I’ve been involved with do-it-yourself music in the Greater Philadelphia area for over a decade now. Throughout this time, I have occupied every potential role: showgoer, performer, promoter, you name it.
The groups I’ve ended up with typically share a similar genesis.
Here’s a picture: you’re sitting in a half-empty living room. Below you, a crowded basement pulses with tame tropes and half-hearted expressions. Some loudmouth nursing a 40oz foolishly exchanges charm for pretension and out from a groggy, smoke-induced stupor, an assertion springs: “Jawbreaker is the definitive Bay-Area rock band of the 90s. Miss me with that Green Day sh*t.”
Leaping (or staggering) to your feet, you fumble for rejoinders. It’s then that you find yourself thrust into a spirited dialogue with an equally impassioned stranger.
One thing leads to another. Chatting and chain-smoking, you trade visions, earnestly planning a potential project only to wake up the next morning without energy or interest in maintaining contact. After all, they smoked menthols— and your inner pre-teen still weeps to Green Day. You don’t need that kind of energy in your life.
The story repeats itself ad nauseam and there’s no light at either end of the tunnel.
Enter: Plaze. Philadelphia’s hottest DIY networking app. Aiming to revamp the way musicians discover one another, Plaze offers a digital alternative to the oft-excruciating process of starting a band.
What is Plaze?
Before I dig in, let me provide some background about Plaze. Like most innovations, Plaze was inspired by a problem. As stated in the first sentence of the Our Story portion on their website: “Plaze started with a problem.”
Call it journalistic intuition.
Co-founder Jamie Mallia, a drummer, recounts his story. It’s a common one, and we all have our own version. An exciting new musical partnership abruptly halted upon the realization that the person you have agreed to jam with is, shall we say, grossly incompetent.
Naturally, the unevenness of their skillset led to an awkward, short-lived alliance. That’s when the big idea hit: an app that facilitates discovery among creatives. One that promotes networking and collaboration while helping weed out the mismatches.
Plaze looks to one-up other avenues of creative networking like Facebook and Reddit. It does so by tailoring the experience to the expressed needs of its users. It is, however, currently a Philadelphia-centric app.
A New Way of Networking
For the sake of transparency, I must share my initial skepticism. And I’ll be the first to admit that this is likely the result of my reverence for the punk ethos. But honestly, that’s a stuffy holdover.
And punk, in its truest and most essential form, is about moving forward. Embracing change, even (and especially) when it threatens tradition. The fruits of punk that have prevailed throughout history have been those that, in threatening tradition, offers a constructive, democratic alternative. And so, with that renewed understanding in mind, I’m downloading Plaze.
Nowadays, there’s an app to help you with everything from grocery delivery services to keeping your mental health in check. So, really, why shouldn’t there be an app for meeting other local creatives?
Mind you, this article will encapsulate one person’s attempt at using the app.
My experience doesn’t speak for the whole of us. Everyone who uses this app, with their own style, expectations, intentions, and skill sets will undoubtedly yield a unique experience. With any hope, anyway.
In a sense, you can consider this less of a review and more of an account. The semantic difference is that, in this case, I won’t submit an official judgment.
How’s the User Interface?
Upon downloading Plaze, you’ll find that the interface is simple and intuitive. For those of us experienced with any of those countless dating apps, it’s downright familiar. This isn’t a dating app though, so there’s some hope for you yet. Just think of all the time you’ll save not having to worry about a punchy new pick-up line.
All of the features are offered in a palatable four-tab menu. The tabs are as follows:
You’re going to want to add a picture or two. Really flesh out your profile here. Honestly, this function alone is pretty dope. Consider it a central hub for all of your artist profile pages. Now you can have your Bandcamp, Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and personal website all in one place. Artists are not terribly well-known for being, well, unlazy— so this certainly helps the discovery process along!
The profile section is also where you’ll outline your skillset. Shameless promotion here, but I need to show photos to properly explain.
This also provides me the opportunity to show off this sleek, seamlessly navigable interface. Despite being a millennial, my handling of most new technology is more in line with that of a 100-year-old man. But believe you me, sonny: this app is absolutely easy to handle. Golly!
You can write up a quick blurb about yourself and add all of your skills. This includes both on-stage and off-stage skills; which means audio engineers, promoters, teachers, and photographers all have a place in Plaze.
Whatever your niche, Plaze has thought of ways to plug it into the scene. Speaking of the scene, let’s hop to the next tab.
This function puts you in the same room as what’s happening in your area. At all times. The page is split up into two subsections, both of which are very simply laid out: Show Posters and Community. These sections borrow a lot of the convenient aspects of Facebook or Reddit.
Show Posters, as its name suggests, is purely a feed for flyers. It’s like an infinite scroll of calendar events for upcoming shows. You can interact with these the same way you would Facebook events, including RSVPs, comments, and likes.
Community is a collection of threads, not unlike Reddit, where people can post about any number of things. Want to promote an upcoming album release? Need a new drummer? Maybe you’re a promoter in search of an opening act. Whatever your need, this section allows you the freedom to express it.
Anyone can make a show flyer or community post!
The map function essentially contextualizes people’s profiles in a geographic layout. This is a cool feature, but its benefits are limited to showing exactly where each individual profile is. It’s a helpful tool, nonetheless.
This page contains the meat and potatoes of the app. It provides full access to all other profiles on Plaze. A search bar at the top of the page offers a speedy look-up for specific people. Or you can scroll along casually, thumbing through profiles of Plaze users. (Plazers? Plazeers?)
To make it even more convenient, it splits up profiles into different categories based on each user’s expressed intent. Here are some of the subsections: Freelance Clients, Lookin’ For Bandmates, Jam For Fun, Find Local Shows, and Near You. It’s as simple as sending a message. From there, you’re free to discuss as you please! You can even curate your own feed, narrowing it down to your specific need.
Closing Thoughts: Is Plaze worth it?
Plaze offers an entirely free platform for exploring your scene. You stand to lose nothing, and the gains are immeasurable. it’s not limited to musicians, either. Plaze is perfect for artist-designers, audio engineers, promoters, podcasters, videographers, and journalists. Every creative personality is capable of offering (and monetizing) their skills with this app.
The most inspiring part of Plaze is the way it injects a burst of democracy into an experience historically fraught with crossed arms, naysayers, and gatekeepers. Gone are the days of not being able to find the right band members. And never again will you be burdened with the task of having to cold message a show promoter on Instagram, only to be left on read time and time again.
I can speak from experience regarding the difficulties of finding something as seemingly common as a good photographer. You end up just asking a friend with a camera and, oftentimes, you’re underwhelmed with the final product. With Plaze, freelancers are provided a large pool of potential clients and vice versa.
Just like every punk-rocker has a conversion story— a discovery of new, challenging, artistic integrity in the face of an otherwise bland, corporate landscape— so too may every DIY soul be converted into a Plaze-user (Plazite? Plazian? I hate this bit) and reimagine the possibilities of local art.
Even if they don’t f*ck with Green Day.
How a Startup Incubator Can Accelerate Your Business
In today’s fast-paced and competitive business landscape, startups often find themselves navigating a maze of challenges that can hinder their growth and potential.
This is where the concept of a startup incubator comes into play as a guiding light for emerging ventures. A startup incubator is more than just a physical space; it’s a dynamic ecosystem designed to nurture and propel early-stage ventures toward success.
In this article, we’ll tackle some of the most common questions surrounding incubators. For instance – what is the role of a startup incubator? How does it differ from an accelerator?
And most importantly, how can it optimize your business?
What is an incubator in a startup ecosystem?
In a startup ecosystem, an incubator refers to a supportive environment or program designed to help early-stage startups grow and develop.
Incubators provide a range of resources and services to entrepreneurs, typically for a fixed period of time, with the goal of nurturing and accelerating the growth of their businesses.
Here’s the usual process of how an incubator supports a startup:
Startups who applied and were accepted are welcomed into the incubator with an orientation session. During this phase, startups get an overview of the program’s structure, expectations, and available resources. They also meet their mentors, advisors, and fellow cohort members.
Mentorship and Guidance
Startups are paired with mentors who have relevant industry experience or expertise.
Regular mentorship sessions provide guidance, feedback, and insights to help startups navigate challenges and refine their strategies.
Workshops and Training
Incubators organize workshops, seminars, and training sessions on various aspects of entrepreneurship. Topics covered during the startup incubator program may include:
- Business planning
- Marketing strategies
- Product development
- Legal and regulatory matters
Access to Resources
Aside from training sessions, startups can also gain access to resources such as:
- Office space
- Co-working environments
- Internet connectivity
- Meeting rooms
Some incubators provide access to shared equipment, startup software, and other tools needed for product development.
Networking and Events
Incubators often facilitate networking events, pitch sessions, and demo days where startups can showcase their progress to potential investors, partners, and the broader community.
Startups work on refining their business models, products, and market strategies. They receive support in identifying their target audience, creating a value proposition, and developing a sustainable revenue model.
Funding and Investment
Incubators may provide introductions to potential investors, venture capitalists, and angel investors Startups also learn about different funding options and how to pitch their ideas to secure investment.
Successful completion of the incubator program results in a “graduation” for startups.
Graduated startups may continue to receive support through alumni networks, ongoing mentorship, or access to incubator resources.
Startup Incubator vs. Accelerator
A startup incubator and a startup accelerator are both support programs designed to assist early-stage startups, but they have distinct characteristics and objectives. Here’s a comparison between the two:
- Focus. Incubators typically have a broader focus and cater to startups in various stages of development. They often work with startups that are in the ideation or early development phase. Accelerators, on the other hand, are more specialized and typically work with startups that have a viable product or service and are ready to scale rapidly. They focus on accelerating growth and reaching key milestones quickly.
- Stage. Incubators are well-suited for startups that are still refining their business models, conducting market research, and building their initial product or service. Accelerators, meanwhile, are best suited for startups that have a minimum viable product (MVP) and are seeking to refine their business model, gain traction, and secure funding to scale.
- Mentorship. A startup incubator provides mentorship and guidance, often with a focus on helping founders refine their business ideas, develop prototypes, and validate their concepts. On the other hand, an accelerator’s mentorship is often geared towards specific aspects of growth, such as scaling operations, marketing, fundraising, and product-market fit.
Startup Incubator Examples
If you’re looking for the best startup incubators in the world, here are a few you of the most popular ones to consider.
1. Y Combinator
Situated in the USA, Y Combinator is considered one of the best startup incubators which has played an instrumental role in fostering the growth trajectories of some of the most renowned startups globally. The Y Combinator program spans a duration of three months, during which startups receive a funding injection of $500,000, albeit subject to certain conditions.
Subsequently, founders are immersed in a sequence of mentoring and refinement initiatives that culminate in the prestigious Demo Day. Here, founders showcase their concepts to an audience comprising investors and handpicked media representatives.
Mentees: Airbnb, Dropbox, Coinbase, Gitlab
Techstars directs its energy toward nurturing startups rooted in technology. Since its inception in 2006, Techstars has been a driving force behind the growth of numerous startups. Annually, they select more than 500 fledgling companies, providing them with up to $120,000 in investment and the invaluable chance to partake in mentorship programs.
Backed by an impressive funding sum of $21.3 billion, Techstars stands out as a reliable choice for technology-oriented startups. Within its portfolio of activities, Techstars hosts several high-profile events and initiatives, including Startup Week and Startup Weekend.
Mentees: Uber, DigitalOcean, SendGrid
3. 500 Startups
500 Startups operates as a dual-purpose platform, functioning as both an accelerator program and a seed fund dedicated to startups. Positioned primarily as a venture capital entity, they proudly proclaim a management portfolio worth $2.7 billion. Their primary interests converge on sectors where technology, innovation, and capital growth converge harmoniously.
Their extensive investment history spans more than 2,600 startups worldwide, underscoring the maturity and comprehensiveness of their accelerator program across diverse markets.
Mentees: Grab, Canva, Credit Karma
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do I need an incubator for my startup?
If you’re in the early stages, lack experience, and could benefit from structured guidance, resources, and mentorship, an incubator might be valuable. However, if you’re aiming for rapid growth and have a clear roadmap, an accelerator could be more appropriate.
Do startup incubators provide funding?
Yes, many startup incubators provide funding as part of their support package. However, the funding offered by incubators can vary widely depending on the specific program, location, and the terms of the agreement. Some incubators offer direct funding to startups, while others may connect startups with potential investors or provide resources to help them secure funding elsewhere.
Preparing the Shift to Mobile eCommerce: Tips + Tools
We Are Social reported that around 50% of the 16 to 64 demographic use their mobile to purchase something online weekly. With those in mind, your eCommerce business shouldn’t be confined to one place. It’s essential that you have a website and social media sites. Plus, don’t be afraid to list your products other than those platforms. Here’s how to make a successful shift towards mobile eCommerce.
1. Use Website Builders
Most website builders nowadays can optimize your eCommerce site on the desktop or mobile. These tools help you design and layout your website and make tweaks before publishing it. Moreover, you can add pages, such as blogs, products, and contact pages, to make your eCommerce site operational.
You don’t need to hire a web designer or developer immediately when creating your site on these builders. It’s ideal for new eCommerce site owners, considering you want the business up and running from Day 1 without any hassle.
2. Set Up Secure Payment Methods
One way to enhance your customer’s experience in your eCommerce site is setting up payment gateways. Although you install payment gateway plug-ins on your desktop, it’s crucial that it’s working on your mobile site, too. This way, your customers won’t experience any mishaps or issues when paying via mobile.
3. Widen Reach with Social Commerce
Mobile eCommerce isn’t only about a mobile eCommerce app. After all, it’s a catch-all term to describe all eCommerce-related strategies done on mobile. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have opened avenues for eCommerce sites to integrate their store into these platforms. Plus, social media sites are easily accessible on phones, allowing customers to browse anywhere.
You can promote your best-sellers and new products on these platforms. Then, ensure that you link to your website. This way, your customers can view other products, regardless of where they’re browsing them.
4. List Products on Other Relevant eCommerce Marketplaces
Even though you have a website, you can reach more people when posting items on other eCommerce stores. This allows you to get more exposure. It’s possible that your competitors are in the same marketplace. However, if you have the correct copy and high-quality images, your customers are likely to buy your products.
5. Develop an App or Hire an App Designer and Developer
Not all eCommerce sites have an app for their eCommerce products. But you can change the game by having one for easier browsing and a smoother experience. However, app development is challenging for non-developers. There are no-code app makers to use for your new app.
Or, if creating an app is too tedious, hiring an app developer and designer is a much better alternative. They have the know-how to create an optimized app for your eCommerce site. You can find them on freelance sites like Fiverr or Upwork.
Mobile eCommerce Tools
Shopify is one of the top eCommerce tools for all businesses. You can build a site, sell online, market your products, and manage your business. You don’t need experience developing or designing a website on Shopify. The eCommerce platform has a no-code website builder, letting users create sites in minutes. Additionally, Shopify allows you to integrate apps into your online store, including payment gateways.
Another contender in website building is Wix. Like Shopify, it’s fast, easy, and simple to create and design a website. Their web design feature, “Editor X,” allows you to customize your site. Also, you can use their Wix Payments feature. It’s their solution for all payments, allowing customers to pay via Apple Pay, credit card, and other payment methods.
If you need a payment method solution, Stripe is one of the best eCommerce payment tools! You can accept payments globally. Plus, Apple Pay and Google Pay are two payment methods to integrate into your Stripe account. Stripe is also advanced because it can detect fraud and block it. Plus, you can increase conversions and launch subscriptions.
An alternative to Stripe payments is PayPal. As one of the oldest payment methods, you can trust this tool for easy payments. You can install PayPal for your checkout needs. Plus, you can even request payments! Additionally, PayPal accepts credit and debit card payments worldwide!
Don’t have time to post all the time? Consider Sked as your social media management tool. You don’t need to publish and tag your posts manually. Sked helps you tag posts directly on their dashboard. You don’t have to worry about losing your product tags. Plus, Sked will add your shoppable posts in one gallery!
Post your products on these sites:
Another social media management platform to consider for your mobile eCommerce needs is Planoly. Like Sked, Planoly enables users to tag shoppable posts without leaving the social media management platform. You can post your products with Planoly:
Content creation tools are necessary to make your mobile eCommerce strategies successful. Canva is one of these tools to promote your eCommerce site and products. You can use the abovementioned social media schedulers or other options. It’s easy to create designs for your social media platforms. Or you can create custom designs for your website and post them on other eCommerce marketplaces.
If you want a simple yet functional app, you can create one with Jotform! They use a drag-and-drop model when you build and design your app. Plus, you can use their templates to build your app in minutes. Finally, you can share your app with a QR, which will download the app to your customers’ devices.
Glide is another no-code option to consider when building your app. Like Jotform, you can create using templates and customize your app design. Additionally, you can integrate productivity tools into creating your app and automate workflows!
Our final mobile eCommerce tool is Buildfire! They have a dedicated eCommerce solution that allows you to sync your products and organize your inventory. You can even add a notification so users are informed when their products are in stock or when they need to complete checkout.
How to Grow a Business on TikTok: 8 Branding Strategies
With over 1 billion average monthly active users, TikTok provides new opportunities for businesses to engage with audiences. TikTok for Business has emerged as a dynamic social media marketing channel that helps small businesses grow. Have you ever wondered how to grow a business on TikTok in a highly competitive social media marketing world? Explore the best TikTok branding strategies that could help your business reach a massive audience.
1. Choose Your Niche Topic
Like most social media platforms, you must create and share-worthy content to be popular. You must create consistent branding if you’ve chosen TikTok to promote your brand. The possibilities to produce excellent content are endless. Pick a more familiar topic and share your knowledge and experience about it.
First, research your competitors to see the types of content they post on the platform. Then, try your best to produce better content to outrank them. Likewise, monitoring and analyzing user feedback will let you understand whether or not you are moving in the right direction.
2. Create Engaging Content
Working with TikTok influencers and putting hashtags is crucial for promoting your brand to a large audience, but let’s face the truth: these strategies will only work if the content you share is balanced.
Remember that on TikTok, you only have 15-60 seconds to convince the users to follow you. So, pay more attention to the quality of content rather than posting irrelevant things just to be active.
Be sure to create a pleasant, understandable video, as this is the first thing that catches a visitor’s attention. As a creator, you must ensure the correct design is used for all posts. Think about the captions of your videos. If you need more insights, read our blog about what to consider in creating a TikTok content strategy.
3. Work with Influencers
TikTok influencers may be known for their small audiences compared to Instagram influencers. But, reaching out to target users will help you promote your brand or company.
Develop professional partnerships with influencers whose audience might be interested in your brand and will likely buy. This is similar to the principles of Instagram advertising works.
Tapping influencers into the TikTok platform is one way of producing high-quality content. It also enables you to get more sponsored publications. So, if your budget allows partnering with the influencer to promote your product, go for it!
4. Join a Hashtag Challenge
The TikTok hashtag challenge is a dynamic marketing strategy that encourages users to participate in creating and sharing content about a specific theme. The goal is to generate user-generated content that aligns with your brand’s message, values, or products. It also aims to drive user engagement and increase brand visibility.
TikTok content creators might have a limited following compared with Instagram influencers. Nevertheless, the key lies in connecting with your desired audience to market your business effectively. Collaborating with influencers whose followers align with your brand’s appeal can attract potential customers inclined to purchase. This process is similar to the principles of advertising on Instagram.
5. Collaborate with Other Creators Via TikTok Marketing Campaigns
Sometimes, you want your brand to reach a large audience, but your budget is limited. In such situations, a partnership with content creators or other brands may work for you.
For instance, if you work in the fashion industry and want to promote your company, you may find other people from this field with a solid following for potential collaboration. Reach out and tell them you’re interested in a partnership project. The mutual potential benefits of collaborative projects are noticeable, so there is a high chance someone will take up your suggestion.
6. Invest in Advertising
TikTok introduced a specialized advertising system, benefiting brands from a large user base. TikTok offers three types of digital advertising:
- Native In-Feed Ads
- Hashtag Challenge Ads
- Brand Ads.
Brand ads are the most efficient way to drive traffic to your landing page. And when it comes to targeting TikTok ads, there are two options:
- Interest Targeting. Like Facebook ads, this option lets you pick an interest relevant to your target audience. The platform shows ads to a particular group.
- Behavioral Targeting. This ad targeting type allows you to advertise to people based on their behavior within the last week or two.
7. Keep Up with Trends and Make Them Work for Your Business
As you’ve already noticed, TikTok is full of trends. This is a social network where trends change over time. It ranges from popular songs, video effects, challenges, and hashtags. But how do we identify a trend among millions of videos on TikTok? Keep up to date by tracking hashtags and themes. You must follow these trends and analyze how your business can benefit.
8. Monitor and Assess the Results of your Campaigns
Hashtags and creativity are all good, but remember that a fundamental element of any marketing strategy is evaluating the results of a campaign. Using an analytics tool, you can get valuable insights from your promotional efforts and how to improve them. If you need more engagement, consider what mistakes could have caused such an effect and how to fix them. Your clips may be underperforming because they’re not funny enough. Updating yourself with analytics is a powerful way to enlarge your audience and generate more sales.
TikTok stands as a significant milestone in the evolution of contemporary social media. Centered around interaction, it has attracted millions of Gen-Z users and become the most active advertising channel. With these eight branding strategies at your disposal, you’ll be able to understand how to grow a business on TikTok. Once you’ve learned the basics, showcasing your product or brand to a large TikTok community will be easier.