Archive for the ‘crafting’ Tag

Sweet Tweets: Using Twitter to Best Advantage, Part 1

Ah, Twitter…every Etsian who’s done any research into marketing their art/craft shop has been told to get onto Twitter and promote promote promote!  But, uh…don’t promote too much…socialize, mostly, or tweet interesting things…and then promote some…but not too little or people will miss it…um…

If you are confused by the Twitter-mania touted on Etsy and Artfire, I hope these 2 blogs (this one and its sequel) will help you make a bit of sense of this thing called “social media.”

I joined the Twitter brigade about two months ago.  I figured it was a free service to try out and see if it actually would help in promoting my shop.  I was unsure of what to expect, but once I got there, I realized it’s pretty much just the next evolutionary link in the social networking chain–which began eons ago with BBS (bulletin board systems), then Usenet newsgroups, mailing lists, and forums–and ultimately, Myspace and Facebook.  I’ve been down with that stuff practically since Al Gore invented the web, so I felt comfortable in the Twitter groove pretty quickly.  I even surprised myself by actually enjoying the interaction!

Still, a few things are new to me, and I find that I am learning every day that I Tweet.

So here are a few suggestions gleaned from my weeks of experience, based on my own mistakes and those of others.  Take it with a grain of salt, since I am still pretty new to the process, and feel free to share your own experiences in the comments, even if they are different from mine.  We are all still learning, right?

•First off:  Be interesting, or at least be social. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before.  If you think it’s going to be hard to think of non-product things to tweet about, well…I doubt you’ll feel that way for long.  Some days, I enjoy the interaction so much I almost forget to promote anything.  Sounds cheesy…but it’s true!  Oh, and if you only tweet about your products, I may follow you, but I won’t rec you on Follow Friday, and you’re highly unlikely to keep very many non-crafter followers.  And maybe not even the Etsy/Artfire folks, either.

•Which brings me to:  Follow people from other walks of your life. Do you write?  Play golf?  Are you a foodie or a wine enthusiast?  Love the outdoors?  Tech gadgets or gaming?  Star Wars?  Cats?  My followers include not only artisans and crafters, but quite a few moms, dads, and SAHM/WAHMs (that’s Stay-at-home and Work-at-home Moms, for those not in the know), since that’s my current demographic.  I’ve also friended fellow fans of my favorite movies/tv shows/books, people whose music I like, folks from my state, and educators (since I am also a teacher).  Not only might these prove better customer bases for me than, say, the 287 fellow jewelry designers I follow, but (and more importantly), they are folks I can connect to on a very necessary level.  After all, if you’re not going to tweet your products all day long, you have to have other interesting things to talk about, right?  And I’ve discovered some great people (and some great blogs) through the folks I follow, both artsy and otherwise.

•And yes, most of the people I follow do indeed follow me back. If they don’t, you can always un-follow them later–every three weeks or so, I purge those who are not following me back–especially when my Tweeps’ Tweets are already too numerous to keep up with properly!

Know whom you follow, and why. Don’t neccesarily avoid people who do only tweet with professional purpose, if their profession can benefit you on any level.  Say you’re searching for a job; following Tweeps who link you to all kinds of job-hunting tips and posting boards might prove a useful connection.  Or you may enjoy following people who tweet nothing but interesting news stories from all over the web, like @GuyKawasaki.  I highly recommend such follows!  Just don’t expect to sell many earrings to them.  😉

•And when you do actually tout your product (which you definitely should do!), here’s a few tips I’ve learned from experience:

1.  If you say, “Check out my new wool house-slippers!” and then link to your main storefront, you won’t get any views of the house-slippers…though you might conceivably get views of other items, but that’s a crap-shoot.  Pick a specific item to tweet and put up the link directly to it, then sit back and watch the views roll in.

2.  Experiment with doing this at different times of day to find out what times will get you the most views and/or re-tweets.  Twitter is definitely busier at some times of day than others.

3.  Experiment also with wording your tweets to get the most interest in the product you’re tweeting about.  I’m definitely still working on this, but I have seen some difference when I can turn a phrase smoothly in the promo-tweet.

4.  Always promote something different.  I find that if I tweet the same item twice in a day, it usually gets me very few hits the second time around, presumably because my followers who are interested already looked at it before.  Personally, I can’t read all the updates from people I’m following, so I appreciate repetition of links through the day (within reason), but this hasn’t proven true of the people who follow me.  You mileage may vary.

In the interest of brevity, I’ll save the last, most juicy part of this blog for next time, when I tackle the big question:  So does Twitter actually bring sales?? Be sure to tune in!  Leave comments and/or questions if you wish, or e-mail me at particlesofstone at yahoo dot com.  And thanks for reading!

Hanging out your Shingle: Setting up Shop at Etsy, Part 2

Okay, two blogs ago I had begun listing my clueless mistakes, which became my best tips, in the process of starting up an Etsy shop.  You can read the first part of the blog here; now we pick up with Tip #4, which deals with all those crazy pages you have to write stuff on, starting with your “Announcements,” or the front page:

4.  Roll out the welcome mat.

Under your banner is your shop title.  Here I had something rather poetic at first, because I wanted to convey a sort of “feel” with my shop title.  But then I found out (via the forums, of course) that Google uses the shop title to place your shop in a relevant item search.  So the title should be a pithy description of exactly what you sell; something like “Crocheted Hair Accessories” or “Scrabble Tile Pendant Jewelry” would be ideal.  (Unless of course you sell gothic fine art prints, I suppose…)

Under the title is your “welcome/announcements” text.  I had already seen that some people use this as a place to put all their shop policies, shipping rates, turn-ons, turn-offs and the history of their craft in the Western world, but even Newbie I could see that this was a mistake.  However, I still got a little too poetical the first few times and made it too “texty.”  I learned in journalism classes in college that people’s eyes are drawn to the white space *around* blocks of text, not the grey blob of text itself.  So keep the whole of it short (so people can see your items without scrolling) and keep the paragraphs even shorter.

Also important because Google also uses the welcome text to accurately place your item in search results.  Also, your policies page is already provided elsewhere, so keep policies off your shop’s front page (though on my front page, I do encourage people to read the policies page, in case they don’t know it’s there).

The other mistake I made was overlapping information about myself with my “welcome” message–again, Etsy provides a profile page where one can write to one’s heart’s desire about themselves and their craft.  The welcome page is not the place for that, either.  The idea here is to tell the shop visitor exactly what you make and sell.  If you’re having any promotions or sales, you can also mention those on the front page.  I personally put the URLs of my Flickr page, Twitter profile, and this here blog on my welcome page, too, but those can be put in your profile if you prefer.

And yes, you do need to put something there, and more than one sentence.  I have seen a few sellers who only had one or two sentences–or even just a part of a sentence–as their welcome, but that really doesn’t make people feel very “welcome.”  The point is:  Keep it fairly brief, but informative enough that the visitor feels they understand what they’re going to see while visiting your shop.

5.  Leave no page untexted.

Obviously, you’ll want to fill out your policies page.  How to do this effectively is covered in the sellers’ FAQ on Etsy’s Resources pages, as well as in many forum threads.  Some Etsy-specific tips include:  mention how you pack items (and by all means, take pains with packaging–it brings repeat business), as well as your customization/alteration/resizing/repair/exchange policies (have some!).

As for profile, as I said, I initially conflated the profile and the welcome page, but I eventually broke it down into:  The welcome page is about my shop, and the profile page is about me–and that includes how I approach my craft.  And yes, many Etsy buyers really do read the profiles and really do want to know something about you.  That’s part of the reason people buy handmade:  the personal touch.  (But of course, not *too* personal–particularly if you’re desperate for sales; sadly, people really don’t want to know that.  We are all friendly at Etsy, but it’s still best to maintain a professional approach.)

Okay, that’s all for today.  I have one more big, fat, juicy tip, but this blog is already far too gabby for busy folks like you, so I’ll save it for next time.  And yes, it does relate to the current Etsy controversy over those mysterious meta-tag thingies…but I’ll say no more for now.

Post comments below, or send questions, comments, rotten tomatoes, and air-freshener samples to particlesofstone at yahoo dot com.  Until next time, dear readers!

Pondering the Unique–to OOAK or not to OOAK?

When I conceived my shop, and when I opened it, I was committed to creating 100% one-of-a-kind (OOAK) items.  My reasons were twofold:

First, I’m big on uniqueness all-around.  I like the idea that each piece of jewelry I make is like a novel or a poem or a painting–that there would be only one of them in the world, and someone could own that one special thing.

Second–and probably most importantly–the idea of making the same things over and over again sounds painfully dull to me.  Just call me easily distracted.  Ooh, look–a shiny thing!

Where was I?  Oh, yes, uniqueness.  My original shop welcome message, and every single item description I wrote, proudly proclaimed how “each of my designs is unique/OOAK,” and in the beginning, I really meant to stick by that.

But then some doubt crept in.  First off, there’s a difference between a one-of-a-kind item and a one-of-a-kind design.  OOAK items are not that difficult when you can simply substitute one stone for another–sometimes even the same type of stone can look radically different from one bead to another.  OOAK designs, on the other hand, may get challenging over time.  I mean, if I create a triple-strand choker with a focal bead on one strand, and I stick by my OOAK-design proclamation, I can never create another like that, even if I find a combination of beads that just screams for that design.

So clearly, that was a bad idea.

That left me with an option to go with “OOAK creations,” which is ambiguous enough to mean either design or individual items.  And that seemed okay, but then my family started wanting me to make things that were “like those earrings except with silver instead of copper” or “that necklace but with two turquoise accent beads instead of jasper.”

Erp.

For now, if I fulfill my family’s custom orders, I’m really stretching the “OOAK” label pretty darn thin.  I know it’s technically still true, but the idea of making things that are virtually identical except for a change of a couple stones makes me squirm.

I also am currently in the planning stages of approaching local shop owners about consignment or wholesale deals, a situation in which remaining 100% OOAK would be difficult to manage, at best, and might cost me potential sales of particularly well-loved items, at worst.

Plus, I found that I really liked some of my designs so much I wanted to replicate them for myself, and in fact couldn’t imagine never making them again.

So now, what to do?  Throw my OOAK commitment out the window?

Well, maybe a little.

If you look at my shop now, you will see that my welcome message says “Many of my pieces are unique/OOAK,” and I do intend to stick by that for as long as I remain Particles of Stone.

Individual descriptors also tell you whether the item is OOAK…and if not, then it either isn’t, or might not be; I’m leaving my options open for some items, particularly if I manage to make some consignment or wholesale deals.

I still love the creation of OOAK items, though; I still buy beads in small quantities just so I can create that unique piece, never to return once it leaves my hands.  There’s something beautifully melancholy about sending your creations away to be used and loved by someone else–very sweet, and just the slightest bit bitter, particularly if you know you’ll never make another like it.

I’m curious to know how other artisans have approached this issue–do you do OOAK exclusively?  Partially?  Not at all?  This blog is intended to help newbies, so maybe the experiences of the experienced can be a good touchstone for us when planning our approaches to the biz.

Post your comments/reactions here, or send them to particlesofstone at yahoo dot com.  Until next time, m’dears–au revoire!