Don’t let her age fool you, Margaret Zhang has an immense personal brand. Firstly, there’s her popular blog, ShineByThree. Then there's the 382,000 Instagram followers, waiting with baited breath for her next post.

Forget Instagram it-girl, being Margaret Zhang is serious business. Yet she makes it look effortless. We went along to her presentation at VAMFF’s Business Series Marketing Breakfast to find out how she does it.

Do:

1. Know your customers
Zhang says brands need to start by asking themselves some questions: “Is your customer growing with you? Are they growing into your brand or growing out of it?” If you don’t know the answer, it’s time for some research. You need to find out more about the people you’re engaging with, “Right down to the tea they take, and the time they use social media in the morning.”

2. Listen to your target market
Despite its youthful exterior, most people in charge in fashion are older than those they’re selling to. If brands and retailers want to understand their customers, they shouldn't look past the person fetching their morning coffee. “More often than not your 18–25-year-old interns are the people you want to target,” Zhang says.

3. Know your media landscape
Your parents, and even grandparents, are using social media more. So that’s why they keep asking you what a retweet is. These demographic shifts affect everyone in fashion, from labels to models. Zhang points to Instagram as a great example of swift change, “It’s not really about real time on Instagram anymore, it’s about creating a brand and a lifestyle.”

Don't:

1. Buy engagement
“Don’t buy followers,” Zhang says. “Don’t throw money at sponsored posts on Instagram or Facebook. They are short-term fixes.” Instead, focus on longer-term goals for how you’re going to market yourself. Don’t just react to what you think people want. If you have a strong vision of what you want your brand to be, stick to that and your audience will learn.

2. Think your consumer is stupid
This one should be 101, but unfortunately many established brands are resting on their laurels. The key is authenticity. “Never underestimate how well your customer can judge what you do,” Zhang says. “Your company is never too big or too important to stop growing and learning.”

3. Recycle
Cans and paper? That's fine, but content is a no-go. “Don’t reuse other companies’ content,” Zhang says. “Nobody knows your brand better than you.” Fashion finds a natural home on Instagram, but if you want to stand out you need to invest some time. Focus on creating imagery that’s cohesive and speaks to your personal brand.

@margaret_zhang
shinebythree.com