You know who loves to give advice? all the people. Especially when it comes to marketing. But what do you do when that advice requires a budget—a budget you don’t have? what happens then?
I am the founder of a small sustainable, socially responsible and zero-waste fashion label that works with the single parent women’s community in North Macedonia. Operating from a country with such limited resources, to put it mildly, can be challenging. I founded the company in 2013. It began as a marketplace for local designers, which quickly expanded to cover international designers from around the world.
It took four years, we went on to become a standalone fashion label. The change came from my desire to make a difference in the society I lived in. At the time, I was working with a studio run by a woman, and the seamstress became a single parent. I was impressed not only by his strength, but also by his tenacity and an iron will to provide better conditions for his child than when he was born.
That’s when I decided to make Basset Noir a socially responsible brand. And as the business grew, so did our community of single parents of women. Today, we are proud to say that we work with five female-owned studios run by either female single parents or female micro-entrepreneurs.
What used to be a small, local business has grown into a global brand that is still small and with customers around the world.
We used every tool in our toolbox to accomplish this with almost no budget – just a pipe dream and the persistence and desire to make it a reality. Here, I want to talk about what we did on social media to make it happen.
The power of social media for local business
Even if you don’t choose to invest in social media, your presence should still be up-to-date. One way to do this is to automate your brand’s social media, automatically sharing all new blog posts with your followers.
As a bootstrapped company operating from a country with limited resources, our marketing budget was and still is practically non-existent. Everything we do is invested back into our single parent female community, so throughout the years, we’ve had to think of creative ways to attract clients. Social media was one of the most successful.
Succeeding on Instagram Without a Budget
Okay, let’s rewind for a second. When we started back in 2013, Instagram was still not a thing. So it took us a while to reach our desired target market in the United States. When we finally got on the platform two years later, it took us almost a year to decode it and figure out how to grow and attract the right followers.
Since we were not in America, our first few hundred followers were in Macedonia. The only way to target America was to pay for ads—for which of course we had no money. So how did we make it work? Through a lot of trial and error, yes, but most importantly, by establishing a captivating and powerful story behind the brand.
All our posts and stories are in line with the narrative we were trying to tell. Synopsis: We were a sustainable, zero-waste and socially responsible label working with female single parents in North Macedonia, and we helped these women earn far more than the industry average monthly income of $300. In addition to story, feed needs an aesthetic that is recognizable to our brand, so we chose several color tones that best represent our label.
We planned our content over a month, giving us time to improve copy and research hashtags (we found that sustainability- and small business-related hashtags were our first priority). For all of this, we used the social media planning tool Later, which helped us a lot, especially with the visual part of what the feed would look like.
Next, we attempted to bridge the gap between our social media strategy and our content strategy. We started by using People Map to create a list of women we wanted to include on our blog. The app helped us target editors, writers, social media managers and women entrepreneurs for fashion magazines, all based in the US.
Note: Be sure to follow all applicable rules around cold emailing possibilities and give people ways to opt out of constant communication.
We composed an email to each woman explaining our business and personalized it to reflect our interest to each recipient (for example, we mentioned what impressed us about them) . Most of them did not respond, but those who did were more than happy to extend their selfless help: We got several women to interview us for our blog series, Cool Faces of Basset Noir.
Since all of these women worked for publications like Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue Business and Elle, it helped us gain credibility. And since most of them shared stories on their social media accounts (including Instagram), we started getting engagement from their followers. We also got traction on their website, as they were sharing links on their feeds and stories.
Since advertising was not an option due to paucity of funds, it was the only way for us to harness the power of influencers. Our entire investment was the production of the piece and the shipping cost to send them the outfit—and what we asked for in return was wearing some of the pieces so we could incorporate them into our blog posts.
You can start small on social as well. To help, here are three workflows that can help you automate an Instagram account for your business so you can focus on the more personal parts of marketing.
Using Reddit for Marketing
Reddit is a bit tricky because many communities ban advertising and, of course, anything they consider spammy, like sharing discount codes, links to your website, and even featuring your brand. This means you need to engage with the community on another level. Start a conversation, answer questions, and show that you’re an authority on the subject. Then, if they are interested in learning more about your brand, you can share the link. If you do this before anyone asks, you risk being banned from one of the most engaged Internet communities.
We ran into a few subreddits including r/findashion, r/ethicalfashion, and r/Etsy, but r/FemaleFashionAdvice was the most important to us. There are 1.7 million members of this community that we knew would be interested in our brand. We started chatting with people on various topics, mostly giving them style advice. It slowly evolved into me, of course, wearing Basset noir, to posting pictures of my outfits. People started asking where I got some stuff, so I shared the links to the website. And it did the trick: We saw a tremendous increase in traffic, and orders started coming in.
How to Use YouTube for Free Marketing
We only started working with YouTubers in early 2020. I guess you could say we arrived a little late to the party, but in our defense, we really believed we weren’t able to afford their rates – which was true, for one. Point. A YouTuber who has more than 10,000 views on a video charges at least $3,000 for a 30-60-second brand mention. And this is just for a mention, not a dedicated brand video. For a brand like ours, it is too expensive.
Instead, we decided to see if anyone would want enough of our clothing to be promoted for free. First, we compiled a list of hundreds of YouTubers whose styles matched our brand aesthetic. We found them on YouTube by searching for keywords like “minimalist style,” “ethical fashion,” and “eco-friendly fashion”—and many variations. Most of them didn’t even respond, which is understandable. But those who did were so impressed with our cause that they selflessly offered to cover our brand.
Here’s an example from Chloe Qian and an example of a cat creature. These reviews and their support helped us drive more traffic to our website and build brand awareness—and as a result, we saw an increase in revenue.
Using Pinterest for eCommerce Marketing
Pinterest is the best social media platform to buy new things. Since the platform itself is highly visual, people usually go there to organize their shopping lists—which makes it great for any eCommerce brand. And if your store is on Shopify, you can use the Pinterest app to call them Rich Pins, which means the description and price on Pinterest will be pulled directly from your website.
The best way to increase followers and get repins is to use shared boards, usually community boards created by Pinfluencers (yes, that’s a thing). And how do you find these boards? You can do a little Google search, or you can use PinGroupie like we did. PinGroupie lets you search and filter boards by categories, number of followers, and other criteria.
If you decide to use Pinterest for your marketing, here are 5 tips for using Pinterest for business.
At present we are members of about eight boards. Most important to us is Fashion + Friends, and it has over 600k followers. The beauty of these boards is that, once you’re approved by an admin, the things you post appear on the feeds of every follower on that board. This means millions of potential customers around the world—without investing a single penny. These boards directly sent traffic to our site and also helped us to rank higher on Google.
One tip: Choose boards with more than 10k followers. Boards with low followers probably won’t do you any favors—they’ll just sit on your profile and collect dust.
And there you have it: this is how we used our no-budget social media strategy to drive traffic and drive sales.
This article by Daniela Milosheska was first published on the Zapier Blog. Find the original post here.