Earlier this summer, I caught an episode of NPR’s TED Radio Hour titled “Amateur Hour.” The host Guy Raz interviewed past TED speakers around one common theme: how they plunged into the “I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing” experiences and emerged as experts. The last story of the hour was told by a woman named Nancy Frates, and how she became the voice and face of a little phenomenon you might remember as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Photo via marketingland.com
Before listening to this story, I knew that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was one of the biggest and fastest fundraising campaigns in history last summer. But what I didn’t know was that the challenge wasn’t even started with the intention of raising money for ALS. Rather, it was started as a campaign to raise money for any charity. Nancy had no prior social media experience before this challenge took over our Facebook feeds. In fact, she didn’t even have a Facebook account until last year! However, like many of our makers, she did have a business and merchandising background. When her family recognized the opportunity to raise money for the treatment of her son’s disease, she decided to go after it.
Professionals in the social media world ultimately hope to discover their own “Ice Bucket Challenge.” That is, a strategic and engaging way to build a community online. Though I can’t give you a step-by-step guide on how to build an online legacy like Nancy achieved, what I can say is that, like Nancy, you don’t need to be an expert in order to tell your story through social media. It’s okay to feel like a social media amateur. What’s most important is dedication and the ability to recognize opportunities to visualize your brand.
As online storytelling becomes increasingly visual, the words you write are just as important as the images you share. So instead of merely writing suggestions about social media, we thought it would be better to illustrate examples from UncommonGoods’ community. We turned to some of our socially-savvy makers for insight on their favorite storytelling networks. Whether you’re always the first person to notice something go viral, or you’re not even sure what a #hashtag means, scroll down for tips on how to elevate your story on social media.
Instagram Tip: Experiment with videos and other content that keeps the user in mind
Richard Upchurch, @brandnewnoise
“I think Instagram is great since you really have to see [our product] in order to get what it is. Since our gadgets are so interactive, a 15-second video can hopefully give our audience a creative idea, or at least a lift in their day.”
“I think rather than just trying to sell a product, we are working to show the joy and fun we have. The Instagram should reflect who we are and what we love; music, traveling, laughing, sharing meals. At the end of the day, brandnewnoise gadgets are an extension of who we are as a community.”
Instagram Tip: If you’re mentioned, share the love
Alexandra Ferguson, @alexandrafergusonllc
“I’m really proud about a lot of the things my company is doing, and I use social media to share that excitement. That often includes images from our factory in Brooklyn, retailers around the country with creative displays, celebrities and media plugs, and customers having fun. I especially love when people use pillows in their photos almost like captions – the pillow just kind of says it all.”
“… So I try to inspire people to think a little differently about the brand by showing all the creative things people are doing with our products. I mean, our products have been photographed with Snoop Dogg, Mindy Kaling, and Miley Cyrus. Sara Blakely, the influential founder of Spanx, has one. Talk about range! I love it.”
Instagram Tip: You don’t need a fancy camera to create Instagram-worthy photos
Emilie Shapiro, @emilieshapirojewelry
“I use my iPhone 5s for all images I share on social media. Natural sunlight is the best way to capture well-lit images. In fact, I have one spot in my studio that the lighting is perfect and I use for little photo shoots. Make a human tripod by resting your elbow on a table or something to steady your camera. Use the “grid” option on your camera to center your work and create good frames. Use an app like VSCO Cam which has easy editing options to color correct, bump up contrast and saturation.”
“I have a strong following on social media of people who admire my work, customers who purchase it, wholesale accounts and press. I get a lot of wholesale accounts from buyers who find me on Instagram. I often get press requests and have even picked up a few celebrity clients from people browsing my feed. In today’s marketplace, things move fast and consumers are flooded with images. I find customers (retail and wholesale) like to browse my work on my Instagram feed because it’s quick, easy and tells my story.”
Twitter Tip: Share lifestyle content that not only interests you, but is also relevant to your community
Tori and Chris Tissell, @storiarts
“At Storiarts, not only do we make literary-themed apparel, but we’re true fans of books and the written word in general. So it’s natural and fun to share what we’re interested in with our customers. Of course, this has the added benefit of making new fans for us on social media who want to be part of the conversation and who are likely to be interested in Storiarts products.”
“…Since we became intentional about using social media, it has become the number one driver to our website. It’s also been the place where bloggers have found us and asked to feature our products. It is also the only place where stuff like this can happen.”
Twitter Tip: Offer a glimpse into your process and your daily life
MG Stout, @mgstout
“Folks that commission work are very excited to be able to see their paintings come to life. It’s also really cool to get immediate feedback. Their comments make the process collaborative in nature & ensures they will be happy with the finished product.”
“Social media has been key in introducing myself and my work to an international audience. I’ve got followers all over the world and have connected with so many artists and collectors I would never have met otherwise. It is also a great way to keep everyone abreast of what I’m up to. I can share where my paintings are going to be on exhibit and invite them to visit my art studio.”
Facebook Tip: Tell your story through different perspectives
“I can’t remember when I started [Elwood’s] Facebook page, but it just seemed like a natural thing to do since he was taking on a life of his own. And people were really connecting with him in a major way. I wanted to have a place for him to connect with his fans that was not focused on selling more units.”
“I think this social connection is important, because we are social creatures! We are more than just consumers and I think people respond to being treated as such. It’s working on the business, but from a different angle. Everything I do on social media is helping to make MudWorks a brand people respond to positively, but I enjoy not having to actually push the product 24/7. That sort of happens on its own naturally.”
Tumblr Tip: Do your research, set realistic goals, and engage with other communities
Kendyll Hillegas, kendyllhillegas.tumblr.com
“I started posting to Tumblr in late 2012 with the idea that I would try to post something every day. 365 projects were quite popular at that time, but I was thinking about it more at more of a day-by-day level. I had no grand plan. I just wanted to motivate myself to be more consistent with the practice of making, and to include the act of sharing what I made with others in that process.”
“… People often refer to social media platforms as communities, but Tumblr is the only one that has actually felt like a community to me. Everyone I’ve connected with whether staff members or other users has been kind, approachable and supportive. They even invited me to come visit Tumblr HQ last summer! I’ve had almost no negative or mean-spirited interactions or comments. On a basic level, I also just find it easy to use, and I love the multiple post formats.”
“Broadly, I would say to post regularly – it can be daily, weekly, bi-weekly (just be sure it’s consistent). Use hashtags – do some research to find the main curated tags for your area (i.e. #crafts, #artistsontumblr, #illustration). Submit to some of the big curated Tumblrs in your field, and, of course, be nice. Engage with other people, say hi, answer questions, be thankful (you know, decent human stuff). If you photograph your work, taking good pictures is also important.”
Do you have any social media tips for makers? Share your storytelling advice in the comments below!