Editor’s note: Get ready to take your online connections offline with this amazing guest post by Abby Glassenberg! Also packed with ideas for all the non-crafty bloggers out there!
Have you ever met another craft blogger in person? If you have I’ll bet you’d describe the experience of connecting in real life something like this:
“Most of the people I know don’t understand craft blogs. It’s so great to finally talk to someone who totally gets it!”
“It’s like we’re already friends even though we’ve just met! We could just dive in and start talking about everything we love. It was fantastic!”
If you live in one of those select few areas rich in craft bloggers perhaps this is a common experience for you, but I think for the majority of us it’s only happened a handful of times. And that’s too bad. Because talking in person is a totally different experience that talking online. It’s deeper, more interactive, more nuanced. In person you can ask questions and get immediate feedback, reveal your honest thoughts and opinions, and come away with a feeling of rejuvenation that’s really unmatched by email or Twitter chats.
How can we actively increase the number of these in-person meetings we get to experience?
Attending a conference, like Sewing Summit, or a trade show like CNNA, are terrific ways to connect with craft bloggers, but these options are expensive and with small kids at home, it can be hard to get away. By far the easiest, cheapest way to get to know your readers is to simply call them on the phone!
I chose to begin 2013 by scheduling 15 minute phone calls with my long-time blog readers. I’ve been a craft blogger for close to eight years now, writing posts 2-3 times a week on my blog, whileshenaps. I knew I had readers. I could see them in my stats, and interact with them when they left comments, but recently I realized that if I really knew them, understood what they are interested in, found out why they read my blog, and listened to their goals and fears, I could be transformed as a blogger. If I knew my readers better I’d be able to write to them personally, working to help them solve real problems, make things they loved, and just have a better day after reading my blog posts.
The first week of January this year I put a post up asking long-time blog readers if they’d be willing to talk with me on the phone for 15-minutes in exchange for a free pattern of their choice from my Etsy shop. I created a Google Doc form that was easy to embed in the post and allowed volunteers to enter their name, email address, and phone number so I could easily keep track of who signed up. I was hoping for 15-20 people and the slots filled immediately. I emailed each person to set up a time for our conversation and then called or Skyped with them, one at a time, over the course of a week.
I asked everyone the following questions:
- What kind of crafting do you do?
- Do you sell what you make? If so, what does your business look like?
- Do you have a blog? If so, how long have you been blogging?
- Tell me about some of your goals for this year when it comes to crafting or blogging.
- What about my blog stands out in your mind?
- Tell me two of your favorite blogs.
- Do you buy sewing patterns? Craft books? If so, tell me about a recent purchase.
- Which pattern would you like?
Each woman I spoke with (and they were all women) was incredibly generous with their time and was refreshingly honest with their feedback. I talked to 18 women in total and through these conversations I created a blogging roadmap for myself for the coming year. Here are some of the many things I learned:
- Although I write a niche blog about sewing stuffed animals, my readers do all kinds of crafting from quilting to baking to knitting to clay.
- My readers are bloggers, and quite a few are long-time bloggers.
- Blogging better is at the top of their list of goals. They’d like to grow their readership, figure out what to blog about, and tie their blogs to their handmade businesses if they have one.
- Many of my readers have felt lost in the craft blogosphere and on Etsy and they are interested in learning how to stand out.
- My Elements of Soft Toy Design series was a big draw, bringing people to my blog who have become loyal, engaged readers.
- More recently my posts on coming up with an elevator speech and on drumming up business have drawn readers that have stuck around.
- My readers like that my blog is friendly, honest, and has a clean simple design .
On a side note, it seems many of my readers are named Megan.
Coming out on the other side of these phone chats I feel like my blogging suitcase is packed to bursting with new ideas that will make great posts in 2013. And when I sit down at the computer to compose a new post I know exactly whom I’m talking to. Taking the online relationships with my readers offline has strengthened my commitment to writing an engaging, useful blog that fosters growth and creativity. Give your readers a call. You’ll be glad you did.
We would love to know if you try out giving your readers or customers a call and a chance to connect with you offline or if you have already started doing this! What have you learned about the people who support you that you might not have realized otherwise?
GET TO KNOW ABBY!
Abby Glassenberg creates unique patterns for stuffed animals from her home studio in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Since 2005 she has shared her creations and her ideas on design, technique and the online culture of craft through her blog. Abby has a master’s degree in education from Harvard and taught middle school social studies in Mississippi and Massachusetts before becoming a textile artist and the mother of three girls. Today Abby enjoys teaching people to sew and opening their eyes to the joy of designing their own stuffed animals.
Abby’s first book, The Artful Bird: Feathered Friends To Make and Sew, was an ALA Booklist top ten craft book of 2011. Her new book about soft toy design and will be published by Lark in May of 2013. Abby has also licensed toy designs to Simplicity. You can find more of Abby’s stuffed animal patterns in her Craftsy pattern shop and her Etsy shop.