This article was originally published in the spring issue of Inspired, The Magazine.
When it comes to social media, there are myriad creative professionals who are hesitant to embrace the idea of “going digital”. To many, social media compromises the integrity of grassroots crafting. However, the creative industry today calls for strategic online activity, if a business is to survive.
Titans of the social sphere, Angie Holden, Kathy Cano-Murillo and Jennifer Priest, divulged their expertise with regards to crafting a social media strategy and bolstering online brand awareness.
When did you all first start to see a digital shift in the craft/DIY space, and what do you think were some primary drivers?
Kathy: Back in the early 2000’s, people started putting up individual websites to show what they made; that was during the MySpace phase. I loved that, because I felt like I could connect with people and share ideas. People were so excited to see each other’s work. I knew then that that was going to be the future of my business.
Jennifer: Prior to Pinterest taking off, a lot of the activity for crafting online happened on message boards. I remember being on Scrapbook.com or Yahoo Groups, and we would talk, but it was really difficult to share images. Pinterest really helped the sharing of crafts take off. I think between 2007 and 2013 is where things really started to grow, and the awareness of crafting expanded. That’s a time when my business really changed. We also saw a shrinkage of retail stores closing and things moving online.
Angie: I started my blog in January 2010. I had a Facebook page, but when Pinterest took off, that really impacted the craft and DIY industry. Pinterest became a verb and a noun and attracted all of these people into the space, because they wanted to re-create everything they were seeing on Pinterest.
Overall, how can social media bolster a craft/DIY brand’s presence in the industry?
Kathy: I would say to look beyond the industry. I use social media on a bigger level. I really look at who my audience is and all of the different facets of their likes. For example, I’ll do movie coverage or think outside of the craft industry which helps bring more opportunities. It’s really about making a strategy and working it in on a regular basis.
Jennifer: I think that brands tend to think about social media as talking at people. Whether we’re talking about a blogger, digital content creator, manufacturer, etc., we often think about it as talking at them rather than having a conversation and engaging them. The first thing I think about when I think about social media is service. How can we serve our people and show who we really are? How do we serve them what they want? Using social media for so many things beyond marketing such as creating community is something that we should be focusing on.
Angie: Facebook is putting a ton of importance on groups where you can put your followers and customers into a group and communicate with them. You learn more about them and you get that interaction. Instagram stories do the same thing, because you’re talking to people, which is much better than putting up a stagnant picture.
When a business breaks into the social sphere, what are some tips that are useful when it comes to maintaining strength and longevity, especially given how much information is shared across social media platforms?
Kathy: I would say to really pay attention to what people are responding to and do more of that. It’s one thing to have your agenda, but you really have to pay attention to what the people want and what they respond to.
Jennifer: Ignore everybody else. A lot of people get focused on what other people are doing instead of ignoring the chatter and identify what they should be doing for their business and brand. Keep your nose to the grindstone and go back to how you can best serve your people and not worry about blasting the ether with a large volume of content.
Angie: Above all else, you have to be authentic with your audience. Straying from your focus will break trust with your followers and lead to lower engagement.
Is social media an inevitable necessity for those in the craft/DIY space if they want to stay afloat?
Kathy: I have a brick and mortar, and I use social media to see who the surrounding influencers are and I invite them to do a pop-up in our space, that way people in the community can come interact with their favorite people from Instagram and designers. It’s a great way to give exposure to new products.
Jennifer: If you don’t have a presence online, you don’t exist. I think there are still people in our industry fighting against the idea of social media. This is the world in which we live now. You need to embrace it. You just have to share what you’re doing; it’s not rocket science and it’s a great way to get people excited.
Angie: If I’m going to go shop a brick and mortar, I’m going to shop a local store, but I will still look at their website before I go in to make sure they have what I need. If a store doesn’t have a website, then chances are I’m not going to shop there.
For those who haven’t yet broken into the social sphere, discuss some go-to tools and resources for establishing an online/social media presence.
Kathy: They have to go into it with a positive attitude and be excited about it. How much do you want your brand to be seen? The first thing is really just getting in the right mindset.
Jennifer: I think they need to have clear goals in mind. Strategically thinking about where you want your business to go will help you establish the steps you need to take to get there.
Angie: I know that when people jump in, they get overwhelmed. If you’re scared of social media, I tell people to just focus on one platform that you really think your customers will engage with. Starting with one is a great approach.
Social media can prove to be daunting for many creative industry professionals; however, the benefits of leveraging social platforms outweigh the cons long-term. The commitment to social media platforms doesn’t have to be all-consuming. With the help of a smart strategy, commitment, and a little patience, your brand can grow new wings and soar.
Make sure to check out this story and other pieces from Inspired, The Magazine here.