Monday, July 28, 2008

A Promotional Tip for Artists and Crafters: Using Social Networking Sites for Your Advantage to Market Your Etsy Shop and Handmade Wares

This is the second article in my Promotional Tips series. Hopefully you found my first article on Mailing Lists and Email Newsletters to be helpful in some way. This latest article on making the most of social networking sites for marketing is yet another way for you to increase exposure of your handmade items and thus increase sales as well. I know that there are a lot of varying opinions on the true business related usefulness of belonging to a social networking site, but I obviously think that they serve their purpose for promoting since I'm writing this article. In order to make my point, please read on to find some tips and resources regarding social networking and promotions.

First of all, for those of you that are unfamiliar, what is a social networking site? Well, according to Wikipedia, they are "online communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others." Essentially, social networking sites allow people to come together and communicate with one another in an easy online format. You might ask how this could possibly be used for marketing purposes. There are obvious reasons such as making new connections with prospective buyers and getting your business name out there. For most of us, the small arts and crafts business owner, our biggest setbacks to selling can be the lack of publicity that our business receives; and therefore, the lack of traffic to our shops and websites. Many of you are probably in the same boat that I'm in when it comes to advertising and marketing budgets, and it is a very tiny boat with a lot of potential and little collateral. This means that taking advantage of free social networking sites and other free advertising resources to increase our business name recognition may be essential in order to grow our businesses.

You might be wondering, with so many social networking sites out there, where do I begin? I'd say that you should begin by doing some research about networking sites and about your own arts and crafts business. Hopefully, by reading my article, you are half way there and will know the basics of social networking sites. On the other hand, you really need to know a little about your business to be effective in using social networking sites. First, who is your target market? Age? Sex? Economic status? Etc.? This will help you to know what social networking sites might be the best choice and will make the most of your precious time. Next, what is your goal with social networking? Is it to makes sales? Most of us would say a definitive "YES!" to that which is certainly not wrong, but the true purpose of a social networking site is to make connections with people. These connections and acquaintance relationships are what can eventually lead to sales. Finally, is joining a social networking site worth your time? Time is precious, especially when you are a lone horse running your own small up and coming arts and crafts business. Let's face it, most of us would much rather be creating something new than on our computers blogging or posting or whatever else. Well, the truth is that being part of a social networking site is just going to take up a bit more of your precious time so decide for yourself if it is worth it you and your business endeavors, and if you'll like being part of a networking community.

So you've decided to join one or several social networks......... where do you go and what do you do? In my resource section below, you'll find a long list of social networking sites. Most, if not all, are absolutely free to join! There are many different kinds of social networking sites as you can see from my different categorizations. In my resource list, you will find some generic social networking sites as well as some specifically arts, crafts, handmade, or indie business oriented networks. These are not your only options though. Although it is helpful and fun to be part of an arts or crafts specific social network, being part of any network can be helpful to your business in some way. You might have a hobby that has nothing to do with your arts and crafts. Find a social network for it and join. You can always list your website and/or shop information in your profile. And, you also must consider when you join a specific arts and crafts related network, that you might be preaching to the choir when trying to promote your fabulous handmade items there. Not to say that you won't get some sales from it because you certainly can, but you are entering an already saturated market. Arts and crafts specific networks can be great places for information though, and of course, wonderful places to chat with like-minded people who will often times be an encouragment and guide you in your crafty business endeavors. Every kind of network has its place. I suggest that you pick and choose a few that will be interesting and helpful to you. Then you can also incorporate marketing and promoting your handmade items as well. And, If you can't find a social network that suits you or you just want one of your very own, then start your own social network through Ning.

Now that you've decided to take the plunge and network a bit through social networking sites, here's a list of ways to go about promoting.................
1. Be sure to put a good description of you, your business, and your wonderful handmade items. On most social networking sites, you will have your very own page and profile. And, don't be shy about it! Make it known that you have gorgeous stuff to sell!
2. Be sure to list links to all your online selling venues, website, and blog. You want potential buyers to know exactly where to go to find your handmade wares. List all the important links that you can, but don't go overboard. You don't want it to get crowded and confusing - just make sure that people can find your products.
3. Put an Etsy mini and/or slide show on your page. Most social networking pages support code that will allow you to put an Etsy mini and/or slide show of your items. Is there a better way to get someone's attention than offering visual eye candy? I don't think so! Don't clutter your page, but do add some tasteful product photos in the form of an Etsy mini and/or slide show.
4. Add the rss feed of your blog and/or shop. Most social networking sites will allow you to add one or more rss feeds to your page. You can easily copy/paste a little code to add a live feed of your latest blog posts or listed shop items.
5. Upload photos and videos to your page. If you have an option for this, make good use of it. It only means more exposure for your items. And, how to videos are a great way to attract attention!
6. Use your social network page's blog. Most social network sites offer a blogging option. If you don't want to think of new blog entries for all your social networks, simply copy/paste the same on each network or use your own individual blog's content to do so. Often times, when you make a blog entry, it will pop up on the main page of the social network, at least it does in many ning networks. This is great exposure!
7. Make contacts! I can not stress this one enough. That's a main point of being part of a social network. It is worth your time to continually add new friends or contacts. Most likely, each of those new friends or contacts will check out your page, and find your links and lovely item photos too! And, if they like what they see, they may tell a friend or two as well.
8. If you wholesale or consign, make it known. Fellow artists and crafters are not the only ones checking out social networking sites. There could be potential wholesale buyers as well. You never know when a great brick and mortar shop might find you through your myspace page or on indiepublic or another social networking site.
9. Try to get featured. Some of the arts and crafts oriented social networking sites feature their members. If you belong to one that does, find out how to get featured. Honestly, you may not be chosen to be featured, but it never hurts to try, and if you are featured, what great exposure!
10. Be helpful. Post in your social network's forums, but remember that you're representing your business so be professional. You probably have a lot of tips to share so start sharing!
11. Join groups. Most social networks have a variety of groups to be a part of. Be sure to join some groups that are appropriate to you and your interests. I have found joining groups to be quite helpful in promoting as well as learning valuable information from others.
12. Link back to your social network pages when possible. If you have a website or post in other forums where a signature line is permissible, link back to a couple of your social network pages. You'd be surprised to find how you can get new contacts this way, and it will increase your overall exposure too.
13. Take advantage of their site email and bulletins. Okay, so you don't want to be spamming your contacts, but occasionally sending out an update message or sale announcement is perfectly acceptable.
14. Your page shows up in google searches! This isn't really a helpful tip, but more a simple fact. By having social network pages, you are increasing your chances of showing up in internet searches.

Finally, you might ask "Are social networking sites going to really increase my sales?" The honest truth is that the answer to this question is different for everyone. It really depends on you, your specific art or craft, etc., etc., etc., but it never hurts to give it a try. For social networking sites to be effective marketing tools, it can take time and effort. You have to decide if it is a worthwhile way to market for you. And, if it doesn't work out, you can move on to the next online marketing option. Speaking of, be on the lookout for my next article in my series on Promotional Tips for online advertising.

And, for anyone who'd like to befriend me as a contact, here's some of my social networking profiles:
thefunkyfelter on indiepublic
thefunkyfelter on weloveetsy
thefunkyfelter on myspace
thefunkyfelter on workingwithfelt
thefunkyfelter on talentdatabase



RESOURCE INFORMATION

GENERAL SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES:
www.myspace.com
www.facebook.com
www.poshmama.com
www.ladieswholaunch.com
www.stylehive.com
www.squidoo.com
www.twitter.com
www.teamsugar.com

ARTS & CRAFTS SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES:
www.talentdatabase.com
www.getcrafty.com
www.craftster.org
www.deviantart.com
www.theswitchboards.com
www.artbistro.com
www.creativestem.com
www.smidge.ca
www.ravelry.com
www.feltingforum.com

NING BASED SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES:
indiepublic.ning.com
etsylove.ning.com
workingwithfelt.ning.com
considerations.ning.com
buriedtreasury.ning.com
yourhandmade.ning.com
thecreativespirit.ning.com
indieluv.ning.com
howdoigetmyselfoutthere.ning.com
FiberartsMixedmedia.ning.com
marmaladepink.ning.com
doyouetsy.ning.com

MORE SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES OF ALL KINDS:
List of Social Networking Websites from Wikipedia
FindaSocialNetwork.com as suggested by the Social Network Review blog


I'd like to know your experience with social networking and what sites you recommend and enjoy. Please leave a comment! Let me and my readers know what you think!


**The image is a screen shot of my IndiePublic page.
**I, the funky felter, do not endorse any specific social networking sites. I only try to provide a thorough reference list for you to decide for yourself.

6 comments:

  1. Great info! Thanks for the great networking links!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi there, So where does flickr fall? Is that also a social networking site?

    Very good informayion. I've got more to look at now

    ReplyDelete
  3. thanks for your comments! I'm glad the info is helpful :)

    rockcreekcreations, I thought that some might want to know why I did not include Flickr. It is actually a wonderful photo sharing site with some social networking aspects like making contacts and joining groups. The reason that I didn't include it is because Flickr has very strict rules against promoting and marketing on their site. Since my article is primarily about this topic, I thought it best to leave out Flickr. I love the site and respect their rules.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Considering that there are now so many social networks catering to such a wide range of niches, my biggest problem is finding ones relevant to me and related to my specific interests or product niches. Google seems to be inefficient and returns alot of irrelevant results. A good resource that I use to find them is this search engine for social networking sites.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You're right turbochargeman, it is hard to search out just the right social network through a search engine. Thanks so much for that link! I'm going to add it to my article resources along with a link your blog if you don't mind. Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for sharing your tips! :)

    I´m new at this... Definetely I have tons of work to do!

    Kisses

    ReplyDelete

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