Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Running a Twitter Contest: Response to Gareth



I tried having a contest a few weeks ago on twitter, but there wasn't much of a response. I've heard that a contest is a good way to increase followers and promote a business... where did it go wrong? Thanks, Gareth


I'm not sure what your contest looked like, but there are a few basic tips to make your Twitter contest as successful as possible. As you may know, there are lots of different types of contests you can hold. The most common are hashtag contests and retweet contests. Hashtag contests require users to incorporate specific hashtags (hyperlinked keywords with pound signs in front of them that link to all other mentions of that word). This article has tips on how to track a hashtag contest.

Make sure the content on your Twitter account is interesting and appealing. It doesn't do much good to run a contest and gain more followers if they just come to realize that they have no interest in your tweets (I'm not saying this is what happened necessarily). To avoid being unfollowed or forgotten as soon as the contest is over make sure you have funny or informative content up prior to the contest and after it.

Making your product the prize of the contest showcases your work. Be sure that your product is something people will want, and promote it as such. Giving away something too small or common may actually discourage people from participation. You should also keep the length of your contest in mind. A one-day contest may sound like a great way to make your contest seem urgent, but it may prevent you from reaching a large number of people. At the same time, if you stretch a contest out, it can result in people losing interest or forgetting. The ideal length for a contest is around seven to ten days.

Lastly, entertain people! Retweeting "Win a FREE _______, just RT..." is not going to entice people unless the prize is out of this world. Instead include a fun fact about your product; anything people will find interesting or humorous. Hold a trivia contest or make your promotion a game people will activly engage in. When the contest is over, be sure to announce the winner, and update everyone as to how it went. Hope this helps; let us know if you come accross any more Twitter contest issues.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Facebook Fan Page Management: Response to Mabel


Hey Sarah, I read you post on getting blog followers, it was very good. I’ve just started a Facebook fan page, but I’m not sure what kinds of things to post to it. Also, how do I get more fans?



Thanks for your question, and congrats on expanding your social network to Facebook! While it can overwhelming at times to manage a studio, a fan page, a blog, and a Twitter account, most artisans find that it’s worth it for the increase in sales and traffic.

Regarding what to post, take a peek at some of the pages you’ve “liked” on your personal Facebook account. Most likely, you’ll see a post from them every day or every few days with some new article, link, or important update. Generally, if you have a page that updates too often, they end up dominating a news field, which can annoy your fans. Remember, Facebook isn’t Twitter, and if you plan to post your tweets to your Facebook fan page, so do sparingly and make sure they are important updates.

Generally, you should post an update once a day or every few days with news about sales, giveaways, and the occasional newly posted item (try to avoid posting a Facebook update every time you update your store). You can also update them with important information which may not be related to your business, such as a helpful craft business article or venue update. You can use Facebook to promote your blog too, but try not to post an update every time you blog.

You can also use your fan page pictures to create a story of your creations. Post pictures of your work as it progresses to show how you create a piece. Include pictures of your workshop, or a booth you had at a craft show to help fans get to know you better. And don’t forget to put your Facebook Kiosk on your fan page too!

You can gain fans for your Facebook page in a similar fashion to gaining blog followers. Fill out the link on your Market Hub, add your Facebook link anywhere else you can (such as forum and email signatures), promote your page though Twitter and similar channels, and post high quality updates. You can also post a widget/badge for your Facebook page on your blog or any website you run.

You can even promote your fan page through Facebook. Make sure to fan other artist’s pages and comment on their updates and pictures. You may even consider running a Facebook ad campaign for your fan page, although you may choose to reserve this form of advertising for your studio.

Lastly, if your page is brand new…give it time to grow! :)

Sell Handmade Crafts Online
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Have any other thoughts on good updates or how to get fans for Facebook? Post them in the comments!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gaining Blog Followers: Response to Sam


Sell handmade crafts online:
Love your blog, been following it for a while. I’ve noticed you have LOTS of followers. I’ve just started my own blog, but I don’t know how to get followers, do you have any advice? Thanks so much!

Thanks for the compliments on the blog! There are really lots of ways to get more blog readers and followers, but here are a few techniques I’ve used  and read about:

- Add your blog link anywhere you can. Many handmade sellers post their shop links in their email or forum signature, and there’s no reason not to include a link to your blog also well! If you need help adding it, check out this post I made earlier on setting up an email signature. If you have an ArtFire studio, don’t forget to add the link to your MarketHub too.

- Promote your blog through all available channels. If you have a Twitter account, tweet your most recent article. If you run a newsletter, send out an update about your blog. If you’re a handmade seller, use the same means you use to promote your items. Don’t forget to share your new blog in the forums!

- Leave comments on other blogs. Do you have a favorite blog you follow? Leave a comment, and make sure to include your blog link! You want to leave a worthwhile comment which adds to the post. Also be sure to seek out others that are new to blogging or have blogs similar to yours. Remember, blogging is also about making friends!

- Post high quality, original content often. You’ll probably want to update your blog at least twice a week with content people will want to read about. While you should be blogging about what you love, be sure to include education material as well. Posting your favorite recipe (always give credit if it's from somewhere else), a how-to tutorial, or tips for creating at prefect bar of soap can be helpful both for building creditability as a blogger and for keeping readers coming back to your blog. This also means proofreading your blog several times before you make a post!

- Offer giveaways and post interviews. Many bloggers use giveaways to drive traffic to their blog, and often make the requirements for entry as simple as leaving a comment. You can also give away one of your handmade products to both promote your blog and studio. Don’t forget to interview fellow artisans as well, this is great for making friends and encouraging others to link to your blog.

All blogs start off small. Promoting is an ongoing process. Also make sure to use your ArtFire Blog, as this provides entertainment to those already in your studio and keeps them coming back!

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Have any other ideas for promoting one’s blog? Post them in the comments below!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Free Photo Editing Software: Response to Stacy


Sara, I’m trying to make my photos better, but I don’t have photoshop and can’t really afford it, so I’m having trouble editing them. Do you have any suggestions for free programs or ways I can edit without photoshop? Thanks in advance. Stacy.


There are many elements to good photography, and not having access to a good photo editor can certainly limit one’s ability to crop, fix bad lighting, and correct other small mistakes in photography.

Most computers come with some form of photo editing software. PCs generally come with some form of Windows Photo Gallery, which allows you to view and also make minor adjustments to photos (crop, resize, route, etc). Most Macs should come with a form of iPhoto, which allows you to also make similar adjustments. Try looking around in your program menu to see if you have any installed that you maybe didn’t know about. If you don’t already have an application installed or don’t like using the application you do have, don’t worry, there are a number of free alternatives you can try.

Our graphic designer, Jen, recommends Picasa, which she explains is like a mash-up of iPhoto and Flickr, as it’s both a web application and a desktop app. She’s also a fan of Picnik, which allows you to add in words and clip art on pictures, as well as special effects, color, and cropping. While they do have a premium option, if you just want to do basic editing, you should be satisfied with their free option.

For more photo editing alternatives, you can check out this article, which is full of good comparative information.

I hope that helps you find some software to better improve your photos. Remember, having a good photo editing software is only part of fixing up photos, be sure to check out our Photography Guide for more tricks.

Sell Handmade Crafts Online
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Have any photo editing software to recommend? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Determining Shipping Costs: Response to Cynthia


The thing that makes my brain tired is trying to figure out how to figure in shipping costs with a third-party payment system. For something you easily stuff into a Priority Mail box fine, but many of my pottery items weigh enough that they can cost anywhere from $15-$25 to ship UPS depending on the zone they are going to. This is kinda steep for a single $50-75 item.

Does one average the costs for all items and zones and "eat it" sometimes and get a more others?
Thanks for a great blog.
Found it via Twitter...



This is a very good question, and one I had to consult with a few colleagues about. While you don’t want to overcharge too much on shipping because it can turn away customers, you don’t want to undercharge on shipping either, as you’ll go bankrupt. Taking the average, or a value slightly higher than the average, may be the best route. Generally it is standard to take the average shipping cost for each individual item (especially if you have items of varying size and weight) and attempt to maintain balance between orders which put you at a loss and those that you end up coming out ahead on. Both The United States Postal Service and FedEx have a shipping calculator available to help you determine shipping rates based on size and destination.

Some artisans choose to overestimate their shipping cost to prevent ending up at a loss, although it does have the potential to scare away potential customers or result in abandoned carts. You can  however offer a refund if the actual shipping amount is less than the amount paid by the customer. This takes time, but it is one way around the problem.

Another potential solution would be to incorporate more of your shipping cost into your item cost. While this can result in the over-pricing of your item, keep in mind that many shoppers don’t always consider shipping costs when browsing, and can be turned off by seeing the total cost when checking out. Incorporating your shipping cost into the item’s price will leave the shopper with less of a surprise when they see the shipping cost. You can also ask in the item description for shoppers to note the shipping cost and explain why it is the price that it is.

All in all, there may be no easy solution for your shipping question, but there are some alternatives to consider. I hope this response helps, and let me know if you have additional questions!

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Have further thoughts on determining shipping price? Please leave  them in the comments below.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Accepting New Payment Processors: Response to Sandy



I have a question about payments. I currently accept paypal in my shop, but I see other sellers use different things. I’m not really comfortable using check and money orders because I’ve heard of scams. should I try to accept different things or just stick to paypal.



There’s no reason to limit your business to one payment method. Doing so will limit your customer reach, and can prevent users who don’t use PayPal from buying from you. Currently on ArtFire, sellers can choose to accept virtual payment options like Google Checkout and Amazon Checkout. While these processors have a different fee structure than PayPal and add additional accounts for you to manage, they can be worth it for the number of shoppers they open you up too. For example, while less people use Google Checkout than PayPal, the majority of Google Checkout users are male, affluent, and young. That’s a whole new audience for you to reach. Amazon Payments, on the other hand, opens you up all to Amazon’s user base, which consists of over 81 million users.

I understand your apprehension for accept checks and money orders, but there are ways of accepting these payment methods while protecting yourself from scams. Not long ago we published a guide on avoiding scams and frauds which addresses many issues involving checks and money orders. Educating yourself on these issues is the best way to stay safe from online scams, but it’s still your decision whether you want to accept these payment methods.

I hope that helps answer your questions about different payment methods. Remember, it’s up to you to determine which payment methods to add to your account, and it’s important to check out their fee structure first, to avoid any surprises. Let me know if you have additional questions.

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Have any addition advice/thoughts on adding different payment processors? Add them in the comments section of this post.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Writing Long Item Descriptions: Response to Barbara


Hi, I have a question. How much do I really need to say in my product description? It takes a long time to write them and sometimes I feel a piece is self explanatory. Thanks, Barbara


A good description can take a long time to write, but it can be extremely helpful for the success of your product. A long description can be beneficial for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and for buyer conversion. It has been proven that sellers who provide a longer description sell better, and if you spend time on the description of an item you can relist after selling, all the better.

Here are a few things you can add to your descriptions to make the longer:

Compare your Product to Alternatives – Does your specially-made handmade soap leave the user's skin softer than cow’s milk or vegetable oil soap? Be sure to say so in your description. Most shoppers don’t know the difference between ingredients and components of a piece, so show your expertise!

Give User Testimonials –Do you have kudos in your studio, or have you received an email from a customer thanking you for a specific product? Include it in your description! A buyer is more inclined to use your product if they know other shoppers have enjoyed using it as well. Note: To get the best SEO benefit from this, try not to reuse testimonials in multiple products. 

Do Keyword Research – Try including a few search terms in your description you think shoppers might be looking for. Don’t overdo it, remember, you’re writing for a person, not a search engine. However, adding some keywords can help your SEO. Remember, every word of your description is another way for shoppers to find your product!

Make It Easy to Read – Use bullet points when you can, and make sure to write in short, clear paragraphs. You want to include a lot of information, but you don’t want to make it difficult for your readers! Double checking your description for proper grammar and spelling can also help you avoid making mistakes that turn buyers away.

I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions for me.

Sell Handmade Crafts Online

Have any other advice for writing good descriptions? Add it in the comments section of this post.