We sat down with Nargis Jafferali, founder of blazon, a digital marketing company that helps other startups to grow.
We spoke to Nargis about the exciting and organic birth and growth of blazon, which started a month before the pandemic hit. Her stance on the rise of TikTok and how creative freelancers can best brand their services online with a personal flair is insightful to say the least. We recommend reading further to know more about Nargis’ business journey and her advice and insights on digital marketing for small creative businesses and startups.
Wishu: When did the lightbulb moment to found your social media company blazon turn its light on?
Nargis: We launched in February 2020 literally just before the pandemic. We all come from a world of startups, in fact my co-founder Demos Demetriou has only ever worked for startups. During our last project we were looking into outsourcing marketing. Ideally we hoped to find an agency to take over the social side of marketing in a way that was affordable for a startup but also understood how a startup works. We struggled to find one. The only option was to end up doing it ourselves in-house. Then interestingly, after a few conversations with other startups via networking etc we found that many others shared our problem. A couple startups even came to us and asked us to do their socials. That’s where blazon was born essentially! The beginning was very DIY and a bit frantic but a silver lining of the pandemic was that it allowed us the time to focus on blazon, not to mention how the importance of social media soared during the pandemic which meant that clients needed our services more than ever. We’ve now started working with more established brands as well as with the early day startups. We’re always refining our processes and updating our work to the ever changing industry of social media.
Wishu: That sounds like such an organic process and almost as if it happened by accident and you’ve applied all your skills to it. Do you have any advice for creative freelancers in regards to maybe the magic balance, if it exists, between creating content and applying strategy (numbers, data analysis etc)?
Nargis: I wish there was a magic balance! Our mantra is testing. Especially on the organic side, testing is crucial. It’s about constantly finding what the sweet spot might be. For some brands, posting everyday works, for others that may be overkill and a couple of LinkedIn posts a week works. It is very specific to the brand, sector, audience, platform etc. You have to look at all sides of our coin: research your market, test out what works and look at the analytics. For example, if you’re a creative freelancer who is writing blogs but they’re not really getting the traction, ask yourself if the language, format or aesthetic needs changing? We will have startups that don’t need loads of reports ironically because they’re so new. Instead they need to focus simply on creating content and attracting followers. So even metrics wise, it’s tailored.
Wishu: Does the same thing apply in terms of types of content? There are so many types of content these days from Reels/TikToks to IGTVs to images, tweets etc. Is there a way to know which works best for different types of brands as a way to cut through the noise?
Nargis: I think it really varies. It’s a double-edged sword because of the lack of formatting which is the beauty of creativity – the ability to always experiment – but sometimes we would prefer to have a rulebook. Social media is so fast paced as well, something that worked two months ago might not work this week or if it will, how can we tweak it?
Wishu: If anything showed us fast paced it’s TikTok. What are your views on TikTok in terms of pros and cons from a creative perspective?
Nargis: From a creative perspective it’s another great vehicle for expression in a way we haven’t seen before. As creatives, we soak that up! It’s funny because it started as dance challenges and naturally businesses started to capitalize on it. I’m very excited by it as are the team, nothing is off the table for us in terms of being creative. It’s not for everyone, we have clients who are very corporate and of course it doesn’t make sense for them to be on TikTok. But for personal brands there’s lots that can be done with it. It’s great for showing another side to you. The mystery of it, due to its novelty, is also intriguing. There’s a massive opportunity for advertising for example.
Wishu: Thanks for such an optimistic answer! With TikTok you never know someone’s stance.
Nargis: Yeah for sure I’m super excited about it. We’re testing all the time. We do a lot on Instagram Reels actually and even that is interesting because some things work great on Reels but not so much on TikTok and vice versa. As long as we keep pushing ourselves and coming up with new ideas we’re happy.
Wishu: A lot of our users use social media as a portfolio. Do you think it is more effective for their online presence to be very professional or have a more personal flair?
Nargis: I would argue that the personal brand is more important than ever. If you’re a creative freelancer trying to put yourself out there, there are now more ways to stand out and demonstrate your unique brand. It’s also what clients are looking for. While someone’s services may be great, we live in a society where, naturally, people want more – what does the creator look like, what are they into, their influences etc? It gives that other layer and therefore more of a leg up because it adds more life to your brand. The personal side will give you that edge.
Wishu: What do you think of ‘The rise of, and need for, video in social media marketing’? And what importance does video content have currently for social media?
Nargis: The numbers speak for themselves and it plays well into the culture we adopt now. Video is a quick and easy way to ingest information and entertainment in a world where we are all moving. Most studies show video isn’t going anywhere and only has room for growth.
Wishu: What are your feelings about the Metaverse – do we, as creatives, need or even want it? Many such as the data engineer Frances Haugen have expressed concerns of safety and privacy not being met?
Nargis: It’s a fascinating topic. I confess there’s so much to research in terms of what it stands for. Society’s immediate reaction was memes but we are getting to a point where we need to start to break this down! On the surface, it’s a progression towards VR and AI and naturally, we are heading this way. In terms of creative space, I do think that we work better as a community so the idea of an interconnected world is great in that sense. Bringing creatives together in a virtual space could be fantastic when it comes to producing work. But safety and privacy should be the number one priority and the way Zuckerberg tackles that will show whether he cares to produce something sustainable and positive rather than just for profit. So only time will tell.
Wishu: As a female working in social media, what are your feelings on the sort of feminist paradox between female rights awareness growing on social media vs the online bullying of young girls who are having to look at themselves and their appearance now more than ever?
Nargis: Social media generally is a double edged sword. It’s a vehicle for good and evil. On one side it’s great to connect with the world and it’s created so many opportunities and eye opening streams of information. It’s a way for everyone to have an opinion and showcase their personality and in that way it’s wonderfully diverse and inclusive. But on the other hand opportunities for cyber bullying and trolling grow from this and there can be a downside to being too bare and vulnerable on social media. This is where better censorship comes in because right now anyone can say anything. We therefore as women have to brace ourselves before posting anything and asking ourselves if we are ready for the possible negative backlash to a picture or video of ourselves. My message to other women would definitely be to handle it with care and if you feel uncomfortable, come off it because the great thing about social media is that it doesn’t have to be real life. It takes courage but having people around to support you is key.