Stop wasting your money on Masterclasses that will “take you from 0–10k in 30 days”. Every possible tip you need to know is free online. You just need to look for it. There are countless Facebook Groups that exist solely for digital marketers to share their tips, experiences and add real value. YouTube channels like AskGaryVee, Sprout Social, HubSpot, Derek Halpern, Anthony Groeper etc give out real advice at no cost. If you’re a creator, channels like Peter McKinnon and Cinecon.net give away free technical tutorials that will level up your proficiency with Abobe’s Creative Suite. Invest your time actively learning by testing strategies and implementing new techniques. Then rinse and repeat.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Umar Brimah, Co-founder of Cedar+Black Digital Media and Founder of Bleux Entertainment. Umar is a resilient entrepreneur with experience working in Investment Banking, Marketing, Experiential Services, and with Startups. You can follow more of his story on Instagram using the handle @UmarBrimah.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always been the type to dive very deeply into the things I am passionate about. I’ve learned a tremendous amount as a by-product of just embarking on different passion projects. In high school, I learned how to use the Apple SDK for iOS and created an app that was a massive database of every car I could find specs for. Looking back, creating that twitter account to promote my app was my first experience using social media to promote a brand.
In college, I worked as an Investment Banking Summer Analyst at Avondale Partners in Nashville, TN. My assignments primarily revolved around Nashville’s health care industry. I was able to gain tremendous insight into emerging markets. This experience was a little too analytical for my taste and fostered my desire to have a more creative and hands-on role. Later that summer I was invited to attend the Tilt Summit in San Francisco (hosted by Tilt.com). This gave me the opportunity to view a booming startup form the inside. As an ambassador, I got to watch them grow until they were acquired by Airbnb. After that experience, I knew I wanted to work with early-stage companies.
When I came back, I was fortunate enough to work personally with the CEO of Illevated Sounds to present Waco with its first ever electronic music festival, Illectric River. My primary role was Head of Greek Promotions, but I was able to work closely with the CEO in several areas to execute operations for the event, including pitching to a Houston investor to secure $350,000 in funding.
All of these experiences converged during my last undergraduate semester. I used the knowledge I gained to found Bleux and host a concert at the BSR Cable Park headlined by Waka Flocka Flame. We were able to sell over a thousand tickets within 48hrs of launching just by using organic reach. As a side project, I partnered with a friend to create a Shopify store filled with merch for the concert. We used social media to promote everything and a dropshipping service to fulfill all the orders.
I was then invited by my close friends to join Cedar+Black as a Co-founder in the spring of 2018. This gave me the opportunity to use my skill set to help clients like Bush’s Chicken, a nationwide franchise, achieve the same success in the digital space. Since then Cedar+Black has scaled to surpass a half million dollar valuation and is on track to more than double that valuation in 2019.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about Social Media Marketing?
In an age where everyone is a “Digital Media Guru,” it has never been more important to separate the practitioners from the idealists. As someone who has been actively managing brands, creating content and distributing digitally for years, I stand with the practitioners. As both a creator and growth hacker, I offer an in-depth perspective on the dichotomy between the two most important aspects for anyone trying to supercharge their brand on Instagram; content and distribution. As Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Cedar+Black Digital Media, I have worked with large franchises and small businesses to hack growth by driving traffic and creating truly captivating content. I am also the Founder of Bleux Entertainment, a promotion agency that uses the same strategies to attract thousands of attendees to live concerts. “Digital Media Guru’s” frequently forget the importance of experiential marketing in this mix. Consumers are actively seeking experiences over products, so we use experiences to create lasting relationships with our customers. This is one of the best strategies you can use to combat ever-changing algorithms and keep your brand champions engaged.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
When Cedar+Black was founded we made the ambitious mistake of taking on too much project work from clients. Our workload started to fluctuate so much that some days we would have an endless laundry list of pressing work to complete and other days we would have nothing to do. We realized this process would not be sustainable or scalable, so we all sat down and had an intense discussion about productizing our services and creating a completely new process that can accommodate significantly more clients. Internally we have become a brand new company. We’re now using this as an opportunity to rebrand Cedar+Black and outwardly signify the significant internal strides we have made. We will officially launch our new branding this month to kick start 2019.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well… we took some time off for Thanksgiving to refuel our minds and spend quality time with loved ones. It was more than needed considering the workload of building a startup. We came back feeling refreshed and ready to hit the ground running. We walked into our office bright-eyed and chipper just to be slapped across the face by the most unbearably nauseating smell. Everyone erupted into a coughing fit, gasping for air unsure of what was going on. After a few minutes, we realized we had forgotten to get rid of some of our Halloween props… In the corner was a pumpkin that had rotted to the point of combustion. Its moldy innards left all over the floor. The scene was so bad we had to move operations for the day to a local coffee shop. To say the least, we learned to get rid of old props.
Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?
Facebook’s platform (including Instagram) has been the most beneficial to our clients. For example, we created @BushsChickenUSA from scratch and built it up to ~2600 followers cumulatively on Facebook and Instagram within a few months. During this period, sales for each Bush’s location under our management rose 10% on average. This was also during a period that had historically seen lower sales volumes. The only change that had been made to their existing marketing strategy was adding Facebook/Instagram, so we were able to confidently attribute the sales increase to the new accounts and geotargeted ads run from them. Growth has continued to trend upward since then.
Let’s talk about Instagram specifically, now. Can you share 6 ways to leverage Instagram to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Stop wasting your money on Masterclasses that will “take you from 0–10k in 30 days”
Every possible tip you need to know is free online. You just need to look for it. There are countless Facebook Groups that exist solely for digital marketers to share their tips, experiences and add real value. YouTube channels like AskGaryVee, Sprout Social, HubSpot, Derek Halpern, Anthony Groeper etc give out real advice at no cost. If you’re a creator, channels like Peter McKinnon and Cinecon.net give away free technical tutorials that will level up your proficiency with Abobe’s Creative Suite. Invest your time actively learning by testing strategies and implementing new techniques. Then rinse and repeat.
2. Be the show, not the commercial.
No one likes commercials. If your content resembles typical clickbaity TV infomercials, users will instinctively skip it. Be intentional about creating content that is aesthetic, entertaining and valuable to the consumer. If you’re lost on how to start, identify the content you personally enjoy and reverse engineer a fit. This will create a significantly more engaged audience.
3. Be extremely cognizant of the way content is consumed on the platform.
On Instagram specifically, the 4:5 aspect ratio is a must. Taking up as much screen real estate as possible is imperative for both catching the eyes of your users and not straining them by making them squint. I would also respect the time constraints. If you have long-form content that you want to share, chop it up into short teasers. Use those teasers to spark interest and direct traffic to platforms that more naturally host long-form content like YouTube or Facebook Watch.
4. Show love to your early adopters.
Pay special attention to the people who are engaging with you. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring them because you’re searching elsewhere for more followers. Their word of mouth will carry you farther than you realize. Reply to their comments and continually engage with them. Before you know it, they’ll become brand champions who spread your message for you.
5. Know your audience.
Gone are the days of casting a wide net and hoping for single digit conversion rates. The Digital Age has equipped brands with tremendous amounts of data, the ability to know exactly who their customer is and what platforms they use. Pay attention to the insights you receive about your current demographic. Study your audience and events tracked in your Facebook pixel. Then, use them to create stronger lookalike audiences that you can retarget for a fraction of the cost.
6. Promote your best content
Organic reach is important, but if you have the money to spend on paid promotions then spend the money. Facebook/Instagram give you an incredible amount of data about the results your dollars are generating. Use this data to budget for the results you want.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start locally in Waco, Texas by inspiring the homeless population. There are a number of manageable entrepreneurial ideas that could drastically benefit their situation. For example, selling cold bottles of water in the midst of Texas summers. You could invest a few dollars to build an inventory of 24+ bottles and sell each bottle for at least a dollar. Then use the profits to rinse and repeat.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Hands down Will Smith. He and his team very recently jumped into the digital space and immediately took it by storm. His socials are a perfect example of what captivating content looks like. His helicopter birthday bungee jump collab with Yes Theory garnered one of the largest live audiences I’ve seen on YouTube. I would love to sit down with him and find out how he continually adapts to new trends and platforms while also staying true to himself and his message.
Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!