As an absolute technophobe, I couldn’t imagine I’d ever be writing about this topic with even a smidgen of authority. I suppose I’m still not really, but I have overcome my fear of the computer somewhat in my couple of short years in business and it’s a useful tool for self-promotion and marketing. Rather like when you’re all set up at a trade show, it is a barometer for where you’re at with your business and you can perhaps see where the gaps are for improvement or development.
There are so many different online presence-options nowadays and it can feel overwhelming. All the various social media, websites, online shops, online collectives, blogs; and it is a full-time job in itself to keep on top of them. The social media I’m aware of are Snapchat, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Instagram stories, Twitter and Pinterest… and people seem to update all of them and often with all different content and it’s quite impressive. It’s obviously not necessary to use all of these and I will just talk about a few that suit me. Some will be more appropriate for advertising and selling your product than others.
As an artist selling a visual product, Instagram makes perfect sense to me. Honestly, that’s the only one that does. Actually, Pinterest is a must as well, but I use that more for my own research than promoting my artwork (probably need to change this). I used to be more active on my facebook page but that seems to have fallen by the wayside and I don’t think I’ve updated my twitter this side of New Year. I think probably I should just get rid of these all together so that people don’t think they represent where I’m at with my business… In my humble opinion, it’s best to focus on one or two that really resonate with you. Sort of like deciding to exercise more; if you hate running and always will, don’t pick running because you’ll never keep up with it. Consistency is really endearing on social media and it will start to be reflected in the size of your following.
I’m sometimes not quite sure about how personal to get on Instagram, as I have lots of buyers that follow me on there, such as buyers from Fenwick and Paperchase, international distributors and independent shops, so too many pictures of your family or cats is not really appropriate. It didn’t start like that though, it was just an Instagram account I opened at Uni that was a mixture of elephant drawings and nights out. I do actually find though that the more personal posts sometimes get the best engagement so it’s a bit of a balance.
I tend to post illustrations I’m literally doing that day, and not always ones that people can buy as cards or that will ever become cards… on the one hand that can seem quite confusing because I’m showing illustrations that people can’t actually access, such as illustrations from travelling, but it’s also quite authentic and real, for those people who just like just to see the process or cute drawings of animals.
Product photos tend to get the smallest engagement so I only really use those if I can tie it into something I want to say, such as an Age 4 card and a post about Day 4 of a trade show.
Bizarrely, I get the most likes on photos of me :/ haha so clearly the human approach is most likeable. Find your own voice on your favourite platform and nurture it.
Directly linked to your social media should be your website. A website is really the epicentre of your online presence. Alongside a couple of consistent social media profiles and perhaps a well-pruned blog, a well-kept website shines your business in the best possible light. You seem trustworthy and professional. It’s worked really well for us to use Aura Creative as our web developer. Small-business to small-business, you’ll get the best, most personal service and a site that is tailored specifically to your needs.
I use banners and an events page for up-to-date news of collection launches and trade shows so that customers can see at a glance what you are offering.
We recently took the plunge and decided to focus our website entirely on wholesale, creating a private trade section and removing all retail sales options. This has been a fantastic move so far as it decreasing the admin for each wholesale order, but I really hope we will be able to develop our retail sales options in the future when we have more manpower.
I also keep a blog on my website, which can be a really effective tool to connect with potential customers. I was chatting to another small business owner the other day about keeping a blog, and she said she felt they were becoming quite outdated and clunky compared to podcasts, short youtube videos etc. Everyone’s lives are so busy and fast-paced, it just takes too long to sit and read. I was writing a blog post recently about my holiday to New Zealand, as it was such a special trip, but I was thinking as I wrote it, who will actually take time to read this? Possibly skim through it, and look at the pictures, but not actually read the whole thing? That’s fine by me though! For me, my blog is something I try to update here and there because it keeps my website current. It gives your customers the opportunity to get to know the ‘behind the scenes’. It’s personal and that’s what a small business is all about. Jessica Hogarth and Anna Wright keep amazing blogs and post at least every couple of months. If you don’t think you’ll keep up a blog, it might be best not to start one because, in the same way that it keeps your website looking active, it can also make your website look as though you haven’t been there since 2014.
Lastly, on the interweb stuff, I mail out to my customers once a month or so using Mailchimp, but only if I have something to say. I think there’s a sweet spot that’s not too often to be annoying but often enough to be relevant and remind them you exist. I always make them full of pictures with short, concise text. Again I link them back to my website and Instagram so it all ties in.
To summarise, the web is a brilliant way to promote your small business. Use whatever apps you enjoy using and that suit your product and reach your target market. Try to tie everything in neatly, so that people can be easily directed to your website, social media and blog (be it podcasts, youtube videos etc). Work out a balance between professional and personal, because I definitely think an amount of personal really helps customers connect with you. And most importantly, be consistent with maintaining your online presence.
- Fluffy animal-drawer at Louise Mulgrew Designs. Louise loves walks on the beach, listening to Harry Potter audio-books, cuddling kittens and the full moon. Her favourite yoga posture is Happy Baby and her favourite colour is rainbow.
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