Hello again, all you small biz betties out there. This week we will start getting in to the nuts and bolts of how to start your business online, with something I call the "Small Business Triple Crown."
- A place where you can show your personality and share your projects and products.
- A high-traffic place where you and your customers can interact, and they can easily promote your brand.
- The place where you actually sell your goods.
A blog -
Your blog is your most powerful tool online, and allows you to publish information about yourself and what you do. Bazillions of people read blogs about all kinds of stuff, so this is an excellent place to start to build you brand.
You can easily create a blog for free using Google Blogger, as well as Wordpress. I personally like Blogger because it is very easy to use and customize, and also comes with "the blogosphere," a ready-made community of blog followers ready to subscribe to your "followers" list.
Your blog is the first place to "make your own," like decorating your room. Websites like Shabby Blogs and Hot Bliggity Blog have oodles of cool backgrounds to help customize your blog, or you can create your own background image if you have crafty paint program skills. Whatever you do, make sure your blog is easy to read, and easy to navigate. Here are a few blog do's and don'ts:
- Put pictures, nice big ones, in every post - at least one picture every time, but more is always better.
- Post often about relevant subjects - if yours is a dressmaking blog, readers want to see photos of your dress projects, your inspiration images, and especially pictures of you *in* your finished dresses.
- Let your personality shine through
- Use labels/tags to organize your posts. Try to keep it to as few labels as possible.
- Link to other bloggers in your posts (if applicable) and on your sidebar
- Be helpful - write your blog as a "guide" for others.
- Use white text on a black background - odd, I know, but it strains the eyes.
- Get too personal, political, or religious - remember that the blog is supporting your future/current business, and you don't want to alienate readers and potential customers.
- Post too many pet, baby, or child photos unless they are specifically to do with your craft.
- Post an unbroken, all-text entry - break it up with headers, bullet points, and most importantly - PICTURES.
This is the social presence of the moment, although it may change in the future. Right now, it's a grand idea to have a Facebook page dedicated solely to your business and blog. The Facebook page supports the blog, and also allows you to more directly connect with your readership, fans, and customer base.
To create a page, click the "Pages and Ads" header on the left side of your Facebook sidebar, then click "Create a Page" and go through all the steps. Be sure to add a profile picture, and put some of your past and current projects in photo albums. Remember - pictures are attractive and easily shared!
The first people you will ask to "Like" your page are your friends, but you can also post on your blog about your new Facebook page, and put a link in the sidebar. You will start to collect followers, and don't be discouraged if it is not a lot at first - it does take some time.
Use your Facebook page to post photos of your projects, links to cool, relevant stuff you find on the web, to ask questions to your followers, start conversations, etc. When the time comes, you can pitch your product to your followers, or even better, ask their opinions about it.
- Post regularly about relevant topics - links to other blogs, articles, images, etc., as well as your own blog
- Post lots of pictures
- Add a Facebook social media plugin to the sidebar of your blog
- ...Post irrelevant, inflammatory, or too-personal stuff - save that for your private Facebook page.
- ...Flood people's newsfeeds with posts in rapid succession
- ...Pitch only your products all the time - remember it's social, not meant to be a broadcasting platform.
Lastly, you need a storefront from which to sell your swag. This can be your own webpage, or a supported shopping site like Etsy, Storenvy, or eBay. For those of you just starting out, I highly recommend one of the supported store platforms, particularly Etsy (but only if you are making your own stuff, or selling vintage).
Why choose a supported shop platform? For one, setting up shopping cart systems on a webpage can be a real hassle, whereas these existing platforms all have integrated cart systems that are already built, and flawless. Also, all of these store sites already have huge traffic ready to come and buy your product, whereas a stand-alone site is "out in the wilderness," and needs traffic driven to it by you.
Whichever platform you choose, here are some things to keep in mind...
- Take clear, sharp, detailed photos of your product, and provide as many photos as you are allowed.
- Write clear descriptions and include pertinent information such as sizing and material content - or if you are selling vintage, be sure to accurately list any damage or age the pieces have.
- Keep on top of your stock - if you have multiples of one item, make sure you don't accidentally sell something that you don't have in stock. (I've done this, it sucks)
- Make sure your store is easy to navigate, and easy to buy products from.
- Link back to your blog and facebook page!
- ...Tamper with photos - you need to represent the product honestly and accurately.
- ...Be shady with descriptions - like the photos, be honest about the condition of a vintage item, otherwise the person who receives it will feel ripped off and will never buy from you again.
- ...Get too wordy - keep things concise, but descriptive. Don't write a novel about your product!
Now you have work to do! Get your blog set up and start blogging! Make your Facebook page and start posting! Create your storefront, if you are ready, and start photographing your products.
Later on, I will talk more about blogging and storefronts, along with how to take stunning photos of your products. Stay tuned for more SBB!