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How Etsy and other small sellers can take advantage of social media

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Social media can be a double-edged sword for a small business: it’s technically free (unless you choose to pay to advertise on it) and can be a huge boost to your business, but it also requires time that can be hard to come by on a small staff– particularly when you happen to be an army of one.

Etsy sellers in particular face a unique set of challenges, since at its heart Etsy is a marketplace for handmade crafts which can be incredibly time-consuming to produce and have to compete with sellers producing on a mass scale. These kinds of sellers are also more likely to have bigger sales and marketing resources at their disposal. How do you compete when you might not have any online marketing expertise yourself? Having a Twitter account and a Facebook page doesn’t mean you know how to market in those places, and it can be overwhelming to think about the number of social platforms available.

What to do? Plan, plan, plan. The initial setup takes the most time, but once you get the hang of things, the return will be well worth it if you’ve done your homework. And we’re here to help.

Before there was Etsy, there was this.
[Photo courtesy NYPL Digital Gallery]

1. Decide where you need to be.

This should be determined by where your customers are; if they’re all on Pinterest and Instagram and you devote most of your time to Facebook, well, you can see how that’s not optimal. If you’re limited on time, pick one or two platforms to be really active on and set up alerts for any others so you won’t miss anything (try out free tools like Mention). It’s a good idea to at least have a presence on platforms you use less often, just in case potential customers try to reach you there.

You might also consider something like Tumblr: you can set up a queue of content to automatically post when you’re busy working during the day and sleeping during the night, and hop in to join conversations whenever you have the time (it’s recommended to make time at least once a day). A traditional blog also allows you to draft and schedule posts ahead of time, but Tumblr has the added bonus of established communities that are easy to tap into with tags and reblogs. There’s also the social aspect that comes with the concept of reblogging; you can always find new people to follow and new communities to immerse yourself in this way. Design and fashion are closely linked, for example, and reblogs are great ways to find new people to talk to about in both of these areas and their overlap.

2. Plan your content out.

If you use social media to only promote what it is that you’re selling, you’re missing the social aspect of it entirely. Decide how much time you can devote to sharing original content vs curating and sharing the content of others in your community of choice (with credit of course). A good ratio of sharing your own products and design alongside other content is about 70/30, and it holds fast across platforms.

Photos are popular and perform well across platforms too; Etsy advises sellers to have large, clear images of their products available, and one advantage of this is having high-quality images to pin and share on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr with a description. That’s your 30% promotion right there.

What about the other 70%? Here are some specific ideas:

  • Share what inspires you in real life: Photos of a walk you went on, an inspiring quilt pattern you saw at a resale shop or festival, you hanging out with other creative people at a conference or just a happy hour.

  • Related to that last point, share some little things from your personal life that you’re comfortable with, like pictures of your pets or your bookshelf. A lot of customers like to connect with the seller behind the items they’re making; it’s part of the homemade, handcrafted appeal. They’re not just buying a sweater, they’re buying a sweater from you.

  • Share photos of items you’ve made and loved so much, you kept them for yourself, or are planning to give them as gifts to a friend, partner or family member. That shows the deep pride you take in your work.

  • Share items from fellow Etsy crafters’ stores that you love: They’ll appreciate the promotion, and might return the favor.

  • Share funny little mistakes: Miss a stitch? Drop a bucket of paint? Cat and toddler get into your stock of feathers and glue? These moments can be hilarious, and are humanizing.

  • To that end, any kind of behind-the-scenes photos and descriptions of the process you go through can help customers understand the value of what you’re making by seeing the time and effort that go into it.

  • Mood photos: There are entire Tumblrs and Pinterest boards devoted to fall, or to a specific color scheme. You can start and curate one of your own, pinning your own items that fit in appropriately alongside images of crispy autumn leaves on roads and pumpkins, all-white schemes, or beach-themed boards.

Pick an approach that’s an appropriate fit for you and what you’re selling in your store.

3. Measure and adjust.

Measurement doesn’t have to mean expensive tools and confusing spreadsheets. There are a lot of free tools that can give you an idea of what’s working and what’s not. Run a free TweetReach snapshot report on your Twitter account, for example, to see which tweets have performed the best and which other accounts talk to and retweet you the most. These are people you want to make sure you’re following and engaging with in return as much as possible.

Additionally if you have a blog or a Tumblr, see which posts have performed the best and why. Was it because of the time of day you posted? The content itself? Did someone popular in the community give you a signal boost by repinning it or tweeting about it? Was it a combination of those things? Keeping track of these factors will help you make the best content plan possible moving forward: you’ll know what to do about the ones you can control, like timing and content.

Want more? Check out the Etsy community on Tumblr, as an example; they also have specific advice for Etsy sellers using Tumblr to promote themselves on their blog, along with some handy Twitter advice. Even if you’re not on Etsy specifically, it should give you a good idea of where to start.

Got a question for us about this? Drop us a line.

Written by Sarah

September 24th, 2013 at 9:46 am