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ONLINE MARKETING FOR YOUR CRAFT BUSINESS How to get your handmade products discovered, shared and sold on the internet Hilary Pullen CONTENTS Foreword Introduction Is social networking worth your time and energy? The ABC Of Online Marketing Brand Advocates and Brand Influencers Your Online Marketing Strategy The essentials of content marketing What Is Content Marketing? How To Get Your Content Discovered! Search Engine Optimization Identify Your Target Market Writing A Blog The Importance Of Great Photography Making social networking work for you Using Social Networks To Engage Brand Advocates Creating Powerful Profile Pages Facebook Pinterest Twitter Google+ YouTube Instagram LinkedIn Remember Your ABCs Creating a cross-channel content strategy Building Your Online Marketing Strategy What To Share On Your Social Networks Where and When To Share Content Auto Sharing Content Newsletters Google Analytics Conclusion Glossary Helpful Links and Resources About the Author, Contributors Acknowledgments DEDICATION To Edie, Patrick and Woody and all the people who love them too #myfamilyarethebest Foreword Hilary Pullen and I go back a few years. She has been a guest writer on Handmadeology a number of times, and when she told me she was working on a new marketing book, I was super-excited. I am a self-taught metal artist and a certified Mig welder. I started designing modern metal furniture in 2004 and I built my first piece in Baltimore, Maryland with my sister-in-law, who is a furniture designer. I found my passion in metal and kept on designing and building, struggling for four years to make a name for myself in local galleries in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. A friend of mine introduced me to Etsy in February 2007, and it changed my business. I started creating a jewellery line and have not turned back. In November 2007, I had to quit my full-time job because my passion was becoming a dream come true! I found my true calling when I launched Ha; ndmadeology in 2010 and wrote How to Make Money Using Etsy. With over 3,000 articles, Handmadeology is a daily blog that talks about how to successfully run a creative business. We have about 5,000 daily readers and a vast social network. I know what it takes first hand to market your crafts online and Hilary’s book is one of the most detailed marketing books out there for creative business owners. Right off the bat, Hilary is going to teach you the ABCs of marketing: Acquisition – Behaviour – Conversion. I love this! The core of marketing your craft business online is right there. On a daily basis, you should be marketing your craft business and remembering these three principles. When I first started selling my metal jewellery online, I remember my wife telling me that I needed to start a blog for my business. At first, not even knowing what a blog was, I thought she was crazy. After some persuasion, she convinced me to start one. To this day, it was the number-one best decision I made in my creative business. My blog helped to catapult my jewellery business into the world and allowed me to find my voice on the handmade scene. From where and how to start a blog to a comprehensive list of blog-post ideas, Hilary’s chapter on blogging is going to help you start your blog and take it to the next level. SEO is super-important when it comes to blogging and she has covered that area as well. Be sure to grab a highlighter and get ready to mark up this chapter! Running an online craft business takes time, a ton of effort and constant learning. If you are looking for a marketing guide to help your craft business thrive, then you need to pick up this book. Timothy Adam CEO, Handmadeology INTRODUCTION Your focus is your craft, so you are the very best person there is to promote your craft business. You know the products inside out and have confidence in every stitch, fold and detail. Do you want to make selling your crafts and designs a full-time job, or perhaps create a profitable second income? Online Marketing For Your Craft Business will show you how to create an online marketing strategy, to increase sales and build awareness of your craft business. This book looks in depth at the key principles of content and engagement marketing for your craft business. It carefully explains how to use many of the major social media networks and how to create engaging online content, designed to bring potential customers to your online shops. This book shows you how to set realistic and measurable goals that will have a positive impact on your sales figures and raise awareness of your craft business. PATRICIA VAN DER AKKER, THE DESIGN TRUST Networking online is crucial if you have a small creative business. It is the first step in making connections with people and selling yourself and your work. People often mostly focus on selling themselves via social media, but should focus first on networking and the social aspect of social media. You will need to sow first before you can reap! Start following people (journalists, retailers, trade and craft shows, and role models in particular are a good starting point), answer their questions, retweet their messages and comment or ask questions. That will increase your visibility with them, and then you can contact them often more successfully as they already recognize your name. In this book you will find lots of practical tips to improve your online networking skills and save you precious time. You will also come to understand how content marketing and online networking can make the difference between a few random tweets and being featured in a publication or blog that could see your brand becoming the next big thing! You could be asked to design for one of the leading craft magazines or be featured in an article by a blogger, and the next thing you know, you have lifestyle magazines and journalists tweeting you and wanting to feature you and your products. It’s all about getting the word out about your products through your online networking and blogging. In this book I will show you how to market your crafts online in an effective and efficient way using content marketing principles that I have learnt while working in the craft industry. I’ve also asked a few industry experts for their tips and advice, which are shared throughout the book. I’ll show you how to attract potential customers, how to retain existing customers and how to make social networking more rewarding and less of a chore. Every fan or follower is a potential customer, just as if he or she were a browser who had wandered into a shop on a high street. In this book I will explain how to draw fans and followers into your online shop so that you can give them your warmest online smile and let your passion for the crafts you make and sell shine through. Hilary Pullen IS SOCIAL NETWORKING WORTH YOUR TIME AND ENERGY? Yes! The biggest hurdle when selling your handmade work is to get it noticed by people. With the right content marketing strategy, you can exponentially grow traffic to your site and boost awareness of your brand and your products. If people can’t find your work, they can’t buy it and they can’t tell their friends about it. Social media channels, blogging and networking online can be used to draw people from all around the world to your shop and products. The key benefits of social networking Boosting awareness of your work Let the right people know your products exist. Brand development This is an opportunity to share and develop your unique voice and style. Building relationships with influential people Influencers can boost brand awareness exponentially and get you noticed! Engage and inspire an audience of potential customers You can use social media to find and engage your target market. Develop loyal fans and brand advocates Identify and nurture the important people who will spread the word about your brand. Become known as an authority in your field (an influencer) This can open doors and attract influential people to network with. Boosting your site’s ranking in search engine results pages Social sharing is included in the algorithms of many search engines, and posts can also appear directly in search engine results pages. Creating opportunities for offline networking Using social networks can be great as an icebreaker before calling a potential stockist or emailing work to a magazine editor. Market research and product feedback You can ask your customers directly for feedback in an informal, chatty atmosphere. Finding juicy content to share You can find lots of highly relevant content for blog posts and social media updates. Customer service You can quickly and publicly answer your customers’ queries. Building confidence in your work With every like, comment and share your confidence will grow and have a positive impact on your business. Saving money Successful campaigns cost time, but can be entirely free. THE ABC OF ONLINE MARKETING As you read on, I will address exactly how to realize all of the benefits outlined and develop a practical strategy to achieve your goals. You will begin to see how social networking isn’t just about the initial A of ‘acquisition’ (finding or acquiring people to sell your crafts to) or just the final C of the ‘conversion’ stage (convincing people to buy). Networking online is also about encouraging specific positive ‘behaviour’ – clicks and shares of the content you post on social media channels and on your own site. Your social networking should primarily be about discovering and nurturing relationships with brand influencers and brand advocates – the people who will market and sell your work for you. The terms acquisition, behaviour and conversion are part of the process of measuring your marketing activity using Google Analytics software. By embedding this terminology in your mind right from the start, you will be able to measure the success of your A B C marketing strategy later on without thinking ‘What on earth does “acquisition” have to do with my lovely, friendly craft business?’ BRAND ADVOCATES AND BRAND INFLUENCERS Brand advocates Brand advocates (sometimes called brand ambassadors or evangelists) are people who talk positively about your work; they love your products, your service and your style. They share, click and comment on your social media and blog posts. They are your greatest fans and should be your biggest focus. Your goal is to create a friendly army of brand advocates. Nothing is more effective than word of mouth marketing. If a good friend tells you over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee (or even in a Facebook post or tweet) about a product they love, you will probably take a quick look. Social media channels allow you to create a public platform where your super fans can engage with you – the maker! Nothing is more effective than word of mouth marketing. For a fledgling craft business without a huge marketing budget, the aim is to create a free and positive environment to encourage your fans to wax lyrical about your products, interact with like-minded people and generally be positive, interested and excited. See details of each social media channel covered to work out exactly how to do this. LARA WATSON, MOLLIE MAKES The Mollie Makes team and I find new contributors mostly through online marketplaces like Etsy, in-person at craft fairs and events and, I’d say, most often through social media – particularly Twitter and Instagram. We share with each other the people and brands we’re following who inspire us every couple of weeks and always make a note or screengrab when they post images of amazing projects they’ve been creating. Brand influencers Brand influencers are those people who hold sway in your industry – craft and lifestyle bloggers, magazine editors and journalists. This does not mean they have to have a huge network, just a highly engaged network that sits within your target market. They are useful people to get to know. If you reach out to influencers, they may share your message with their brand advocates. What does ‘reaching out’ mean? It means having a chat online and making the acquaintance of these influencers. I use the term ‘reach’ because increasing ‘reach’ is a term that we use in social media and online marketing to show how many people a post reaches. Influential people can multiply your online reach by shining a virtual spotlight on your work. YOUR ONLINE MARKETING STRATEGY You will need to get this pinned down as soon as possible! Creating a marketing strategy is a way of ensuring that the time you spend online is not wasted time. Your strategy needs to show: Your craft business’s objectives and goals Your plans to achieve your goals, detailing action on specific networks The time you need to spend on each area Your method of measuring success Polly Dougdale, Handmade Horizons Social media is a very important tool, both for engaging your target customer and for connecting with bloggers and publications who might want to feature your products. Like an online marketing compass, your strategy document becomes a reference for moving forward with your online marketing. It is an effective way of ensuring that you are using your time in an efficient way to develop your brand image and build direct traffic back to your site. Writing up a strategy really helps to focus your activity and identify your priorities and goals. Don’t see it as ‘yet another thing to add to the list’, but as a starting point that will save you time. Once you have read through the chapters in this book on blogging, social media and measuring success, you will be all set to complete your strategy document. Make notes as you read – an excuse to buy a new HB pencil and a smart notebook! What to include in your online marketing strategy document These headings are general. I use them when creating online marketing strategies for my clients. As a starting point I find they help you cover all the important basics. A simple Word document is enough; I use an online Google doc and I add hyperlinks to useful reference documents as I go along. Company overview Write a really tight description of your craft business, sometimes referred to as your ‘Elevator Pitch’. You have to get used to saying what exactly your business is all about succinctly and with confidence. It should be a paragraph or less that quickly sums up exactly what you do. This is not only good for sharing information with an influencer, such as an editor, journalist or blogger, but also great when someone asks you what you do for a living offline. Unique Selling Point: your ‘USP’ Many craft sellers make the mistake of believing their USP is simply that their work is handmade. In reality, you are competing with other artists, designers and craftspeople rather than high street shops. The fact that your products are handmade is fantastic, but it is not a USP, especially if you are selling in a handmade goods marketplace. Think about the unique design of your products, your choice of certain materials and, importantly, the inspiration behind your design choices. These will all be of interest to your brand advocates and brand influencers. Write this down in your online marketing strategy: What makes your work and your craft business better or different from that of competitors selling similar products? The goals of your social media campaign Be specific here: what are your goals and do you have timescales to reach them? I have identified the important metrics to measure for each social media channel but these goals should be more about specific conversions and your Return on Investment (ROI) – of time and money. You need to see a growth in income too. You are building your networks, so you need to see more than just growth in fans and followers! The following are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for measuring the health and growth of a business: There are just three KPIs! Being number one on Google for a search term or having 50,000 visits to your site is lovely, but it means nothing unless you are converting this traffic into sales, sign ups or features each month. The three KPIs: * Sales per month * Newsletter sign ups per month * Features/mentions per month (links to your website in posts from relevant influencers) Who are you going to target? Use this section to clearly define your target market. Again, be specific. If you have multiple audiences, try breaking down your audience into a number of profiles. Really get to know these ‘people’ and what makes them tick – and click! See the list of questions to ask about your potential customers in ‘Identify your target market’ in ‘The essentials of content marketing’. What tone should you adopt? Letting your personality flow is, in most cases, the best approach. Consider the audience and identify your style of posts: caring, maternal, witty, edgy or even a little controversial? Will your posts be from you or will you be creating a ‘persona’? For some people, getting into a role can really help set the tone, but you need to be able to maintain this character. It’s often better to let the real you shine through so your posts and comments are authentic, believable and sustainable over time. What are the potential challenges of your social media campaign? You will need to consider how your social media activity will impact on other aspects of your business. Will you allow or encourage it to be used for customer service queries, for example? How will you deal with negative comments and spam? Social media networks – specific strategies For each network identify your specific strategy, estimate the number of posts you have time to make each day and how you will prioritize your time. Consider how much time you can devote to scheduling posts in advance and the software you will use. If you have more than one profile to target from researching your market, identify how to divide your time. Is one market potentially worth more than another and therefore deserving more of your attention? I have created an example of a table of weekly posts (see ‘Creating a cross-channel content strategy’). You can use this as a starting point for a weekly posting schedule. Keywords Create a definitive list here of your target keyword phrases. These are phrases that you want to perform well in search results and to ‘own’. You’ll discover more about how to use keywords and identify the best to use for your business in the section on blog content. Budget Make a clear distinction between your online marketing budget and your offline budget, for example, for craft fairs and leaflets. You can specifically measure your online return on investment against your goals and KPIs. Investment could be in giveaway prizes, graphic design services, useful software or advertising. Don’t worry if your budget is zero; you can still market your work successfully. Measurement and analysis I recommend using Google Analytics and I have outlined the important metrics to measure the success of your social networking, newsletter campaigns and blog content in detail in the last chapter. Monthly analysis is usually sufficient; if you analyse your online marketing any more regularly, you will find you spend more time staring at statistics than engaging with potential customers and influencers. Write down how you will measure success and how often, and the key factors that you will measure. Statistics It’s useful to keep a record of your blog and social media accounts’ monthly growth and link to that in your strategy document. As you progress through the book you will be able to fill in the details and refine your strategy in line with the needs of your own business and the time you have available for networking and content creation. There is no single strategy that suits everyone, but there are some marketing principles you need to master. The essentials of content marketing Creative people like you are the best at curating and creating great web content. You have an eye for design and beauty and you are passionate about your craft – the perfect ingredients for a successful content marketing strategy! WHAT IS CONTENT MARKETING? Content marketing is a really simple idea. It is the process of driving traffic (clicks) to your site by creating and sharing information, or ‘content’, designed to interest and engage a clearly defined target market. ‘Content’ just means text, video or an image. You are enticing your potential customers to exactly where you need them to be – on your site! It is effectively a ‘soft sell’ because you enable them to find you. Anything that appears on the Internet is content. The best way to create content is by writing a blog and setting up social media channels to promote your blog posts and connect with your potential customers. It is essential to understand your target market. If your content is not tailored to a well-defined target market, the people that you bring to your site may not be interested in your products. It quickly becomes a time-wasting exercise – exactly what you want to avoid. Any spare time you have needs to be spent on designing and making your crafts! ‘Content’ just means text, video or an image. The goals of content marketing Your amazing online marketing strategy could be bringing thousands of potential customers to your blog every day. . . But it’s all a big waste of time if you don’t factor in your conversion strategy, otherwise known as how to get them to (eventually) buy your beautiful handmade goods. A conversion in terms of marketing can be defined as the completion of a goal. Focus your efforts on these goals when creating content: A purchase Signing up to your newsletter Sharing your content Becoming a fan or follower Subscribing to your blog feed We’ll be looking at how you can measure and improve the success of your strategy using Google Analytics and looking at conversion rates. First, we’ll tackle getting the right visitors to your site. HOW TO GET YOUR CONTENT DISCOVERED! There are two ways online content can be discovered. Both are equally important to build up new and returning visitors to your blog or website. JAMIE CHALMERS, MR X STITCH I’ve been lucky to have found a niche and been in the right place and time to maximize impact on it. There weren’t many places featuring contemporary embroidery, let alone the edgier stuff that I do, so I got in there and made the most of it. I’ve benefited from using social media as outposts for sharing the content from Mr X Stitch, having been with Twitter and Facebook since 2008. Referrals The first way your content can be discovered is through a recommendation from someone; this visitor to your site may have clicked on a Facebook post from a friend or clicked a mention in a blog. Any click that comes from a link is known online as a referral. Referrals from a relevant website need to be celebrated! (See ‘Creating a cross-channel content strategy’.) Search engines The other way your online content can be discovered is through search engines, such as Google, Bing or Yahoo to name the three biggest. How search engines work Search engines answer your search queries by checking them against their enormous index of web content. Each search engine has web robots, sometimes known as ‘spiders’, which crawl the web looking for new and updated content to add to their index. Your new job is to feed the spiders! Don’t worry too much about how Bingbots or Googlebots work, it’s very complex and they aren’t really robots or spiders (thank goodness), just some very sophisticated software applications. But they are very hungry for new content. I like to remember when I’m thinking about how to get my content noticed that web spiders cannot jump. They don’t jump randomly from page to page – they crawl. They can only follow hyperlinks (clickable text or clickable images) on their search for new content to eat up and index. The higher the quality of the links that come from other sites to your own, the more likely those spiders will visit. I often refer to links being ‘juicy’ because they are full of Google Juice, which flows from one site to another and also through internal links. If your links are on relevant and influential web pages, the spiders will think your content is important. When the spider takes a moment to analyse the content it finds on your page, it will say, ‘Ah, fantastic! A great new page to add to my list of favourite hangouts'. And the spider is sure to come back. Social networking and blogging create oodles of relevant links for those spiders to crawl happily around on! KIRSTY ELSON I like to share other pages/links that I think will appeal to my followers. Not only does it make my Facebook page look more interesting and attractive, but it’s also about getting my name out there and making other makers and organizations notice my work! Search algorithms The search engines look at all the content the spider has discovered and choose which web pages to display in a search query, based on an algorithm or formula. This algorithm is based on several hundred different factors with different levels of importance. Search engines also tailor search results based on specific users, their location and their search history. This is known as Localization and Personalization. Website owners can no longer say they are number one in Google for a specific term as there are so many factors that now affect which content a search engine will display and there are also lots of ways a user can filter searches. (Search filters are really useful for you to use too – see ‘Creating a cross-channel content strategy’ for more details.) Search engines make it their business to know as much about you as possible in order to bring you the best results possible and, of course, to be able to sell advertising. Just like owning a store loyalty card, your personal Facebook or Google+ profile is a way of letting search engines know your interests and so tailor results and advertising ever more carefully to your tastes. Some people think that Google+ and Facebook are, in fact, just gigantic web spiders that eat up all the updates you share and feed the information back to the search engines to process. Privacy and giant spider debates aside, the ability to target specific people by offering them tailored content has got to be a good thing for your business. Effective social networking and following a prescribed content strategy will directly influence how relevant a search engine believes your content is. This is because the search engines are increasingly influenced by the response and online behaviour of real people. They want their organic search results to be the most useful they can possibly be. In order to gauge if something is useful, they want to see some kind of engagement. It could be a click on a link on a page to look at another post or perhaps a social share of the information discovered. This engagement in your content is the behaviour element of your ABC marketing plan. The more interesting and relevant to the reader, the more chance they will engage and the better your content will rank in the search engine results page. Engagement is what your strategy should always focus on! SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art of making your blog and social media posts more visible to search engines and pleasing the web spiders. This kind of search traffic is known as ‘organic’ traffic and it is the most desirable kind of traffic because it’s FREE! (Of course, you can also pay a content writer like me to keep those spiders happy.) Remember to always write for the REAL people who you think will LOVE your stuff and not the search spiders! Search queries Search queries are the words someone types into the search engine. You have to work out what those words and phrases will be to improve the chances of your content appearing high up in the search results for specific search queries. That’s why it is so important to define your target market before you start writing your content. The words and phrases people type into search engines are called keywords or keyword phrases – see the section on blog content later in this chapter. There are different areas of basic SEO that you need to address in order to get onto the first page of search engines. Research shows that the majority of people click on the results that come up near the top of the list and do not click through to the second page of results. Remember to always write for REAL people you think will LOVE your stuff and not the search spiders! Search engines like. . . Original content Content is KING! Providing high-quality, information-rich content, especially on your homepage, is vital to create search-engine friendly web pages. Blog design and layout The spiders crawling your site need to be able to easily find your site and flow around it. When designing your blog and website, think carefully about navigation. Draw diagrams to show how to get to all the pages on your site and add additional (relevant) links onto pages to help ensure the spiders don’t meet any dead ends. Submitting a sitemap to search engines can also help spiders to find content (see Helpful links and resources). Content frequency The web spiders are more likely to come back to see you if you regularly post fresh, original content. Some sites produce masses of content every day. Creating a content strategy and editorial calendar will help you to keep content targeted and of high quality. Relevance Becoming an authority on one particular topic by writing about many aspects of it will help all your posts to perform better. The spiders will begin to gain trust in you! Engagement Creating a buzz of activity around your site is not just good for getting people interested. The spiders are attracted to popular ‘buzzing’ pages too and will give your page a boost in the search results. Lots of relevant comments, social shares and approval (such as Facebook likes or Google+s) are needed. Inbound links Links on relevant sites that point to your blog can see your search engine rankings rocket! Take time to network and build up these links; they are really important. Remember to prioritize quality over quantity though. Quick-to-load websites Spiders don’t like to keep people waiting. If your site is slow they will report back and the search engine will favour a site with similar information that loads more quickly. Not everyone uses a really fast connection, so keep image file sizes small and clear off unnecessary clutter that delays how quickly your page loads. Even some social sharing buttons can delay load times. I use smart layers from ‘Add This’ on my sites – it’s one piece of code for all my content engagement. It is quick to load and looks good. Search engines hate. . . Copying content Search engines detect if you copied and pasted text from elsewhere. Adding a credit makes it ethical but not original. If your blog posts are simply a series of copied chunks of text with a few of your own words as an introduction, your blog posts will not rank highly in the search results. Overuse of keywords Don’t go crazy and use keywords unnaturally – your content has to make sense. Write for people, not spiders. Links with ‘bad’ websites Keep a check of where you link to and from. Being associated with dodgy or irrelevant websites can do you harm. Make sure you keep any blog post comments clear of spammy links and only accept guest posts from relevant and genuine people, not SEO companies trying to build links back to their clients’ websites. Don’t create lots of the same posts with very similar titles but just written in different ways. They will all end up competing with each other, you will confuse the spiders and all of the pages will rank lower. Choose one post and link lots of quite similar but all relevant content to it order to make sure the spiders realize that this is the key post to bring up in a search. IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET MARKET The more brand advocates busily chatting and engaging on your site, the better. This is why targeting the right market with the right content is so important. It’s not all about numbers – 50 engaged and active fans of your brand are far more valuable to you than 500 fans or followers that ignore your posts! Keep it niche The goal of content marketing is to bring people to your blog who fit your target customer profile. If you don’t have a customer profile written down in your content and marketing strategy, you are likely to end up with general posts that don’t reach out to anyone in particular. You also need to know who you want to attract in order to work out which keywords and phrases they are likely to be searching for. SARAH CORBETT, CRAFTIVIST COLLECTIVE People share our craftivism images, projects and services online with their communities, which has led to people all over the world taking part in our projects and events to discuss and act on global issues. We have grown very organically through these social media networks, which has led to media exposure, working with large charities and art institutions, and being seen as the go-to-place to learn how to do effective craftivism. DEFINE YOUR CUSTOMER PROFILE Man or woman? How old are they and what is the age span of your audience? Where do they live? Do you ship internationally or should you focus on the UK or even just your own county? Income bracket? Do they have spare cash or are they looking for bargains? Who do they care about, for example kids or dogs? What do they care about? Global warming or their appearance? What are their hobbies – activities and sports or arts and crafts? What are their occupations – do they work in a 9 to 5 job? What are their ambitions and dreams – to live in a hot country or to save the whales? Which TV programmes do they enjoy? Newsnight or Loose Women? When are they online? After they take the kids to school or during their lunch break? What irritates them? Do they ‘lol’ and ‘omg’ or are they pedants when it comes to grammar? Do they like coffee or tea – or just G&T! Building profiles You should write your blog posts and social media updates with these customer profiles in mind. If necessary, build up a number of profiles. You can give them names and create a story around them. The more real and fixed the idea of your customers is in your head, the better. Then you can visualize them and what they might be doing and thinking about at specific times of the day or week. These fine details may seem irrelevant but they give you a real understanding of who your customers are and what makes them tick, or more importantly, click! This will help you to relate to your customers through all of your social media interactions and it will help you to find them online. WRITING A BLOG A blog is effectively a website that instead of having static pages has blog posts that are regularly updated. Most websites now have blogs, often with the blog posts featured prominently on the home page. Many people that are new to blogging can’t quite see how a blog can be a valuable tool to help grow their business and fan base. Often, they wrongly assume that the company blog is just a place to share the latest news and press releases about their own products. In fact, it should be the heart of your business and the hub of your social media marketing. AMANDA CUSICK, KITSCHYCOO I think that craft blogging can tend to fall into two categories: aspirational or relatable. Personally, I try to be relatable and show the real person behind the business. When it’s so easy to just buy from big businesses, giving a face to a small business connects you to the customer. I think it’s a particular challenge to blog when you’re also selling – you don’t want to come across as too ‘spammy’, so sharing some of your life, personality, challenges and successes creates a connection with your readers and a shared investment in a community of makers, mothers or other small business owners. How a blog will help your craft business Allows you to connect with your target market using content marketing Builds up your brand identity and personality Helps to expand your mailing list Allows you to develop your social media networks Helps you to connect with influencers Shares news of your latest products Provides feedback about product development Gives you an insight into your market Creates a ‘buzz’ about your company. What a blog can do for you personally Builds confidence in your own brand or new business Develops your copywriting skills Focuses your thoughts and ideas Improves your skills through feedback Allows you to express your creative personality Helps you keep up-to-date with industry news through research and sharing Allows you to develop friendships with like-minded people Develops your IT skills. Blogs are the enjoyable, dynamic and chatty side to the online face of a business. They set the scene and allow your personality or that of your company to shine through. In a real bricks and mortar shop or at a craft fair, you have an instant impression of the ethos and kudos of the shop or seller, based on visual clues and your surroundings. You work out fairly quickly if you are likely to be getting your wallet out, stopping to browse and pick up a card or leaflet, or simply walking by. A blog can help you ‘set the scene’ for an online customer. A blog should be the heart of your business and the hub of your social media marketing. The best place for your blog If possible, your blog should not be a separate site from where you sell your products but a part of the same site. Keeping people who have discovered your site on your website for as long as possible and getting them to engage and click sends good signals to the search engine that your content is relevant. This will help boost your website in the rankings and get your products and posts noticed. Many people start selling their handmade goods from online marketplaces such as Etsy. Starting a blog can also be a great way to send traffic to your online shops, such as Etsy, Folksy or Not On The High Street. You can add links to your online shop from your blog in prominent places, such as the navigation across the top and adverts in the sidebars, to ensure your content marketing drives traffic through to where you are selling your work. Some marketplaces allow you to embed your shop into a static page on a blog. This is a great idea in order to keep your potential customers on your site for longer. To ensure your marketing is working, make sure that the site you are selling on allows you to see where traffic is coming from. Most online marketplaces allow you to use Google Analytics to track visits and have a simple way to set it up. How and where do I start a blog? There are many ‘platforms’ that allow you to write a blog. They all provide tools similar to writing a document using a word processor so that you can edit your writing and add images. You can easily customize the look of your blog using the simple blog platform dashboards, which allow you to design the look and add interesting things to the sidebars, images, links or advertising. Your blog grows with every update, becoming a searchable archive of information. The platforms listed here are designed to be very user friendly. You can also use them all with a domain name, to remove the ‘blogspot’ or ‘wordpress’ part in your blog’s title. If you are intending to invest money, a wordpress.org self-hosted blog is a very flexible option that I would recommend. Wordpress is a content management system. Many e-commerce sites are based on Wordpress, with plug-ins that allow them to list products, create directories and much more. There are thousands of themes available and some are free. If you are computer savvy, you may be happy to set up your blog yourself. There is a wealth of information available on the Internet for any problems that you come up against. However, many people I have spoken to believe paying for a professional to set up your blog and hosting is well worth the outlay, especially if you are not particularly good with computers. It may be a case of balancing how valuable your time is against the costs of paying someone to start up your blog. The blogging platform itself is irrelevant without the content, so don’t worry too much about this decision! You can always move your blog content at a later date. BLOGGING PLATFORMS I recommend the following platforms: Blogger.com: owned by Google, easy to use and free Wordpress.com: free Wordpress.org: self-hosted, not free What to put in the sidebars of a blog You don’t want to be sending people away from your site by providing lots of places for them to disappear off to – unless, of course, it’s to a stockist of your products. The only adverts in your sidebars should be for your own products or your best or most recent blog posts. I see lots of blogs that advertise sites that directly compete for attention with the links to their products. Unless you are making lots of money from advertising, it is a waste of time and space to fill your blog with adverts other than for your own crafts. Every post you write should have a purpose or goal. THE GOALS OF A BLOG POST To attract new, targeted visitors through search engines To interest and engage with your existing fan base To encourage sharing and grow your audience To connect with an organization or ‘influencer’ To create interest and ‘buzz’ about a new product or service To follow a call to action (for example, to join a mailing list, or click through to buy a product). Set goals Not goal posts but post goals! The goals of your blog posts can and should vary, but it’s important to have an end result in mind so that you are able to measure the success of a post and your blog in general. Use these goals to help formulate your posts rather than writing just anything for the sake of keeping your blog updated. Updating a blog without having a goal in mind is a waste of your time and often why people end up stopping blogging. They resent the time they spend blogging and networking because they see no positive results from their posts. Having a goal for every post does not mean it needs to be a complex, extensively researched ‘keyword packed’ essay each time. In fact, you can vary the time spent on each post across the week or month. A post could be as simple as sharing a single funny image. The goal is to make your existing target audience laugh, love your brand just a little more and show this by sharing the link with their friends. Alternatively, your post may have a very specific goal. Sometimes I write posts that are entirely aimed at connecting with just one influential person to open an opportunity for networking – a post in response to something shared on their own site, for example. The goal of the post would be a comment and hopefully a share from one of their social networks and the chance to get onto their radar and chat with them on a social network. What should I write about? Good question! In general, try to keep your blog posts focused on a particular topic or theme that is complementary to the products you create and will be of interest to your specific target market. It is best to include different types of posts that will appeal to both existing readers and new readers. Let your personality come through by offering your opinion. You don’t want to be known just for curating content, but doing so in a way unique to you! BLOG POST IDEAS Here is a list of ideas to start you thinking about different types of content and themes for writing great blog posts – especially useful if you get ‘blogger’s block’ and for adding variety to your blog post archives. Photos: always carry your camera Staring at a blank page can be utterly uninspiring, but looking at a group of photographs that you have taken recently, whether from a day out, a recent craft project or just about anything else, can fill you with ideas for writing. You could also use images from sites such as Flickr, Pinterest and Tumblr, as long as you add a credit beneath the image. I often use the best images from the Craft Blog UK Flickr group to illustrate and brighten my posts. Updates: use old posts for inspiration Did you write a post a few weeks, months or years ago that could be revisited? Open up your post history/archives and scroll through. You are sure to find something that you could revisit. It is fascinating for readers to see how time has changed us and our crafts and techniques. Linking back to relevant posts is also good for search engine ranking (see ‘The essentials of content marketing’). TILLY WALNES, TILLY AND THE BUTTONS My blog is at the heart of my business and fuels everything I do – I’d go so far as to say it’s the number-one asset of my business. Writing a blog has allowed me to engage with a wide variety of people, develop a loyal audience, conduct ongoing customer research, catch the attention of the press, demonstrate my expertise with publishers, network with other people working in my field – and to do so with authenticity. Oh, and it’s a lot of fun! Write posts about other bloggers Visitors that have come to your blog are likely to be interested in the same bloggers as you. Let them know a little bit about the blogs you enjoy reading. Why do you like these particular blogs and how did you find them? Let the blogger in question know you have mentioned their blog – your readers will be intrigued and the bloggers you are writing about will be flattered by the publicity. Make sure you let them know so that they can help to promote your post, too! Top 10 and other lists Top 10 lists, or lists of any quantity, are really interesting to read. To write them, you are forced to make editorial decisions about what to include to create an informative, concise (or humorous) post. You can invite readers to add to your list by suggesting their own favourite, most useful, prettiest, funniest, best or worst item. The ideas are limitless with this type of post. Whether it’s the ‘best 5 free granny square tutorials’ or ‘Top 10 funniest dogs on bicycles’, these posts are always popular if aimed correctly at your target market. INTERVIEWS: OTHER PEOPLE ARE FASCINATING Email or message a crafter or blogger who suits your target market and ask politely if they would be interested in answering a few questions about their work. Alternatively, write a post in a relevant forum requesting candidates for your new interview slots. Limit the number of questions so it doesn’t become a chore for the interviewee or too much for the reader to take in. Try and ask original questions – nothing too personal but something you feel that the readers of your blog may actually be interested in. Spark up a debate Questions don’t have to be reserved for forums or search engines. There are many talented people and experts who are more than willing to engage in discussions. The plus side is that you may get some great comments, and your post becomes a resource on a particular subject. If you don’t already have a blog readership or social networks, then post in relevant forums to encourage people to share and comment. To encourage people to comment, invite them to leave links to their own websites. If you get no response whatsoever, then either edit the post and add links to where you found out the answers to your question or add your own comments with these links. That way, it is still a useful post for readers. Share your expertise You may have seen questions that other bloggers have asked which fit your target audience or questions that someone has asked in a forum. Why not answer them on your own blog? Flesh out the post with relevant images and then post the URL link of your blog post on the forum or as a blog comment, saying ‘I thought this was such an interesting question I had to write a post about it’. You can incorporate other people’s responses too, as long as you link back to the thread clearly in your post. You’ll get traffic to your blog and hopefully you will have helped someone out too, which is a great feeling. Shop update: goals and achievements Shop updates can be extremely interesting and really useful for your online business or your development as a crafter. Revisit old posts in order to show your progress, address shortcomings and plan for the future. It makes for great self promotion as long as you don’t dwell on anything too negative. Try not to make it simply an advert for your shop, which can be tedious for regular readers. REVIEWS Reviews of products, websites and books within your target market can make useful posts. By writing a review, you are helping others by giving them your honest opinion. Ask the owner of the site or the author of the book if they would be willing to add a quote on your post that adds credibility to your review. You’ll find them on one social network or another, and a quote could be as short and sweet as one tweet! Regular posts Think about a themed post that you can blog about week after week, so your readers can look forward to it. If you read other blogs, you may discover groups of bloggers that choose a day to write a post about something, such as ‘Wordless Wednesday’ or a post about their Craft Space every Monday. These posts can be good for connecting with other bloggers – you can comment on them and let them know you also write themed posts, bringing bloggers to your own blog. The more bloggers you know the better! Guest posts Inviting relevant people to guest post on your blog is a great way to connect with experts in your field or with ‘complementary’ bloggers. It can make your blog more interesting to hear other voices and opinions, especially if they are an authority on a subject. You can also offer to write posts for other blogs in exchange for links back to your shop’s website and blog. This is a great way to connect with an existing readership as well as improve your search engine optimization with these ‘back links’. Having guest bloggers always helps to build links back to your blog too – invariably the guest blogger will help to promote the post. If you see questions on another blog, why not answer them on yours. Try to make a connection with a blogger through social networking before emailing them and offering them a guest post. Successful bloggers get masses of offers of ‘free content’, usually from dubious sources. Make sure you don’t get mixed up with the spammers by creating a genuine connection first so the blogger is expecting your email. Pillar posts Pillar posts contain links to other posts and readers love them. They enable a reader (and a web spider) to find links to all sorts of information on one subject. Many of my most successful posts on my own blogs and for my clients are pillar posts that link to a raft of other posts I’ve written about a particular topic. You can also create pillar posts that link to other people’s blog content. This kind of post is very shareable. HOW TO USE KEYWORDS The way you write your posts has a definite and measurable effect on how a search engine will find and rank your content. What are keywords? As discussed earlier, a search engine uses robots or ‘spiders’ to crawl the web. The spider can only rely on the information (text, images and links) you have posted to return results; it can’t infer any information. It is important that you use the right keywords and phrases in your post and put them in the right places. The web spider studies the text and images on your page, looking at the frequency and position of certain keywords and keyword phrases. It can then match this to people’s search queries and bring up the results in the order it deems most relevant to the words used in their search. The order of keywords can also affect position. Be clear about which keywords you want to rank for and ensure you use the exact combination of words. Here is an example of a simple sentence under an image of some pretty floral aprons in a blog post. We want the post to be found by people searching for pretty floral aprons ‘Don’t you love the beautiful colours? I love making these as they are so quick but they look great!’ The word ‘apron’ is not mentioned, even though to a reader the placement infers what the writer is referring to. The web spider will not see the word. Instead you should write: ‘The colours in these pretty floral aprons are beautiful. I love making aprons like this because they are so quick but they look great.’ The text still reads naturally but you have replaced the pronouns with descriptive keywords, allowing a web spider to read it. Where to use keywords and phrases in text The title of the post The title is the biggest indicator of the content within, so it should contain the keywords you are targeting. Aim to write unique and descriptive titles – this is best for search engines and ultimately for your readers. Most blog platforms allow you to adjust the URL (the blogpost’s permalink or unique web address). Ensure that you add the descriptive keywords here as well as in the title on the webpage. In a post about lovely spring handmade aprons for example, the title could be any number of things but you need to be clear about the keywords you want to target. If the key phrase is ‘Pretty Floral Aprons’, then these words should be in the title and the URL of the post. The first paragraph Make this text descriptive of the content of the post and ensure that your chosen keyword phrase is included here. This is the post opener. As with all good articles, it introduces the subject and will reassure the person reading that they are in the right place as well as encouraging them to keep reading. So make it interesting too – it’s not just about the keywords. The body of the post Use your keywords in the body of the post too. Take care to ensure it remains readable and you don’t overuse the keywords. You’ll know if it feels unnatural just by reading it back to yourself. This is natural use of a keyword phrase: ‘The colours in these pretty floral aprons are beautiful. I love making aprons like this because they are so quick but they look great.’ In my opinion, this is an unnatural use of the keyword phrase: ‘The colours in these pretty floral aprons are beautiful. I love making pretty floral aprons like this because they are so quick but they look great.’ Instead I will find another place further down in the text of my post to add the phrase again. Be creative – asking a question is a great way to use a keyword and could result in the comments you get back containing the keyword. Here is an example: ‘Are these pretty floral aprons old fashioned or retro – what do you think?’ Don’t use other website’s posts that are performing well as a guide to how many times to include your keyword phrase. They may be ranking highly for that phrase owing to an editorial link from a relevant website rather than for the number of times they have used the keyword in that particular post. Make your own decisions and measure your success – that’s the only way you’ll know if you are making progress. In images When you upload an image to a blog, name the image using your chosen keywords only if the image is actually of ‘pretty floral aprons’, for example. If you also include an image of your inspiration, such as a bunch of flowers, do not use the keyword phrase here because this would be seen as ‘keyword stuffing’. You should get the option to add a title tag and an alt tag to your image when you upload it. Describe the image properly! The title tag is the little text that pops up when you hover over an image and the alt tag is the text that someone whose browser is not displaying an image sees. Searching by image is very popular and Google will use these tags, the name of the image and the immediate text surrounding the image to decide if it is displayed in search results. Always take the time to label images correctly. Internal links You can turn text in your blog posts into links. If you are writing about your pretty floral aprons you could link to another post where you wrote about the floral tea towels you made. Using the text ‘floral tea towels’ as the link may help that page’s rankings for that term and may help to get the page crawled by a web spider that has found its way to your apron’s post. As we have discussed, web spiders need to be able to crawl your site so take the opportunity to add links to other useful pages within your site. Remember the web spider can’t jump or use a search box, and unless pages contain internal links to crawl around some of your content may not be getting regularly crawled. External links A link can help to pass on ‘Google Juice’ – effectively counting as a vote for a specific page – but it has to be seen to be relevant or else it will have the opposite effect. If you are writing about Pretty Floral Aprons you might want to link to The Museum of Aprons because you think your reader will find it interesting. This is great. The search engine thinks the link is relevant as it flows onto a page that contains the word ‘aprons’. The link juice doesn’t pass both ways but your page and the links on it are deemed useful and interesting to the reader and are more likely to appear higher in the search engine results pages for searches on that topic. Don’t include too many external links, unless you are creating a pillar post that you hope will be shared virally through social media. You don’t want to encourage people to leave your website unnecessarily but you do want your site to be really useful and interesting, so links out are good. But beware! Linking from Pretty Floral Aprons to a website selling ‘organic manure’ (I’m being polite!) is not a particularly good idea. The site’s owner might offer you money, thinking that because you have mentioned flowers they could get some of your Google Juice by having a link to their site full of manure. You need to carefully assess how this would look in the eyes of a web spider if it follows a link and ends up on a page that seemingly has nothing to do with the keywords on your site. You must use a ‘nofollow’ tag on all paid links from your site, including paid-for image-based ads in your sidebars (Wordpress and Blogger both offer this as an option when adding a link), which tells the spider that you do not want to pass on the ‘Google Juice’. Google has created this rule in order to stop link spamming – people paying sites for links back just to help improve their ranking. Google wants sites to earn those links by having great content that sites want to link to in order to make their own site more useful for their readers. TARGETED BLOG POST CAMPAIGN Here is an example of a content marketing strategy aimed at making me an authority in the eyes of Google on handmade environmentally friendly gifts. Imagine that I make handbags from environmentally friendly, locally sourced materials, which will appeal to people who care about the environment. After brainstorming ideas for the type of products my target market may be searching for, I decide that writing posts aimed at women looking for eco-friendly products and gifts would be perfect. I could create a series of posts with ideas for eco gifts or with my reviews of eco products, with my own eco-friendly handbags advertised prominently on my site. My next step is to work out which keyword phrases these people might be searching for. Long tail keywords Using ‘long tail’ keyword phrases usually provides the most targeted response – for example, ‘handmade eco friendly accessories London’. Research in e-commerce shows that people searching for a very detailed phrase are likely to have narrowed their search because they are close to purchasing rather than just browsing. This makes these search terms more desirable, because even though there are fewer people per month searching, the chance of a conversion (buying your products) is higher. We call this kind of traffic ‘highly qualified’. This is the same when someone is searching for information. If your post specifically answers their query, they are far more likely to engage with your blog in some desirable way (sign up to newsletter, leave a comment, visit your shop or click 'like' on your Facebook page widget) than someone who has been searching for more general terms. Start brainstorming to work out what people in your target market are searching for – is it gardening tips, jam recipes or interior design ideas? Take these broad terms and then do your research on some long tail search terms. Using the Google keyword planner To work out which keyword phrases people are searching for, you can use the free Google keyword planner. It is designed for people using Adwords, but it is helpful for organic SEO too. You need to sign up for a free Google Adwords account to access the tool. There are other tools available. Search for Free Keyword Tools – some offer keyword ideas and also tracking of your keywords to help you see where on average your site is ranking for certain keywords. You can also pay for keyword tracking and SEO software but I don’t think this is necessary when you are starting out. It’s fairly straightforward to use the keyword planner. Just type in your keyword idea, add in filter details for location, and Google will offer groups of similar phrases and keyword ideas. See https://adwords.google.com/ko/KeywordPlanner/Home View a text version of this table Find a focus Looking at the keyword planner results, I believe I would be best to focus my eco blog-post series around the term ‘How to be Eco Friendly’ because there appears to be large volume with low competition. I can give a weekly tip on how to be eco friendly, including content each week on the ‘best eco friendly gifts’ and lots of ‘eco friendly ideas’ and tips to make or buy, sourced from craft sellers and bloggers as well as some of my own designs. Remember that competition also varies depending on the location filter you have used. High competition signifies that lots of advertisers are bidding for the phrase in Google adwords. This does not mean you cannot get to page one of Google organically with a really well worked-out strategy and focused networking. However, it suggests that businesses will also be optimizing organic content and you may struggle to compete with both as a new blogger. Check the competition If you find a keyword term you want to use has high competition, check the search results for the websites that are performing best in organic searches for these terms. Add all the sites on the first page of results to your Twitter lists or blog feeds for future networking. Unless they represent direct competition, it could be that you have something to offer these sites and can perhaps work on a guest post for them, or you could create a post all about them on your site as a way of getting noticed by them. The important thing is to have highly relevant content or products to show these influencers. They need to see quality and relevance before they will share any of your posts with their networks or work with you. Keep track of keywords you are targeting in your strategy document. If I type in ‘eco friendly gifts’ I discover 1,300 people per month across the world are searching for this term. I can use the filters to find out how many searches are from the USA or UK, and I can even look more specifically at details of searches in my area using the advanced filter. If I mouse over the symbol of a graph in the results, it will show me how the searches are split over the year. Unsurprisingly, the phrase is most popular in the run-up to Christmas. Google also tells me that the competition for this term is high, suggesting a lot of people want to get their content to the top of this search. So I will carry out some research into associated keywords that may have less competition. The table shows the keyword terms I discovered and the suggested number of searches per month. Google’s keyword planner offers ‘Keyword Groups’, which is a helpful way of looking at related keywords and keyword phrases. Keep track of keywords you are targeting in your strategy document. Use low-competition keywords From my research, I plan to write 10 posts all aimed at eco friendly gifts for specific types of people and I will review 10 eco friendly products. Posts take time to write, so I plan to write one a week alongside some of my more everyday and less labour-intensive posts. In each post I will target specific lower competition keyword phrases from my research, ensuring that images are also optimized (See ‘Making social networking work for you’.) Since I am featuring eco friendly handmade goods, I will also contact all the designers or makers I have included via social media to let them know they have been featured and invite them to share the post or add a comment. I will ensure that I don’t include anyone that I believe is a direct competitor, for obvious reasons. I hope that reaching out to these designers will also help my bags get seen by some of their own fans and followers who are in my target market. On my blog’s home page I will ensure that I mention that my own handmade handbags make great eco friendly gifts for women. I will also create a link on my home page to pillar posts where people (and web spiders) can find all of the links to my posts on eco-friendly gifts and products. Through promotion of the posts across social media, networking with complementary businesses to my own and creating a wealth of information around the keywords ‘eco friendly gifts’, Google will begin to see my website as an authority on handmade eco friendly gifts and eco product reviews. BLOG POST CHECKLIST Research your target market and brainstorm an idea for a post. Research keyword phrases to include using the Google Keyword Planner. Write a draft post. Add beautiful ‘pinnable’ and relevant images. Add a call to action to sign up to your newsletter. Edit titles, subtitles and body text to ensure keywords are used and correct links and credits added. Ensure images have appropriate title tags and alt text. Create a leading image for promotion with an added text prompt to clarify what the post is about. Read through again to ensure the post flows naturally and is not keyword stuffed. Schedule the post for an optimal time in the future. Promote the post across all of your channels as soon as it goes live. Contact or tag anyone, especially influencers, mentioned in the post – and future posts too! Ensure your post is internally linked to past posts. Measure your success with Google Analytics and brainstorm more blog post ideas! THE IMPORTANCE OF GREAT PHOTOGRAPHY It is incredibly difficult for designers and makers to get their products noticed amid the huge amount of competition online. A marketing strategy, no matter how well considered and researched, will fall flat if the images shared are dull or low quality. With the right imagery and marketing strategy, your products will become highly desirable. Product photography of consistent high quality is vital to give your customers confidence in your work and bring in the sales. You can use your images to convey styles and themes, creating a brand style that will become instantly recognizable to your fans. Simple Photoshop software, Picmonkey, Picasa or Gimp for example, allow you to crop an image, improve exposure and overlay text. Great photographs and videos also pique the interest of influencers, publishers, journalists and bloggers. These influential people curate collections of work and they are always looking for content to share. Your photos need to leap out at the viewer and bite them! PATRICIA VAN DER AKKER, THE DESIGN TRUST Stunning images are crucial to show the quality of your work and create your branding. Show off your beautiful colours, the high quality of your materials and skills! Especially if you want to sell online you need to attract very quickly your dream clients (they are browsing so you’ve only got a couple of seconds at the most!). The only way to do that is through good photography and using appropriate styling. It takes time and lots of practise to find your own photographic style and learn how to create beautiful pictures of your work, but it’s definitely worth the effort if you are serious about selling online. Never share poor images of your work – it looks unprofessional and devalues your crafts. I adore great photography and I curate my own collection of excellent examples of craft photography. See ‘Craft Photography Tips’ on my website www.ukcraftblog.com/2011/10/craft-photography-tips.html for practical advice and links to some excellent online resources, including my own series of photography tutorials. Do not underestimate the importance of high-quality ‘branded’ images of your work. Take a look at the section on creating ‘pinnable images’ in ‘Making social networking work for you’ for more details on how to make your images work harder to bring targeted traffic to your site. Making social networking work for you How can you use social networks to find and engage with your target market and connect with brand advocates? While there are many common themes that are true of all social networks, each offers different ways to interact with influencers and build awareness of your brand in meaningful ways. USING SOCIAL NETWORKS TO ENGAGE BRAND ADVOCATES You may ask, ‘I don’t have much time – which social network should I focus on?’ The answer is that you need to use them all in different ways for different purposes. The key is knowing the ground rules for each network and understanding how the information you share on that network reaches people. There is a theory that you shouldn’t butter your bread too thinly when it comes to social networking. I feel that with good time management and a focused content strategy you can be active on many networks. PERRI LEWIS, MAKE AND DO WITH PERRI Think creatively when it comes to choosing who to interact with. Big craft bloggers, craft magazines and the journalists who write for them might seem like the best people to follow, but what about interiors journalists, fashion writers or design editors? Find the people who are known for writing about emerging designers and young talent in your area – there are plenty of journalists who have that as their USP and who are always on the hunt for new people to feature. For example, if I wanted to engage with an influencer who is a prolific Instagram user, then leaving a comment on their latest Instagram picture would be the best way of getting their attention. If I don’t have a profile on Instagram I can’t do that. It’s never just about how many likes and shares. Your social networking activity always needs to be meaningful, and this comes down to your research – in particular, looking at the networks and communities your target market uses. Content can be shared to many different networks at a time and there are many tools (some free) you can use to save time. I explain the pros and cons of auto sharing and social media clients in ‘Creating a cross-channel content strategy’. First of all you need to get to grips with each network in its native form. In this section, I focus on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Instagram and Linkedin. This by no means covers all of the social media channels out there. But it will give you an insight into the way that you can connect with different types of major social media channels and how you can bring all of the channels you use together for a holistic approach to your online networking. As you discover channels not covered in this book, and as new networks emerge, you will find they have cherry-picked features from existing networks and you will easily be able to adapt your strategy to fit. CREATING POWERFUL PROFILE PAGES It’s time to optimize your profile pages for maximum impact. The following are practical guidelines for setting up a profile that can be applied to all of your social media networks. The buttons may be in different places but the principles are the same. The profiles you create need to really sing about your creativity, capturing the essence of your brand and the attention of your target audience. Each profile, while engaging a slightly different social audience, should help to build a recognizable branded feel for your craft business and boost your online visibility. Online visibility simply means that more people can find your business when searching online, internally within a social network or externally using a search engine like Google. What is a profile page? When you sign up to a social network, whether as a business or a personal account, you always create a profile page. This is the page where people can find out more about you and decide whether to follow your updates or contact you. Social media channels will all ask you to choose a username, write a short description of yourself or your business and upload an image that represents you or your business. Most will allow you to share one or more links to your website or other networks. It is very simple to open social media accounts. However, it is important to take time to consider the very best way to make your profile both visible in searches and highly appealing to people who visit you. This will help to increase follower and fan numbers. Creating a great profile Choosing your unique username If you are looking for social media marketing tips, it is very likely that you already have a business name picked out. Where possible, this should be the username for all of the social media business accounts you manage. Research your business name online If you are yet to choose a business name, search all the social networks before deciding on a final name. It can be very confusing if your Twitter and Facebook pages have a different name from your business or to each other, and it can make it hard for your customers to find or indeed recognize you if they are already connected to you on a different network. You don’t want a business name that you have to laboriously spell out every time you introduce your new brand – it should be easy to remember and spell. Test this out by calling a friend and saying it over the phone. Did you have to repeat yourself? Did you feel confident saying it and explaining the inspiration for the name? People will want to know why you’ve chosen it. Be consistent with your username to avoid confusion and help people to find you easily on their favourite networks. Keywords in your business name Adding keywords to your username that identify your industry can be helpful to quickly tell people what you do. For example @Hilaryknits rather than @Hilary. Just be 100 per cent sure that your business is not likely to diversify in the future because not all networks allow you to change your username. Use your own name As a designer, using your own name as your business name can make a very clear statement that the products are handmade or designed by you, with your unique style. It immediately personalizes your brand and can make your design label sound more professional. Abbreviating your name You may have a business name with too many characters for some networks. For example, Twitter allows a username with a maximum of 15 characters. Take extreme care when abbreviating your business name. Try typing it out and saying it out loud to be sure it sounds OK and slips off the tongue easily. Backgrounds Many social networks give you the opportunity to load up a cover or background image. This is a little like the ‘hero’ image that web designers refer to, the image that immediately captures attention and engages with people who land on your profile page. This image is an opportunity to add personality to your profile page. These background/cover images can be regularly changed. Take advantage of this and use seasonal images or styled shots of your latest products when you are promoting a launch. Think about how the image is representative of your brand's style – it needs to instantly give a viewer a great impression. Your avatar should remain consistent across all your networks. but your backgrounds and cover images can vary depending on the network. Just ensure they are in focus and representative of your brand’s style. Biographies and keywords On all social network profiles, you can write a brief description or biography (bio) all about yourself or your business. This is an opportunity not only to let the visitor to your profile learn more about you but also to ensure your profile contains keywords that fit your brand. Before starting to fill out your descriptions, write down lists of words that people may use if they are looking to connect with a brand like yours. This is really useful for every aspect of your online marketing. The description or bio needs to read well. Keep it brief and to the point. Not many people will read more than a few sentences and in many cases you will be limited to a certain number of characters. For example, Twitter allows you just 160 characters for your bio. See Twitter networking in ‘Making social networking work for you’ for some tips on making the most of this limited space. Being funny and a little abstract can work well because this will encourage people to follow your accounts. Just try to incorporate keywords, too! KAREN JINKS, UKHANDMADE Social media is such an important tool for creatives and independents. Not only does it create an opportunity to engage directly with your audience and increase sales, but it also builds communities. Many of us are solitary creatures, often working alone at home, so having instant access to fellow creatives for support, advice and chat is a lifeline. It's a great way to share and communicate and I'd be lost without it. Links It can be tricky to decide which link to add to a profile when you are only given the chance to add one. You want people who see your profile to use this link to discover more about you and find a reason to follow you. Avoid linking directly to online marketplaces where people that click can easily click off your page and onto one of your competitors. Instead, link to your own website or your blog. Where to link to from your social media profiles Social media networks will ask you to provide a weblink; some will allow you to add multiple links, but sites such as Twitter give you the option of adding just one link. So how do you choose which link to add? Most people simply add the main homepage of their website or perhaps a link through to their Etsy shop, but it is worth giving this a little more thought! Linking to a shop directly means that the first experience your visitor has is being marketed to. If you link to a marketplace, it can also result in the visitor clicking away and finding other shops. While you want to sell an item, it’s unlikely that someone browsing Twitter is in the buying mode. So don’t make this the goal – the goal should be to encourage them to follow your updates or sign up to your newsletter. You want them to focus on finding out more about you. First impressions count When someone first lands on a website they make a split-second decision about you and your business. They are either impressed or not! They will immediately make a decision about whether or not to follow you, whether or not they like what you make or think you are interesting, and whether they want to find out more information about you and your business. A great idea is to link to specific landing pages on your website or blog for a visitor coming from a social network. This way you can tailor that page to the needs of the visitor. While your website homepage may be full of all the information that someone searching for a handmade gift needs, the page to which you direct a visitor from one of your profiles can be an extension of your short profile. For example, you might link to an ‘About Me’ page, where you can add details about your work and your inspirations – and most importantly, add the best images of your work and any accolades, such as where your work has been featured in the past. Keep the information brief and, as always, allow your personality to shine through in your writing. This kind of information will be sure to pique the interest of a potential new follower. Whether they are a journalist, blogger or potential customer, you need to present the best version of your business on this landing page. When you measure the traffic coming through from social networks to these links, take a look at the visitor behaviour. Do they tend to click away immediately or do they delve deeper into your site? Learn from their behaviour and the outcomes and adapt the landing page to suit. Keeping this page full of up-to-date information is vital; outdated information could make your business look lacklustre and defeat the object of the page. LOGOS AND AVATARS An avatar is the small image that represents you on social networks. Most businesses use their company logo. Here are some tips for a successful avatar: Create a simple, eye-catching avatar Use the same avatar across all of your social networks Make sure the thumbnail version looks good Avatars are small and in most cases text will be unreadable and details in images will be lost. All social networks have help pages detailing the sizes of images for profile pictures and any other images. Go for a bold image that stands out. Avatars usually need to be square. If your logo isn’t, then you need to use a program such as Photoshop or a free version, for example, Gimp (www.gimp.org) to create a square version of your logo. Having half the words cut off looks unprofessional. If you aren’t good at Photoshop and don’t have the time to learn, employ a graphic designer to help you to design your avatar. There are many young or part-time designers just starting out, and they often publicize their services through handmade marketplaces. Always check their feedback or references, and look at examples of their previous work before hiring them. If you have a great photo of yourself then you could use it as your avatar. A smiling face can be really useful when networking! FACEBOOK Almost everyone has heard of Facebook. Love it or loathe it, Facebook is an extremely useful platform for a creative business to interact with and engage with potential customers and brand advocates. In this chapter I will explain the basics of Facebook Pages and also the more complex and ever-changing algorithm Facebook uses to decide which posts get seen by whom. I’ll also take a look at how you can interact on Facebook for maximum effect. With this understanding, you can create a healthy, active Facebook Page that will build awareness of your brand. How can a Facebook Fan Page help grow your business? Each individual Facebook user sees a unique news feed, personalized for them by Facebook, showing updates from friends, from pages they have liked and from sponsored posts or adverts. Not every update from all of their friends and the brand pages they like will make it into this news feed. The aim for a Facebook Page manager is to get the pictures, links, news and questions they share on their Facebook Page into the news feed of as many relevant people as possible. It’s not necessarily about the number of fans, it’s more about how engaged those fans are with the content you share. Converting a visitor to your website or blog into a Facebook fan is a way of keeping your brand in their minds. Each appearance of your page in their news feed and interaction with your posts strengthens the relationship they have with your brand. It is also a way of amplifying the effect of one visit. You can turn a single website visit into a long-term relationship and you can also access friends of fans, growing your ‘reach’ to potential new customers exponentially in some cases. Facebook Page basics Personal Facebook profile A personal profile is the standard Facebook account designed for an individual person to keep in touch with friends and family who also use Facebook. You can set posts to your Facebook wall to be public or just visible to certain friends, so you can control who sees what. Facebook Fan Page This is an entirely public fan page for businesses where they can build up a following by posting interesting updates for their fans. Search engines can also see information posted on a public Facebook page. When a Facebook user with a personal profile likes your page, they are allowing updates from your page to be part of their news feed. Facebook Group Facebook groups are for communities and clubs that share a common interest and shouldn’t really be used for commercial purposes. Only a personal profile can set up and post to a Facebook group. KIRSTY ELSON People often ask me how come I have so many followers on Facebook, and what it boils down to is dedication and hard work! I started my page four years ago and it was a slow burner for a long time, but the more likes you have, the quicker you accumulate more – like a snowball effect. My page likes have more than doubled to over 100,000 in the last three months! How to create a Facebook Page All the information you need to set up a Facebook page is contained in Facebook’s own help pages. You will first need a personal Facebook profile in order to set up a page. Go to: www.facebook.com If you don’t already have a Facebook profile, head to Facebook.com and you will be guided through setting up a personal profile. Don’t worry – you don’t need to upload any pictures or keep this profile updated if you don’t want to. From one Facebook profile you can manage multiple Facebook pages and your profile will always remain private and separate from the page. The next step is to create the page for your brand. Go to: www.facebook.com/pages/create Follow the step-by-step instructions on the ‘Create a Page’ link – there are just a few steps. You will be given a number of options for the type of business you run and asked to name your page. Choose the one that fits your company best. Do not choose ‘local business’ if you do not have a public premises where people can visit and buy your crafts. At the time of writing, Facebook only allows you to change the name of your page once, and only if you have fewer than 200 fans. All the other settings, including the page type, can be edited whenever you like, so don’t panic if you are not sure to start with. What is the news feed? The news feed is what every Facebook user sees first when they log in – a stream of activity from all the friends and pages they have liked. It is your job as a page manager to get your posts into as many news feeds as possible. A Facebook friend or fan can do any one of the following things with each item that appears on their news feed. Each activity can in turn create a news feed story that may appear in your friends’ or fans’ news feeds. The three main activities that you should look to increase on your Facebook posts are likes, comments and shares; collectively, we call this ‘post engagement’. Facebook activities Like When a fan (someone who has liked your page) likes your Facebook post by clicking ‘like’ beneath it, a ‘Facebook story’ is created and Facebook may share this in the news feed of the fans’ friends. As a result, friends of your fans might come and check out your page and interact with it, creating another story. In this way, the number of stories created can grow exponentially and posts can go viral. Comment If a fan comments on your post, a story is created and this can be reported as activity in their friends’ news feeds. Facebook makes decisions on who to share the story with based on interactions between friends in the past. Share A fan can like your post so much they share it to their friends or to their fan page. This post can then appear in their fans or friends’ news feeds. Customizing your news feed By clicking on the little symbol at the top of every post or hovering over the name of a Facebook Page or friend, a user can make important decisions to control what they are seeing in their news feed. Follow a post Without liking, commenting or sharing, you can choose to follow a post or ‘get notifications’ – to keep an eye on that particular story. No story is created but it’s effectively a private way of keeping track. Hide a post – ‘I don’t want to see this’ This is when a fan decides they do not want the post to appear in their news feed next time they log in. Facebook will take note of this and may not share future similar posts. Report spam Any Facebook fan or friend can report a post as spam. It’s obviously not a desirable outcome and can negatively affect your account. Decide to unlike the page or friend that posted it It’s very easy to unlike a page. If people do this, be sure to look at the post that caused them to make that decision using your Facebook Insights (see later in this chapter). Maybe you went a bit far or maybe you posted too many times that day – were the posts too boring or similar? Get notifications By hovering on the page’s name and clicking ‘like’ you can choose to get notifications from a page when a post is added. This means you will never miss a post because Facebook will alert you every time this happens. Follow/unfollow It seems unfair, but Facebook allows users to like a page but not to follow the posts. By choosing Unfollow when hovering on a page’s Facebook name, posts will not appear in the user’s news feed. Ignore it and keep scrolling Users may just scroll past your post, which is not good as you will see when you read about the Facebook Algorithm in ‘Making social networking work for you’. THE ALL-IMPORTANT FACEBOOK NEWS FEED Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, uses the words ‘real time serendipity’ and ‘frictionless engagement’ when he talks about how he wants people to interact with Facebook. He wants people to enjoy the Facebook experience and all connected apps, but with the average user having many friends and liking many pages, how does Facebook decide which of the 1,500 or more stories to allow into a user’s Facebook news feed? Recently, Facebook has made it quite clear that it gives priority to posts from friends over posts from liked pages in a news feed, so page managers have to work very hard to get posts noticed. Facebook post types Status updates Any type of post from a user or page on Facebook is known as a status update. Posts come in many different formats. Plain text status update This is a text update with no attached link or image. Just write your update in the box and hit ‘post’. This is most often used for chatty questions or off-the-cuff news. Status update with a link You can paste a link into the status update box at the end of your message. Facebook will automatically create a link image and snippet from the web page. Rather than relying on the link that Facebook automatically chooses, you also have the option to edit the image when posting a link. Photo You can upload a photo and add a link and a text description to the post. If the image is not your own, always provide a link to the original source. Facebook is becoming a very visual social network with a large percentage of posts containing images. Within the craft industry, I have found that image posts are often more successful than text posts in terms of engagement as they attract more attention in the news feed. Video To share a link to a video, simply paste in the link into the status box. Use the photo/video option only when uploading your own videos. Facebook automatically allows video links to be played within your fans’ news feed. They don’t need to click the link, just the ‘play’ symbol. Facebook Event You can create a Facebook Event and invite friends to attend through a Facebook Invitation. Facebook will guide you through the set-up process. Your events can be virtual, such as an online sale. Facebook Events are great for sharing details of craft shows or even launching new products. They are a way of reminding people of an important date if you want their support to share and promote it. Milestones Milestones are placed as important happenings on your timeline – what marks a milestone is entirely up to you. A fun trend is to mark when you reach a certain milestone number of fans on your page or perhaps selling a certain number of orders – anything goes! You can add the date and a photo, so if your company has had interesting milestones in the past, such as the launch of a new range or a feature in a popular magazine, add these in to create interest in your news feed. People love to help you celebrate so milestones can be very popular posts if not overused. Offers Offers are links to discounts and deals available to your Facebook fans and need to be paid for. The amount you pay depends on how many of your fans you want to reach. For more details on Facebook advertising, see ‘Advertising objectives’. Facebook Events are great for sharing details of craft shows or even launching new products. Functions and features on Facebook Facebook photo albums Facebook Wall Every Facebook profile and page has a Facebook Wall. Effectively, this is the homepage where all the posts and images from a user are collected in chronological order. On Facebook pages, only posts from the page itself are shown on the wall by default, with posts from ‘others’ appearing in a separate area. @Tagging To tag a photo or an update, you type an @ followed by the name of the page or profile to be tagged. That person or page will automatically be sent a notification and, depending on their settings, your post will appear on their Facebook Wall. It also creates a link within your post that fans can click on to go directly to that page and, if they mouse over the name, they can like that page directly from your page. Facebook Pages cannot tag a personal profile unless answering a comment by that person on their own Facebook Page post. You can also add tags to other people’s updates, even tagging your own page if you are featured in some way in the image. I find tagging is a really useful tool for involving influential or complementary Facebook pages in a post. But take care with it – overuse will appear spammy. Facebook photo albums Facebook allows you to create photo albums that make it really easy for customers to see what you like (inspiring images, either your own or other people’s), what you make, and what you sell and do. You can create an album by clicking on the photo’s tab and following the instructions to add photos. You simply upload them from files on your computer. Include albums of works in progress, events and more Your photos can help potential customers really get a feel for your company, making it feel busy and interesting to look around. Be selective Only ever share the best images. Don’t share 20 slightly different pictures of the same item! Make them relevant Add descriptions of the photos and, where appropriate, share a link and tag images with any relevant pages. For example, if you were at a craft fair you could tag these images with stall owners featured. Facebook apps and tabs Every Facebook page can also add apps and tabs in addition to the sections that are added automatically when you create a new page, such as 'About' and 'Photos'. These tabs/apps can either be static website style pages or apps and services that you have allowed permission to interact with your page - for example you can add a Twitter app which shows all your latest tweets when you click on it, or a Pinterest tab which shows all pins from a certain board. Use the Facebook app centre to find apps - https://www.facebook.com/appcenter/ With the current Facebook design (which changes regularly!) there is only one custom app visible in the navigation at the top of the page - Timeline, About, Photos, the app of your choice and 'more', which allows people to click to see all of the apps and custom pages you have created. You can rearrange which tab is featured by clicking 'Manage Tabs'. I would suggest featuring a newsletter sign up page, search for an app in the app centre or, if you are using Mailchimp or another newsletter service, look at their options for integrating Mailchimp with your Facebook page and creating a sign up tab for your fan page. You can link directly to any tab page or app, and this can be useful for running promotions and competitions where you want people to go to a specific tab on your Facebook page. Search for competitions in the app centre to see all the apps you can use to help with running Facebook competitions. The Facebook ticker The ‘ticker’ is a constant stream of the very latest activity of your friends and pages you have liked – it sits in the right sidebar. It is only visible when you are logged in to your personal profile and not when you are on a Facebook page. The ticker can be switched on and off very easily by any Facebook user so you can’t guarantee your updates will be seen here. Scheduling posts It’s very easy to schedule a post on Facebook. You simply write a post then click on the clock symbol in order to add the day and time you want the post to appear. It’s good to schedule posts in advance so you have at least one post per day. It’s good to schedule posts in advance so you have at least one post per day. Hashtags Adding a hashtag allows your post to be collected together with all other posts with the same hashtag. Click on a Facebook hashtag or use the search function to find all posts tagged with the same hashtag. This can be a useful way of finding pages with similar interests. FIONA PULLEN, THE SEWING DIRECTORY Just a little tip: you tend to get more reach on Facebook if you post or preschedule direct on Facebook than via a third-party app. Targeting posts You should also see the option to target Facebook posts next to the schedule and tagging symbol when writing a post. You can target the post by gender, language, age, location, relationship and educational status and even sexual preference. The location feature is particularly useful for pages with a global reach where people in different areas use different languages. For a crafter, it can be useful for promoting events – for example, you can tell just your local fans that you’ll be at a market the following weekend. Understanding the Facebook algorithm Facebook currently has a very complex algorithm, which makes it one of the most challenging social media networks on which to create a successful account. Facebook scores each update based on its complex algorithm. It doesn’t know you and how much you love what you do – it just sees statistics and interactions. This is why you must focus on engaging fans from the very beginning. AFFINITY, WEIGHT AND DECAY The variables of Affinity, Weight and Decay (which Facebook used to call ‘Edge Rank’ variables) are a good starting point for understanding the very basic elements of the complex Facebook algorithm. Affinity Affinity is dependent on a user’s relationship with a story in the news feed – this is based on the user’s interaction with similar previous stories. It will also take into account, for example, whether a friend has liked, shared or commented on the story. Facebook learns from people’s status updates, profile information and activity on the network. It then shares the story with people it believes have an ‘affinity’ with your post and are most likely to engage with it. Weight Weight is determined by the type of story, such as a photo, video, link or text. On some pages, people tend to like photos from a page more than other types of updates, so Facebook will share the photo posted to one fan, but not the status update posted just a few hours later. This varies though. I manage pages where plain-text updates perform much better than photos and achieve a much greater reach, but on other pages the audience much prefers photos. You will learn more by looking at your Facebook Insights (see later in this chapter). Time Decay The last variable is Time Decay. As a story or update gets older, the lower the value – 48 hours is often regarded as the maximum lifespan of a story within a news feed. Viral posts are kept alive through sharing. More recently, Facebook has taken into account the popularity of a story and allowed it to appear in news feeds through continued likes and comments, mentioning the date of the original post next to the ‘story’. The algorithm changes and adapts in real time. If fans like or comment on an update very quickly, it will then increase the share of the post to more of your fans and so on. The likes and comments are almost like doors unlocking within your fan count. If an influential and relevant page likes your post this can have a significant impact on a post, unlocking more and more doors! In my experience the quicker you achieve likes, comments and shares the larger the percentage of users will see your posts. It’s almost as if Facebook is testing a batch of your fans, and the number of users it opens the post to is directly