Tuesday, December 3, 2013
My guest blogger this week, Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter, has graciously offered to share her expertise on the growing use of social media whether for fun or as a professional endeavor. I know you'll take away something useful from this great tutorial!
Crafters are using social media to share ideas and find new inspiration more than ever before. With the number of options available - Facebook, Ravelry, Pinterest, and Instagram, just to name a very few, it’s easy to feel intimidated by the never-ending reach of the social media universe, but it’s a crucial component to expanding your audience. Whether you are blogging to make a living by promoting your designs or hand-made wares, or simply want to share your inspiration and connect with fellow fiber fanatics, it’s important to carve out some time to maintain a consistent online presence.
If you don’t already have a blog, that’s a great place to start since it allows you to generate unique content which can then be easily shared via the social media sites I’ll be discussing today. There are plenty of free hosting services such as Blogger, Tumblr or Wordpress. It’s also a good idea to invest in a decent camera so that you can take clear, professional-looking photos (note: this doesn’t mean you need to buy a professional camera; click here to read my blog post about taking better photos for more details). To help you get started, check out some blogs from designers and other crafty folks to see what you like in terms of layout, content and writing style. Doing a little research will help you get rolling, and once you have a few blogs under your belt, it’s time to get other people to take notice.
Most of you are probably already familiar with Ravelry, which is a free membership site that keeps track of your projects, manages your yarn, needle and hook stash, and connects you with fellow crafters on user-moderated forums, so I won’t spend too much time on the basics. Ravelry is one of my main referrals for traffic to my blog; if you take a quick look at my profile, you may see why:
I have a direct link listed under “website or blog” and also have an RSS feed pulling in each new post as they are live (you can easily create an RSS feed URL by entering your blog URL at feedburner.com). This allows me to link my projects to a specific blog post (as you can see in the above image), which I then share with groups I’m a member of so that it shows up in the “blog posts from member projects” section of that particular group. Note: it’s important to be conscientious of how and where you link your blogs - if the post has nothing to do with the group, chances are you’ll just annoy its members and not gain any new fans, so be sure to be choosy with this feature.
Keeping track of posts on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter can certainly be a full-time job; you may decide to focus on just one of these sites to maintain your sanity, but I’ve found there is very little overlap between the three in terms of the audience you’ll reach. That’s not to say that you won’t have the opposite experience, of course, so I think it’s important to give all three a chance so you can make an informed decision.
Using a social media managing app such as Hootsuite to pre-schedule posts for Facebook, Twitter and Google plus allows you to have a constant flow of regular posts. This will keep your feed lively and give people a reason to follow you! At the beginning of each week (or month), you can sit down and plan out your posts: new products or designs, upcoming events, helpful tutorials, or funny, shareable photos are all good ideas to try.
Personally, I tend to tweet using the app on my smartphone rather than logging in on my home computer. For one thing, the app notifies me if someone mentions me or re-tweets a post, making it easy for me to respond in a timely fashion. It also makes it easy to steal a few moments here and there - in the line at the post office, waiting for a meal to cook, or during a commercial break.
Speaking of smartphone apps, Instagram is by far one of the fastest-growing apps to take note of. With millions of users on the iPhone and Android platforms, it’s a fun, simple way to share your projects and inspiration. By employing hashtags (for example, #knittersofinstagram, #yarn or #WIP) on your post, users are able to easily find your photos to comment on and favorite. Many designers and yarn companies use instagram as a way to share more “candid” shots of their work; it’s a great way to give your fans a peek behind the curtain. I’ve also discovered some really interesting crafters just by doing a hashtag search, many of whom I’ve started to follow their blog and vice versa.
Last but not least, Pinterest is a mecca for finding and sharing crafty inspiration (among other things!). For the uninitiated, Pinterest is a tool which visually collects and organizes images from the web. It’s a great way to save information you’d like to remember further down the road, such as a photo tutorial, a new knitting pattern, or an interesting yarn or fiber you’ve just discovered. Of course, you can also pin images from your own website or blog, which is certainly a good idea since Pinterest has been consistently named as a top referral site (i.e., driving traffic to your website) along with Facebook and Twitter for quite some time. If you are planning to pin from your own site, just be careful not to be spammy - that is, don’t unleash a deluge of pins which are essentially the same image or text repeated again and again. For one thing, the Pinterest site terms frown upon this type of pinning, but for another thing, it’s a real turn-off for your followers. Pin from your own site with care, and be sure to take a break every now and then to pin from other sites you enjoy, too!
Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter is a team member of Stitchcraft Marketing, a consultancy firm to the craft industry. She knits, designs, and shares other crafty pursuits at handmadebystefanie.blogspot.com.