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I was so beyond honored when Brittany of BHooked invited me on her podcast. As a fan of hers it was deeply humbling. As a designer it was incredibly flattering that she wanted me to share my thoughts on Garment Design with her audience. But scheduling was tough for me this year and it did not work out for that date and she was wrapping up her garment design series.
At first I was bummed. Then she asked me if I would like to be a guest on her Maker & Community Series. Well, now this is some timing! I had just wrapped up my series of posts on community:
The minute she said the topic, I was instantly so grateful God had a plan better than my own and this message could be shared.
The outpouring of response and messages I have received since this aired has been incredible. So many have been touched and that is just so rewarding. I am re-sharing the podcast below and you can see all the notes, details and sign up to never miss and episode here on her page.
I was recently included in a list of people who make social media better. It was incredibly humbling and I am honored. Not just because it was created by a professional content creator and marketer, but because it is really a message about social media and what makes it work. Especially for small brands. The secret sauce? Just Be Social.
For real. That is it. Seems simple right? I mean the thing is called SOCIAL Media. But yet it is not simple. I see so many struggle. Let me break it down for you & get real. Ready?
Social Media is not a broadcast radio network. It is not a television channel for you to just run ads and broadcast content. It is full of noise from blind random contributors. Post & run is NOT a strategy. Sure you CAN do that. But there is minimal payoff (if any) and that is not what it is about. It is about people. Period.
Social Media is an amazing thing and yes there are lots of strategies and marketing perspectives out there. I may or may not agree with some of them. But for me? For my brand? I look at it slightly different than most. Yes, it is marketing. Yes, it is a way to reach new audience. But most important, it is a way to CONNECT. Let me take it to you from a different perspective. The Grandpa Small Business owner perspective.
My hero is my grandpa and my small business, 144 Stitches, is named after him. When I was a kid, one of my fave things to do was skip school and hang out with my him. I spent most weekends with him as a toddler and he became my best bud as I grew up. In fact, looking back, I probably learned more applicable life lessons from those days with him than in any classroom!
He was a cool dude let me tell you. He had swagger before swagger was even cool to have! Somewhat older in years, he was a businessman in New York City. I did not really know what that was, a "businessman", but knew someday I wanted to be it too because I wanted to be as much like him as humanly possible.
One of the businesses my grandfather owned was a paper goods company. No, this isn’t glamorous, but we never ran out of napkins or plates so there’s that bonus. This business stood out to me, not because of the products but, because of the people.
I used to go with him when he would stop by stores who carried his product on those days I skipped school to hang out with him. Grandpa gave me a nickel or dime to go play at “the machines” and he would go about his business talking to store clerks, shopkeepers and owners about business, their families and life in general. It always seemed like these were his friends, not customers. He knew their families and I played with their kids. Some came over to the apartment for poker games or dinner.
I also distinctly recall when we would ride down the streets and Avenues of Harlem and the Bronx, where he worked and had his warehouse, in his silver Cadillac with his custom tags, that people would yell out his name and wave as we passed by. They knew him and they knew his car. “Hey Mr. Al” or “Yo, Mr. G” they would say. It made me feel proud because he was clearly loved by so many.
I always thought it was interesting just how many people knew him.
Was he famous? No.
Was he a hero? Only to me.
Was he a politician? Nope, not even close.
He was a neighborhood businessman and that was his turf. Those were his people!
I always wanted that. Not for the fame and money - I wanted those connections. It left an impact and imprint on me.
When I started my business as an online store I was crushed a little bit inside. I knew I would never have what he had. Without a cash register or storefront how would I make those neighborhood and customer connections? Who would I have a cup of coffee with or bring flowers to for their wife after birth of a child? How would I achieve those relationships? I had achieved only a small piece of the dream by starting my business.
Then I had an epiphany. I CAN HAVE THAT! Just different.
When I started managing my own brand I decided to do it differently than the norm and make it what I had thought I missed out on and social media became my store front. My “neighborhood”. I can go days on twitter without mentioning my products. Just interacting with people and building those connections.
It is not an easy task and I will tell you it takes work for sure. You can't force it. Just like opening shop in a neighborhood, starting out on social media is a slow build. But it can be done. I am in fact creating an updated modern online version of the connections and relationships like my grandpa had.
My platform of choice is Twitter, though I thoroughly enjoy Instagram as well. Each is different and gives me different audiences. It is like having two store locations!
While I do post and share my links to products and special sales events, I do not use social media to spam people with my offerings or as a broadcast channel. I have seen small businesses with twitter accounts that are merely link farms or post only products and sale info. Sell. Sell. Sell. Look at this product. And now look at that one. Look at this celebrity client endorsing me. And now look at this. That is broadcasting and not connecting.
It isn’t really the social media experience I wanted for my customers, or for me. I want something with meat on the bone. So I deliberately made an effort and started tweeting about NON business related things. Let that sink in for a minute.
Seems to go against the purpose right? Nope. It IS the purpose! I use social media as a relationship builder to get to know people. I use it to JUST BE SOCIAL. Revolutionary right?
If there is a television show I enjoy, I tweet with people about those shows. If I need a break in my day I join a twitter chat. I like fitness and am a FitFluential ambassador, so I tweet about that. I tweet about things that interest me and engage with others who have interests like mine. In doing so I have developed and cultivated relationships, friendships, and yes, customers too.
When people I tweet with or interact with on Instagram come to meet me at my shows it is so incredibly awesome. These are just a few special moments out of many many more when I get to connect offline with my online neighborhood.
I love when I do events and people come to see me not just to shop but also people who I have connected with on social media. It is still surreal. I think to myself, "You came just to see ME" and I am so grateful. I have met amazing people. And yes, some jerks. But hey, the world is a big place and there is an unfollow button available to us.
Social media is what we make it. I have decided to make it my neighborhood.
I have met some of my closest friends via social media. I have a group of women I mentor, all met through social media. I have connected with other small businesses for partnerships through social media. I have launched a campaign to give the homeless hats and scarves, through social media. and yes, I have made sales. In 2016 ... ONE THIRD of my sales traced directly back to social media somehow. So yes, I AM building that business but also building so much more.
If you are looking to use social media as a broadcasting tool then I have no advice for you. If you are looking to use social media to connect, grow and engage with people then I say pull up a chair and join the conversation!
When I spoke at an Etsy event on turning Twitter into my shop storefront people were amazed and so many noted how it never occurred to them. They wanted to know how to use Twitter or Instagram as a marketing channel. I wanted to teach them how to use it as a SOCIAL channel. Those two are related for a small business. At least, my grandpa would say they are.
So what is the secret to social media? Just like my friend Joel Renner says: #JustBeSocial
Warning... This topic may make you need a cup of tea but I feel it is essential. Especially since I have seen several posts on social media lately of drama and hurt feelings among makers in the maker community on Instagram. I have been on the receiving end of this not too long ago and I can understand how it can weigh us down. Because while this may be our business, being handmade and from the heart it is also all so very personal. So I am honored Nicole of Naturally Nora Crochet reached out to me to do a blog-hop on this topic of community and share perspectives. Feel free to share YOUR perspective in the comments or join the conversation in your own small group.
I joined Instagram as a social media tool to share pics and life moments with friends and family. About a year later it became clear I could also use it for my small business so I started an account for my small handmade business. Now, when I did this, I thought it would be all about previewing new items to customers and getting customer feedback. I had no idea what a wonderful community of makers and creatives I would connect with beyond that.
Shortly thereafter, I was launching Stitch & Hustle to serve that very community so to me it was all a bit serendipitous.
Through this community I have met some of the most wonderful people. I have teamed up with so many incredible makers at various stages, not just to "promote" each other but to truly have an exchange of creative ideas and inspire and share our creative ways. I have had the incredible honor to be partnered up with Ali of Ford Explorer Knits to host Stitch Up Chicago and so many other great collaborations. To me, that is what "community" is about and should be about. But let us go deeper.
I only started hearing the term "community over competition" after joining Instagram and actually since about mid last summer. The term baffles me and has for many months. And so after much thought, I've decided I don't agree with the term and it's a false misleading term.
I realize I may not have a very popular opinion but this weighs heavily on me as I see so many makers trying to find their voice and stride and I have some experiences recently with some who only amplify this conflict.
I've decided I believe in community AND competition. Yup. BOTH! And you do not have to, nor do I have to, nor should anyone have to sacrifice one for the other. Take a breathe. Take a beat. Have that cup of tea and marinate on that a minute.
I've decided I can root for your success while still striving for my own AND that rooting for your success and supporting your creative journey doesn't have to be at the expense of my own. It doesn't have to be one over the other. They are not mutually exclusive nor are they competing principals. To me, it is possible and in fact essential to be both supportive of others and lift them up AND strive for the best success possible for myself.
Additionally - my support of fellow creatives is not linked to a level of success. That's right. You do not have to have 20k followers or 10 followers for me to support your journey and root for your success. As I said when I launched this blog - it is a whole other level of hustle. It is not about what you can do for me. It is about what I can do for you with NO EXPECTATION in return. It is about being IN community with one and other and in service TO one and other.
Don't be fooled though. Being IN community does not mean I will not work hard every day for my own success. And yes; Success IS linked to one's level of work. I believe we should constantly be works in progress striving daily to be better and do better than we did the day before. I am not an "everyone gets a trophy" kind of gal. I think we should work hard. And as we work we will find some work harder some work less. And that is OK. Success is relative to the work we do. Period.
I hope I'm explaining it well because to me the bottom line is this: I want you who is reading this to succeed and thrive but I want to be there succeeding and thriving along side with you and will bust my ass to do so and not feel bad about it a single day. Your success will INSPIRE me. And I can only hope mine will inspire you.
And speaking of inspiration... this takes us to the world of copying. I want to tell you something: there are only so many stitches and it is all math. There, I said it. But that doesn't mean we can't be creative. It is WHY we need to be creative. Play with color. Work with texture. Change an edging. Make it your own. Add YOUR voice.
What I love about Nicole of Naturally Nora crochet is her brand and personality comes through every single design and every single post. I would like to think mine does in my own work as well. So if we BOTH post a double crochet shawl the same week, I will not feel one has copied the other. I will be CELEBRATING that a single stitch can speak so loudly and clearly for EACH of us. That our own voice is there. That is kinda cool.
So know this: who you are at your core, the creative within... that can NEVER be copied. Not by anyone. That is the voice you stay true to in every stitch.
We realize this is a deep topic. But it is so necessary to remember the most important part of any community are its members. I am so honored to be able to share these thoughts because I want you to know I AM rooting for you. And I am rooting for me too. Not one OVER the other. I am doing BOTH. Simultaneously.
Prior to the plan of this post with Nicole, I wanted to expand this blog to make it more diverse and give different points of view. This seems like a fitting moment to BE ABOUT community and as luck would have it was already planning to do just that. So as they say - timing is everything and sometimes the timing is perfect.
It is because of my love for this creative community and hope that I can add value that is the WHY of this blog. Even though run Stitch & Hustle and it is my baby - it is FOR the community. It is not about “me”. Being just me behind the curtain so to speak, I often wonder if it is only “my perspective” so I wanted to give others in the community an opportunity to show their work, show work they admire and makers they enjoy and are inspired by. I want to spread some good vibes and give OTHER perspectives.
I carefully selected four makers to Take Over in April. Each will take over the Stitch & Hustle Instagram for a week to share their work, their inspiration and their perspectives. I am stoked - we have four AMAZING artisan makers coming on board for this who I just simply LOVE. I selected them specifically for a few reasons:
Each has a very specific point of view and it is not "like" each other so I believe there will be authentic variety in points of view which is an incredible gift of being part of this community.
Each maker is someone I respect and admire greatly and who inspires me in more than just my maker ways, but in who they are as people.
I believe each of these amazing artisans (like each of YOU) can add value in ways I can’t even imagine and hope that you will also receive good vibes from this program & community takeover.
I hope that each will inspire you and you will celebrate them and celebrate yourself. What an amazing thing that they want to share with us all. I've decided April is community month around here. Let's celebrate each other. And if more than one of us makes a garter stitch scarf well hot dang let's celebrate that too!
Please head over to my friend Nicole's blog to read her thoughts on this really important topic.
Wow Instagram has come on strong with the latest round of updates. Let's take a look at a few of them and how you can use them to up your social media game.
First Up: Stories. Now, I'm going to skip over how much this is like Snapchat because that topic is covered all over the web. I want to focus on why I think it's awesome and you should too.
Instagram Stories goes out right into the bar of all your current followers. So it is enhancing and growing that relationship. That's awesome! Isn't the whole point of connection on social to actually BE social and grow relationships? Heck yeah!
If you don't want to scroll through the whole bar of stories and end up in a never ending time suck of social media eye candy, you can simply go to someone's profile directly. If the circle around their avi is lit up with color, then you know they have shared a new story. To see it, simply hold down their avi. This keeps you free from all the stories of people you follow rolling into the next like a slide show and you just see that person's story.
I also love the message option. When viewing your story, people have the option to message you in response to your story just as you can message those whose stories you view. This is such a great opportunity to connect and develop relationships. In the few days since Stories launched on Instagram, I've both sent and received messages and already made new connections! That's a social media WIN!
The privacy options are basic but good.. Separate from your feed, you can decide who sees your stories and who can respond. That's a great option for those with personal accounts who may want to limit interactions as opposed to those with a business or brand account.
Another great feature is the option to see how many views your stories have gotten and who is viewing them. This is helpful to know what your audience is connecting with and who you can reach out and connect with as well.
Next Up: I want to talk about the option to make your account a "Business Account". This is cool because it allows you to add a "contact" button which also frees up space in the limited Profile area where many business accounts put contact detail. It allows for a very clean professional look.
Another awesome feature of switching to a business account is it gives you native Instagram analytics. Best times to post, how your posts are doing and a starting point to build an effective campaign. This is essentially all you need to know to grow your account.
Even so, I'm still not 100% sold on this new option and here's why: Instagram is owned by Facebook. Yes, it's an entirely separate platform but we cannot ignore this relationship. I have to wonder if by siphoning out which accounts are business versus personal, if this isn't paving the way for a long term objective of Pay To Play for those businesses like Facebook has become for Pages.
Another cool little update is Drafts. This is awesome because I hate it when I've done some "edits" getting ready to post and then for whatever reason step away but don't want to lose all that work. Now, when I back out it allows me to create a draft. This is also helpful if I've got some down time (it happens like twice a month, but hey) because I can create some posts and keep them as a "draft". This way when I'm super busy but want to post I can pull up a draft and keep my presence while not taking up too much time.
I am pretty excited for these updates and think they are a great opportunity to grow on Social! What do you think about the updates?
Let’s take a deep dive into Instagram as part of the Stitch & Hustle Social Media Series. If you are not using Instagram yet, I implore you to see if it is a good platform for your brand. I have a feeling it will be.
I love Instagram – in fact it is my favorite of all the platforms. It is an incredible tool to grow you business, connect with other businesses and customers. I break it down here into 3 segments: Posts, Community, and Metrics.
Since it all starts with what you post, let’s talk about that first.
I think of Instagram as the advanced Social Media version of the pre-school game Show & Tell. You have two opportunities to tell your brand story when you post on Instagram: in the photo and in the text. A great Instagram post is more than just a pretty picture. It connects and tells a story.
You can also think of Instagram posts as mini blog posts. That way you are always trying to connect with every post and share with intent & purpose. And remember – every post is a representation of your brand.
First up: The Photo
The photo is the draw. It is the eye candy. It is what makes Instagram Instagram. Your images should give a cohesive theme and brand message. You can focus on reflecting the brand lifestyle, inspirations, as well as just the product itself. Give a glimpse to your behind the scenes or process. SHOW your brand message.
If you are starting out or have a personal small brand this still matters. For example a friend of mine was asking how to up her IG game for her home chef account. I say – go beyond the finished meal and glossy pics. As a healthy home chef show ingredients in their natural setting. Show markets and shopping carts. Show the process. Show the meal prep. Instagram allows video: show us your knife skills and dice something! There are so many ways to mix things up in a single image that reflects your brand and community.
Building your Instagram brand profile for personal account or your business requires a cohesive and consistent message in all your posts.
On a technical side; You can use almost any camera really. There are so many apps and filters that sometimes your phone is your best option. Plus, it’s always handy. For specific product display or branding purposes, you may want to consider a DSLR or even hiring or collaborating with a photographer. But again, getting started with your phone is all you need.
If you want to take a quick course on turning your phone into your camera, I suggest one on Craftsy or this one on CraftU. But nothing beats playing around with it and learning hands on, learning when the best time of day gives you the best lighting for your product, etc. No matter what filters or tools you use, nothing can “fix” a badly lit photo so these are important things to know.
A couple of apps I personally love are Camera+, VSCO, & PicStitch. Each has various features that allow me to manipulate the photo to tell the story I want. Be careful with filters though. They are not all right for your brand image even though they work for others. You can also control the intensity of the filter with a simple click. So play around with filters and apps to find what works best for you.
Stay away from collages. While you want to show all the awesome uses and variations of your product, the truth is that they are distracting and do not convey a clear story or brand message.
One photo. One story. Minus the rare exception, that is my Instagram rule of thumb.
And have fun! It’s true this is work and you have a marketing purpose but having fun is just as important. It comes through in the image (I firmly believe this). So be creative. Play around with various angles of your product and in various locations and settings for your product. It is a social media platform not a catalogue shoot!
Next up: The Text
While yes, the photo should tell a story – your text should enhance that story. Go deeper to connect with your community. Maybe talk about your process. Or share personal detail about the day. Whatever you choose to share it should be with intent to connect with your community and stay within your brand message.
The text is a great place to offer something to your community. As we have talked about is the intent of this blog, our hustle should be to help others succeed and to be of service. No reason not to do that with your Instagram. Offer a tip. Offer insight to a design.
Whatever your brand message, this is a great opportunity to start a conversation with your community. I try to leave my posts with a question, invitation to comment or call to action. Invite the community to engage.
Back to the home chef example; this could be where she talks about the difference between one ingredient over another. Or offer the community a quick time saving tip to be more efficient. Maybe ask the community what their favorite herb or ingredient is then in the next post refer back to that favorite. Talk about the recipe and why you love it (which gives a glimpse to you). Make it about more than just the picture.
I am strongly against lengthy text every time. Mix it up. Keep the audience interested. Again, this is another opportunity to connect. Don’t miss out.
Another important aspect of text is hashtags. I could do a whole spiel on hashtag etiquette but I will refrain. Just know that within the main post 2-5 relevant hashtags should be the max. If you want to add another round of relevant hashtags you can do so in a comment. Use tags that your audience will seek out so they can find you. Think like a customer!
So now you have a great image and interesting post. Posting it is only the first step. Now we get into your community.
Social Media platforms call them “followers” or “fans” but I call people part of your community. Interaction & engagement goes both ways and, as you know from the purpose of this blog, I am a firm believer in giving more than you take.
When new people follow you, check out their page. If it is interesting or appealing to you, follow back. Read their posts. Comment and start a conversation. Make that effort to reach out. It could be as simple as a “like” or happy face. Whatever your method, connect. Find accounts that are aligned with your brand. Interact and comment. Don’t wait for people to come to you. Go to them!
When people comment on your post thank them. An unanswered comment is akin to saying “I don’t care what you say” and WE DO CARE what our community says. So BE social. Respond. Interact. Too often we think Social Media is about putting it out there. It’s not. It is SOCIAL Media. Read my detailed post on that topic here.
Which takes me to my next point on community: Listen!!! The importance of listening to what your community is talking about cannot be understated . What interests them? What problems can you help them solve? What are they talking about matters because it is your opportunity to connect.
So now you’ve posted and listened and built community. But how do you know if it’s working?
Like any Social Media or Marketing effort, you need to have an intentional plan & strategy going in. You want to grow. You want to increase followers and ultimately generate brand loyalty and sales. Develop a plan that works for you to achieve those goals. Then Track. Track more. Track, shift and grow.
Obviously if you see an uptick in likes, comments and “followers” you will know you are on to something. But I suggest you develop KPI’s that will help you meet your goals and know where to spend your time and resources and get an overview of what posts are hitting the mark. I personally use Iconosquare and you can try it free for 30 days.
Over the course of your first 30 days of posting with purpose as described above, you should be able to clearly see what resonates with your community and attracts new followers. That is what you build on to grow and ultimately generate sales.
Instagram should be fun but it is also work. So get to work and have some fun!
And don't forget to follow Stitch & Hustle on Instagram & join the community!
Social Media has become a necessary tool for success. It is a gateway to the world for small independent business. It is a way to not only grow customers but also grow within the artisan or small business community. You can connect with service providers, fellow artists for collaborations, people who inspire you and so many others. The opportunity to connect is endless. But where do you start?
I think that many of the nuances available for social media to be a tool for success are missed because as a whole it is overwhelming. I get that.
In the Stitch & Hustle Social Media Series we will explore social media and how to make it work FOR you! How you can use social media to grow your brand and yourself.
The first step is to realize that not all social media platforms are created equal. This is an extremely vital factor in social media success. The term “social media” is broad. To truly be successful you need to look at each platform as it’s own branch of social media and plan a strategy for each independently.
Of course, you can be lazy and lump them all together but you will be missing opportunities for success if you are not tailoring your approach and message for each platform.
Customers are smart. They know when they are being bombarded or your content is just posted without specific intent. Want an example?
If I post on Instagram, then hit the “share” to Facebook, Tumblr & Twitter option, the EXACT same piece of content is being posted to all four audiences. This has a few negative effects but here are the big ones:
- People who see your content, the SAME content, on multiple channels may start to ignore you or even unfollow you. They do not need to be bombarded with the same content every place they go.
- There is a good chance your content isn’t relevant in all places. (we will dive into relevancy later in the series). Twitter is real time. It moves fast. Facebook algorithm gives you more opportunities to be seen based on what is relevant to your audience. Currently Instagram is chronological but they too are switching to an algorithm based on audience activity. So your same piece of content is not relevant everywhere! That is ESSENTIAL to understand.
Yes, people do this. Yes I do this on occasion. But it should be done at minimum if at all and not with everything you share. For me, I do it when I know I have content relevant on multiple platforms. I may edit the post and tailor the language for each platform as well.
Where you share your content is just as important as whom you are aiming your content at and whom you are targeting. They are intertwined.
For this post, I will just look at what I call the big 3: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.
Of course there are basic generalizations about each platform. But to develop a strategy for success, it is important to drill down further into each one and what they offer. You may in fact find some platforms aren’t for you at all. So drilling down into each platform is important to help you know where to focus and where to spend both time and money.
Statistics change often so you can only go by the best information available and then implement best practices. One statistic that seems to be consistent is age. Facebook audience is generally older users. Twitter & IG have a younger base. Why does this matter?
Well – if you put emoji everywhere (like I do) that may not go over as well on Facebook. Or while you can get away with a quick one liner or sarcastic quip on Twitter, that probably won’t get the same response on Facebook. Knowing your audience and platform will help you tailor your campaign and ultimately reach more of the RIGHT people. And more of the RIGHT people is the ball game. Not just more people.
Another big difference is that while Twitter operates primarily in a world of anonymity, Facebook and IG are platforms where people get a bit more personal. It may be via people you actually “know” in person, or people who share like interests and are in shared groups.
Twitter and IG are more “global” communities where as you will likely find Facebook audiences to be closer to home. It is also important to keep this in mind in the content you are creating to share. What plays well to your local audience may not hit the mark globally. This goes back to what I said earlier about sharing the same content everywhere may yield fewer results.
It is important to factor all of this and more when creating your campaigns. For example, if you do not ship worldwide, Facebook may be where you place more focus. And vice versa – if you are intentionally trying to grow globally you may focus more on IG and Twitter.
But the bottom line is that the better you can know your audience and understand the platform they use, the better chance you have for a successful campaign.
Where to begin?
Start by listening. Go to your Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages and see what your audience is interested in. See what they are talking about. Learn their concerns and what they like. Is it the same on all platforms?
Any successful campaign starts with listening. And the best way to understand how to best use each platform is to listen to your audience who is already there. Talk to them, Comment on their posts, interact. Get to know your audience. You may even find that your audience or target audience isn't where you thought they would be! Drill down to all platforms.
You will find they are different on each platform and then you have started the journey to successful social media.
We will dive into each platform over this series and tips and tools for each as well as general social media best practices. If you have specific questions please use the contact form to ask. We will get it covered for you. And share below in comments what platforms you use, what your favorite Social Media Platform is and why. Would love to get to know what you are all using.