Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Few Simple Steps on How To Build Your Instagram Following

Last year, I made a commitment to myself to work on my Instagram account. I have always been a Facebook kind of girl, but today, I find Facebook cluttered and a little overwhelming with the number of unwelcome posts, videos, and adverts that appear constantly in my newsfeed. Instagram, on the other hand, I find inspiring and filled with content that I want to view. I wonder how many of our customers feel the same way?

Like any social network out there, there are right ways to use it, wrong ways to use it, and clever ways to use it.

Let's begin with hashtags.

I have written about hashtags before, but this time I would like to be a little more specific. Using hashtags is one thing. Using the right tags is a completely different thing. 

If you want to tag your photos properly, you'll need to find and use the most relevant hashtags. This means doing the appropriate research to make sure you're using hashtags that not only describe what you do but are also being searched for on Instagram. So how do you do this?

Have you heard of Webstagram? Not only does it show you the most popular Instagram hashtags, but it also offers a free search tool that allows you to find all the top hashtags related to your post. 

There is also another free site called All Hashtag. It has a "hashtag generator." Be selective with your hashtags. Using the top-rated hashtags might mean that your posts get lost and never seen. 

The important thing is to build your own hashtag list. There are two types of hashtags: BRANDED and COMMUNITY.

Branded, is specific to your company - your company name, for example. It's amazing how many people don't hashtag their own company name, including me! 

Community, like branded hashtags, can connect like-minded users around a specific subject. But, unlike branded hashtags, community hashtags don’t need to be directly related to a business. They can be broader and much less focused. You might decide to do a #happymonday or #TBT (throw-back-Thursday) campaign. This is a great way to engage with a wider community.

A slightly sneaky but great way to discover new and trending hashtags is to check out the hashtags that your competitors and industry influencers use.

Using the right filters.

"Instagram filters can actually make or break your post. By choosing the perfect filter, and your picture can have huge success on Instagram. Choose the wrong filter, and your once beautiful photo with so much potential becomes a flop." - Quote by Olga Rado of Iconosquare

Listed below are the top ten filters according to Olga Rado's blog - The 10 Most Used Instagram Filters. Check out her full blog post for much more information on this fascinating subject! 
  1. Normal - no filter
  2. Clarendon 
  3. Juno
  4. Ludwig
  5. Lark
  6. Gingham
  7. Lo-fi
  8. Aden
  9. Valencia
  10. X-Pro II

Post on Instagram at the right times

Best Times to Post on Social Media: 2018 Industry Research by Alex York is a fabulous article from Sprout Social that gives in-depth details for posting best practices on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Alex suggests that:
  • The best time to post on Instagram is Wednesday at 3 p.m., Thursday at 5 a.m., 11 a.m., and 3 to 4 p.m., and Friday at 5 a.m.
  • Thursday is the best day to post to Instagram.
  • The safest times to post to Instagram are Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Sunday is the least engaging day for Instagram.

You could sign up to ICONOSQUARES (a paid for service), which is a leading analytics and tools to help you to grow your business on Instagram and Facebook. Or Hootsuite, which also offers comparable services plus the ability to manage multiple social media networks from one place. If this is something that you are interested in, I would recommend doing a comparison between the two to see which one works better for you - click HERE

You can also use Instagram Analytics, which is a free service for Instagram Business accounts.

Poach your competitor's followers on Instagram

This might not seem to be the right thing to do, but I assure you that it is very normal in the social media world. It's simple — follow your competitor's followers. To make an impact, you will need to engage with them. Like a photo that they post or, even better, make a comment on their photo. Hopefully, they will start to follow you back! 

There are many other things that you can do to build your Instagram following. Check out this fantastic Shopify Blog - How to Get More Followers on Instagram: 13 Reliable Ways to Grow Your Audience by Richard Lazazzera  Instagram Marketing - I have used many examples from Richard's post.

I really enjoyed researching and writing this blog post. I have read so many blogs and looked at many different sites and services that can really help you to develop your Instagram marketing success. 

For further reaching, check out some previous blog posts I wrote on the benefits of running a successful Instagram campaign.

Instagram — Are You Using It To Grow Your Balloon Business?

Happy Ballooning!



Thursday, August 9, 2018

"Selling the Dream"

How we describe and present our businesses can have a huge impact on how our clients perceive us. I have said many times before; our job is not to sell balloons, our job is to sell the special memories that our balloons make, whether it's a beautiful bouquet of balloons that we deliver for a special occasion or amazing decor that we create for a corporate event, a wedding, or a party.

Last month I attended the Qualatex® Event in Shanghai, China. I had the honour of working with Lily Tan, of Myairtitude in Singapore, Jeff Wong, CBA, of Balloon Factory in Hong Kong, and TingYu Wong of Color Life Production, also from Hong Kong. It was also a great honour to meet some of the wonderful and very talented Chinese balloon artists who attended the event.

Balloon Decor by Jenny Wang of Bing Party Studio, China
So how does my trip to Shanghai have any relevance to my post topic, "Selling the Dream"?

Balloon Decor by Katie Jiang of ZUOYOU,
 Shandong, China.

I love to see the work of other balloon artists from around the world and was both inspired and excited to see beautiful designs created by some of our Chinese delegates. What really stood out for me was that every photograph told a story and shared a dream - a dream that could easily be turned into a wonderful memory.

Selling the dream is not just limited to creative industries such as ours. This is what companies such as IKEA do all the time. They sell the dream with all their fabulous room settings in stores. When people walk around the beautifully displayed rooms, they see a complete lifestyle rather than just a sofa or table. It's a clever concept, as I am sure that many people buy everything they see!

The photo above really brings the room to life! We all know that a celebration is not a celebration without balloons. This beautiful balloon bouquet adds the perfect finishing touch to this lifestyle photograph - the image would not look as vibrant and exciting without it.

Jenny Wang of Bing Party Studio really has a creative eye. Her photo really sets the scene for a romantic occasion - candles, wine, roses, and romance, but without the fabulous balloon heart, the photograph would not have the same impact. Equally, the heart would not have the same impact without the other elements. Being able to create images such as this is a true art that I would love to learn.

Design by Jenny Wang, Bingo Party Studio.

Here's another great photograph from Jenny Wang. A completely different dream setting, but this time for a child's party. What a fabulous photo backdrop!

Design by Jenny Wang, Bingo Party Studio.

Here are some more beautiful photographs that "sell the dream" -  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!

Design by Jenny Wang, Bingo Party Studio.

Design by Calypso Cheng, Nanching, China.

Design by Calypso Cheng, Nanching, China.

Balloon Decor by Katie Jiang of ZUOYOU,
in Shandong, China.

Balloon Decor by Moli Zhu of Bubble Double Balloon Studio, Shanghai, China.

In most cases these photographs are not set in elaborate locations, and the backgrounds are pretty neutral. It is the combination of designs and simple props that have made these images as appealing as they are. 

As much as they say that a picture is worth a thousand words, I do believe that words, too, are very important. Once again, I was inspired when I read these magical words on TingYu's "About" page on his Color Life Production website:
"We believe balloon brings happiness and balloon art brings happiness to others. Color Life Production keens to provide balloon art education and decoration services to different place, to turn every special moments into colorful and happy memories!" 
What a fabulous way to greet your customers and tell them that you are the right person to work with.

I hope that this blog post has inspired you as much as it has inspired me!

Thank you to all the wonderful designers who have shared their photographs with the Very Best Balloon Blog and to Soo Chin Goo who helped me greatly.

Happy Ballooning!


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Highlights From My Amazing Trip To The Qualatex Event Shanghai

Teaching balloon art in a new country is always very exciting, and my recent trip to China was no exception!

On July 18th and 19th, China saw its very first Qualatex Event. Held in Shanghai at the Hyatt Palace, in Shanghai's Hongqiao Business District.

Qualatex Event 2018, Shanghai, China

Wang and Ophelia of QingLing, Shanghai.

The two-day event was organised and co-hosted by Pioneer Balloon Company, represented by Soo Chin Goo, Regional Sales & Education Manager E/SE Asia, and Qualatex distributor, Qingling, represented by Wang and Ophelia.

Soo Chin Goo of Pioneer Balloon Company

Day one was a fun-filled, action-packed day with the theme "Hot Summer." Lily Tan, Jeff Wong, CBA, Tingyu Wong, and myself, taught our designs to an expectant and excited group of delegates. Each instructor offered their uniquely different styles and techniques, which made the day very interesting and extremely informative for the delegates.

Here is a little feedback from some of the delegates: “Miss Lily’s happy and fun way of teaching, letting us deeply understand that the balloon can not only make people fame and fortune, but they can also make people so cute and happy. She teaches us not to be constrained by the techniques and to pay attention to details, details decide on the success or failure of the work. It also tells us that the work represents itself, so we must take each and every one of our works seriously."
Jeff Wong, CBA.

 "I was very impressed with Jeff's class. The process of shaping the aluminum will change the way we make frames, especially the heart shape. It can be bent at the same time to make the secret of symmetry on both sides very useful!" 
Tingyu Wong.
"Teacher A Yu mainly talked about how to make the irregular 'organic' balloon chain look better, and the importance of design sense. He also spoke about the color matching skills of the design. Teacher A Yu is a big, energetic boy, who had a good sense of design and aesthetics and interacts well with the students, making people feel very comforatble."

Hands-on with Tingyu

Day one concluded with a wonderfully relaxed and happy evening of fabulous food and entertainment organised for the delegates, instructors, and hosts at a neighbouring hotel. When we arrived, we were greeted with some of the stunning decor that had been made during the classes earlier that day, plus some further decor created by Lily and Tingyu.

The buffet dinner was a tour around the globe with so many choices of beautiful food! I was in seafood heaven! 

After dinner, a Mystery Box competition had been arranged without any prior notice to the delegates! There were eight slots available with two people per team. The theme echoed the same theme as the party - Hot Summer! Each team was presented with a closed box of balloon products, which they could create their own unique design from during the allocated thirty minutes. The competition was very enthusiastic, and the improvisation was very exciting. 

After much deliberation, it was unanimously decided by the instructors that Joey Gao and Song Ye of Balloon Kingdom in Shenyan, China,were the Mystery Box winners!  

Joey Gao and Song Ye of Balloon Kingdom - winners of the Mystery Box competition.

The evening was a great opportunity for the delegates to relax, socialise, and network with other balloon artists across China.

Day two was my turn to share some of my design ideas and techniques with our fabulous group of delegates. The day was filled with new baby and wedding decor, too, both subjects that I love to teach. 

Organic style wedding arches and hearts! 

Flamingo Birthday Decor by Sue Bowler, CBA
I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such a fabulous group of very talented delegates. I was very excited and impressed to see a selection of their everyday work - balloons and elegant balloon decor are certainly thriving in China! 

Finally, congratulations on the successful conclusion of China's first Qualatex Event. 
"From this exchange meeting, you can feel the thriving development of China's new generation of balloon artists! Let us work together to create the success of China's 'Balloon Pioneers' with the quality of Qualatex and contribute to the better life of the society!" - Soo Chin Goo, Pioneer Balloon Company.
I truly enjoyed my trip to Shanghai. I have been blessed that balloons have given me the opportunity to visit some incredible places around the world. Meeting, spending time, and working with Lily, Jeff, and Tingyu was a highlight of my trip, all very warm natured, generous, and talented instructors. I built so many wonderful memories with Soo Chin, Ophelia, and Wang, our amazing hosts! And finally, the awesome delegates who made my trip to Shanghai very memorable - thank you to all!

I was so impressed with the work of some of our delegates from China that I will be featuring a selection of their designs and the artists who made them on next week's Very Best Balloon Blog! 

Happy Ballooning!


Friday, July 27, 2018

Building Those Stunning Disney PRIDE UK & Ireland Mouse Heads - My Day Working With Stuart Davies

Earlier this month I was given the opportunity in London to join Stuart Davies, CBA, of Beyond Balloons in South Wales along with his very talented son and daughter, Kai and Kerys Davies, to assist with building the fabulous interactive decor for Walt Disney International for the 2018 Pride London Parade.

Rainbow Mouse Heads designed by Stuart, Kai and Kerys Davies

Stuart first landed this fabulous contract with Disney last year for the 2017 Pride London Parade. After his amazing success, Disney did not hesitate to ask him to design and make the decor once again. Stuart was also commissioned to create the decor for Disney at the 2018 Dublin Pride, too! 

The Big Picture 

Being able to give a client a clear idea of what you are proposing is a great way to get them excited. Stuart shares his proposal design. Above is the proposal which Stuart designed using Microsoft Publisher and below is the actual end result! 

Stuart confesses that at the proposal stage he had not worked out how he was going to make each of the designs - he still had plenty of time to do that! Stuart said "At this concept stage you don't need a huge amount of detail. Your job is to give that 'Big Picture.' The emotions, the feelings, the impact it will have - the detail comes later."

Probably one of Stuart's biggest challenges was to design the rainbow-striped Mickey Mouse heads.

There were four major issues in creating this design:

1. Converting a 2D design into 3D. 
2. Creating a viable structure more than 4ft. in size that could be moved around. Plus, a design that could be taught to others and created relatively quickly.
3. Making it light enough to carry above head height and strong enough to withstand the movement and attention it would get during a six-hour long parade through London, enduring wind and searing heat.
4, Ensuring it had no visible supporting collar on the connecting pole, which was just 14mm or 1/2 in. in diameter, and that it could be twisted, turned, and swung around with no movement from pole to balloon structure.

Stuart said that "In doing this we had to develop three new techniques. We did NOT use nets, NO alternate duplet square pack and NO Bead technique.

My initial concept idea and theoretical design involved over forty-seven mathematical calculations to get the sizing correct! Then as my co-designers, Kerys supported the development of the 1st prototype and Kai led on the development of the invisible cradle.

What we achieved as a team was a great design that looked as though it was magically attached to a 1/2 inch pole, just like we suggested in our concept drawings!"

Here are some truly magical photographs from the day. The balloons make such a huge impact!

Disney PRIDE UK & Ireland

Disney PRIDE UK & Ireland

Disney PRIDE UK & Ireland

Disney PRIDE UK & Ireland

Disney PRIDE UK & Ireland

Stuart with Kai and Kelsey

For me, this was a fabulous opportunity to work with Stuart, Kai, and Kerys. I really enjoyed my day working at the Disney Store in London, albeit, tucked away in one of their large prop rooms, which to be honest was perfect as it was a very hot day outside and it meant that we could keep the balloons and us nice and cool! And look who I met whilst I was there! 

My job was to work on the Mickey Heads, which was great! Seeing a familiar technique applied in a totally new way was very exciting - your secret is safe with me, Stuart!

I am very proud to say that I was part of the team who made these two beautiful mouse heads!

Working with other balloon artists.

How often do we get the opportunity to work alongside other balloon artists? I cannot recommend strongly enough to take any opportunities you can to work with other balloon artists. It might be that you are relatively new to working with balloons and are looking for hands-on experience. Or maybe like me, you are keen to learn and work on an exciting project - it's not every day that you get the opportunity to work on a Disney project!

A huge congratulations to Stuart, his team, and the fabulous Disney employees who also worked really hard to prepare the decor! 

The Team: Stuart Davies, Nicci Rene, Julie Dommett, Vicky Earl, Sue Bowler, Kai Davies
Kerys Davies & Kelsey Evens.

Pride Parades are becoming big business. I spoke to a few balloon companies who said that this year they had seen a big rise in demand for decor leading up to the Pride Parade in London, maybe this could be a new opportunity for you?

Happy Ballooning!


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Confetti Dots Centrepiece Idea and the New Confetti Dots Deco Bubbles

Centrepiece design by Sue Bowler, CBA.

Everyone loves the NEW Qualatex® "Confetti Dots" Deco Bubbles! They are a fabulous addition to the Qualatex Bubble range.

As we all know, confetti balloons are extremely popular and are perfect for so many different occasions! I love to make confetti-filled Bubbles, especially when I have a specific colour request, or if I am matching decor that I have made. However, these new "Confetti Dots" Bubbles are so quick and easy to use and make a fabulous addition to balloon arrangements.

I created this fun, air-filled centrepiece using the Plexipoles System that has been designed specifically for balloon professionals to make centrepiece designs. PlexiPoles are made from a high-quality acrylic and plexiglass product. The flat base, and elegant clear design of the poles are simply perfect for the job! 

To complement the "Pink Confetti Dot" Bubble, I used a range of Pink 5" and 11" latex balloons and added some Silver Chrome and Grey balloons, too - I felt that this would bring a little bit of sophistication to my design and that fabulous shine that Chrome balloons always do! 

For those of you who are wondering how I have 5" Silver Chrome balloons, they are in fact 11" Silver Chrome with a 5" balloon inside to help create the right size and shape.

I used some pink dot cellophane to bring a little texture to my design. Firstly, the cellophane was a perfect match and it can be easily made into "picks" that can be carefully inserted into the gaps between the balloons. The easiest way to make the "picks" is to cut your cellophane or tissue into squares, then use a balloon straw to find the centre of the square and give it a little twist. I like to glue my picks into place when I add them to my design to ensure that they don't fall out. I also added a few tiny balloons, which I felt gave a little more detail to what is fundamentally a very simple design. The tiny balloons are simply the tips of 260Qs that I have inflated and secured using glue dots. If you are wondering what I have used on the pole, it is a small length of cellophane that I have wrapped around.

Printed cellophane is very popular and quite easy to find. I recommend using your favourite search engine and type "Polka Dot Cellophane."

Here are some more fabulous design ideas using these wonderful new balloons.

I love this personalised "Pink Confetti Dots" Deco Bubble balloon - I also love the eye-catching video that LaylaRai created to show it off to their customers! This balloon and video were made by Events By LaylaRai in Stanford Le Hope, England. 

Here is another great design that was made by Ben Escalante, of Deco Globos, in Xalapa, Mexico. The "Colourful Confetti Dots" are perfect for this birthday balloon, with added tassels and a complementary base.

And finally, this beautiful Baby Boy Confetti Bubbles and Clouds by Cam Woody, CBA, of Pioneer Balloon Company.

Cam has complemented her balloon arrangement with the 11" "Oh Baby" latex balloon inside the Bubble. This Deco Bubble balloon has been designed with a clear central window to allow any message latex balloon to be seen easily.

These balloons are now available from your Qualatex Distributors, so don't delay, and add them to your design range - your customers will love them!

24" "Blue Confetti Dots" #57789
24" "Pink Confetti Dots" #57790
24" "Colourful Confetti Dots" #57791

Happy Ballooning!