When it comes to social media, I consider myself pretty savvy. But it never fails to astonish me how entrepreneurs just figure this stuff out on their own and do very well by it. Take my sister Justine, who is a local jewelry designer.
She creates nature-inspired silver and beaded jewelry, which is branded and marketed under her own name: Justine Brooks. She works with some trusted agents for retail distribution and I have watched her reputation and collections blossom in stores from Vancouver to Calgary to Toronto, and, most recently, Japan. I can’t lie. I am simply amazed at how beautiful her work is and how fast her business is taking off.
So, why am I telling you all this? Well, while she’s happy with her retail success, she knew there were more channels to explore. It’s every person’s dream to make money while they sleep. These days, everyone and their dog is starting a website flogging their wares. The problem? You may have the most amazing diamond studded widgets in the world to sell, but if no one knows about you; you can’t turn that money-while-you-sleep dream into a reality. Justine seems to have found a way to make that happen.
I remember the days when Justine was just starting up. She needed a website and was only selling at local markets. She didn’t have jewelry tags or a Facebook page. Somehow, she’s figured it all out and is making great money from her work. What I think is particularly inspiring is that she’s only recently started with online commerce. In fact, in the last six months, Justine made an easy extra $10,000 online that she never had before.
One of Justine’s most successful online selling posts is Etsy.com, an online marketplace where sellers can list their handmade goods. It’s no surprise that Justine chose Etsy as a channel through which to push her wares, as the site attracts 25 million unique visitors in any given month. Since posting her first item in June of 2010, Justine has had 78 orders and over 19,484 views of her listings. She’s since figured out the social game and the orders are coming in faster than they ever have.
“If I could just be featured on the home page of Etsy every day, my sales would go through the roof. That’s when the magic happens on Etsy,” Justine says. Etsy has more than 11 million listings at any given time, so the competition is fierce. “Getting to the front page of Etsy is more of a social game,” she observes.
How can social media affect e-commerce? To get a taste of the coveted front-page real estate, you need to be featured in a Treasury. For all you non-Etsy readers out there, Treasuries are created by any Etsy member.
They are a collection of up to 12 Etsy products that usually share a cohesive theme. Themes vary greatly from boring Christmas Stocking Stuffers and Office Supplies to slightly more original topics such as Dolly Parton, Miss Piggy and Billie Holiday.
So why wouldn’t one just make Treasuries featuring one’s own product and hope for the best? Etsy won’t feature a Treasury if the curator shows their own product. You need to have ‘friends’ who will feature you in their Treasuries instead. That is how it becomes a social game.
Essentially, you need to make virtual friends with the other Etsy sellers. “Being social is part of having good commerce,” explains Justine. “Etsy not just a marketplace. It’s a community of artists, creators, collectors, thinkers and doers. The sooner you embrace being apart of that social community, the better you’ll sell.” According to Justine, the fastest way to get featured on the home page is to get involved in something called Etsy Teams. These are social forums that enable seller-to-seller conversations. The discussion boards turn into friendships and reciprocal promotion is born.
She also credits her social-media savvy nature to an increase of press inquiries. Her social presence has gotten her into InStyle magazine, featured on numerous online style blogs, and allowed her to reap the rewards when large fashion titans like Boticca re-tweet her updates to 30,000 or more followers.
It’s not all about the dollars, either. Social media allow Justine to connect more directly with her customers. Now people can tweet or message her directly with custom orders, questions, complaints and ideas.
Justine recommends doing the following to increase sales on Etsy:
1. Spend about five to 10 minutes per day on Etsy doing other ‘brand growth tactics’ like commenting on other people’s Treasuries, especially those that feature your products.
2. Add other sellers and members to your Circle in hopes that they also add you. For those of you who are foreign to Circles, it’s much like adding a friend on Facebook. Once you add them, you’ll see their activity in your news feed.
3. Regularly promote (but don’t be salesy about) your Etsy listings in other social media sites like Pinterest.com, Facebook and Twitter.
4. Frequent the Etsy Teams forums and make friends who participate in reciprocal promotion.
The lesson for entrepreneurs is to get out there and experiment with social media. Nothing bad can happen. There’s very little downside except for a bit of your time. The lesson for me is that I’m always learning – even from neophytes like my little sister.
Tamara Brooks is a self-described social media addict and co-owner of October 17 Media, a Vancouver based digital marketing agency. Tamara helps organizations leverage online tools to grow their brands and revenue working with clients such as Future Shop, Park Royal, North Vancouver Recreation Commission, North Shore News, The City of Richmond and others. [email protected] • www.October17media.com.