The leap from social for fun to social for business can be confusing. The landscape is always shifting and it can be hard to know where to start. But social media can open up new opportunities to your handmade business and help you reach a new base of customers.
So it is worth figuring out.
We spoke with three savvy creative entrepreneurs from the craft industry to find out how they use social media for business and how they conquered the hurdles all of us face.
Hi! Can you tell us who are you and what you make and where we can find you on Insta, FB, etc?
I’m an author, designer, instructor, and on-air personality in the knit, crochet & craft worlds. For more scoop, go to: vickiehowell.com, I can be found on Facebook.com/vickiehowell, Youtube.com/user/vickiehowell, Pinterest.com/iamvickiehowell/, and on Instagram & Twitter: @vickiehowell.
My name is Andreea Ayers and I am the founder of LaunchGrowJoy.com, where I dish out advice for online store owners and ecommerce entrepreneurs. You can find me at facebook.com/launchgrowjoy and twitter.com/andreeaayers
Meighan O’Toole, I’m a digital strategist that empowers artists, makers, and small online shop owners to build a creative online strategy that they can be proud of. I’m also an aspiring watercolor artist! Please find me at meighanotoole.com, Instagram: @meigsotoole, Twitter: @meigs, Periscope: @meigs, Snapchat: @meigsotoole Pinterest: @meigsotoole
We often hear that social media can help grow a business, but we don’t often hear how. Can you tell us how social media supports your business?
Vickie: Social media is as crucial to my business as the books I write, the products I design, and the projects I produce. The crafting industry (including knitting & crochet –the sect I’m most immersed in) is a community-based industry. As with any hobby genre, its enthusiasts keep the industry afloat through their passion. They want to be around people who do X craft, hear about X craft, watch videos about X craft, go to events centered on X craft, see photos of X craft, collect ideas about X craft, buy products about X craft — you get the idea. This is where social media can be a gift for creative entrepreneurs. For the first time ever, we can communicate directly to our fan base & consumer community, worldwide, to nourish relationships and make them feel heard/seen/acknowledged. That open dialogue is invaluable in particular when your M.O. is to inspire people (for whatever reason — whether it be for profit, publicity, or just general food feelings.) If you can (virtually) bring people along with you on your own, creative journey then your followers will thereby help, both spiritually and financially, help pave the pathway towards a continued career doing what it is that you love most.
Andreea: Social media allows me to connect with my audience in a place other than their inbox. I recently set up a free Facebook support group for my blog readers and it’s been working amazingly well – it gives me the chance to answer their questions and interact with them, without selling anything.
Meighan: Social media is such a powerful tool to help anyone build and promote their business. The key is finding focus and a developing a solid strategy.
Social media has allowed me to share information and my own expertise with my audience and prospective clients. But it also avails me the ability to be accessible and show that I too am creating my own path on social media. I get to connect to prospective clients, build a community that values my content (and art), and trusts me, and share what I know in a way that gives back to my community. That’s been huge!”
What are the primary differences between a personal profile and one for business?
Vickie: A personal profile is who you are to your friends and family, a business profile should be your best face forward. In other words, social media is great for personal use when it comes to sharing an infinite amount of posts of kids playing, daily minutia, photos of what you’re eating, how you’re feeling, etc. Bombarding your business accounts with that same info will not only do a disservice to any plans of clear branding, but also likely lose you some followers. People have friends they follow whom they can get that stuff for. If they’re following your business page they are interested in your business, and want that perfect balance information and inspiration with a dash of personal info so they feel like they’re in your “crowd.”
Andreea: One of the main differences is that my business profile allows me to also run ads to my audience and I use it strictly for business purposes (although once in a while I do share some personal stuff).
Meighan: As the landscape gets noisier online it is so important to create content that sets you apart. Each platform is different of course, but in my experience and what I have seen with my clients is if you want to drive traffic, gain exposure, and make sales, it is important to keep very personal things away from your professional accounts and to keep your look and feel as on topic as possible. Of course selfies and peeks into your real life are important and give your followers something to relate to, but your message should always support and build your business in the long run. Too many selfies, pets, and shots of personal outings that do not relate to your brand can leave your audience in a position of simply not relating to what your message is.
Do you have different objectives for different social streams?
Vickie: Definitely. Facebook is like my community center: I host weekly live videos there, hold make-alongs, post photos of what projects I’m working on, inspirational memes, promote projects, correspond with followers, share insider looks at events, etc. Pinterest is purely for reference, inspiration, and aspiration. Followers can find photos with direct links to my designs/patterns/projects, but also spy a curated view of my over all style and interests. Instagram is connection through pretty shots of daily projects, tools of the trade, beautiful projects, some inspirational quotes, and the occasional event or kid photos (but only when they related to knitting, crafting, crochet, DIY, decor, etc.) Twitter, I use for more business-related topics, or for specific events. If I want to give live updates of happenings from a venue, it’s much less obnoxious to post them in succession on Twitter because of the brevity and pace of the streams.
Andreea: Yes, I use Twitter to connect with my peers and I use Facebook to connect with my target audience.
Meighan: Absolutely. I have a defined and concrete strategy for all of my social media platforms. I encourage everyone to do this. You don’t have to be as nitty gritty as I am, but create outlines for what you share (and won’t) across your platforms. It makes it so much easier and organized in the long run.
My objectives look like this: Instagram is almost all about my new art hobby – watercolor painting. This way I literally demonstrate how to build a robust and engaged audience around one’s work. I also share social media tips there at least once a week. Twitter is about sharing trusted content that educates my followers on topics such as social media, creating an online presence, and Internet and tech culture. Facebook is similar to Twitter, but I mainly just share my own content (blog posts) and key articles about resources and social media tips. Periscope is all about mini-workshops: hanging out with my audience, answering their questions, and offering real, tangible information that people can put into place immediately. Pinterest is a mixture of personal and professional for me. Because they allow different boards I can share all of my interests (Art and building an online strategy) in a way that my followers can pick and choose what they want to engage with. Snapchat is casual and ephemeral – fun, quick snapshots into my daily life.
How do you get people off of Instagram (or Pinterest or Facebook) and onto a site or into a shop?
Vickie: Instagram is a tough nut. The only free way (currently) to get people to the URL you want them to is by posting the link in your profile and then referencing it in your post. Not ideal, but still noteworthy. Facebook & Pinterest are much easier because you can directly link to your content/destination. With Pinterest, “rich pins” (which include the original pinner’s info, link, and photo sized for optimal view.). For Facebook, uploading photos (or even better, video) natively (vs. just posting a link on its own) helps more of your followers to actually see your content.
Andreea: You offer them something of value! For example, I might share an article on Facebook about how to price your products and I’ll tell them that if they head on over to my website they can get a free pricing calculator.
Meighan: I discuss blog posts that offer help immediately to my audience. I talk about social media in a way that can give them tangible and actionable resources and tips, and then direct them to a link in my profile that I’ve edited prior to my post directing them to my website. For me social media is all about building a relationship and driving traffic. It’s important to continually find new ways to do that, because let’s face it if you aren’t doing that you are simply wasting time online. I’ve found mentioning ‘link in bio’ is a great way to get your followers to interact with your website or shop. I’ve also found great success with posting about a Periscope broadcast I plan on doing the day of, that has been wildly successful. Giving your followers reasons to click is key!
Let us learn from you. What is the biggest mistake you’ve made on social and how did you fix it?
Vickie: My biggest mistake has probably been that I was so focused on the work I was doing for television and videos for other companies (because those paid the bills), that I really didn’t put much effort into creating a strong YouTube audience. Had I known that it would become as impressive to be a well-known Youtuber as it was to have shows on DIY Network & HGTV (as I did), I might have spent more time on it. Now, though I’m building up video content there — not necessarily for the following, but just so I have my own video content to refer followers (from other social media venues) to.
Andreea: Not having a strategy and posting whenever I had time! I fixed that by hiring someone to manage my social media and being intentional about the type of content I was sharing.
Meighan: The biggest mistake I have made in the past is not sharing consistently how people can hire me and what I offer as a digital strategist. (ie: hard sells about my consulting.) I really thought (like many new to business) that I would ‘annoy’ people and that if they wanted to hire me, duh they can put 2 + 2 together! Nope. That’s just not how it works anymore. The Internet is WAY too noisy, you have to set yourself apart and make it very clear to people what you do, why they should use/buy your products, and how they can make it happen.
Last year, I realized that although my business was chugging along, I just wasn’t growing at all, and really wanted to make changes that lead to growth. So I completely overhauled my own social media strategy and basically did for me what I do for my clients. I also started working with an accountability partner and made a list of my goals, and then set out to meet them. I tracked all of my progress and implemented actions to increase my traffic and sales. I also invested in my business with 3rd party tools and sought out professional development. It’s not only been rewarding and incredible but I’ve learned so much that I can now share with my clients. Total win win!
Do you bother with Twitter? Should anyone?
Vickie: I bother …ish. I used to have an auto-post set up so everything from Facebook posted simultaneously on Twitter. Unfortunately, though that excluded any images so it wasn’t optimal. I’m playing with it again, these days. I’ve found it to be a meaningful way to track/communicate with tech-industry types which doesn’t necessarily apply directly to my business, but potentially could in the future. I also use it sometimes when I’m at an event that I think at least some of my followers would like to follow frequent updates on. Since a tweet has the shelf life of only 24 minutes, it’s a great platform for quick & dirty posting. 🙂
Andreea: Yes, Twitter has been great for me to connect with my peers and to support them by sharing their content.
Meighan: I do. Twitter is my 2nd driver of traffic, and it’s important for me to not ignore that no matter what the media or general sentiment is saying. The best way to find out if you should be using a platform is to check your analytics and see where your traffic comes from. Knowing that Twitter is one of my biggest traffic drivers is something that I need to take advantage of and use to benefit my business.
What are some of your fave third party tools?
Vickie: I use Canva and PicMonkey almost daily for creating graphics. Picflow (for iPhone) is great for turning a few images into a quickie movie for Facebook or Instagram. I also like WordSwag (also on my phone) for creating pretty quotes.
Meighan: Edgar! Edgar is a social media scheduling platform and it is incredible. It saves me so much time and energy because of the way in which it is built. You fill it up with content you want to share online, and then it keeps sharing it – creating a library of your content. It’s genius. I also really like PeopleMap a new analytics platform for Instagram. It allows you to create lists of accounts so you can keep tabs on influencers, competition, and just be inspired. It also recently offered helpful and informative statistics which are the best I’ve seen so far for a free tool.
Any bonus tips on setting up a social strategy?
Vickie: Honestly, I mostly go with my gut. I usually suggest, though that people pick 3 platforms to begin with and do them well, vs spreading themselves too thin by piling up more social media work than they can realistically stay on top off. The content monster must be fed frequently to be functional at all.
Andreea: When it comes to social media, it can be extremely overwhelming. Pick 2-3 networks where your audience spends their time and focus on those rather than trying to be everywhere!
Meighan: First and foremost define your goals. If you don’t understand what your goals are for social media you’re wasting your time because you can’t post strategically to meet those goals. Secondly, create systems to save yourself time so you don’t get sucked into a rabbit hole or sap your energy because you feel like you are not doing enough. Schedule your social media and check social media only during downtime. Take care of your business!
Anything you’d like to add?
Vickie: Take a deep breath. It can seem overwhelming, but if you utilize apps for your smartphone which enable integrating social media into daily life, then it all seems a heck of a lot more manageable.
Meighan: Social media does not do the hard work! You do! Social media is a vehicle for your hard work. Stay informed about platform changes, new trends, and continually think how your business can be better and evolve online and you’ll continue to build a solid online presence.
Want more great insights on improving your handmade business from veteran crafters? Download the the Make a Profit Guidebook. It covers everything from how to use social media for business to advanced Etsy selling techniques.