influencer marketing popularity has skyrocketed over the past couple of years, and partnering with influencers isn’t a new concept. Just over the past year, the industry was valued at $16.4 billion and still keeps growing, with a whopping revenue forecast of $143.10 billion in 2030.

Since the beginning of influencer marketing, people have talked about how influencers and social responsibility fit together. It stands to reason that influential people would use their large fan bases to help others. However, when influencers and businesses collaborate, they each have specific responsibilities to the communities in which they operate.

Sponsorship Transparency And Gender Stereotypes

One of the most critical skills for an influencer is honesty. Influencers base their marketing strategy on being genuine and sharing personal tales and thoughts with their target audience. They are not celebrities living in a bubble of fame that very few of their followers will ever reach; instead, they live lifestyles that are reachable and use items that their viewers would find helpful. This approach has significantly contributed to their immense level of success.

However, many influencers don’t play by the rules, especially when it comes to impressing brands they’ve made deals with, even though transparency is essential to the sustainability of an influencer’s career. Because of this, many people would think that the most important ethical issue in influencer marketing is sponsorship disclosure.

The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the United Kingdom have all put out rules about how influencers should be honest in their posts and about their relationships with brands. If you disobey the regulations, you risk facing penalties, fines and legal bills. You also risk losing the trust of your customers for good.

Moreover, when doing influencer marketing, it’s essential to consider gender stereotypes and how people usually think men and women will act in different situations. The Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) has said that since June 2019, marketing materials could no longer show men and women in ways that are based on stereotypes. These rules state that ads “must not use gender stereotypes that are likely to hurt or offend a large number of people.” Great campaigns, like Nike’s “Dream Crazier,” have challenged gender preconceptions.

Improving Influencer Marketing’s Reliability And Authenticity

Authenticity is essential in influencer marketing. People listen to influencers who are honest and relatable. In addition to the moral problems I mentioned above, brands and influencers must also follow FTC rules, community guidelines and terms of service on social media platforms.

Based on my experience as a chief growth officer at a global influencer marketing agency, here are some things brands must consider for influencer partnerships that are authentic and reliable.

Outline—and stick to—the ethical principles that your brand stands for.

Before you can begin your search for the ideal influencers, you must first understand the core principles of representing your business. Most businesses start by determining their values and ethics early on. They then use these to build their brand identity. It’s up to each company’s brand to decide where they will draw the line and how they will show their core values on social media.

However, consumers place a high value on consistent honesty. Customers are likely to call out your company for being hypocritical if it says it wants to fight racism but then partners with an influencer who has a history of making small slights against people of color. Or if your company promotes equal pay yet pays female influencers less than it does male influencers, contributing to the continuation of the pay gap between male and female influencers.

As a result, you will likely lose the trust of these customers.

Collaborate with real influencers.

One of the most effective ways to stick to influencer marketing principles is by collaborating with real-life influencers. Choosing the right influencers is crucial for building consumer confidence in your product.

Determine which influencers are authentic and have credibility with your intended audience. Specifically, it would be best to look at how many people engage with their content and how good it is. Even though engagement numbers are essential, they only tell part of the story about an influencer’s reliability. Please pay close attention to their writing style, the brands they’ve worked with, the accuracy of their reviews, etc.

Develop a long-term partnership.

When you’ve found a group of genuine, influential people with whom you can collaborate successfully, it’s crucial to keep in touch with them over time. Even if they are paid to review a product, genuine influencers always give honest opinions. Because they follow all the rules, the spectator can have more faith in them.

Consequently, after a shortlist of influencers has been compiled, you should perform authenticity checks. Check their content feed for branded articles. Make sure that any disclaimers you find adhere to the first point’s disclosure guidelines. Consistently partnering with the same influencers demonstrates to customers that you value their brand’s success just as much as they do, which can increase consumer confidence in your business.

Conclusion

Authenticity serves as the cornerstone of the influencer marketing strategy. Influencers earn the trust of their followers and become successful when they always provide high-quality, authentic, relatable content.

In addition to the concerns over the morality of influencer marketing, brands and influencers must follow the criteria established by the FTC and the community guidelines and terms of service based on social media platforms. You can shield your brand from potential ethical and legal difficulties and still enjoy success with influencer marketing if you are aware of the expectations and follow certain best practices.


Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?


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Key Notes on Building Your Brand via Your Social Profile Visuals [Infographic]

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Key Notes on Building Your Brand via Your Social Profile Visuals [Infographic]

Looking to give your social profiles a visual refresh for the new year?

This could help – the team from Giraffe Social Media recently put together an overview of the whys and hows of building your brand via your social profile visuals.

There are some good notes here – a key consideration is consistency, which ensures that you’re building your brand with every post and update.

Check out the full infographic below.

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