How to Use Drop shipping to Compliment your Business

how to use drop shipping to compliment your business

What is drop shipping and how does it work?

I first heard of the term “Drop shipping” during my college years. At that time, I had no idea what it was or why my professor kept calling on me to answer questions pertaining to the subject. I thought I could simply avoid ever hearing about it, until I realized it was going to be a critical centerpiece in my college career, because I decided to major in supply chain. So let me share with you what I've learned and what I'm about to tell you has the potential to completely transform your business.

Drop shipping is a product order fulfillment process. I know, that’s where my professor lost me too. What does that mean? It’s when a customers purchases a product from a business owner, and the product is delivered to that customer, not by the business owner, but by the supplier themselves. The more well-known method you're probably familiar with for delivering goods and services is for the retailer to order products from a supplier and then ship them out to customers when they're ordered. Drop shipping, on the other hand, takes out the step of receiving products and shipping them out, allowing the retailer to fulfill orders directly from the manufacturer or wholesaler of the goods instead.

Surprisingly, you’ve seen this type of business model before when you go to Amazon.com. Amazon is THE best drop shipping business that we both know. Most, if not all, the products you buy on Amazon, they don’t actually own. For each item that someone purchases through Amazon they receive a certain percentage of the commission. Think of Amazon as a marketplace and in that marketplace you can shop almost anything. Amazon owns almost none of the products

Think of it this way:

1. A customer comes to your website interested in a product you sell.

2. Customer places order with your shop.

3. Shop places order with third-party supplier.

4. Supplier ships order to customer.

5. Shop alerts customer the item has been shipped.

6. Customer receives the order and you get paid.

Or this way:

Imagine if someone came to you and said, “Here is all the inventory you need to start your business. Oh by the way, don’t worry about shipping it to your customers, we’ll do that for you.” Getting started would be so much easier if it worked this way.. well, that's what's called drop-shipping.

The clear benefit of drop shipping

The most obvious benefit of drop shipping is that you don't have to worry about ordering, storing, and shipping out inventory.  As well as, paying for a warehouse, shipping orders, tracking inventory, holding inventory, or ordering products. Instead of worrying about getting products in and moving them out, you can focus more on building a brand, marketing and customer service. Drop shipping can be pretty hands off, especially if it's set up the right way, and outsourced properly.

How To Use Drop Shipping To Compliment Your Business

One of the most difficult parts about running any business is the hundreds of hours spent in sourcing new products, managing inventory, shipping order, and much more. Drop shipping is often a good choice for entrepreneurs that are just starting out because there is a much lower investment involved.

Drop shipping is not only a great standalone business model, but it can also be a great compliment to your current business. Whether you’re a blogger, teacher, speaker, or influencer, drop shipping can help you’re business in a tremendous way, especially in generating additional cash flow.

The best drop shipping businesses are a strategic brand extension of that business. Let's take a look at a few examples of how you can position yourself:

Let's say you are an branding expert who uses a blogging platform to teach other entrepreneurs about business, branding, and marketing, like Emmelie De La Cruz, it may be a good idea to start a shop called MelaninMagicShop, selling lifestyle merchandise to a very specific section of your audience who embody the lifestyle of your brand.

What if you are an artist or musician? Well, it may be a good idea to sell merchandise on your website so your fans can feel like they're part of the experience.

Even if you are a fashion stylist, you may want to think about selling other wholesalers clothing on your website, and getting a piece of commission from each sale.

No matter what business you are in, there are ways you can implement drop shipping to complement your business and generate a cash flow without having to worry about inventory or shipping. 

Once you have an understanding of what it is you do and the value you provide your customers, you can then look for ways you can enhance their experience with your brand. Remember, you are not only building a business but a culture around your mission. 

 
 

What reservations do you have about adding drop shipping to your business? 


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Why there's never a perfect time to start

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If you ever start to feel something pull at your heart, don’t ignore it…

Many times in life, we are faced with difficult decisions. We try and gather up as much information as possible. We begin by calling our friends, family, searching for advice or something to stop us from setting out on the path we believe is the right one. Deep down in our heart, we always knew from the beginning what it is we actually wanted. However, we also know it's not the safest route. A route with a lot of uncertainty shouldn't block you from receiving your blessings.  

About 6 years ago I took my first leap of faith and started my own clothing business. I was young, I had no idea what I was doing, but I didn't let them stop me from starting. Around the time, I was a student in college so the risks were low. I always thought, “If this idea fails, at least I’ll have a degree.” To me college was the perfect time to start a business; free resources, free mentors, and most importantly free space (The things you’ll do for space once you graduate college). Did I mention, I had no idea what I was doing? But because I enjoyed what I was doing, I would spend hours upon hours learning and building the company. I never viewed it as work, instead, for me, it was my passion and it felt good seeing what you were creating help others feel good about themselves.

Quite honestly, it's easy to get in our own way. It’s easy to come up with excuses and justify not getting started. It’s easy to put your idea away - and what's even easier is convincing yourself of the notion, “I’m going to start when I have more experience” or “I’m going to start first thing next year.”

It’s difficult to start taking the steps. And that’s exactly why you should start taking them. There is NEVER a perfect time to start pursuing your passion.


What are you thinking about pursuing that you haven't yet started? 


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The Importance of Betting On Yourself

bet on yourself

I would be lying if I told you I dreamt this dream as a child. It was never a dream of mine growing up to be standing here, in the midst of Paris Fashion Week. This was someone else's dream, possibly someone who along the way, gave up on it. And now here I am, living out their dream and their dream has now become my dream.

A couple of months ago I had a crazy idea. After running a retail company for the past three years I was itching to learn more about the design and production side of fashion rather than focusing on just the business side of things. I was itching to get into high-end fashion and wanted to explore the options. I also knew there were not many people that looked like myself in this area I wanted to belong in.

Before this crazy idea, I was living a pretty awesome and comfortable life. I'd just received high honors, given an award for my work, had a great group of friends, and received multiple offers to work at great companies. Everything was going well, and there were no complaints on my end.

What everyone predicted years ago, was coming to fruition. But that's just it! When I had this crazy idea, I thought it was so crazy but it actually wasn't. I realized part of my life, everyone's predictions, were not my own. I realized I was just doing what everyone thought I should do, and because they thought I should do it, I did it. They were my peers, they are wiser, more experience in life than me, how can I tell them they didn't know what was best for me? Coming from my background, I was already outliving the statistics that I was born into. I was put into a very hard decision, like most of us, that want to go against the grain.

I am here to inform you, my crazy idea, was the best thing I could have ever done for myself because it was mine and for the first time in a long time, I am living in it.

I decided that I was going to study fashion, that I wanted to be a fashion designer, a creative director of my own brand and a major company. At first, I thought it wasn't a good idea because most of my friends didn't understand. They questioned me, asked me why did I want to ruin what I already had. That is the reaction that occurs when you decide to live your life, when you decide to go against the grain. Outside looking in, my friends didn't understand that I didn't have those things, those things had me.

It has been six months since my decision and three months into following my new dream. It's been a great journey so far and everyday I'm learning something new. I am no longer the best in my classes, I left what I was pretty good at, to come into a place I don't know much about currently -- but I'm happy. Everyday is a new challenge (literally) and I'm learning and soaking up as much as possible.

Before I close my eyes tonight, I just want to remind you, I'm at Paris Fashion Week (who'd ever thought). It'll be hard to sleep tonight, however, it's a good thing because my dream is right outside this window.



3 Financial Mistakes You’re Making In Your Business

financial mistakes

The best part about starting a business is that you don't need much to get started. Most industries you want to get into will most likely have a low barrier to entry. If you want to make t-shirts, all you need are some designs and you can find a third party manufacture that can print your designs on a slew of t-shirts. In this process, your only focus is creating the design and spending a few dollars to bring it to reality. A simple idea, like t-shirts, doesn't have much barrier to entry - like most business ideas you'll most likely pursue.

Getting started is a mindset thing - where you have to push yourself to want it. Growing a business is another thing. It requires discipline, research, and many times patience. Growing a business can be difficult and many new businesses fail within the first year. The biggest reason for failures are tied to financial growth - the mismanagement of money. Let’s take a look at the three biggest financial mistakes entrepreneurs make in their businesses —and how you can start fixing each one today.

 

Mistake #1: You think way too highly of yourself

A mentor once told me, it's not about what you think you are worth, it's about if someone is willing to pay you that determines your value. A common mistake that I see many entrepreneurs make when they're just starting out is thinking way too highly of themselves before proving themselves. The lack of research into what the market is paying for your products or services usually doom first time entrepreneurs. In fact, I think this is the number one reason why many entrepreneurs give up in a few short months of starting. It's one thing to have confidence in the products or service you're going to deliver, but if you haven't delivered on a consistent basis, over a period of time, it's difficult to demand whatever price you want from the market. Instead, it's critical you're strategic in how you price yourself in the market. If you are not careful, you can find yourself pricing yourself out of the market, and quickly out of business.

HOW TO FIX IT:

  1. Research the market: Whatever busy you decide to start, there will be competitors in the market. Examine your competitors and see what price they're charging for similar services or products. Ask yourself, "Am I competitive with the prices on the market?", "What is the minimum I need to charge to survive in this industry?."
  2. Evaluate your value: It always helps by starting with a brain dump. Look at your current state and determine what are you offering that no one else is providing to your customers/clients.

[If you're running a service business this may help: How To Perfectly Price The Services In Your Business]

 

Mistake #2: Not understanding where your money is going

How many times are you going to avoid looking at your bank account? How often do you spend planning your business budgets? Many first time entrepreneurs struggle with finding funding, that is why it's critical your understand how to be resourceful. The first way to make sure of that is understanding the basics to keep you alive in your business. It's important to not only know how much you're making, but where you're money is going. When you're first starting out the urge to spend is like second nature. I get it. You're impatient, you have grand visions for your brand, etc. But one thing to note is that "the go big or go home" mentality, will send you home. Depending on your business, focus on the necessities to operate and eliminate anything else that doesn't serve the businesses purpose. 

HOW TO FIX IT:

  1. Track your sales and expenses: The first thing I did when I started my business is make an investment towards a system that would help me track where I was spending my money, how much I was making, etc. Quick-books, allowed me to stay on top of all my sales and expenses. And when it was time to do my tax returns, they have an integrated service with turbo tax which takes a few seconds to get your tax returns done. It's been a simple solution for my business.

 

Mistake #3: Expanding way too quickly

Another significant reason why most entrepreneurs fail is because they spread themselves financially too thin. The urge to grow and expand many times drowns an entrepreneur from rising and succeeding in the market. Running a business is a long term game. It takes patience and your resources, especially financially is limited. You have to be comfortable as a start-up and not mistaken yourself as a big business. Spend within your means and grow slow. If only after the first month of business, you're hiring people. spending necessary without mastering your craft as a start-up, you'll most likely fail before you even get started. 

HOW TO FIX IT:

  1. Create a budget- determine how much you're going to spend each month and before you think about making any more, focus your efforts on breaking even.
  2. Control the growth impulse: It's so easy to look across the aisle at your competitor that has been in business for over 10 years and think you need to compete with them at the start of day 1.

What are your biggest financial mistakes? What did you learn from them?


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How to Build Accountability Around Your Brand

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How to Build A Culture of Accountability around your Brand

When it comes to growing your brand and serving your customers, you need to be confident that things are getting done. If you don’t build a culture of accountability around your brand, holding those around you and yourself responsible for follow-through and execution, it will be the determining factor of whether your brand is around in five years.

Accountability requires a long-term approach. Without clear expectations- by making, keeping, following through, and following up on tasks- your business will never reach it's full potential and will most likely fail. Here are three keys to successfully implementing accountability around your brand:

1. Give Honest and Constructive Feedback

Giving feedback can often can feel uncomfortable, but it’s a crucial part of building accountability. A strong feedback culture welcomes feedback and uses it to foster the growth of individuals, teams, and the organization. In order for feedback to be effective, it needs to be specific, showing people where to focus their efforts in improving. 

I get it, it may just be you right now in your business, and you're not paying those around you that are helping. This is the ultimate entrepreneurial dilemma, but even so, the people around you deserve honest feedback. Think about it this way, since you're not paying them, giving them honest and constructive feedback is something even more valuable. 

2. Focus on Intended Results

It’s no secret that most strategic plans fail to deliver their intended results. Often, the problem isn’t the strategy, but how it’s implemented. When you're building a culture of accountability around your brand, you need to be able to clearly layout the vision. It's not enough to just have the vision, but you need to be able to thoroughly discuss each step and outcome, along with metrics. The most effective metrics to track intended results are KPI's.

(*KPI's are key performing indicator, which are used to help assess whether you're on target towards your goals.)

3. Take Ownership

In its simplest form, accountability means taking ownership. Ownership isn't assigned or given. Ownership is taken. Accountability is about getting the right stuff done when it needs to get done. No blame. No excuses.

Just think about it. What would your brand's performance be like if it was built around accountability? Without a doubt, your brand would be more efficient. That's the good news. The bad news is that too many entrepreneurs fall short of the commitment and execution needed to create a culture of ownership in their companies. As a result, those businesses tend to be unorganized, scattered, and are usually driven out of business because things aren't being delivered. Building a culture of accountability doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s worth the effort.


What does accountability look like for your business? What methods have you tried to keep others accountable? 


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3 Ways To Validate Your Idea Before You Start A Business

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Why you shouldn't focus on starting a business first

I personally believe, as an entrepreneur, the last thing you should worry about is starting a business. That's not your job in the beginning. You've got one job and that is to figure out if you have a good idea. And that's just it. Many of these entrepreneurs start a business without dong the most important thing: validating their idea. I'm glad you believe in yourself and your idea - but until you can validate your idea you should not think about starting a business.

It happens more often than you think. There are many reasons why businesses fail, but most of the time it's primarily due to the face that thee business does not solve any real problems. And most entrepreneurs take their idea, without validating it, and turn it into a business. It's very important to note that before you announce to the world that you have a business, you should probably make sure people actually want what you have to offer.

How to know if you have a great idea for a business:

1. Solve a problem

Will your service or product solve a problem many people are facing? How many ideas do you hear from other people and you're unsure if it actually solves a problem. That same questioning you have about their idea is the same method you should have for yours. You may not see your blind spots because you're so in love with your idea.. I mean you came up with it all by yourself. But remember, If nobody has the problem that you have the solution for, nobody’s going to come looking for it

Think about companies that are solving pain points for their audience. Google made search better. Amazon simplified online buying and selling. Netflix solved on-demand streaming media. Uber is trying to make on-demand car service better. If you have been able to identify a crucial problem that you can effectively execute and deliver to market, you will be able to create a real business that matters.

2. Create an early feedback group

Just because you think your idea is incredible means very little when you're starting a business. In fact, it doesn't mean much. An idea turns into a business when you can validate it against the potential target or audience. An early feedback group is one way of validation. Essentially, you're making sure to get input early on around whether your idea is actually needed or not, as well as, what you can do to improve it.

Before you ask people for feedback about your idea and asking them to join a feedback group, you'll need to be able to explain very clearly what your idea is about and what problem you're seeking to address. You can start building an early feedback group by gathering contacts you already have such as friends, family, co-workers, classmates, etc. Once you've identified that list then you need to identify who they know and out of all your contacts if your attended audience is present.

3. Build a proof of concept

After the feedback stage, you should begin thinking about developing your idea. No, do not tell people you have a business yet or should you begin registering for an LLC. Simply put, validate your idea outside of your feedback group. If I wanted to self publish a book, I would first see if people care about the topic I want to write about to see If I'm adding any new value. Once I recieve feedback on my idea, I'm ready to test it. So I'll begin by setting a goal of pre-selling 20 books (yes before even writing the book). If I'm able to get 20 pre-orders, I know that 20 people want to buy my book, therefore I should go ahead and begin creating it. It's important to note that you'll need to justify what that number is or validation.

Here are three outputs you should try to validate: 

  1. Does your solution solves the problem you're attempting to address?
  2. Is your solution is valued by your future customers?
  3. Will people pay for your solution?

You don't want to start a business that may not survive. Do your homework, validate your idea and make sure you have a real market for your idea. Don't just start another business, solve a real problem people actually have to increase your chances of success.


What methods did you use to validate your business idea? What feedback did you receive? 


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Now Open: An Online Business School for Creatives wanting to Learn Business

online business school

The Start of Something New

About 6 months ago, I launched my first online course as a side project. And it went really, really well. So well in fact, that we were profitable after 24 hours. However, four months in, I made a hard decision to close my online course even though we were making money. There were two main reasons.

First, I wanted to focus on improving the course content with the feedback that I received from the initial launch. Second, I wanted to make sure that I provided different methods to learning, because as a student, we all consume information different ways. So we decided to integrate more videos, gifs, live-streams, and yeah, also workbooks, and short form writings.

And then a great idea came to me!

MasterYearOne.com

Instead of creating this one course, why don't I build an online business school to teach entrepreneurs and the creative community specific business skills at a discounted rate. (That's when MasterYearOne.com was born) So instead of paying thousands of dollars for a bundled program that are really broad, long, and you may not finish; led my team to focus on creating an online business school that cost less than $99 to start, and are more specific to what you actually want to know.

And I'm happy to announce we've finally Re-opened!


Here are the first 3 courses that's NOW live on our website: 

 

1. How to Survive Your First Year of Business (FREE COURSE)

 

2. Jumpstart: Finding Your Next Great Business Idea

 

3. The Lean Incubator: Launch Your Business Idea off the Ground


5 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Do For Self Development

personal development, 5 traits

5 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Do For Self Development

One of the biggest problems I notice with entrepreneurs is that they spend so much time in their business that they forget to spend time on themselves. The thing that many entrepreneurs fail to realize is that you are your business. If you don’t take the time to invest on your own development, your business can only go but so far. 

It's also important to note that your growth is not a one time thing and you should be constantly striving towards stretching yourself each and everyday. You’ll need to continue to educate yourself, build relationships that can help you, and use the right tools in your business. 

Let’s take a look at five easy ways to invest in your self development which will have a tremendous affect on the success of your business:  

 

1. Seek Mentorship

One of the best ways to shortcut your decision-making "trial and error" is by investing time in finding and taking advice from a mentor. This isn’t a new concept but it is most certainly time-consuming to set up. It will require an initial investment of potentially weeks or even months of cultivating a relationship but will allow you to easily seek out advice and guidance from someone that has been in your shoes, hopefully multiple times before, allowing you to make better decisions, faster.

Depending on the challenge I'm facing, I have a few mentors I can go to. Having a mentor has really helped me tremendously. I'm able to get advice on the specific thing I'm going through. I don't always listen to their advice but having that sound board before you make a critical decision for your business can save you a lot of time and money.

 

2. Read More Books

I don’t care what you read, just read. It’s a great habit to form and you can truly learn something from any book you pick up. Normally, half the books I read are around the industry I'm currently, the other half consists of self-help books and leisure. The variety helps me in growth areas of my business and myself. The industry books provide me more insight around the history of the industry, seeing companies that have failed and understanding why they failed, so I don't make the same mistakes. While the self-help books help me explore what I'm capable of, and where my limitations lie so I can smash through them. 

 

2. Continue building on your learnings

Outside of books, you should continue building on what you already know and the things you don't know, consider investing in them. I learned this the hard way when I became an entrepreneur. I thought I could just teach myself everything (and I could.) But it may take me a lot longer then just asking someone that specializes in it. The decision always came down to learn it myself (which could take weeks or months) or I could learn it in a few days if I just decided to pay someone for their service. Since I didn't want to pay someone, I wasted so much of my time trying to convince myself I could learn it in a few days and in reality all I did was take time away from my business and making money. The most important thing you can take away form this article is, stop thinking you can do everything and learn to invest in things that will take you a lot further, such as online courses, services, coaching and digital/physical products.

 

4. Build a network

As you know, developing your business network is essential in growing your company. Well, developing your personal network works the same way. The best way to build a valuable personal network is to first identify personal growth areas. Once you're able to identify the areas you need to develop to be that person in your vision, finding the people to surround yourself becomes simpler. Like, finding a mentor, cultivating a solid personal network takes time. The more you put yourself in opportunities where you can meet new people, that could possibly help you, the more likely you are to build a solid network. (*Note: building a valuable network is not a one way street.) 

 

5. Cultivate Wellness

From the time you wake up to the time you go back to be, somewhere in between there needs to be time blocked out for improving your relationship with yourself. I know, I get it, you don't even have time to eat and you want me to find time for myself. Yes, believe it or not, your business will only go as far as your body allows it. 

I remember plenty of times where my body would give up on me and I would crash for a few days. That wasn't even the worst part. The worst part was that it took me an additional few days to reboot and then a few more days to be productive again. Originally, I thought I was saving time thinking I didn't need a break from being an entrepreneur but instead lost so much time and money because I didn't have else in place to take me away from work and focusing on my health. Whether you set some time aside to walk, go running, or simply moving around. Find ways to cultivate wellness in your day if you want to be successful in the long term in your business.

 
What are ways in which you're investing in your self-development? What are some things you've discovered about yourself or your business in doing so?

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How much should you spend on personal development?

personal development

Why Personal Development is the Best Investment You'll Ever Make

Since leaving my job to pursue an entrepreneurial life full time, I noticed that I spent so much time in my business that I didn't spend any on my growth or personal development. Another thing I noticed is that time became so important to me because there wasn't much of it. 

Personal investment is crucial. Even big corporate companies invest in their people. The benefit for working for a big company is that they take care of personal development for you, so you don't have to worry about it - they made sure to send you to training's, conferences, and etc. Well, when you decide to become an entrepreneur the responsibility falls on you to take action. 

The Time Invested is Related to your Success

If you’re really honest with yourself, I’m sure you would agree that you don't know everything about the business you're in. There may be one thing you're really good at but those others areas are not areas of strength. Being an entrepreneur means you should be constantly learning and you need to be able to deal with these changes and react so you can stay in the game. The question I often ask entreprenrus who come to me saying their business is not making money is : “Are you investing in yourself and your business?”. Most of the times, they're not. How do you expect people to pay for your products and services if you're not willing to invest in yourself? If you're stuck in your business, and not willing to hire the proper resources, how can you make great strides? 

Successful entrepreneurs know the value of self development and make it a part of their everyday lives. Regardless of the type of business you are in, the environment is always changing. Entrepreneurs must be ready to always learn new things in order to keep up with the fast-changing trends. What many entrepreneurs don't understand when building a company is that you're in the business of serving others and the more your improve yourself, the more you have to offer to others. Think of the impact you can make when you have the knowledge to make better judgement calls for your client or customers. The best entrepreneurs know that they're not good at everything, so instead of trying to teach themselves everything, they invest in themselves to accelerate the process. 

Successful entrepreneurs know the value of self development and make it a part of their everyday lives. Regardless of the type of business you are in, the environment is always changing. Entrepreneurs must be ready to always learn new things in order to keep up with the fast-changing trends. 

So, How Much Should You Invest in Your Personal Growth Every Year?

Jim Rohn, the world renown motivational speaker. once said, "Income seldom exceeds personal development". What he meant by this is that rarely will your income soar beyond your level of development. It's crucial as an entrepreneur to continuously reinvest in yourself. For starters, most companies usually set aside 3% of their revenue for training and development. However, as an entrepreneur running a start up business, I personally recommend a little bit more, especially if you're just getting started.

Read: 5 Things Every Entrepreneur Should do for Self Development


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How to Drive Audience Engagement with Instagram Stories

How to Drive Audience Engagement with Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories just changed the game on Instagram

If you don't already know, I'm here to tell you that you need to get on Instagram's new feature "Stories". First of all, it's not going anywhere. Did they copy? (Maybe, yeah, but so what).  It's time for you to stop playing and get it together. You keep discrediting the new tech features that continues to appear (no pun intended). You're unsure how you're going to market to your current audience, and you most certainly haven't even began to think about how you're going to reach people that's outside of your current friend group. What’s so great about Stories? And how can you use it to accomplish your goals?

I'm here to tell you why Instagram's Stories feature is here to stay and how brands can leverage it to get more exposure and drive more engagement. 

How Does it Work Exactly?

Instagram Stories are a new way for users to share pictures that a user might not want to remain on their profile indefinitely. Instead, Stories are shared with followers at the top of the regular feed and are deleted automatically after 24 hours. If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone.

If you’re not familiar with Snapchat Stories, Instagram’s new feature will seem completely fresh. It’s a slideshow of photos and videos that you can add to throughout the day, with each addition expiring 24 hours after it was posted. These stories don’t clog up the main Instagram feed, which looks the same as it always did. At the top of the app, you’ll notice a new bar with your friends’ profile photos and a plus sign icon in the top left corner. Tapping on the plus sign lets you create a story, and tapping on a friend’s profile photo lets you view their story. You’ll know a friend has updated their story because a colorful ring will surround their profile photo in the top bar.

How are Brands using Instagram Stories?

After exploring stories for the last few months I started to notice different ways brands are now taking advantage of this new feature. Using the stories format, brands have opportunities to connect with their audience and visually inspire them with their brand stories. 

How are Instagram Stories different from Snapchat?

Well first, let me tell you how they are the same. Both platforms run on the same idea (obviously we know Instagram may or may not have copied snapchat directly). Simply put, you take a picture or short video and post it under your profile, where your followers—all of them, or a select group, depending on your settings—can watch it for a span of 24 hours. Regardless both are super powerful platforms - but let me tell you the two biggest reasons why brands are engaging more with Instagram over snapchat.

Built In Audience

Unlike snapchat, you already have a built in audience as soon as you create your first of many "stories" on Instagram. (I don't understand) Great let me explain - With Snapchat you're only limited to certain segments and one of them is your friend group. There's a challenge in building up a snapchat audience. 

In addition to the built-in audience on Instagram, you also have the opportunity for increased discoverability. The content you produce on Snapchat needs to be promoted regularly across other channels or else no one will see it. Or you must follow someone on Snapchat to discover his or her content. On Instagram, there are hashtags, geotags, and the Discover section to increase your chances of being found. Also, Instagram Stories are also searchable and appear publicly on a profile if a profile is set to public. Snapchat content can disappear into the void unless someone knows exactly what to look for.

So I'm basically saying, If you have an active audience base on Instagram, you should jump on Stories quick! 

Metrics

One of the most underrated features, that you need to be paying more attention to is the Instagrams Analytics feature. With Instagram Analytics, you can learn more about how your posts are performing and discover which type of content gets the most Instagram engagement! And that's just the beginning! Instagram also allows you insight into your audience lives, how old they are, and when they’re most frequently engaging with your content. This is important because you can now build strategically without guessing whose seeing or engaging with your posts. 

Now, How Can I Use Instagram to Drive Engagement?

There are many ways to increase engagement on Instagram, but I'm going to focus on two main areas that I use often, which cost nothing and I believe are the most effective: Instagram Live and Stories. 

Instagram Live

Instagram Live is the new ability to stream, in real time, from the Instagram app. Your community will then get a notification saying that you're "live" which just means you're now the host of your own life, event, t.v show, tutorial, etc. The possibilities are endless in the ways you can use "Live" but since I'm building a brand I use Instagram Live as an incredible way to increase website traffic & sales. 

Tips for a Successful Live Stream

Have A Clear Purpose

Like we mentioned above, think of your live stream like a mini-show, podcast episode, or blog post come alive. Have a clear topic and points. It helps to bullet things out ahead of time to keep yourself on topic. Remember that people are popping on and dropping off all the time, so it’s helpful to quickly recap your points from time to time.

Keep it Concise

I think live streams can be long or short, depending on the topic, and what your audience wants and expects from you. But most times people are not going to dedicate 20-30 minutes just to watch you. So make sure to get your point across in half the time.

Involve Your Audience

Ask questions and tell viewers to comment with their answers. Respond to them and make your stream as much of a two-way conversation as possible.

Send Them Somewhere Else (Call-to-Action)

As with all social media, the goal is to get someone to take the next step with you. Social media might be where someone discovers you or first engages with your brand, but you need to get them back to where you do business. Send them to one of your freebies or opt-ins. Comment with, or mention, a short link to a specific blog post that complements what you are talking about. Use your live stream to gain leads.

Tell a "STORIES"

Most recently, I created a series of "stories" that received a lot of engagement (below). (Everyone was in my dms asking me how I did it). Most of the dms were from people I didn't know. The most important aspect of "stories" is actually telling a story. Great story telling is one way to differentiate your brand. Story telling allows you to connect and engage with your audience on a deeper level. Because I know the brand that I've built, I was able to tell a story that my audience would understand, share, and simply love. Before you create a series of stories, really stop and think who are my audience and how will they relate to my content.

How was I able to reach people I didn't even know?.. You can now use hashtags and geotags directly on your Instagram stories. This allows other users to search for you or watch stories of certain locations. These new features on "stories" opens up your brand to a whole new audience without spending a dime.

Below I've included my personal Instagram "stories" that everyone seemed to love! As you can see below, I made sure once I created a great story, I made sure to tag users, add geotags and hashtags. 


Are you experimenting with Instagram Stories? What do you like? What don't you like? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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