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Handmade Goods in the Digital Age

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Samantha Arnts

on 7 April 2014

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Transcript of Handmade Goods in the Digital Age

Handmade Goods in the Digital Age
How do you promote yourself online?
If you want to be a successful online retailer, the key is connecting with your audience through non-traditional means. For most sellers on Etsy, a big budget marketing plan is out of the question. This is where social media comes in. With a lot of dedication and proper usage, it is possible to get a lot of marketing done for very little cash.

The key to using all of these popular platforms is to establish a brand, and for the artist to let his or her personality shine through. This allows the seller to build some genuine word of mouth reputation.
Pinterest is like an online corkboard, where people can easily bookmark almost anything on the web. According to Etsy's Guide to using Pinterest, "[many] pinners are already interested in the things you make and sell, so the more people pin, discover, and repin your products, the more likely new customers will be to discover your Etsy shop" (Knight, 20113). Here are some tips on making the most of the visual bookmarking site:

Create a range of boards
- these are a great way to display the aesthetic of your work in a way that is much more difficult with words

Pin at least once a day
- this will ensure that your followers are getting fresh content from you, and seeing your name!

Pin and price your products
- this is one place where you can really showcase listings of your items. Potential customers like to be able to add products to wish lists

Interact with others
- comment on pins from other artists and people who follow you
In today's age of mass production, it can be easy to lament about the lack of originality seen out there; every new home seems to be decorated with the same trendy art prints, every stylish person walks down the street in the same "it" scarf, everyone regifts the same prepackaged Christmas cookie mix.

However if you take a closer look, you will notice that as we enter the age of mass customization, there is a return to the homemade afoot. Artists who once sold their wares at craft shows and small local businesses are finding a much larger audience can now be reached online. With the wealth of social media tools available, promoting yourself has become both more accessible and much more complex.

In this presentation, we will explore how makers are using social media to their advantage, creating engaging online spaces in which their customers become their fans and biggest supporters. In addition, we will see how online retail is able to connect the world to unique and beautiful products from right down the street, or half way around the world. Finally, we will examine what the maker revolution means for the creative community at large.
Learning Objectives
• How can makers use social media to promote their business?
• What are the advantages of selling products online as compared to in traditional retail outlets?
• What is the larger social impact that is being seen through the "Maker Movement"?
According to Etsy's Guide to Facebook, "[the] key with Facebook (and all social media) is that it is less about explicitly trying to promote things, and more about forging connections, sharing interesting tid-bits, and having fun!" (Chin, 2011). Here are some guidelines successful online retailers follow in order to make the most of this social media giant:

Post about new things you are working on
- including galleries showing your workspace and progress shots

Link to your blog posts
- this reminds followers who may not track your blog on their own that they can get a more detailed update on your work

Post about your upcoming events
- including sales you are having or craft shows you are attending

DO NOT spam your followers -
try to stick to a reliable schedule, posting your content at the same time every day or week

Include personal posts about your own life
- this helps your followers to have a sense of personal connection with you

Ask for feedback
- whether you want to show off a new project or you have creative block and need some new ideas, it is always a great idea to engage your audience
The key to using Twitter successfully lies in engagement. Twitter should be treated like one giant worldwide party, with lots of little conversations going on. You can easily comment on a topic or reply directly to a customer, without sounding like a giant commercial by following these tips:

Use your shop or brand name as your twitter handle
- this makes it is easy for people to find you

Follow people who are in your target market
- if you sell handmade baby clothes, find some new and expectant mothers on twitter

Use hashtags
- this will help people who are interested in your subject, but who may never have heard of you, connect with your work

Ask questions
- personal or professional questions are both great on twitter, as long as you are engaging your audience

Let followers grow organically
- do not get sucked into "I'll follow you if you follow me" as these people likely will not engage with your brand

Link to your other social media outlets
- just be sure to be personable, so that you don't sound like you are spamming your customers

PBS Arts Off Book series: Etsy
Exploring how social media is growing the maker movement
Part blog, part visual pinboard, tumblr is a community of passionate fans. According to Etsy's Guide to Tumblr, "[it] is a blogging and social media platform that consists of many, many small communities centered around various topics. Fashion, DIY, crafts, home decor, vintage — it’s all there! Each community has its own village of followers communicating with each other and sharing content" (Leth, 2013). Here is how to use the site to your advantage:

Customize your blog
- tumblr allows you to create a blog that looks any way you want it to, so you should make it express the aesthetic of your business.
• Make use of photosets
- this is a great feature for showing off the detail of your work, or showing it in context
• Reblog relevant posts
- anything that relates to your style can easily be added to your tumblr, along with your comments about it
• Use tags
- people on tumblr can follow specific tags through their dashboard, so it is essential that you make the best use of them with every post!
According to the Instagram marketing blog Nitrogram, "[instagram] is now a network of 100 million users engaging every month within the app. This means that if you ship products online, your customers are probably posting photos on Instagram already" (Davoult, 2013"). The app is a great way to give potential customers a peek into your daily life. Here are a few ways to have it work for you:

Show your face
- let your followers get a real sense of who you are as a person, as they are more likely to feel like you are their "friend"

Give sneak peaks
- whether it is a work in progress, or setting up for a new show, this is a great way to build buzz around your brand and keep people watching for new updates

Share to other outlets
- Instagram allows you to share your photos to other social media platforms, so you should take advantage of this

Watermark your shop's URL
- Instagram does not allow direct links to outside sources, so it is a good idea to include your URL directly on the photo and in the caption as well
Blogs can be one of the most effective tools for bringing detail and life to your online brand. The people reading your blog are there because they want to be, so it is a great space to really delve in to the reason they should be purchasing your products through both pictures and words. In addition, all of your social media outlets can link back to this space in addition to your web store. Here are some tips on the best way to use your blog:

Write about what is relevant
- you can do this in many ways, such as sharing updates about your home if you sell home decor items, to a trip that inspired you if you sell art
• Vary your blog posts
- it is always a good idea to mix up your subject matter within a range of related topics in order to reach a wider audience

Hold promotional giveaways
- these can be sponsored posts or your own products, either way it will build excitement and get people returning to your blog

Take great pictures, from all angles
- your photos should be edited cohesively throughout your blog, in order to help convey your personality.

What are the advantages of
selling online vs traditional retail?
Interaction With Customers
Another great feature of selling online and using social media is the ability for sellers to interact directly with their customers.
What is the larger social impact of the maker movement?
In an interview with CNN, an Etsy spokesperson summed up the feeling surrounding the maker movement.

The ability that social media has given us to find and connect with the the things, people, and artists who interest us has effectively marked the death true mass production.
Where One-Of-A-Kind Comes From
The Handmade Consortium
In 2007, this pledge was created as part of a movement to urge consumers to say no to mass produced goods and instead support artists who pour their souls into beautiful, handmade items. From Etsy's blog:
"We are very excited to say that we have joined forces with Craftster, Indiepublic, Craft Magazine, Interweave Press, Burdastyle, The Austin Craft Mafia, Design Sponge, and The American Craft Council, eight prominent forces in the DIY and handmade worlds, to collectively encourage people to buy handmade this holiday season."
Meet the Maker
In order to get some real world perspective on what it is like to be an online retailer today, I conducted a short interview with Toronto based blogger and owner of Penny Paper Co., Lindsay Stephenson. Her shop sells stationary, prints, wrapping accessories and custom stamps. Lindsay's poignant answers to key questions about topics relevant to promotion using social media and what it is like to sell in an online space will be featured throughout.
Lindsay can be found at aubreyandlindsay.blogspot.ca/ and pennypaperco.com
One of the most popular sources on the web for people to sell their goods is Etsy.com. The following documentary is a great introduction to the online marketplace.
Blair, E. (2012, December 13). Etsy Crafts A Strategy For Staying Handmade And Profitable. Minnesota Public Radio News. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from http://www.mprnews.org/story/npr/16708

Chin, L. (2011, October 27). Etsy’s Guide to Facebook. The Etsy Blog. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from https://www.etsy.com/blog/en/2011/etsys-guide-to-facebook/

Davoult, T. (2013, April 29). Use Instagram for Your Etsy Shop. Nitrogram. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from http://nitrogr.am/blog/instagram-for-etsy-shops/

Knight, K. (2031, May 30). How to Promote Your Etsy Shop With Pinterest. www.etsy.com. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from https://www.etsy.com/blog/en/2013/how-to-promote-your-etsy-shop-with-pinterest/

Leth, C. (2013, May 14). How to Promote Your Etsy Shop With Tumblr. The Etsy Blog. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from https://www.etsy.com/blog/en/2013/how-to-promote-your-etsy-shop-with-tumblr/

PBS, A. (Director). (2011). Off Book: Etsy [Documentary]. United States: Public Broadcasting Service.

Spaulding, M. (2011, October 26). Etsy’s Guide to Twitter. The Etsy Blog. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from https://www.etsy.com/blog/en/2011/etsys-guide-to-twitter/

Stephenson, Lindsay. Interview by author, Email interview. Toronto, 25 Feb. 2014.

Stinchcomb, M. (2007, October 24). Handmade Consortium Formed to Create Buy Handmade Pledge. The Etsy Blog. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from https://www.etsy.com/blog/en/2007/handmade-consortium-formed-to-create-buy-handmade-pledge/

Tutton, M. (2008, September 19). A Crafty Way to Beat the Chain Stores. CNN. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/09/18/craft.revival/

Walker, R. (2007, December 15). Handmade 2.0. The New York Times. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/16/magazine/16Crafts-t.html?_r=3&oref=slogin&ref=magazine&pagewanted=all&

What is Etsy?
Created in 2005 by a carpenter named Robert Kalin, Etsy.com is an online marketplace where makers can go to sell their products; an online One-Of-A-Kind show that erases physical distances and connects consumers with unique handmade goods.
"I use social media to show people who is behind the business, how thing come to be, and showing that I personally have a passion for what I do. I once heard the phrase that people buy from people they know – which I think is applicable to my shop. Online shopping doesn’t allow that face to face contact with a shop owner, so building an online presence via social media helps bridge that gap."
"I don’t necessarily utilize my business social media accounts to the best of their ability but my personal blog has become a primary source of marketing for my shop. Sometimes promoting your products / shop comes in ways that aren’t necessarily direct. (Like traditional advertisements). It’s connecting with like minded people, and they will organically share what you do with their online network."
Most sellers find that the biggest and most obvious benefit to opening up an online retail space is the lower start-up costs. While online platforms like Etsy or different e-commerce sites do cost some money to start up, those costs are negligible when compared to the cost of renting a unit. In addition, an online space does not run the risk of having a less than desirable physical location.

In the online world, makers are able to make changes, such as changing a price, with great ease. Not only that, but these changes can be advertised instantly if needed, completely free of charge through social media. Control of the promotion of the product rests with the person who makes it, not with a professional advertising firm hired by a retail giant who may not share the same point of view as the artist.
The Petersiks of Young House Love send me some birthday love when I Instagrammed a picture of their book.
Twitter interaction between an indie nail polish company from Brooklyn and a customer who lives in Great Britain
"I started my online shop in 2004 after having worked in the e-commerce department for a well known Toy Retailer, so I had some experience seeing how a well established, well run and organized company ran their e-commerce shop. Having that insight into how a “big” company did it, allowed me to know how to design my site and run my site well. At first I designed and built my own e-commerce shop – seeing first what sold well, and, how the business would develop. After 2 years, I felt comfortable enough investing in having a professional company design a site for me – this is prior to sites like Etsy and off the shelf e-commerce sites that are now available. The advice would be the same now though, to start small, don’t invest too much in the website and get comfortable on what works and, what sells."
"Although there is an allure to having a store front, the costs are quite high in renting retail space which has always been a deterrent. However, should money not be an issue, I don’t think that at this stage in my business we would venture into retail space. There is a wonderful freedom to being able to work when and where I would like. Not being limited to one location as a business owner means I can work from home and be with my child when and if he needs me. I can also work at all hours of the day which is something I enjoy."
"...[In] the U.S. and the western world there is a backlash now. Brand names were really popular in the 80s and 90s, but now I think people are kind of tired of that -- they want something that's more tailored to them" (Tutton, 2008).
Samantha Arnts
Social Media & Society
March 3, 2014
Charlene Kloos
Full transcript