Selling with social media

10 minute read

Many of you will be active on social media in your personal lives, and might also have pages for your creative work. We regularly get questions about ‘how to sell more’, and we know that social media is a powerful tool to find the customers your Felt shop is waiting for. So we’ve done some digging to find the fundamentals that you have to know if you want to head in the right direction.

Let’s start by considering what a dream sale looks like:

Your customer is casually perusing through life when something catches their attention – a social media post from a friend, or a comment from a colleague. They think “Wow, that would be perfect for Shannon” or “That’s what the lounge needs”. They click once, maybe twice, and land at your item. They can tell from your range of photos and the clear descriptions it’s exactly what they need, at the right price, and they know when it will arrive. You can even add Shannon’s name to it if they want, great! So they buy it on the spot and get prompted to provide all the information you need to give them a seamless, pleasant, personalised shopping experience. A few days later the item arrives with an unexpected added extra which your customer tells all of their friends about. As a result of this, three of them jump on Felt and purchase more items from more sellers, one of which in turn trigger another sale back to you. Winning!

Using social media well sets up the perfect conditions for things like this to happen. When you get the balance right, your items to sell themselves and create more sales in the future. When using social media you want your customers to see your posts and then immediately click through to your full listing where they can buy your item. It needs to be easier and more logical for them to buy it now than to think about it and come back later – all of their questions or concerns have been answered.

If you want to get that balance right, there are some things that you need to know and do.

First and foremost, each form of social media is a tool (and not a magic bullet). It’s important to approach them as a tool that you need to learn how to use. “A good craftsperson never blames their tools” applies equally here. Just like a chisel, a sewing machine, or some design software, social media is made do some some fairly specific things and can also be used do a bunch of other stuff once you know what you’re doing. How well any of these tools function comes down to how well you use them. Social media shouldn’t be front and center of your working day or you’d have nothing of substance to post – the trick is working out systems/schedules/(good) habits to maintain presence without taking over all your time.

Essentially all forms of social media are about getting user-generated content (your posts) in front of other users who might find that content interesting or useful (your potential customers). Platforms like Instagram give a powerful suite of tools to define specifically who you want your content to be shown to; but they don’t necessarily help you understand who will find your content interesting or useful – that part is up to you to figure out, and is in many ways the main ongoing task of social media marketing. Social media can help you find and connect with the people who want to buy your items, if you use it well.

Selling things is the overarching objective of using social media (for your business), but in order to do that you need to do several other things well. There are 3 main pieces of the puzzle, and all three of them need to be done well to get any level of success.

A. Create interesting and engaging content
B. Get it distributed to an interested audience
C. Get your items in front of your perfect customer

Where a lot of people go wrong is by focusing only on the third, and failing to recognise how these three each cascade into each other. By creating interesting and engaging content you get the best chance of reaching an interested audience, which in turn gives you the best chance of it reaching your perfect customer. (What is a ‘perfect customer’? Read more about them in this post on how to make money).

All of this is rooted in a truth that is easy to forget: you never know who your next dream customer is going to be or what they are going to be looking for. This means you’re best to be as prepared as possible for anything (hint: set up paypal and international shipping).

A. Create interesting and engaging content

Generating good content is about photos, captions, and hashtags. You can learn a lot about these things by simply watching others and mimicking some of what you see. We’ve harped on about the importance of good photography since the dark ages, but below is a quick-fire ‘how to’ and here’s some more on it.

  • Take photos (days) before you need them, and allow 1-2 hours at a time to do it well
  • Clean your camera lens
  • Don’t use zoom or flash
  • Use natural light as much as possible
  • Iron and clean everything in view
  • Harsh shadows are not good (soften light by bouncing it off white sheets, walls, paper)
  • Improvise with clothes pegs, lamps, chairs to build a ‘set’ for your perfect images
  • Take 30 photos from different angles, near and far, and pick a small selection of good ones
  • Look through a magazine or retail website and find inspiration for layout and photos
  • Rearrange and take another 30 photos and pick one

If you’re using your cellphone for pics then it’s worth doing a bit of good research and experimentation with some photo-editing apps. There are heaps out there that do different things and have different ways of integrating with social media platforms. These are tools to learn in and of themselves, so approach them accordingly with a bit of time and a desire to learn. Take lots of photos, and then take more, better, photos. Eventually you’ll be taking excellent photos!

Hashtags trend, change, and shift allll the time. One good way to find hashtags that might be helpful is to simply start searching for things relating to you and your work, and see what is active and has a following. So, for example, I build guitars from upcyled NZ native timber. Some hashtag ideas I would search for and start following might be:

#luthier, #guitar, #guitarbuilder, #nzmade, #timber, #woodwork, #newzealand, #musician, #upcycled, #maker, #handmade… you get the point.

You want to find a few hashtags that seem to be active that your work could be good for then use them and see what happens. If a post gets lots of attention, try to figure out why, and adapt future posts to include whatever you have learned. People may have seen you through a hashtag but loved the style of photography, so keep the hashtag and try that photography style again. Trial, learn, adapt, repeat. (Side note: Instagram has a maximum of 30 hashtags and if you put more the caption is lost).

Some tips for captions:

  • Write your captions in batches, instead of on the fly. Once a week when you’re feeling most inspired
  • Have themes for your posts that blend inspirational, educational, or entertaining – 4 or 5 types of things that you post and talk about (e.g. new design, making story, something personal, something funny, featuring materials…)
  • Think about captions and images together – when you’re working on each – so you can bank up captions and images in advance and draw on them as needed
  • Think about how what you’re posting contributes to what you’re trying to achieve (below).
  • Write conversationally, as you would speak

B. Get it distributed to an interested audience

Hashtags are useful ways of helping new people to find and follow you, but they won’t follow you unless you are giving them what they want. The only way to find out what people want is to experiment with different approaches to photos, captions, and hashtags. Don’t know what experimenting looks like? Have a look at the video in this post for some inspiration. Experimenting and finding your audience is where you really start to use social media as a tool – one that connects you and your content with the people who don’t yet know that they want it.

Instagram business accounts give powerful analytics and data to help you figure out what is more engaging, who found it interesting, and what you need to do to get more in front of them. This requires you to be constantly tweaking and changing the ways that you do things – photos, captions, time of day, hashtags, and maybe even the keywords that you use. As you get more and more followers you get more and more powerful tools and data. (Incidentally, Felt is on a mission at the moment to get 10,000 instagram followers – please follow us? We’ll return the favour!).

Experimenting and finding your audience is where you really start to use social media as a tool – one that connects you and your content with the people who don’t yet know that they want it.

If this sounds like a lot of work, I’m sorry to say that’s because it is a lot of work. But, I remember when I first started using a chisel it was a nightmare of bleeding fingers, gouges out of timber, and loud exclamations of four-letter words. And I didn’t get better by not using a chisel. It just took time, effort, and a bit of humility before it started to pay itself off.

Posting and engaging with others consistently is important for most social media platforms. Posting 4-7 times a week and commenting on (and replying to) others posts and comments is a strong way to build up the momentum you need to get seen. It’s worth checking in daily to blast through it 30 minutes, or drip feed throughout the day a few minutes at a time. Once you get comfortable with how to write naturally and authentically this can get faster and faster. For some of us it can take time to build up to this, which is totally OK. Make use of post scheduling tools where you can, and something is better than nothing in terms of building up. If a post a week is all you can manage, that’s a great place to start.

C. Get your items in front of your perfect customer

Your item is the perfect solution at the right price for someone out there, you just don’t know who they are yet. You can make some assumptions based on what it is, but it’s important to remember that these are just assumptions and that you need to try things out to see what gets attention.

For instance, if I was selling a dining table I might try pitching to wealthy homeowners. I might try finding some hashtags relating to architecturally-designed homes, I’d look at what hashtags are being used by high end architecture firms and similar magazines. In terms of photography I could put the table in a dining room and set the table perfectly with cutlery and plates. I might load it up with delicious looking food and photograph a happy family chatting over a meal. Or I might let is speak for itself as a display piece in a wide angle shot of a sparsely-decorated modern minimalist lounge (in which case I’d be lugging it over to someone else’s house and accounting for this effort in my pricing!).

Each of these might connect with potential buyers, and they might not. In which case after a few months or no bites I’d move on and try targeting, say, art collectors who appreciate fine furniture also. The hashtags would change, and the photos might include more of the making process, half-finished pieces surrounded by tools and sawdust, and up-close detailed images of the crafted joinery techniques used.

All of this is in the name of making it easy for your customer to see your item and think “Finally, this is what I need!“. Having multiple items to showcase and trial makes this process more enjoyable, as you can intersperse making shots with product display shots, behind-the-scenes shots of you doing your think, or even laughable moments of a terrible mistake being made in construction. Each new post is its own experiment at finding a new way to build your audience and get your items in front of your perfect customer.

Good luck!

Cover image: Geometric Hand Carved Bird by Bearwood Workshop

Thanks to Ashlyn Oswalt for inspiration and content that supported this post!

2 thoughts on “Selling with social media

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *