by Lisa McGrimmon
Social media marketing can be a brilliant way to build your craft business. In fact, in my experience, craft-related niches are fabulous online spaces filled with kind, helpful, fascinating, talented, engaged people. I love connecting with craft professionals on social media.
But there's no way around it. Managing good social media accounts does take time. You really need a sane, simplified plan to do it well without letting it take over your life.
A few readers have asked me how to fit social networking into their marketing strategy when they are already extremely busy with other aspects of running a business. I've dealt with that question myself and, after a lot of research and trial and error, I finally came up with an approach I like, so I thought I'd share what works for me.
I certainly don't know everything there is to know about every social site. There's so many of them out there, it's impossible to keep up. I manage my own time by focusing on the sites that work best for my business. So, I'm not writing a how-to for every social site. Instead, I'll try to give you a way to develop your own simple, manageable plan to prioritize your social marketing time and develop a strategy that works for you, your customers, and your business.
I came to social networking for this site late in the game. My youngest son was born right around the time that Facebook for business was starting to heat up. So, when I should have been working on getting Facebook followers and likes, I was busy changing diapers and walking around in a bit of a sleep-deprived haze. I kept my business activities to the core tasks, which, at the time, didn't include doing social.
As my son got older and started sleeping through the night, I realized the growing importance of having a social presence and decided to get down to work.
It was overwhelming at first. Facebook for business had grown to be quite complex, Twitter had established itself as an important force but you had to post an overwhelming volume of tweets, Pinterest was just breaking into the market and was quickly getting big in craft-related circles, and there was Google+, and YouTube, and Instagram, and LinkedIn...
Yikes! So many social sites, and so little time. Where to even begin?
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It took me a while to figure this concept out. I felt pressured to get going with social and initially felt like I needed to dive into all of them, or at least all of the big ones.
What I learned, though, is with so many social media marketing outlets out there, you really need to simplify. Don't try to jump into three or four different social platforms all at once. You'll spread yourself too thin, and you will be so busy trying to tweet, and pin, and post, you'll struggle to do any of it well.
Sometimes you need to slow down to speed up.
Take your time bringing different social strategies into your business gradually. That way, you can understand best practices and establish your presence on one platform before shifting your focus to another.
Take a step back, and choose one social networking platform to focus on, and do it really well. Once you have figured out how to use one social platform effectively for your business and have worked it into your schedule, then you can add another, but only if being active on a second platform really helps you to meet your business goals.
Don't randomly choose which social network you'll start with. You need to make an informed decision about which social platform to focus on first. To help make that decision, ask yourself:
The answers to those questions, plus a little basic knowledge about the nature of the big social sites, will help you to decide where to start with a sane, simplified social media marketing strategy.
Before you decide where to start, you need to determine what you want to get out of building a social presence for your craft business. That way, you can choose the strategy that will best fit your goals. Below, I've listed a few ways social can help your business. Which ones are relevant to you? Can you think of any other benefits?
SOME WAYS SOCIAL MEDIA CAN BENEFIT YOUR BUSINESS
Once you have an idea of what you really want to get out of social for business, take a look at the major social sites, and determine which is best suited to help you achieve those goals.
Facebook can be a surprisingly good and easy way to launch a craft business, especially if you already use the site personally and have a focus on local sales. Invite your friends to follow your Facebook business page, and then grow your page by making your posts so fantastic, they want to share and like them. If you're friends are constantly amazed by how talented and clever you are when they see photos of your latest creations, they will want to share and help you grow your business via Facebook.
Facebook can also help to build a larger following outside of your friends and acquaintances if you want to expand beyond a local business. However, achieving this goal requires more time (and possibly money) and a commitment to learn about how to get the most out of Facebook.
I've looked at a lot of resources on building this type of Facebook following, and, by far, my favorite resource is Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day. It is full of plenty of current and relevant information (probably more than you need), and the author has a proven track record on Facebook.
You'll find some very friendly crafters on Twitter, so it can be a good option for building possible partnerships. You can make connections here, establish your authority in a niche and have real-time conversations and interactions.
The flip side of those real-time interactions is that you're really only as good as your last tweet, and you have to keep "feeding" Twitter. If you're going to do Twitter well, you need to be prepared to tweet with some frequency. That works well for some types of craft businesses, and not so well for others.
Pinterest was designed to send people to other sites. In many ways, it's more of a search engine than a social site. It can be an excellent vehicle for getting more traffic to your own site or to an Etsy shop.
I pin a combination of my own pages and other people's images that are related but don't compete with my own site. When I pin my own images, I see a huge increase in traffic to my site; in fact, Pinterest is the second biggest source of traffic to my site.
Obviously, Pinterest is excellent for anyone who has great images to share, and as craft business owners, you can send followers directly to the sales page for each of your pinned items.
One thing I love about Pinterest is the long life for pins. Unlike other social sites in which your posts have a limited shelf life, a Pinterest pin can send traffic to your site or online store for months after it was pinned.
Instagram is almost completely visual, so it can be a great fit for craft artists. You can share images of your work, works in progress, your studio, or sales venues.
Instagram is primarily mobile-based, and it is not designed to take readers off of Instagram onto your own site. In fact, you can't include active links in descriptions on Instagram. There's a spot for a link in your bio, and that's it.
However, while Instagram may not get a lot of people clicking directly to your site or your Esty shop, it is a great spot for building connections with potential customers. Followers will get repeated exposure to your work, and that can bring more sales. Most marketing experts will tell you a customer needs to encounter your product several times before they buy. Instagram helps you create that familiarity with potential customers.
LinkedIn is not so much a vehicle for connecting you with customers; it functions more as a place to connect business owners who might benefit from a partnership or job seekers with employers.
While some niches are extremely strong on LinkedIn, there currently isn't a particularly strong arts community on the site. You may have other professional reasons to be on LinkedIn, but if you're just looking at social marketing for your craft business, and you only have time to be active on a couple of sites, LinkedIn wouldn't be the first place I would start.
While not always thought of as social, you can develop a good following on YouTube that could be beneficial for the right type of craft business. Do keep in mind the time it takes to produce good quality videos. Images and comments are fairly easy to create, but videos require more effort and expertise. That may not be a deal-breaker for you to use YouTube for your business, but you will need to think seriously about the potential payoff versus the time you'll need to invest in creating videos.
Your Personal Preferences
There are other social sites you might consider, but these are the big ones that most people start with.
In addition to looking at what site best meets your needs and your goals for your business, you should also consider your own personal preferences.
What social platform do you like best personally? You really need to understand a social platform as a regular, personal user before you jump in and try to use it for business purposes. The more you personally connect with and understand a social site and its users' preferences, the better success you will have using it to promote your business.
I do a combination of scheduled posting and spontaneous posting. I'm active on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook right now. I just couldn't keep up with social media and all of my other business and personal obligations (and maybe have some downtime once in a while) without the tools that allow me to schedule my posts.
Facebook has its own free scheduling option built right into the Facebook for business pages.
For Pinterest and Instagram, I use Tailwind. It's not free, but it makes my life immensely easier, and Pinterest does bring loads of traffic to my site, so, in my opinion, it easily pays for itself in the increased traffic. Tailwind automatically schedules and publishes my posts to Pinterest, so I can post several times throughout the day without the need to be at my computer.
I chose Tailwind over other tools for Pinterest scheduling because Tailwind allows unlimited scheduled posts. Other scheduling tools limit the number of posts you can schedule ahead, and when I'm organized, I tend to have a lot of posts scheduled. Tailwind lets me do that.
For Instagram, I use Tailwind to prepare my posts. I still manually post to Instagram, but Tailwind reminds me when it's time to post, and it allows me to prepare the post ahead of time. It also schedules my posts for the best time of day, and it helps me find new hashtags in my niche. Smart hashtag use is extremely important for growth on Instagram. Although I've already done a lot of my own Instagram hashtag research, the Tailwind hashtag tool helped me find quite a few good options that I'd missed.
The scheduled posts on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram allow me to keep the social interaction going even if I'm busy with some other aspect of my business. They also allow me to post items at the best times when followers are most likely to see them.
If you're going to use social media for your business, do it well or don't do it.
This is another lesson I've had to learn through trial and error. In addition to using Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook to build a social voice for my site, I had also been using Twitter for a while.
Unlike Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook, I hadn't taken any time to learn Twitter best practices. I was doing Twitter half-heartedly and was getting exactly the results I deserved (not much!).
I realized that I didn't want a weak Twitter account representing my business online. I'd rather have no Twitter account than a bad Twitter account. So, I removed Twitter from my business marketing strategy for the time being. If it makes sense, I might come back to Twitter at some point and do it right.
A poorly done social media presence can lower your people's view of your company, and, if you have a website, it's possible that a spammy social media campaign could hurt your site's search engine rankings. So, do it well or not at all!
Even if you're not active on a particular social media platform, you should create accounts on the big social sites to reserve your company name. That way, no one else can use your business name on a social site, and you will have that name available if you decide at some point to become active on that site.
So that's my strategy for simplified social media marketing.
The next time you see a headline that screams out, "15 Social Sites Business Owners MUST Use!" don't panic. There is absolutely no need to use 15 social sites (or even 5 social sites) to promote your business. In fact, unless you have a full time person in charge of managing your social media, you can't possibly do all of that well and still run your business.
Take your time, and go for quality, not quantity with your social marketing campaign.