Social Networking 101

by Stacy Altiery of InkSpot Workshop

OK, so you have a small business and you’re selling items online either with an Etsy shop, Ebay store or some other format, right?  Now how do you spread the word online?  The answer is Social Networking.

I’m going to break down into simple terms the different options you have for Social Media, plus use myself and my online stationery business as an example.  I’m not an expert on this topic, but I do have some real world experience I’d love to share with you.  So grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the read…

1. Where do I start?

That’s an easy one: get yourself a BLOG.  If you are crafty and are actually making the items you sell, people want to know more about you and connect with you.  It’s what set’s handcrafted, home-based businesses apart from our Made In China counterparts.  A blog is basically a running diary (you are reading one right now).  When you add content to your blog, it’s called a post, and your posts can be about anything you want.  Most people share inside looks into their studio, show how they make their craft, talk about other interesting things that inspire them – books, music, you name it.

Blogs are free, and anyone can have one.  The two most popular formats are Blogger and WordPress.  They provide easy-to-use templates, and before you know it, you’ll have your blog up and running in no time. The manner in which Blogs relate to social media is the fact that you are reaching an audience, interacting with them and leading them to your products. You can also hire people to make your blog template, such as Zee Studio who developed this beautiful blog.

I’m currently enrolled in a blog class through Decor8‘s Holly Becker.  The class is called Blogging Your Way, and I’m really finding it to be the best thing I have been involved with in a while.  Feel free to check out my blog, called The Spotter.

2. What the heck is a TWITTER and how is it different from FACEBOOK?

Do you find yourself hearing about Twitter and Facebook everywhere you look? It’s so mainstream now that news reporters have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts where you can keep up with breaking news.

Twitter is a place where you can make a quick update, where you post short randomness that could be anything from, “I just found the coolest new lipbalm www.mama.com” or “Check out my latest designs for Spring www.inkspotworkshop.com”.  And yes, some people even post “Mmmmm, just had the best egg salad sandwich”. With Twitter people who find you interesting follow you, and likewise you follow people you find interesting. You are constantly updated with the “tweets” the people you follow are posting.

It’s actually great for people like me who enjoy instant gratification. Think about it… what better way to instantly reach a huge audience when you have just launched a new product?  I follow many people who are also in the stationery biz and find Twitter a great resource for reaching out to these people if I have an industry question.  I recently found myself confused about which program to use for e-newsletters, so I sent a tweet asking what everyone else was using. Voila! I discovered MailChimp (more about that later).

My favorite part of Twitter is how you can find so many interesting people to follow, simply by looking at the people your favorite people follow. Does that make sense? It’s like the old “they told 2 friends, then they each told 2 friends, and so on, and so on…”  It’s also the same way so many people can find you and get introduced to your website and blog.  If you do not have a Twitter account, what are you waiting for?  It’s free.  Please come follow me.

Facebook is a bit different than Twitter.  I like to think of Facebook as a mini-blog.  You post status updates, similar to Twitter, but you have the ability to include photos and you are not character limited as with Twitter, so your posts can be longer.  It’s also easier to see when your friends have responded to something you have posted, as it keeps everything neat and organized on your main page.  Also with the basic/personal Facebook account, you have to approve the people who “friend request” you.  In other words you won’t have random people seeing what you have posted, unlike Twitter.  There are many security options with Facebook too, so your precious pics of the little ones won’t get into the wrong hands.  Like everything else, Facebook is free to join.

With Facebook there are two types of pages you can have.  The first is a Standard Personal Facebook Page – this will be under your full name so people can find you.  If you are a married woman and want your old high school friends to find you, include your first name, maiden name and last name.  Personally, I use my Facebook personal page as a way to keep up with my old, Ohio High School friends and current Atlanta friends, plus all friends in between.  I do not include the name of my employer {day job} in my profile because really, do I want the people I work with seeing pictures of me with a perm and mullet from 9th grade?  Whatever you place in your profile is a keyword that other people may find you when they do a profile search.  I do have the names of all the schools I attended, as a way to keep up with old classmates.  It’s a blast, and I’ve reconnected with many blasts from my past.

The second is a Facebook Fan Page.  This is where Facebook can really apply to your online business.  Again, it’s like a mini blog and a place where I re-post content from my full blog (great way to get more blog readers) among other various items.  It’s called a Fan page because the people who follow you are fans of your business.  These are not necessarily the same people who follow your personal page.  By the way, you must have a standard Facebook account before you can add a business Fan page.

You can also follow any business you like by clicking  on the “become a fan” button you will find on just about every Facebook page out there.  Unlike your personal page, to be a fan you don’t have to get an approval like you do with a friend request.

Both Twitter and Facebook Fan pages are a great way to offer a special code to your followers to use (perhaps) as a discount on your website. To see examples of how I use this tool, become a fan of InkSpot Workshop.

3. Is there an easy way to group together all of my customer’s email addresses and send information to them when I launch new products or have special promotions?

Let’s face it, not everyone is plugged into social media so there needs to be a way to get back to the basics with simple, old e-mail.  Of course you could also connect with your customers via postcards sent through snail mail, but my experience has shown me that it’s easier to get a person to click on your website or other link while they are on the computer such as in the body of an email, compared to when they receive your information hard copy, like a postcard. My advice, save your money on doing a snail mail campaign and stick to perfecting the art of the e-mail campaign.

Today this is made easier than ever with services such as Mail Chimp or Constant Contact, to name a couple.  Some services require a small fee and others are free.  As I mentioned earlier in this post, I discovered Mail Chimp from my Twitter friends and I LOVE it!  So easy to use.  It’s a great way to get your customer’s email addresses organized into one list, plus they have templates for you to use so your emails look extremely professional and include pictures of your products.  Plus they give you detailed statistics as to how each and every “campaign” you send is working. You will find out how many people actually opened your email and clicked on the links you included to your shop.

There is also a way to create an online sign up form for people who want to be added to your email list for when you send e-newsletters.  This is just another way to stay in touch with people and make a connection.  I try to send something to my list once a month and always include a special discount code for them to use on my website.  Perfect for announcing a new line of products or breaking news of your business.

Interested in joining InkSpot Workshop’s e-newsletter list? Click here.

4. I really enjoy taking pictures and have a bunch of shots of my products, plus other items I find interesting.  Is there a place to just share pictures?

You betcha, it’s called Flickr. Although I do have a Flickr account, it’s the one Social Networking site I have not completely utilized, like the others. I do know many people enjoy this site and talk about it, so I encourage you to see what it’s all about for yourself and how you could work it into your own social networking efforts.  Basically it’s a place where you can upload and group your photos, plus add comments.  Other people follow your “photostream” and make comments too.  I also use Flickr to find great pictures to use on my blog from time to time and of course give proper photo credits.

4. My new favorite Social Networking site!!!

I just learned about this new tool called FormSpring.  Great, another place where I need to keep up with things, right? Well this is really different from all of the above mentioned Social Media sites. FormSpring actually allows you to ask anyone a question and vice versa. It’s a virtual Q&A or a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) stream on all sorts of different topics from all different types of people.

Similar to all other sites, you follow people and they follow you, no need for approval like Facebook.  FormSpring can also link to your Facebook and Twitter account so you follow all the same people.  I’ve learned so much more about the stationery and blogging business from this incredible tool, plus it’s also free to join.  Come ask me anything! Plus see what others have already asked me.

You can also visit Oh My! Handmade Goodness at FormSpring to ask questions of the contributors or let us know what you’d like to see more of.

I hope that your brain is not about to explode after reading this rather lenghty post, but I wanted to make sure I at least touched upon all of the most popular Social Media sites so you could have some form of working knowledge. Interestingly enough, most of these sites are linked together so you do not have to post the same information everywhere, just post once, and it updates all your social media sites. The following is an example of how I incorporate all social media to get the message out.

Info I wanted to get out to the world: InkSpot Workshop launches new line for Holiday 2009

Steps:

  1. Created a post on my blog where I showed pictures and included direct links to where readers could buy everything
  2. Went to Twitter and tweeted “just launched new designs for holidays, come see http://www…”
  3. Went to my Facebook Fanpage.  Posted pictures and links to the new line and offered a special code for followers to use on my website to get free shipping.  (If I didn’t want to offer a code, I could have just waited for my blog host, Blogger, to post the same info automatically on my Fanpage. There is a function that directly links everything you post on your blog to your Facebook Fanpage.)
  4. Created a direct e-mail campaign through Mail Chimp where I included pictures and direct links to where they could buy and also included a special code for my existing customers to use for a 25% discount plus free shipping.
  5. Sat back and watched the orders start to come in.
OCIAL NETWORKING 101

OK, So you have a small business and you are selling items online either with an Etsy Shop, Ebay store or some other format, right? Now how do you spread the word online? The answer is Social Networking.

 I'm going to break down into simple terms the different options you have for Social Media, plus use myself and my business as examples. Most of you know I have an online stationery shop called InkSpot Workshop (link www.inkspotworkshop.com) I am not an expert on this topic, but do have some real world experience I'd love to share with you. So grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the read...

1.) Where do I start? That's an easy one, it's called get yourself a BLOG
 If you are crafty and are actually making the items you sell, people want to know more about you and connect with you. It's what set's handcrafted, home based businesses apart from our Made In China, counterparts. A blog is basically a running diary, you are reading one right now. When you add content to your blogs, it's called a post and your posts can be about anything you want. Most people share inside looks into their studio, show how they make their craft, talk about other interesting things that inspire them books, music, you name it. Blogs are free and anyone can have one, the 2 most popular formats are Blogger (insert link http://www.blogger.com) and WordPress (insert link http://www.wordpress.com) These are easy to use templates and before you know if you will have your blog up and running in no time. The manner in which Blogs relate to social media is that fact you are reaching an audience, interacting with them and leading them to your products.

You can also hire people to make your blog template, such as Dee Studio (insert link http://zee-studio.com/) who developed this beautiful blog. I am currently enrolled in a blog class through Decor8's (insert link www.decor8.com) Holly Becker. The class is called Blogging Your Way (insert link http://www.decor8eclasses.com) and I'm really finding it to be the best thing I have been involved with in a while. Feel free to check out my blog, called The Spotter (insert link http://www.inkspotworkshopblog.blogspot.com)

2.) What the heck is a TWITTER and how is it different from FACEBOOK?
Do you find yourself hearing about Twitter and Facebook everywhere you look? It's so mainstream now that news reporters have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts where you can keep up with breaking news.

TWITTER is a place where you can make a quick update, where you post short randomness that could be anything from... "I just found the coolest new lipbalm www.mama.com" or "Check out my latest designs for Spring www.inkspotworkshop.com"  and yes, some people even post "Mmmmm, just had the best egg salad sandwich". With Twitter people who find you interesting follow you and likewise you follow people you find interesting. You are constantly updated with the "tweets" the people you follow are posting. It's actually great for people like me who enjoy instant gratification. Think about it... what better way to instantly reach a huge audience when you have just launched a new product? I follow many people who are also in the stationery biz and find Twitter a great resource for reaching out to these people if I have an industry question. I recently found myself confused about which program to use for e-newsletters so I sent a tweet asking what everyone else was using? Voila! I disc
 overed MailChimp (more about that later) My favorite part of Twitter is how you can find so many interesting people to follow, simply by looking at the people your favorite people follow. Does that make sense? It's like the old "they told 2 friends, then they told 2 friends, and so on, and so on..." It's also the same way so many people can find you and get introduced to your website and blog.  If you do not have a Twitter account, what are you waiting for? it's free www.twitter.com  Please come follow me http://twitter.com/inkspotworkshop

Facebook is a bit different than Twitter. I like to think of Facebook as a mini-blog. You post status updates, similar to Twitter, but you have the ability to include photos and you are not character limited as with Twitter, so your posts can be longer. It's also easier to see when your friends have responded to something you have posted as it keeps everything neat and organized on your main page. Also with the basic/personal Facebook account, you have to approve the people who "friend request" you. In other words you won't have random people seeing what you have posted, unlike Twitter. There are many security options with Facebook too, so your precious pics of the little ones won't get into the wrong hands. Like everything else, Facebook is free to join www.facebook.com

With Facebook there are 2 types of pages you can have
1.) Standard Personal Facebook Page - This will be under your full name so people can find you. If you are a married woman and want your old high school friends to find you, include your first name, maiden name and last name. Personally, I use my Facebook personal page as a way to keep up with my old, Ohio High School friends and current Atlanta friends, plus all friends in between. I do not include the name of my employer {day job} in my profile because really, do I want the people I work with seeing pictures of me with a perm and mullet from 9th grade? Whatever you place in your profile is a keyword that other people may find you when they do a profile search. I do have the names of all the schools I attended, as a way to keep up with old classmates. It's a blast and I've reconnected with many blasts from my past.
2.) Facebook Fan Page - This is where Facebook can really apply to your online business. Again, it's like a mini blog and a place where I re-post content from my full blog (great way to get more blog readers) among other various items. It's called a Fan page because the people who follow you are fans of your business. These are not necessarily the sample people who follow your personal page, by the way you must have a standard Facebook account before you can add a business Fan page. You can also follow any business you like by clicking  on the "become a fan" button you will find on just about every Facebook page out there.  Unlike your personal page, to be a fan you don't have to get an approval like you do with a friend request. Both Twitter and Facebook Fan pages are a great way to offer a special code to your followers to use (perhaps) as a discount on your website. To see examples of how I use this tool, come be a FAN of InkSpot Workshop (insert link http://www.facebook.c
 om/pages/Atlanta-GA/InkSpot-Workshop/115572255031?ref=ts)

3.) Is there an easy way to group together all of my customer's email addresses and send information to them when I launch new products or have special promotions?

Let's face it, not everyone is plugged into social media so there needs to be a way to get back to the basics with simple, old e-mail. Of course you could also connect with your customers via postcards sent through snail mail, but my experience has shown me that it's easier to get a person to click on your website or other link while they are on the computer such as in the body of an email, compared to when they receive your information hard copy, like a postcard. My advice, save your money on doing a snail mail campaign and stick to perfecting the art of the e-mail campaign.

Today this is made easier than ever with services such as Mail Chimp (insert link http://www.mailchimp.com) or Constant Contact (insert link www.constantcontact.com) to name a few. Some services require a small fee and others are free. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I discovered Mail Chimp from my Twitter friends and I LOVE it! So easy to use. It's a great way to get your customer's email addresses organized into one list, plus they have templates for you to use so your emails look extremely professional and include pictures of your products, plus they give you detailed statistics as to how each and every "campaign" you send is working. You will find out how many people actually opened your email and clicked on the links you included to your shop. There is also a way to create an online sign up form for people who want to be added to your email list for when you send e-newsletters. This is just another way to stay in touch with people and make a connection. I try to sen
 d something to my list once a month and always include a special discount code for them to use on my website. Perfect for announcing a new line of products or breaking news of your business.  Interested in joining InkSpot Workshop's e-newsletter list? Click here (insert link http://inkspotworkshop.us1.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=ec6168c8746c02c32f6c9c1b4&id=8895f75816)

4.) I really enjoy taking pictures and have a bunch of shots of my products, plus other items I find interesting. Is there a place to just share pictures?

You betcha, it's called FLICKR (insert link http://www.flickr.com) Although I do have a Flickr account, it's the one Social Networking site I have not completely utilized, like the others. I do know many people enjoy this site and talk about it so I encourage you to see what it's all about for yourself and how you could work it into your own social networking needs. Basically it's a place where you can upload and group your photos, plus add comments. Other people follow your "photostream" and make comments too. I also use Flickr  to find great pictures to use on my blog from time to time and of course give proper photo credits:)

4.) My new favorite Social Networking site!!!

I just learned about this new tool called FormSpring (insert link http://www.formspring.me) Great, another place where I need to keep up with things, right? Well this is really different from all of the above mentioned Social Media sites. FormSpring actually allows you to ask anyone a question and vice versa. It's a virtual Q&A or a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) stream on all sorts of different topics from all different types of people. Similar to all other sites, you follow people and they follow you, no need for approval like Facebook.  FormSpring can also link to your Facebook and Twitter account so you follow all the same people. I've learned so much more about the stationery and blogging business from this incredible tool, plus it's also free to join. Come ask me anything!!! (insert link http://www.formspring.me/InkSpotWorkshop)  plus see what others have already asked me.

I sincerely hope that your brain is not completely about to explode after reading this rather lenghty post, but I wanted to make sure I at least touched upon all Social Media sites so you could have some form of working knowledge. Interestingly enough, most of these sites are linked together so you do not have to post the same information everywhere, just post once and it updates all your social media sites. The following is an example of how I incorporate all social media to get the message out.

* Info I wanted to get out to the world....InkSpot Workshop launches new line for Holiday 2009 *
steps...
1. Created a post on my blog where I showed pictures and included direct links to where readers could buy everything
2. Went to TWITTER and tweeted "just launched new designs for holidays, come see http://www..."
3. Went to my Facebook Fanpage not only posted pictures and links to the new line, decided to offer a special code for followers to use on my website to get FREE SHIPPING. If I didn't want to offer a code, I could have just waited for my blog host (Blogger) to post the same info automatically on my Fanpage. There is a function that directly links everything you post on your blog to your Facebook Fanpage.
4. Created a direct e-mail campaign through Mail Chimp where I not only include pictures and direct links to where they may buy, also included a special code for my existing customers to use for a 25% discount, plus free shipping.
5. Sat back and watched the orders start to come in:)

Thank you and I hope you found some useful information.
  • http://100pulse.com Altax

    I have been using most of the social netwotking sites as for now but i havent heard about formspring, mailchimp etc. let me try it to get more traffic for my website.

  • http://www.inkspotworkshop.com Stacy Altiery/InkSpot Workshop/Author

    Hi ALTAX: Thanks for reading, glad you are plugged into Social Media. All of these resources are great ways to generate BUZZ and direct traffic to your website.

    Just make sure you have done all your leg work regarding your SEO (search engine optimization) which is how you will generate the MOST traffic to your website, from search engines. This is one area I too need help and hope one of our monthly contributors here on this blog will touch upon the topic.

    Thanks for reading!!

  • http://itsybitsypaper.blogspot.com Lindy

    As always this is wondering information that you are sharing with the public! I love that you are so helpful and willing to share!

  • http://www.petitedelis.com Stacey Halphen

    Stacy,
    You are always such a big help, and for that I am truly appreciative. Thank you for sharing tips on social networking! This is an area I definitely need to work on.

  • http://www.inkspotworkshop.com Stacy Altiery/InkSpot Workshop/Author

    Stacey and Lindy, it is my pleasure to share with you! Thanks for reading Oh My Handmade! Spread the word:)

  • http://www.studiopiluca.com Wendy

    Thanks for this. So much information. I knew about all of these, but didn’t really see how they could help me. Thanks. I will be sharing this with my readers and fans.

  • http://www.cornerstoremedia.com Ed Peterson

    Stacy,

    This is great post! Anyone who wants to take Social to the next level should check out Dan Zarrella’s The Social Media Marketing Book.

    Very easy to follow and full of great insights for the small business owner. Most practical book I have read about in bound marketing

    Thanks.

    Ed

  • http://www.bugabooannouncements.com/ Michelle

    Stacy,
    Thanks for all the helpful info. I have never done a newsletter and wonder about who to put on the list. Is it proper to put past customers on the list or just start with new customers? Or do you put up a link to sign up for the newsletter and those are the people you send it too? I want to set one up for my business but I don’t want to spam anyone. Any advice on this?

  • http://www.inkspotworkshop.com Stacy Altiery/InkSpot Workshop/Author

    Ed, thanks for suggesting that book, off to check it out…

    Michelle, great question about who to add to your list for an e newsletter. Mailchimp gives great advice on this topic http://www.mailchimp.com/articles/growing_your_permission_email_list/

    Whenever I send my customers their shipping/tracking number I always include a link to my e-newsletter signup form. Keeps things simple too.

  • Tammy

    All this different social media can be so overwhelming at times!! I think I enjoy Twitter more than any though b/c you can be introduced to far more people…interesting people should I say, than any of the other forms of social media IMO. Thanks for posting!!

  • http://kisforcalligraphy.blogspot.com/ katy

    brilliant list of the sites that help create us the “good” traffic jams!! Thank you! And I really look forward to a SEO post for SEO challenged! Especially how to figure out what keywords are the most useful and used.

  • http://TheOldPostRoadBLOG.blogspot.com Trish @TheOldPostRoad

    Thanks for that summary! I just started Twitter – but have enough problems keeping my blog updated! I have noticed that most of my sales come through readers of my blog.
    -Trish

  • http://www.inkspotworkshop.com Stacy Altiery/InkSpot Workshop/Author

    Trish: Sounds like you are off to a good start, you should also try a Fan Page (Facebook) it’s like “mini” blog

    Katy: I too am SEO challenged, stay tuned to this blog as I believe another contributor will be giving us some useful info on that topic

    Tammy: I too enjoy Twitter and find I connect with other people in the same industry. Great way to post a question and get an instant response!

  • http://sassysmolak.blogspot.com Emily

    Stacy this blog is fantastic, but I like your inkspotter blog too. They are both lovely!! You are like superwoman with all that you do 🙂

  • http://www.artshades.co.uk/blog ArtShades

    Thanks Stacy this is a great round-up that I have printed off. You helped me early on on the BYW class with Twitter which I am trying out, but I have yet to sort out my Facebook Fan page which you gave me advice on. I AM going to do it! MailChimp sounds interesting too – another thing to add to my never ending list! Your efficiency knows no bounds…….

  • http://designsofartisan.etsy.com april san pedro

    hello stacy… i really like your posts… its very informative… thank you so much for sharing…

    -designsofartisan.etsy.com

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/hillcrestcottage Hillcrest Cottage

    Thanks…very encouraging. I am currently doing these things…and keep on working hard to increase my exposure. It’s good to hear advice from those further down the road!

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  • Mike

    A truly great read and just what Id hoped to find when I googled the subject. I have a specific question to ask if I may. Although aware of social media I have for one reason or another ignored it as it came to prominence. Stupid of me I know! Here’s my ask. You mentioned reporters twittering and using facebook to break their news stories. After a lifetime as a tv journalist I have just changed career for family reasons and switched from having a national role as a tv correspondent (although as mentioned already, one that didn’t use social networking.) Now I am involved in our family hotel business that also doesn’t (to date) use social media in its marketing either! Fools I hear you thinking and you’d be right! I am however very keen to make up for lost time and believe it could be the factor that makes all the difference! Is it reasonable to expect that because I had things like a recognized name and face etc but DIDN’T use the online world at the time that I can retrospectively use it now? Can you achieve success by attempting to benefit from past prominence but in a new and unrelated business venture? Programmes I have appeared on regularly had a big following audience wise numbering in the millions (following the show not me I hasten to add!) and I was wondering if attempting to connect with potential hotel users nationwide who might also have followed the programme is acceptably ethical, practical and moreover potentially profitable!!? For example on Facebook there have been huge groupings of viewers posting and discussing the show etc. I could target that market directly (I’d imagine from the facebook names?) and genuinely make contact with new potential customers who could book our hotel online etc? This all sounds like a no brainer but I’d expect that apart from making sure the hotel was right from a quality point of view and represented real value for money the real “difference” would be trying to capitalise on the recognition factor and blogging and posting accordingly? Would this work for me? Might it possibly NOT go down well? Any comment from you would be seriously appreciated! Thanks again for such a great intro to your world!

  • David A. Greene

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. There’s nothing like experience. My head is a bit swimming but I’ll take it one thing at a time. Thanks!!! David Greene

  • http://www.germandolls.etsy.com ulla- germandolls

    I never heard of mailchimp. I am using all the other media you describe. Facebook is tricky though. I am never sure what makes me gain or lose fans there. Any advice?
    Great post!

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/Zodiaque Shiloh K

    I just started a facebook page for my litle business, it’s hard just getting to 25 fans to get the whole process going. I hope it will pick up soon!