Social media platforms have, in many ways, become an integral part of marketing and sales strategies for entrepreneurs and small businesses, especially those with a limited advertising budget.
It is one thing to know you need to create a business page on Instagram and Facebook – arguably the most popular social platforms in TT. It’s quite another to fully appreciate how their algorithms affect the visibility of your posts and in turn, awareness of your brand and what's happening with it.
Kristen DeCosta, in her article Instagram Marketing Part 2: What Instagram’s New Algorithm Means for You, published on the site www.founderu.selz.com, says, "…an algorithm is 'a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end, especially by a computer.' Applied to Instagram, Instagram’s new algorithm is a step-by-step process used to determine how a user’s feed is displayed."
Keenly aware of this and wanting to share her knowledge in a more formal manner than mere tips here and there, Michelle Eng Leang – writer and marketeer with more than 20 years' experience "in all things brand" and founder of the @TTChatterbox brand – launched ChatShop with TTChatterbox - The Series (ChatShop) on March 5.
Held in a private room at Dianne's Tea Shop, Long Circular Road, Maraval, the inaugural ChatShop was, as Eng Leang told Business Day, "an intimate yet interactive event" examining the influencer marketing sphere.
Each of the four ChatShops held so far have taken place on a Monday. The first two at the Maraval location while the third and fourth were held at the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, Newbold St, St Clair.
Pitching her idea to potential attendees via her Instagram stories and email, Eng Leang said, "Come and spend the day with me as we chat about building your brand through Instagram and using your influence, as an individual or brand, to generate revenue.
"Whether you represent a brand, blog, work in the media, own a small business or just have a trendy take on life, ChatShop will show you how to create content that truly shows your community what you experience, thus maximising your power of influence. I will show you how to grow your community to the size that suits your objectives and will best help you get more social on your digital journey and generate revenue as well."
Asked what she's observed since starting ChatShop, Eng Leang told Business Day, "I've realised many people really don't know how to set their brand strategy or define their brand's personality (to better) connect with people. This played a big role in my deciding to create ChatShop and really do my part to help local businesses, brand Trinbago, grow and flourish here and internationally, thanks to the global reach of social media."
First published as a columnist in 1996, Eng Leang's self-described "gift of the gab" and her way with words have seen her work on several brands here in TT as well as in Europe, the Middle East and Asia during her eight-year stint in London.
This "Trini to the bone" chose to return home "in an attempt to show the world, through social media, how amazing TT is." Her areas of expertise are copywriting, brand building, marketing, photography and public speaking. Eng Leang now dedicates her time to working with small businesses to develop their brand and spheres of influence.
In October 2014, Eng Leang created the Instagram account @TTChatterbox. Since then, she's "mastered the art of gaining attention and a following on social media, especially through Instagram and I sell only my opinion on the brands and things I see and experience. My skills as a strategist are intangible and I realised this (ChatShop) is my way to give back.
"Dozens of brands support me to get ChatShops done. I'd especially like to thank Diane Hunt, owner of Dianne's Tea Shop and the Trinidad Theatre Workshop for collaborating with me to make these small steps in creating a community of entrepreneurs.
"My greatest achievement with all of this, to date, has been that together, we seem to be creating a community of ChaTTfluencers – entrepreneurs wanting to move forward through innovation while promoting the magic of local content and creativity."
ChatShop three had a slightly different format, with two-time attendee Sarina Nicole Bland (@SarinaNow on Instagram) being the keynote speaker.
Bland, creative director and founder of TriniGourmet.com and KimchiKallaloo.com, used a more structured approach while Eng Leang maintained her signature free-form style to speak on the topic, How to Build Your Tribe.
Speaking with Business Day, Bland said, "My goal with ChatShop three – and my goal for all of my social media marketing sessions – is for attendees to gain one new good habit and break one bad habit. If they do this consistently, with each module-based session they will be ahead of their peers and even better, they’ll be ahead of where they were even 30 days ago."
Explaining the importance of a tribe, Bland said, "They follow the same culture, the same beliefs. In business, they not only buy and use your products but spread the word and help grow your business."
Asked why businesses and personal brands need a tribe, she said, "A tribe attracts the people you want to work with. Your tribe will market your product/service/message 24 hours a day and your tribe will always be on the lookout for new opportunities for you to shine.
"It's also important," Bland added, "that businesses remain aware of the ways tribes relate to their products/services/message and that they (businesses) actively facilitate and interact with the tone and direction of those dialogues."
ChatShop may be in its infancy but already Eng Leang has been inspired by the products of participating businesses to create The Market by @TTChatterbox (The Market).
The inaugural edition was held at Trinidad Theatre Workshop on April 7, where two of the most popular vendors were Sabrina Romany, owner of Healthy Escape (@HealthyEscapeTT on Instagram) – a beauty, cosmetics and personal care business – and her cousin Natana Grey-Smith, owner of The Grey Room (@TheGreyRoomTT on Instagram) – a pedicure spa.
Business Day asked Eng Leang about The Market's role in ChatShop, to which she replied, "I've always liked markets and I think our mix of entrepreneurs are unique.
"ChatShop gave me the confidence or rather, the certainty, to realise I could put something like this together. So the market really was born out of the interest that I got in ChatShop and it's given me the opportunity to try. It was small, but I think the vendors had a good time and I've certainly gotten that pat on the back to hold another one on May 27."
For more information on ChatShop and The Market, you can contact Eng Leang via her Instagram account or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.