Influencer Marketing 101 For Your Maker Business

To follow up on my Brand Partnerships and Mama Knows posts, I wanted to go deeper into this world of Influencer Marketing.

Even without my marketing experience, as a blogger and a small business owner, I am quite familiar with the world of influencer marketing on both sides. Influencer marketing can and does work when it is authentic and real and done right. Anyone who knows me from my old days has heard me glob off a good rant or two about the down sides and the “false influencers”. They are real. But aside from that, true authentic influencer marketing can work not only for the influencer and their community but for brands as well. And, I am advocate of true, authentic influencer programs.

Having said that, without proper planning or execution, it can also go terribly wrong and damage a brand and cost them customers.  I recently had an experience of Influencer Marketing gone very wrong and it made me want to share some how-to tips and turn it into a positive to help YOU, the Stitch & Hustle community. Let this experience help you guys set up for a WIN!

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I’ve also invited Alissa Trumbull, a good friend of mine who works in social media marketing, to share some tips to help YOU plan and execute an effective and successful influencer marketing program. I have known Alissa for a many years and she is a voice I trust on this topic. As someone who supports and builds small brands (and big ones) I am honored she is taking some time to share insights with us. Also Alissa is truly one of favorite human beings on the planet. Together we've come up with Influencer Marketing 101 for Makers! So let's dive in…

What exactly IS influencer marketing?

Simply put, influencer marketing is when you utilize niche, community, (or celebrity influencers in some instances) to promote your product or service. Influencer campaigns are a wonderful tool, if utilized correctly, as they get other people talking about your brand.

Who is an influencer?

An influencer is anyone who impacts the lives of your target audience and has sway in your audience’s decision-making. Using the crochet and knit world as an example, this could be someone like Stephanie from All About Ami who always has new projects or great finds to share or Jess from Make And Do Crew who is always introducing us to new yarns and ideas. Remember that the best influencers don’t have to have the highest follower count. You need to look at the purpose and goals of your brand and the campaign to determine who is the right fit.

Take Time. Make It Personal.

Take Time. Make It Personal.

How to Create an Influencer Campaign:

  1. Figure out your end goal and working budget.
    Do you want to drive sales, increase brand awareness, or something else?
    Does your budget include compensation or just product or both or something else?
  2. Select your influencers.

    Ask yourself: "Which influencers speak to my audience?" Think about who your audience will be most receptive to and target influencers in that demographic. Is it stay-at-home-moms? Craft pros? That one music star everyone’s talking about?

    You are not confined to only niche or only celebrity influencers for a campaign. Often creating a tiered set of influencers can be beneficial, as long as the influencers you select are authentic to your audience and you build an authentic relationship between your brand and them.
  3. Do your research.

    Find out more about the people you’ve selected, their audiences, and expected payment. You have to take the time to dive deep and see the value and make sure it is the right fit. Some of the best influencers may have a small but active and dedicated following.

    Make sure the influencers you consider adhere to the FTC Endorsement Guides.

    Pare down your list to one that is manageable for your budget (whether that is in actual cash, event tickets, or product giveaways, etc.) and provides a good fit to meet your goals.
  4. Start reaching out!

    Get in touch with the people you really want to participate first. Don’t ask everyone at once. This helps ensure that you are not promising too much. If you only have the ability to send ten (10) samples, email 8-10 people. You may not know the response, but should always expect that everyone will say yes. Sending more offers and emails than you can deliver sets yourself up for failure and damage relationships before you can even build them.

    The spray and pray model for building an influencer community – and yes, this is a community you are building – is not effective and can end up with people having a negative taste about your brand and you feeling overwhelmed. Create lists and tiers and go from there. It may take more time but will set you up for the win!
     
  5. Be enthusiastic AND gracious.

    You are asking people to enter into a business partnership with you to test out your product or speak kindly of your brand. Approach potential influencers as if they are doing you a favor (because they are).

    Share the details and goals of your campaign and let your enthusiasm come across. You WANT to get people excited. Your enthusiasm can build the interest you want, and those whom you reach out to will respond positively to your energy and good vibes.
     
  6. Be clear in your ask!

    Let each person know what you would like from them and what you are prepared to offer. Your offer does not need to be the same for each person. Perhaps you create different offers for each influencer tier. Again, go back to the research and what is a good fit.
  7. Set deadlines.

    In your initial email, be clear on the dates of your campaign (when the campaign is taking place, when you need content completed by, etc.) and ask for a response by a certain date. This reply by date is very important, as it sets up a clear expectation that if they get back to you after this deadline, you may not be able to accommodate them for this specific campaign.

  8. Be prepared to say no.

    Some influencers may request more from you than you are able to give. Some may even ask for the moon in a pretty little box with a bow. While you may roll your eyes as you sit at your computer, make sure you decline graciously. You are growing the brand and may cross paths again!

  9. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

    Communication is key to planning a successful collaboration. From your first email, all the way through your final follow-up, it’s important to keep your updates clear, consistent, and personal. Don't let all that enthusiasm go to waste and fizzle away by sending generic emails and updates. If you are ONLY sending general and generic updates then you are not building a relationship. Ask questions. Engage people. Build the relationship. Keep their interest and use that enthusiasm to be contagious.

    If your marketing plans change and your strategy changes it is always best to communicate with people you have already reached out to. People (bloggers especially) plan content calendars and are people after all. We are humans behind these pages. People are excited and get others excited about your product, especially after you have contacted them directly to build that excitement. When you have a strategy change that changes a collaboration, communicate that to keep the relationship intact.
     
  10. Bring your campaign to life.

    Contracts are highly recommended to ensure mutual responsibility.

    Have a plan (and share it with your influencers) for how/when you’re going to amplify your influencers’ content on your social channels.

    Keep the energy and enthusiasm going all through the campaign. Treat your influencers like the VIPs they are - regardless of whether your supporter is large or small, or has a targeted or diverse audience, remember they are your customers first. Treat your influencers, customers and other supporters with respect and consideration for any time, money or effort they’ve shared with you.

    Think about every step all the way up to your packaging. The Reveal can be one of the most important parts of building a relationship with a customer (and influencer), and taking time to add a personal hand written note, extra gift or just a word of thanks can make a big impact in your favor. 
     
  11. Follow up

    Make sure your selected influencers are set to post their content and that the agreement is met.
  12. Wrap It Up & Track Your Metrics.

    (Is your social engagement up? Are you seeing an increase in conversation about your brand? In website visits? In sales? Track everything to know what is and isn’t working.) Numbers matter but look at more than numbers to see if there is actual influence. Are they engaging? Are people responding? Do they respond to their community and comments?

Last but not least, remember to thank the people who participated! Again, this goes back to building relationships and maintaining brand message and keeping it personal.

And remember, Influencers are not one-and-done, but should be viewed as part of your brand’s family. Who knows? You may want to reach out for another campaign in the future so build on this relationship!

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Here’s the biggest takeaway of all: Any marketing effort is to BUILD customer base. Are you creating Relationships that are long term and will grow with you and convert sales? Are you keeping your brand message and relationships in EVERY interaction? Are you missing opportunities to build and create your team of support? If you take the time to write a note how much MORE value will it add?!

As a blogger, I work with lots of brands. Small brands, big brands. You name it.  I am contacted by brands often and I also reach out to brands to collaborate for my own small handmade business as well as this blog. It is so important that the brands I work with and share with you guys are brands I can truly believe in. Not just the product but the company. Getting "free stuff" is far less important than what I can BRING TO YOU GUYS and the value I can ADD TO MY COMMUNITY. Sometimes I don't even get "free stuff" but the brand is so awesome I want to share about it.

Effective Influencer Marketing for your brand is more than just randomly contacting people with a following or with a blog. It is about connecting your brand and brand message with the influencer and their community in an authentic way. It is about contacting and connecting with the right people and growing those relationships. And it can work for you!

ORGANIZE & PLAN

ORGANIZE & PLAN

Photo Hacks Too: Lighting & Instagram Live

I have gotten a lot of messages since my knit date with my gal Megan from Peppermint Pine shop about the table top tripod set in my crochet bag that we used for her Instagram Live video. So I thought this would be a great time do an update on my Photo Hacks post. Yup this post has affiliate links. I get credit if you buy these items. Let's dive in!

Checking the light meter setting up for pics

First let's talk lighting. Natural light is your friend. It is correct, easy to edit and gives you accurate coloring. Oh.. and it is FREE! But let's be honest, it is not always available. For me, I have one perfect area in my house that has amazing light. But for only 2 hours a day. When the sun shifts or if there is cloud cover then my photo plans are tanked. And while you can do a lot in post with apps and edit, it is extremely helpful to have some options.

I have an advantage having been a Production Manager & concert lighting technician and my husband still working in the field. So I get some cool toys I admit. But still, you don't need insider trading for badass lighting hacks. Here are a few I am fond of and use myself. Just remember this one thing: simulating natural light is not actual natural light. When you can, use natural light. Always. ALWAYS.

I bought this light kit on amazon because it has a great storage case and lots of options. There are LOTS of light kits so buy what is best for you but one thing is that no matter what light kit you get... BUY NATURAL BULBS.

The next thing is a bounce card. This will help you get more length of time out of that perfectly lit area of your home or studio. Basically, a bounce card is going to reflect light into a shadowy area. You don't need to be a photography pro to use one and in fact, this will illuminate your products in ways beyond imagination.

Next up: that table top kit from my knit date. It is what I call my secret weapon because no matter where I am I can always get the right angle. The right perspective and even the right distance. These will be your secret weapon too.

And for the products themselves, these are my MUST HAVES that live in my little crochet on the go kit and I use them for almost anything. Just not website product shots lol. Perfect for on the floor when I need that right angle. On the table. For Facetime so I can knit and converse at once. Yup... these are the ones you saw in the IG Stories with Megan and for less than $20 I got all I needed.

First up is my Jellyfish Mount. I love this thing. It holds my phone, my husband's phone (he has an iPhone +) and is so versatile and small and portable.

Now for my table top tripod. There are tons on the market. But let's be honest - this has a specific function. It is not for primary product shoots. I want something that is portable, lightweight and frankly can fit in my needle and hook case to go where I go. I also don't want to break the bank. I also didn't want something so flimsy that I would spend even more money replacing it. I did some solid research and this was where I landed and I love it!

There are lots of products on the market and everyone will always have their preferences. I can only tell you that I have in fact spent some money and time and found these to be the best, and for less than $20 it is worth a shot!

So get out there, get in the light and get your pics.

The Business of Handmade - Part 1: A Primer To Start Your Business

I have been very fortunate to find my creative journey and do what I love every day. I am truly living my dream. It is always magical but isn't always easy. It is TONS of hard work, even MORE mistakes than you can imagine, and some days I would rather play with a pile of yarn than be a business owner and do paperwork (I really loathe paperwork). And the truth is, by my own standard, I am not really that successful. I have SO MUCH I want to do and eventually land with my very own yarn shop with a classroom in the front for people to learn and share fiber love and an after school yarn program for neighborhood kids. Ah... I have so far to go. But I will get there.

And, while I am by no means a business guru or authority, I love sharing my journey and what I learn because it feeds my own success as much as it helps others. I get a LOT of emails, messages, tweets and posts asking for help on how to start a crochet, knit or creative business or open an Etsy shop. It is incredibly humbling. But... The truth is that this is a very difficult question to answer. There is no easy, "hey do this and you will be a success" formula. Every creative business is different.

You have to determine your own goals and road map. Hopefully, with this series: The Business Of Handmade, I can help you do that. Over this series we will talk about:

A Primer To Start Your Business (this post)
What Kind Of Etsy Shop Is Right For YOU
Do You Want A Business or A Side Hustle
If You Don't Love It Don't Do It

So let's get started!

Like I said above, there is no quick cookie cutter formula that I can give you to say do this and you will be a success. Having said that, here are 5 steps I took that may work for you and help you get your path started.

1. Open an Etsy Shop
Though the bulk of my business has moved off of the platform, joining Etsy was the best decision I ever made. Truly. Etsy gave me a place to get started, test the waters, learn about internet marketing and online sales without the burden of developing a full eCommerce site. It is SO EASY to use and setting up my shop took a matter of hours. When you join Etsy, it is not a magic wand and poof you will have sales. It takes work. You can use this link to get started with an Etsy shop and get 40 free listings!  (disclaimer: if you use this link, I will also get free listings as part of the easy affiliate program)

The next post in this series will dive into WHAT kind of Etsy shop is right for you.  Here are my general Etsy Starter Tips:

Join the Etsy Success Team. This is a team headed up by Etsy Admin for the community to discuss, exchange and explore ways to succeed

Read the Etsy Seller Handbook & Etsy Blogs. They are a wealth of information. Take the info and apply it to your shop. Not everything will apply. Go in baby steps. Do what you can so you are not overwhelmed.

Learn SEO. You do not need to become an SEO behind the scenes wiz. But it would be in your best interest to take time and learn the basics. Etsy has wonderful blogs and teams about SEO and how to make it work for you.

Take great photos. You don't need an expensive camera or to hire a photographer to get started. I still use my iPhone and some great photo apps sometimes. Show all the angles (front, side view, back view, etc.) and remember: Most shoppers are visual. Make your photos appealing.

Give all the information that you can without too much fluff in your item descriptions. That's not really the place to show off your creative writing skills. Give the facts: size, measurements, materials, use or functionality, etc. Check out my photo hacks here.

Use ALL the Etsy features. Etsy offers some really great shop features (About, Profile, online presence links). Use them ALL. Take some time to really think about telling your shop story in the About section but then maybe a little more about you as a person in your profile. Use the links to social media. I cannot say it again, Etsy makes it so easy why not use these areas?

2. Build customer relationships.
Social Media is an amazing overwhelming thing. I get it. But it is essential to grow your business in modern times because it IS your storefront. There are lots of different approaches to social media. You will have to work to find what's best for you and your business. Personally, I have more than one social media account. Some I use specifically for business, some I use to engage with other crocheters and others in the fitness community and other areas of interest.

I also started a blog as a way to take customers behind the scenes in both my design and creation process. It is a fun way to interact and share the backstory. I also offer free patterns and special coupons and articles like this that may be of help to my blog readers. We will be launching an in depth Social Media Series in two weeks.

3. Find your market.
In addition to my Etsy pattern shop, I also sell my patterns and designs on Ravelry and Craftsy. That is where my audience is. So if you know where your target market is, go there and sell to them. And look for new places to find them.
 

4. Build your own online presence.
In addition to my Etsy shop, I have my own stand alone website. This allows me freedom of design, content and inventory variation and control. It took some time to find the right platform. For me, I have a shop with supadupa and one with squarespace. BOTH are fabulous and offer incredible customer support. I have nothing but good things to say about them. I have been with each since they launched. Read Toni of TL Yarn Crafts talk about why this is important here.

5. Try new things.
My biggest tip is that you have to try new things. Some will work. Some will fail in epic proportions. But that is the best way to learn what works for your business. I cannot tell you how many things didn't work. But finding out that something doesn't work is not always bad. It often leads to something brilliant that does work.

Track things you try. Don't just haphazardly throw things at the wall hoping something sticks. Be deliberate and consider what will get you where you want to go. If something doesn't work, take a beat. Look at WHY it didn't work. Maybe it was an ad that just needs some tweaking. Maybe it was an ad that needs art and photos. Maybe it was the wrong demographic. There is ALWAYS something to learn from failure.

Finding those lessons and takeaways is how you will also find success. This is number 5 on the list but probably the single most important tip I can impart to you. Failures and mistakes are ESSENTIAL for success.

So there it is. My five tips to get you and your road map to a successful handmade business off the ground. The one thing I didn't mention (because I assume if you are here you know this) is you have to do the work. You can't be lazy. It takes lots of work and long hours but the joy and fulfillment I have found and continue to find is immeasurable. I work weekends. I work late at night. I work early mornings. I work! But I would not trade a minute of it and could not imagine it any other way.

Customer Service & Handmade Business: 5 Things Every Small Business Owner Should Know and Do

CustomerPatternReview

The idea of taking our talents and passions to the next level and turning it into a business is incredibly exciting. The thought that people will want to actually PAY for what I / we create is one heck of a piece of awesome.  And the truth of it all is that happy customers spreading the word is what truly grows a small artisan business. Customer reviews matter!

But when we take that leap and find ourselves running a business it is essential that we take a beat and are prepared for some of the changes that will come. Sometimes talent isn't enough. Once we make the leap into a business it is essential to shift our mindset to be successful. Our art then becomes only part of the package. We must now center our focus on the customer experience.

This was a review from a customer who received the wrong item. The solution turned this customer experience into a win.

I recently had a horrible customer service experience with a small artisan business. Part of me was so frustrated as a customer I wanted to scream. It was in actuality one of the most horrible customer experiences I have ever had. But more importantly than that, part of me was sad & frustrated as a fellow artisan small business owner that this person and her business simply do not have the basics for a successful customer service program. And the worst part was that in the whole exchange she wasn't even open to feedback to see this.

In the case of my recent experience, this artisan was simply unprepared to handle an influx of business, meet delivery dates and couldn't deliver on promises she made. She lacked customer communication skills to solve problems. All of which are essential in customer service. Especially the communication.

This experience is what inspired me to want to do a Customer Service series and why I've invited a few of my favorite small business owners who I also think have exceptional customer service to share their perspective on winning customer service.

Over the series we will cover:
The Basics: 5 Things Every Small Business Owner Needs To Know
It's OK To Say No
Custom Orders & The Collaborative Experience
Turning Mistakes Into Rave Reviews

First up: Krista Cagle from the Yarn Mamas and the basics of what every small business needs to know and do.

Now, if you follow me on Social media then you know I am practically a walking billboard of advertisement for the Yarn Mamas gear. Yes, Krista curates and serves up top quality and fabulous offerings. Comfy cozy wear and coffee mugs that keep my creative vibes flowing. But way more than that, her customer service is beyond reproach if you ask me. Aside from products I love, it is the thing that keeps me coming back again and again. In an era where we have choices of where to spend our dollars, I prefer to spend mine with small businesses who put the customer experience first. Krista embodies that concept. I thought she would be the perfect person to kick this series off with the basics:

 
5 Things every Small Business Owner Should Know and Do

Customer service is an important part of every small business. Here are five of the top things that I have done to create a positive experience for my business and brand.

1. Ask for Help

My business YarnMamas is built under my franchise Rescued Paw Designs. When I first started I quickly realized how incredibly hard, time consuming and stressful it can be to run two small businesses simultaneously. I felt like I was being pulled in many directions and I knew that if I wanted to continue to bring the same quality product to my customers, something had to change. I learned an important lesson: Don’t try to run a small business all on your own, ask for help. Once I hired a Virtual Assistant I was able to focus more on the quality of my product, customer feedback and building designs, which improved my overall customer service satisfaction.

2. Engage Customers on Social Media

I make it a top priority to engage my customers on social media. It shows consumers that you care, that you’re listening, and that you want to be involved. When sharing others projects and posts you are creating a community around your brand.

 3. Respond Quickly to Questions

I make sure to respond quickly and promptly to customer questions and to always keep them informed of their orders. My customers are notified, via messenger & email, when their order is placed, shipped and delivered. This has helped tremendously with customer satisfaction. I also send a follow up email after the customer’s order has been delivered, asking for feedback. It is important to keep communication open between you and the customer. If there ever is a concern, I always make sure to rectify the issue so my customers will want to come back again.

4. Listen to Customers Ideas

I occasionally receive messages from my customers who are looking for a particular design or look. I always keep the feedback of my customers in mind when I’m designing my clothes. I want my customers to feel heard and also, I want to make my customers happy and coming back for more. So when running your small business, always brainstorm new ideas and listen to your customer ideas (they know what they want!).

5. Updated Email List

An easy, but important aspect to customer service is to keep up an updated email list of your customers. It’s as simple as putting an email signup form on your website (I use hello bar) or an opt in button on your checkout page asking if they would like to receive marketing. I use this email list to send important updates, new designs alerts and as a way to keep past/potential customers engaged in my business. People lead very busy lives and it’s important to keep customers interested and informed about your business so they keep coming back.

I LOVE Krista's approach to the basics. It is those fundamentals that have set her new business on track to soar. What is your Customer Service approach? Share in the comments below.

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5 Reasons Your Handmade Business Needs a Website

I think that the topic of whether or not to get your own website comes up a lot in our small business & artisan community. I cannot stress enough how important it is to begin your online branding & presence. But don't just take my word for it. Below, guest blogger Toni of the awesome TL Yarn Crafts shares her perspective:

Close your eyes and imagine this: Your handmade business is moving right along. You’re making sales, packing orders, life is sweet. Then you get a call about the opportunity of a lifetime – a boutique across the county wants to carry your product or a major craft show wants to know more about you. So, where will you send them?

Sales platforms like Etsy and Amazon Handmade are great for making sales and developing customer loyalty to your product. But as we all know, businesses and brands evolve over time, and your needs may extend well past just making the sale. That’s where your stand-alone website comes in. Here are 5 reasons why YOU need your very own site: 

Reason #1 – Define Your Brand. Websites are a blank canvas waiting to tell the world who you are. If you have a clear brand strategy (colors, fonts, logos, images, etc.), going to your website should be like opening the door to your storefront for a customer. Determining the look and feel of your website will be the first step to helping visitors fall in love with you and your product.

Reason #2 – Engage and Direct Your Visitors. Let’s say you put a link to your Etsy site on Instagram. The implied call-to-action is to have them buy something, right? But what if you want them to do something else, like subscribe to your email list or RSVP to an event? Having your own website lets you drop breadcrumbs for your visitors to lead them where you want them to go. You have the power to create buttons and graphics on your site that make your media easily accessible to your customer.

Reason #3 – Make A Good Impression. Unless I’m mistaken, you’re interested in getting more than just retail customers through your virtual doors, right? Building a clean, beautiful website that is easy to navigate is immensely important if you want to attract store owners, sponsors, and the media. It says a lot about you, namely that you have it together and are ready for potential business relationships. Remember that boutique across the country that I mentioned before? A great website versus an Etsy page might be the difference between “absolutely” and “no, thank you”.

Reason #4 – Give Yourself Room To Grow. Since I started by business 3 years ago, I’ve introduced new projects to the TL Yarn Crafts lineup. In addition to finished pieces, I now have a blog, I teach on and offline, I do craft shows, and I sell kits and patterns. It would be pretty tricky to communicate all of that from my Etsy page. Adding new pages and plugins to my website helped keep my message clear while still accommodating my growth. And that is not to say your have to grow beyond just selling your physical product. But a little breathing room doesn’t hurt. You never know what tomorrow brings.

Reason #5 – Keep the Focus on YOU! As an online shopper, the “Other products you might like” section is super helpful. But as a seller, it makes me cringe. Why go through the effort of guiding a customer to your sales page only to have that very same sales page take them somewhere else?? *queue the face-palm* The main reason to have your own website is to keep the focus on YOU and whatever message you decide to deliver. Carve out your corner of the internet and plant your flag!

Once you’ve committed to launching your own website, it’s time to do a bit of research on what resource is the best fit for you. Pattern by Etsy is great for Etsy sellers whose main concentration is sales. Shopify, Big Cartel, and Wix give you a bit more wiggle room, adding in features that feel like a traditional website. But if you want to go big or go home, Wordpress is the way to go. Whatever you choose, a stand-alone website can be a game changer for your handmade business.
 

About Toni:

Toni Lipsey is the Owner and Designer behind TL Yarn Crafts, an Ohio based fiber arts studio for the modern cool girl. Find her collection of crochet accessories, patterns and maker gifts online, and follow her tomfooleries on Instagram.

 

Insta Updates: Tips & What's New

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?

Get Your Craft Fair On! Finding The Right Event

The year is just flying by! I cannot believe summer is almost over. So it is definitely time to kick it in high gear. It's August and you know what that means... September is just around the corner! That means cooler weather, Harvest Festivals, Cool Craft Fairs and Holiday Markets are just around the corner too. NOW is the time to prep. Actually - June is when I personally start prep but August works too :-)

Are you ready to get your Craft Fair & Festival on? Throughout August, we will have a series of posts to help you get Craft Fair Ready. I am by no means an "expert" but can share from my own experiences to help you elevate your Craft Fair game. We will feature posts on:

How To Pick The Right Craft Fair For You (this post)

Which Payment Service Is Best For You?

Setting Up Your Display For Success

Prep & Pack For A Successful Event

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I love attending Fairs & Festivals as much as having a booth. As an online store owner, it is a rare and special opportunity to get out and meet customers face to face. It is a chance to talk to other artists and vendors and grow in community. It is an opportunity to introduce new people to my work in a way that you can't online: by showing them the value of cozy handmade up close. But my love of all things Festivals doesn't transcend to just any festival! It is essential to be part of the right one.

So let's start at the beginning with the biggest, and seemingly most daunting, question: how to find and pick the "right" event. If you do not already have some Fairs & Festivals you know you want to apply to, here are some great links to find out about Fairs in your area:

Arts & Crafts Show Yellow Pages
Festival Net

Stitch & Hustle Market Season Tips

Research. Research. Then research some more. It can be such a sucker punch to have a "bad show" when it was all avoidable by doing just a bit of research as to what show you should apply to. Just because a Fair or Festival has tons of traffic and your target market, there are other factors to consider, such as weather and time of year. I sell cozy handmade accessories, mostly chunky heavy knitwear. So while I love a couple of local Chicago Summer Festivals, I know I have to love them as an attendee. Do people want to think about heavy knitwear in 90 degree temps outdoors? Nope.

Besides seeing if your work will be a good fit for the event, also consider is the Fair a good fit for your brand! Some things to consider and ask:
Do they only sell handmade or will you be up against a variety of small home based businesses (ie Scentsy, Chloe & Isabelle, etc.)? 
It is always good to know who will also be there. You can check previous year's events and vendors to get a feel if you will be a good fit. If your work will fit in well, but also if who already is at the market attracts the same type of customer as you.

What is the typical traffic at the show? What is the last 3 year attendance?
Again -do your research. Event track records speak for themselves. While "First Annual" has lots of hype and fun, it is a much bigger risk. I like to see an event that has grown in attendance. It tells me that they keep adding value and not only do people go back but they also attract new people. Also check the vendors - do they go back? This will tell you if they found it a success or not. I mean, would you go back to a Fair you lost money at and did not sell well at?

Does the event have a strong web presence? Website? Facebook page?
This will be a huge factor when it comes to advertising. It will tell you if they do a lot of the legwork or expect the vendors to do it all. There should be a good balance, but more importantly when you drive your customers to the event site you want them to get excited to go support you there and bring friends.

Be mindful of deadlines. Be ready to get your application filled out the minute you know you want to apply. Here are a few quick tips for the application process:
1. Keep your bio short but lively. Let your personality come through but maintain professionalism. It is a tough balance so write your bio and have it saved and handy to go when you need it. Describe you, your work and what inspires you. And check your spelling! For real tho!

2. Send only high quality clean product photos. This is not your Instagram feed. You want to show your products, and especially if it is a juried show, show the quality of your work. Over stylized photos can take away from your product.

3. Read the full application directions thoroughly. Follow all of the steps, provide all of the requested materials on time, and completed. 

Most shows, fairs & festivals have fees. Fees range from application fees, to booth / stand fees, to tables and chair rental fees. It is essential to look at not just the application and booth fee, but all of your related costs when deciding on a show.  Here is a small checklist of things to consider about fees to get you started when considering if an event is right for you.

Factor in all of your related costs then determine what is your true break even number. Know it. Then ask yourself; Is the fee worth it? Can you make it back? Can you lose it if you don't make it back? Those are hard questions and I cannot stress enough how important they are.

Let me also take a moment to say this: No matter how much you research and prep and plan, sometimes events go wrong or people don't buy. So I suggest to have the mindset of a weekend in Vegas. Have fun. Consider the fees and costs that go into setting up to sell your wares a donation (that is what I call a Vegas gambling allowance). It is an investment into your business. While you hope to make it back, and then some, at the event, I believe the key is to not stress about it so having budgeted and the mindset that it is an investment will set you free from that stress. Because if you are not stressed, you will have fun. And if you have fun, you will likely have sales. And Sales is the ball game!

So with that I say: Happy Craft Fair season everyone.

Five Product Photography Hacks For A Homemade Studio

Whether it is for your website, promotional materials or to post on social media, product photography is crucial for success.

But what if you are not a pro photographer with full light kit and studio? Here are five tips, tricks and hacks to help you DIY yourself into better product shots.



Tip 1: Change Your Scene
You can order very inexpensive backdrops from Amazon. I got the Elle Bella Paper Backdrops shown here for $10 each! Then just tape it to the wall that gets the best light and boom: you have a studio.

Or, if you are so inclined you can go the extra mile and order a set of stands to hang the backdrop from. I got this Limo Studio set shown here for $35 on Amazon.

Tip 2: Clean Light Box DIY
If you have smaller products and want that clean white lightbox look, hit up your local craft shop and get 2 pieces of poster board. I got the pieces here for a total of $3 at my local Hobby Lobby.

 

Tip 3: Steady As You Go
Even if you are using your phone, as I personally do about 50% of the time, invest in a tripod. I got the one here for $25 from Amazon and spent another $10 on the Jelly Fish Spring Mount for when I use my iPhone.

Tip 4:  DIY Floor & Backdrop Board
The truth is, sometimes it is just better to go with the classics and drop your product on the floor in a well lit room and shoot overhead. But what if your home rocks a 1970's avocado shag carpet? No prob!

Get yourself one of the $10 paper backdrops I mentioned in tip #1, grab a $2 piece of foam board and glue the paper to the foam board. Instant flat board backdrop. Ideal for almost any product and portable to go wherever you have the light!

If the light hits that one impossible sweet spot - no worries! Just get creative. I often use drawers to prop up my backdrop board in the bedroom that has the best afternoon light.  

 

Tip 5: Use Props
I realize it may sound counter intuitive because you want to keep focus and showcase your product, but the truth is that your image tells a story about your product. So use props to help tell that story and maintain your brand message. I love this mini chalk board I got on clearance for $2.50 but you can also use whatever props are in your home and fit your  brand message and vibe.
 

Hope these tips help you get started to better product photography. Feel free to also share your own tips and hacks below in comments. Happy shooting :-)

Got ‘Gram-Game? An Instagram Primer For Artisans & Small Biz

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

Knitwear designer Ozetta Takes Us Into Her Cozy Studio On Her Instagram

Knitwear designer Ozetta Takes Us Into Her Cozy Studio On Her Instagram

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.

Mud and Yarn Takes Us behind the Scenes on Her Instagram to See her Process and Even Inside her Kiln

Mud and Yarn Takes Us behind the Scenes on Her Instagram to See her Process and Even Inside her Kiln

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.

Crochet & Knitwear Artisan Crochet Gallery Lets Us Experience Her beautiful Surroundings and Inspiration on Her Instagram Account

Crochet & Knitwear Artisan Crochet Gallery Lets Us Experience Her beautiful Surroundings and Inspiration on Her Instagram Account

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: Not All Platforms Are Equal

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:

  1. 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.
     
  2. 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.