Felt is a New Zealand based online marketplace with an ever-expanding range of handcrafted goods - beautiful, quirky, practical and individual jewellery, homewares, art, accessories, toys, clothing and more.
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.
As we become more and more mindful of our plastic use, it’s great to see solutions like these turning up to help us cut out the single use plastic!
Beeswax-soaked fabric is a food and drink covering method that goes back to medieval times, and it’s extremely effective. Just warm the wrap in your hands slightly if it’s a cold day and then smooth it over the container you’re covering, using its natural stickiness to adhere it firmly to the sides. If you want to make it super-secure you can add a cord around the outside, but for home use the wrap alone will stay in place just fine. You can also use them as sandwich wraps, as they stick to themselves very well. Cleaning’s a doddle too – wipe with warm (not hot) water and a wee bit of dishsoap if you think it needs it.
Here at Felt HQ we are turning our minds towards Father’s Day and our biggest sales period of the year: Christmas.
Father’s Day this year is on Sunday 1 September, and Felt will be promoting an online gift guide in the preceding weeks via our social media feeds and mailing lists. We will begin selecting items for this gift guide very soon, so now is the time to make sure your shop is up to date with all of your products (including items you could make to order). Be sure to list quantities when you have more than one available, and select ‘auto-relist’ on your listings to be featured for as long as possible.
The Father’s Day Gift Guide will showcase a whole bunch of great gift ideas for guys, so it’s a great time to look at variations to your designs and how you might tailor your products to appeal to men. Think about how you could use different materials, colours, sizes… Men are the single biggest untapped market in NZ for Felt sellers – this could be your chance to capture some of it, and get a head start on your Christmas marketing!
It might seem early but we are starting to plan Felt’s Christmas catalogue, online gift guide, and associated promotions now. There are so many parts to our Christmas promotions and plenty of opportunity to get involved, so now is the time to take stock and fill up your shop! If you’re ready to roll well in advance, you’re giving us the best chance of featuring your work.
Our Christmas promotions this year will be very similar to last year, see the video for more detail on how this works.
If you think there’s something else / more / better that we could be doing, hit reply to my email or leave a comment below.
Fresh on Felt: We have some lovely creatures and creature comforts to warm your heart and home this fortnight – so get cosy, put your feet up, grab a cup of your favourite warming brew, and check out what’s fresh on Felt this fortnight…
Amy & Addy – whimsical sewn and crocheted creations for young ones littlesol – adorable merino baby booties
jewellery, fashion and accessories
Faye Kilday – jewellery and accessories featuring original abstract painting henrietteart – colourful pendants and earrings Wire and Waves – locally sourced stones, sea glass and driftwood made into lovely jewellery aitana – colourful woollen clothing and accessories bluetroppo – lovely bead and shell jewellery
Joe Wright of Bearwood Workshop handcrafts his beautiful wooden homewares and sculpture – all made from sustainable and recycled New Zealand native timber – from a little tractor shed in Glendhu Bay overlooking Lake Wanaka. After years of working as a designer in many different disciplines, running his own consultancy and clocking up the air miles with large corporations as clients, he decided to shed it all and go back to his roots. His days are now spent following his passion: designing and making simple, beautiful, sustainable items that will stand the test of time.
What do you make?
Anything out of wood, but mainly objects to adorn one’s abode and generally make it a nicer place to be.
How did you get into your craft?
My father was a very inspirational (and partly infuriating) figure for me growing up. As a kid, I used to watch him making and creating all manner of weird and wonderful things in his shed. It was always amazed me to see what he would create next. I think that inspired me to follow my career in design and ultimately lead me back to the grassroots life of a designer maker.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I have a BA Hons degree in furniture and product design. Although every day is a learning process, there always seems to be a new problem that needs solving. I guess that’s one of the things that I love about being in the workshop.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love wood! But mainly recycled and reclaimed wood. That’s because I also love trees and I don’t like to see them being chopped down! I am also rather fond of the old school chisel. In fact, I think I might have a chisel problem as the last count had 180 hanging from the wall around the workshop!
What inspires you?
Inspiration often comes at unusual times, I do a lot of adventuring in the mountains and rivers around Wanaka. I have had ideas for creations on mountain summits, while mountain biking through the forest and paddling rapids in my pack raft. But always seem to draw inspiration from the endless beauty of the landscape here!
“My father was a very inspirational figure… I think that inspired me to follow my career in design and ultimately lead me back to the grassroots life of a designer maker.”
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I think my main philosophy is to try and create items that stand the test of time whilst having as small an impact as possible. We seem to have moved into a disposable world where items aren’t expected to have a long life span and usually end up as landfill. I really want to step away from that mentality. I love giving wood a new life after many years of service as a church beam and making an item that will be treasured for another lifetime.
Describe your creative process:
It is usually fuelled by too much tea and a solid dose of creative chaos. Starts with a drawing, ends with an object and has many late nights creating piles of sawdust in the middle.
Describe your workspace:
My workspace is a converted rusty old tractor shed nestled in amongst the southern Alps overlooking Lake Wanaka. It’s super cold in winter, too hot in summer and leaks when it rains but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I love being out on a working farm surrounded by all of the natural beauty that this rural slice of mountainous paradise has to offer.
Five words that describe your mind:
Chaotic, Spasmodic, Creative and Dry with a hint of a Woody obsession.
What are you currently listening to?
Audiobooks make my world go round, nothing better than learning whilst carving.
Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
Dali Lama or Rick Astley can’t decide which?
A favourite quote:
Be the change that you wish to see in the world.
“We seem to have moved into a disposable world where items aren’t expected to have a long life span and usually end up as landfill. I really want to step away from that mentality.”
Tell us about your pets:
Louie the cat is fat and an infamous prized goldfish hunter… much to the dismay of my neighbours.
If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
Laser etching eyes and CNC fingers!
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
I hope you enjoy cheap tinned soup and splinters!
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
I think buying things that are made locally is more important now than ever before, we need to support the people in the community around us and buck the trend of cheap mass production on the other side of the world. Items that are handmade have depth, character and tell a story that large scale production can’t replicate.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
The last handmade item I received was a gift of a hand knitted merino wool hat for my cat. I think it is pretty cool but Louie seems to have reservations about wearing it out and about!
What’s in store for the rest of 2019?
This year has been an exciting one so far, we have just released a new range of regionally inspired wall hangings that complement the existing bearwood catalogue. I am currently talking to local stores in the Wanaka / Queenstown area and no doubt will continue to dream up far too many ideas for new products than I am able to make!
Joe has an awesome offer for Felt readers, with a generous 20% discount on everything in his Felt shop until the end of July! Just choose your favourite beautiful Bearwood Workshop sculptures and homewares, add them to your basket, and enter the code TRACTORSHED2019 in the voucher code field during checkout to receive your discount. Thanks very much Joe!