Crafty Blogs

Friday, 13 December 2013

Dear Dad (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Twitter)

Dear Dad,

I noticed you set up a Twitter account not long ago, and as a self-employed businessman I think it's a great move. Twitter can bring you lots of new fans, and it can also help you find customers and makes sales, it's amazing marketing tool but it's far from self-explanatory, so I've decided to share with you everything I know about how to use Twitter to your advantage.

1. Target market and contemporaries

First of all you need to decide two things:

  Who is your target market?
  Who are your contemporaries?

For me my first answer would be something like 'cake enthusiasts', 'bag enthusiasts' etc. and my second answer would be 'craft sellers' and 'small business owners'. For you I would guess your first answer might be 'historical fiction enthusiasts' and your second answer 'self-publishers' and 'small business owners'. We have a little bit of an overlap, but not much!
Now you need to start tracking these two groups down. Use the search function on Twitter and search for one of your key terms.

Try 'search all people' to bring up a long list.

Read through the profile information on the list and you'll find a mixture of your target market and contemporaries, and follow anyone who looks like they might be interested in your work. Imagine it like an opportunity to give out a lot of business cards all at once, follow follow follow! You'll be amazed how many people will follow you back automatically, just out of curiosity or interest.
Search regularly for any and all key terms and keep following. Aim to follow around 200 people to start with (yes, really!)

2. Monkey see, monkey do
Once you have a long list of people you're following it's time to watch what they're doing. This is most important for the 'contemporaries' group. When I started following other craft sellers on Twitter I found out about all sorts of pre-existing organisations who help to publicise small businesses (check out Purple Dog for example) as well as twitter events that anyone can join in with. There's a 'Handmade Hour' (Wednesday 19:30-20:30) where lots of people watch the hash tag #handmadehour. By tweeting something like 'Look at this item I made #handmadehour' and including a picture suddenly I had a captive audience. Find out if there's anything similar among your contemporaries, either in writing or publishing and join in. #newwriting looks promising as does #IndiePub
If you see a contemporary doing well on Twitter then take a look at who they follow and who they interact with. Follow who they follow and take a leaf out of their book. 

3. Interact
Once you start to join in twitter events you'll notice that the most popular Twitter feeds are maintained by the chattiest people. Some people have the gift of the gab, but twitter isn't just about self-promotion, it's also about lending a hand and interacting with others. If you see another start-up with a product or service that you think deserves promoting then retweet, tell them you like their product. You might make a useful contact, and that person is much more likely to share your products in the future.
Lots of people will send you a welcome message when you follow, consider whether it's worth doing the same (e.g. Thanks for following, have you seen my website?). It's not mandatory, but it seems to work for lots of businesses.

4. Repetition, hesitation, deviation
Finally imagine what a billboard would look like advertising your books. What would it say? Twitter is a lot like a billboard, with lots of potential customers driving past at high-speed. If something's worth saying it's worth saying a dozen times. Every time you repeat an important message you increase your chances of people noticing your tweet, and take note of twitter rush-hours on evenings and weekends to increase your visibility. Just reword your tweet and no one will mind if you repeat yourself (and they won't mind if you hesitate or deviate from the subject either).

There are lots more things to learn about Twitter I'm certain (for example did you know you could pay to promote a tweet saying 'buy my book' to everyone who likes Sharpe or James Bond?) but I'm still learning about all that myself. With a little luck you'll be teaching me how it's done before I work that out.

Keep tweeting and keep writing, lots of love


Note: For my regular readers my Dad is the author of a series of historical spy novels 'Most Secret'. He also runs a self-publishing website helping budding authors get into print and break into the world of e-publishing. Please drop by and say hello.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

My first crafting Christmas

It's an exciting time of year, and it's a time when I usually hand make gifts for family and friends, but this festive season is even more exciting for me than usual. This is my first Christmas as a professional crafter, and I've been planning for it since August when I first drew up plans for some special Christmas items for the Lucky Ladybird shop.

Plans for a mince pie purse
Plans for a Christmas pudding clutch

Having drawn up the plans I didn't actually start to make either of these until after Hallowe'en when I was first able to dedicate some time to Christmas. I made some prototypes, did my best to improve on the designs and then was able to put together the finished items in early November. It gave my husband a shock to see I'd unpacked the Christmas decorations a month early so I could take some suitably festive photos!

Mince pie and Christmas pudding purses
The Lucky Ladybird collection in a festive setting. The decorations when back into the box after this photo was taken!
The mince pie and Christmas pudding purses have a red polka-dot lining (unlike most Lucky Ladybird items which have a pink polka-dot lining) and are embellished with sprigs of holly instead of the traditional felt strawberry, but they're still soft and fleecy like my other creations with plenty of felt detailing.

Once the Christmas specials were designed and made I decided that the website could do with a Christmas makeover. I added a special 'Christmas Shop' section where my products are arranged into useful categories for anyone looking to buy gifts. The exclusive Christmas items and gift sets are easier to find and visitors can also browse items by price to make it easier to shop for stocking fillers.

After the website re-launch I managed to find some time to write a quick tutorial for a website called PVB Daily. They had put out a request for 12 Christmas-themed tutorials for a 12 days of Christmas crafting feature, and I was thrilled when they decided to include my guide to making your own Christmas pudding tree ornament for day 6. As you can see from the picture the decoration is a simplified version of my Christmas pudding coin purse.

Tutorial available at PVB Daily

The rest of November I spent stocking up on my most popular items ready to attend my first ever Christmas craft fair in Donnington near Telford. The venue (Cordingley Hall) was new to craft events, but when I found out that there would be hot food and a special Santa's Grotto for the kids I could tell it would be a popular local event.

The morning of the fair I packed plenty of tinsel and even wore my Christmas jumper to get into the spirit. The Christmas music playing in the hall helped set the scene and when the doors were opened the venue was quickly packed with visitors. 

Me set up and ready to go at the Christmas craft fair
Santa's visit was a big local attraction as predicted and there was also a surprise visit from a dancing reindeer! There was mulled wine at the bar which helped to warm us up, but by the afternoon the hall was quiet. Fortunately it so happened that many of the stall holders were on the look out for handmade gifts, me included! In the last hour I bought some handmade chocolates and some pretty hand-carved wooden gifts from my fellow crafters. They returned the favour by buying some special Christmas items from me, which made for a nice end to the day. 

One thing I've learned in my first year of professional crafting is that many good craft fairs are booked far in advance, sometimes over a year before they take place. There are lots of local events that I would love to have taken part in but which were organised well before I was even thinking about self-employment! I've already signed up to take part in a Christmas craft fair in December 2014 in Shrewsbury and I plan to be at many more if I can. Christmas is a great time of year for family events like craft and vintage fairs, especially in Shropshire. 

Happily my stockists have also arranged Christmas events this year, and my items have also been available through them. Urban Folk took Lucky Ladybird items to a special Pop-Up Shop at Eat Up in Shrewsbury as well as to a Christmas Fayre at Concord College at the end of November. The Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre are getting in on the action too with a ‘Shopping and Santa Special’ this Sunday 8 December. There will be crafts and stories and a visit with Santa for the kids and mulled wine for the adults as a well as a relaxed atmosphere perfect for doing some Christmas shopping.

Until next time good luck with all your Christmas preparations. Lots of love