Are you on Instagram?

Continuing my four part series on using social media for a small business, this week I’m asking the question, are you on Instagram? If not, here are a few pointers for getting up and running with what is becoming one of the fastest growing social media platforms.

As I’ve said before, for this fifty something year old, using social media to promote my upcycling business has been a steep learning curve, but a most enjoyable one. Instagram has become another string to my bow, and works very differently to Facebook or Twitter.

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Research is showing that the photo-sharing app is one of the most effective brand-building tools available today. It is not surprisingly is a popular choice for other designers and professions, and is in fact increasingly important for every kind of business.

Whilst Instagram can be viewed on a laptop or pc, it is primarily an app for the smartphone. The Instagram app can be downloaded for free from the Apple store or Google play, and is very easy to use.

Once downloaded, you will be prompted to fill out your profile. Your username should match those already in use on other social media profiles. Write a short 150 character bio and include a link to your website.

Your profile picture can be your company’s logo or a photo of you, and again, it is useful to keep this consistent over all social media so that your brand is instantly recognisable. This is a job that I need to do as my profile pics are not all the same! I often wonder of it’s better to use a photo of me, an instantly recognisable product such as my sweatercoats, or my logo? I think I’ll change them all to my logo this week, after all it’s a great design!

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Stick to a theme. I live and work in rural Northumberland making one off handmade, upcycled products. This therefore is what I want to show folk. I do not include photos of my dinner, holiday snaps, family or other aspects of my life, but I do show photos of behind the scenes, where I live and work, what has inspired me in nature as well as photos of new products. I think it’s a good idea to develop an image of you and your brand that is not just about what you make, but rather how it is made, and the personality behind the business.

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You then need to add a caption. This is a chance to expand on your image, and link it back to your business. Use hashtags to help followers find your posts that are relevant to the photo, but use these at the end of the caption, and not jumbled up in the text. I frequently use the following hashtags: #upcycled #ecofashion #wool #recycled. You can put a couple of hashtags in your profile too.

On Instagram, you should be maintaining a regular posting schedule, but you don’t want to bombard your followers with too many posts. I generally post something once or twice a day, usually in the morning and again in the late afternoon to catch everyone returning home from work.

Don’t forget to crosspost your Instagram posts with other social media platforms. The app allows you to post images directly to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and Foursquare. However, I do find that as the different social media platforms work in very different ways, I do tend to construct posts differently depending on where they are destined for. I crosspost direct to Twitter and Tumblr from Instagram, but not to Facebook. That just a matter of preference.

I’ll leave you now with this photo of a poncho sent by a lady in Tennessee USA who followed me on Instagram, then put an order in for a bespoke rasta poncho after seeing posting of my upcycled woolly ponchos. It’s proof that using social media for business really is worth the while!

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If you’d like to follow me on Instagram I’m woollypedlar

The Power of Twitter

Following on from last week’s post, about the Highs and Lows of Using Facebook as a Small Business, I thought I’d write this week about the ‘Power of Twitter’. I love Twitter, and it has helped me link up with some awesome people and has provided many business opportunities.

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It was through Twitter I met Gavin Forster. (It was in fact through Northeasthour on Twitter, but more of that later.) Gavin has a photography business, Gavin Forster Photography and was looking for designs to photograph to jazz up his website. He had seen a tweet of mine showing my brightly coloured, upcycled, woolly creations and thought my work was just what he was looking for. Gavin picked  a suitcase full of my sweatercoats and jumpers and took them off on a photoshoot with one of his models. I was delighted, as I got some absolutely stunning photos, many of which I still use today, and Gavin was delighted too as he got a lots of very funky shots.

The black and white sweatercoat above is one of his shots, as are these two and all three remain firm favourites of mine.

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Only last week, I came across Chris, who has a workshop called Quercs down in Skipton where he makes upcycled furniture using reclaimed timber. Chris had tweeted about his gallery opening, and his hunt for fellow upcyclers to exhibit there. I’m happy to say that through the power of Twitter, Chris and I started talking and last week I sent down a big box of bedspreads, throws and cushions to Skipton. Chris’ furniture and my bedspreads go beautifully together. Quercs is now added to the list of stockists of my upcycled woolly wares, thanks to the power of Twitter.

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One of the most unusual commissions to date has to the the coffin cosy I was asked to make for Divine Departures, a funeral parlour in Gateshead.(Unfortunately no longer in business). Divine Departures were after a covering for their cardboard caskets that fitted with the ecofriendly nature, and found me through #Northeasthour.

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 Northeasthour, is an hour dedicated to north east businesses and is hosted by Helen Armstrong on Twitter, every Monday from 8-9pm and on Tuesdays from 1-2pm. The idea being that is you tweet anything with the hashtag #northeasthour then this can be easily spotted and retweeted or commented on by others joining in with the hour. There are many different ‘hours’ over on Twitter, far too many to join in with them all, but living in the north-east, I’ve found #northeasthour to be a tremendously supportive community. I’ve even had my carpets cleaned by a guy who I found through #northeasthour.

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It was through the power of Twitter that ITV got in touch. They has seen my work and were looking for a small business to interview for a broadcast about the election and how it was affecting businesses in the northeast. I was picked as I was a small business that appeared to be doing well. It was a fantastic opportunity to talk about my work, and the crew spent a lot of time with me, filming at home, and in Hexham at The Farmer’s Market.

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The list of contacts made and friendships forged could go on. In just 140 characters, Twitter invites you to tweet. Hashtags are used to help people find tweets. So for example, I tweeted about my latest sweatercoat today. I tweeted ‘This latest sweatercoat has a stonking great hood! #ecofashion’. I then included the link to my website and this photograph. A great opportunity to show what I’ve just made, and the #ecofashion hashtag means those searching for tweets on the subject will hopefully find mine! It really is as simple as that.
If you have something to tell the world, I really would suggest you give Twitter a go.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, I’m @Woollypedlar.

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The Highs and Lows of Using Facebook as a Small Business

Oh Facebook you fickle friend! You really have incensed me this week. It is not often I have a rant, and I do try to keep everything as positive as possible, but when I spend the best part of a day photographing, editting and listing a new product which I’m really excited about, and then the algorithm by which Facebook decides what should appear in your newsfeed deduces that my woolly wraps are only to be seen by handful of people, I’m left feeling utterly frustrated.

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Don’t get me wrong, Facebook can be tremendous, and I would recommend that anyone who has a visual product to show the world uses Facebook and other social media to their full advantage. Why wouldn’t you use a global platform to show the world what you have been making?

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I first set up my Facebook business page, The Woolly Pedlar, back in 2012 when I left teaching and my little one woman upcycling business was launched.  I had watched with interest how Katwise used Facebook with Etsy and had what could only be described as a cult following. She only had to post an album of her latest creations and they would be seen and shared by thousands which led to a stampede when her sale started, with her sweaters selling faster than Glastonbury tickets.

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Facebook has allowed me to engage with so many wonderful people. Do date I have 1,852 followers, and I have been sold many of my upcycled woolly goodies through the power of Facebook alone. I have an album which continues to grow, of photos sent by happy customers. In fact Phillippa who sent in the photo above, has just sent me another, this time of her daughter in one of my upcycled ponchos.

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I have built relationships with my followers, some of them remaining virtual friends, and some of them becoming real life friends and colleagues, with us meeting at events and shows, and keeping in touch with each other via the Facebook page.

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One piece of advice I would give anyone who has a Facebook business page, is to build up a picture of yourself, what makes you tick, your personality and anything that supports your brand. Some of you will know my story, and that The Woolly Pedlar came about through my love of recycling, and living sustainably and through the writing I did of The Bridge Cottage Way. I try, therefore, to show folk more about me that simply what I make. After all. no one wants to engage with a page that simply bombards you with ‘buy this’ posts. Whilst there is a fine line to be drawn between exposing the ins and outs of one’s family life, I do think followers like to get a feel of you as a whole person, and of the lifestyle you have, as well as seeing what you’ve been making. The Woolly Pedlar is about so much more than just jumpers.

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I try to have time out every day for a mindful wander round the garden both for relaxation, and to get a photo ready for my daily ‘Good Morning’ posts which I’m told by my followers are greatly enjoyed. (or perhaps they’re just being polite)

I use Facebook to share my blogposts, newsletter updates, event news as well as showing how and why I make what I do.
Little and often has to be they key. I often get told ‘I don’t have the time for social media’ but if used little and often I feel it isn’t too time consuming. It’s a question of getting into the habit, but also of not letting it take over your life!

So why, if I find Facebook such a great marketing tool, am I so cross with it? A year or so ago Facebook decided that it wanted small businesses to pay to boost posts. I guess Facebook does need to earn its money somehow, and we had had a free run for sometime, but it seems to be doing pretty ok from advertising. So now, I find that any post with a link to my website, a £ sign, a size or anything that includes the words ‘website, for sale,’ or a price or size is guaranteed to be only seen by a few. So how the dickens do I get folk to see what is for sale?

I find when I ask my followers to comment on a post, as soon as the commnets come in, then the views start to soar. I don’t want to always be asking for favours to comment or share, and although subtle questions are asked to prompt comments, if not careful, these can sound contrived.

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Just this week, one of my ‘Good Morning’ posts with a picture of my snowdrops was seen by getting on for a thousand folk, whereas my poor old woolly wraps were only seen by a handful. Yes, I had put the prices on my woolly wraps, with links to the website, but how else was I going to show folk what I had made, how much it cost and where it could be bought? Yes, I could put links to the website in the comments below, but not everything is as savvy as each other about navigating Facebook.

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I know other artists are feeling the same as me, and their frustraion about the way Facebook is operating is palatable. So please, I implore you, if you like what I make, and see one of my posts with new makes on do leave a comment!! It makes all the difference.
Of course there are other social media platforms, and I have a Twitter account, Pinterest boards, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, but honestly, there are only so many minutes in a day, and I do need to get on and make things!

Rant over! Promise next week’s blog with be without moans. Thanks for reading 🙂

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