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The Uncommon Life

How to Tell Your Story Through Social Media

August 27, 2015

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.

Ice Bucket Challenge | Social Storytelling

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. 

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UncommonGoods having fun on Instagram during “The Dress” controversy.

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.”

Play Date #op1 @teenageengineering #loopylou #brandnewnoise #letyourvoicebeheard

A video posted by Brandnewnoise (@brandnewnoise) on

 

Instruction manual #Brandnewnoise #letyourvoicebeheard #brooklynmade #madeinusa #letyourvoicebeheard

A video posted by Brandnewnoise (@brandnewnoise) on

 

“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.”

 

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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.”

Alexandra Ferguson | How to Tell Your Story Through Social Media

“… 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.”

Snoop Dogg | How To Tell Your Story Through Social Media

 

Miley Cyrus | How To Tell Your Story Through Social Media

 

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.”

Emilie Shapiro | How To Tell Your Story Through Social Media

“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.”

Emilie Shapiro | How To Tell Your Story Through Social Media

 

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.”

Storiarts | How to tell your story through social meida

Storiarts | How to tell your story through social meida

“…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.”

Storiarts | How to tell your story through social meida

 

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.”

MG Stout | How to tell your story through social meida

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.”

MG Stout | How to tell your story through social meida

 

Facebook Tip: Tell your story through different perspectives

Leigh Ann Stratakos, manager of the Facebook accounts for MudWorks Pottery and Elwood the Rainbow Unicorn

“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.”

Elwood | Social Storytelling

“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.”

 

Elwood_Facebook_ViralScreenshot

Elwood the Unicorn Cereal Bowl broke the record for most viral post on UncommonGoods’ Facebook!

 

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.”

Kendyll Hillegas | How To Tell Your Story Through Social Media

 

“… 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.”

Kendyll Hillegas | How To Tell Your Story Through Social Media

“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.”

 

Kendyll Hillegas | How To Tell Your Story Through Social Media

 

Do you have any social media tips for makers? Share your storytelling advice in the comments below!

 

The Uncommon Life

Contest Winner: #UGKidQuotes

June 2, 2015

#UGKidQuotes Winner | UncommonGoods

Over the past two weeks, we received nearly 80 hilarious entries on Facebook, Instagram and the blog for our #UGKidQuotes Contest. Picking a winning kid quote certainly wasn’t easy! Our team had a great time giggling over the witty, sassy, creative, adorable, and surprisingly insightful words that kids can conjure up. We couldn’t stand the thought of not sharing the joy from this contest, so before we get to the winner of the free Kid Quotes Custom Wall Art, we’ve rounded up our favorite honorable mentions for you to enjoy!

There were funny revelations about food…

“You look as pretty as a bell pepper in sunshine.” – Noah, age 9

(When asked if he would like some broccoli) “No thank you, I don’t eat chlorophyll…” – Zach, age 9

“Pickles are pickles. People are people. Chocolate is chocolate. Yourself is yourself!” – Logan, age 5

 “Were there angels in the oven because this tastes like heaven?” (Sweet talking Mom) – Alison, age 8 

“Do you know why I love pigs? Because they poop bacon.” – Beckett, age 5

…and interesting observations about the world outside.

 “Mama, did somebody cut the moon?” – Ellie, age 4

“Oh what a shame mummy, you can’t throw boomerangs if you live in this street.” (Looking at a no-right-turn sign) – Eleanor, age 7

“Mommy, you are as pretty as Christmas lights.” – Luke, age 5

“Can we go outside and drop some sunlight in our faces?” – Rori, age 3

There were plenty of valid questions…

“What’s your favorite sport?” asked Mom. “Being naked,” replied Henry, age 3

“Why do we call her great grandma? She isn’t that great.” – Trinity, age 5

“Mom, what’s a question?” (Standing next to Mom’s bed, lifting one of her eyelids at 6 am) – Zosia, age 3

…and logical conclusions.

Mom: “People are human beings.”
“No! They’re puppets!”- Vivian, age 3

“Stop pestervating me!” – Allyson, age 7

 “I love everyone in the whole world as long as they don’t have buttons, although I do like belly buttons.” – Oliver, age 4

The WINNER of the free Kid Quotes Custom Wall Art from Betsy Grimm is… Kathleen Sheppard Curry!

#UGKidQuotes | Contest Winner | UncommonGoods

Design

How To Make It: Instagram and Your Creative Business Videos

April 9, 2014

On March 25 we invited Ronen Glimer of Artists & Fleas, Ronda J Smith of In the Seam, and local members of our design community to a panel discussion about using Instagram to market your designs and build a following. The event was hosted at Union Hall in Park Slope and guests stuck around afterwards to swap business cards, meet our marketing and buying teams, and make connections.

If you’re ever in the hood you should check out one of our events, but watching the highlights are always a great back-up plan.

Design

12 Tips For Making Your Instagram Great

February 19, 2014

Love it or hate it, we definitely live in a hashtag world. As a company who supports emerging artists, we know that most designers know that maintaining a professional website alone just isn’t quite enough these days. Building your brand or showcasing your designs on a social media platform is becoming more of a must than an option.  

Instagram

The beloved photo app, Instagram, is a social media favorite among designers and creative gurus. It has the strong effect of being able to bring your brand and designs to life through lifestyle shots and personable captions. (Captions that need to appeal to people other than just your mom.)  We know that reaching out to potential followers who have an interest in your work can be pretty tough. It definitely starts with engaging content, relatable topics, and let’s face it, beautiful snapshots — but that’s all easier said than done.  We decided to collect 12 great tips from a couple of our favorite Instagrammers, Mandi Johnson and Mark Weinberg, to help you take your Instagram content to the next level. Read on to #BecomeAnInstagramNinja.

1.  Take advantage of daylight. Improve the quality of your photos by primarily taking them during daylight hours. Natural-lit photos are oftentimes the prettiest. If you’re working on amping up the beauty-factor of your stream, but still want to be an active poster in the evening, try saving up photos from earlier in the day and posting them later as a #latergram. Helpful tip: I usually turn my poorly lit snapshots into black and white photos. -Mandi

Instagram

2. Frame up and wait.  I am always looking. When I find a scene I want to photograph, especially in the city or when traveling, I will frame up and take a few photos, but then I’ll wait. I’ll hold the camera in the same spot and wait for a person, a taxi, a plane, or something to show up. This can add a unique and dynamic element to your photos and take them beyond the basic snapshots.         –Mark

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3. Remember: quality not quantity. Limit your posts by sharing an image, at most, once or twice an hour. Posting  ten pictures all within ten minutes can come across as annoying as spam in an e-mail inbox. If you’re updating your shop and want to give people an enticing preview, select one or two of your best images and upload them with a bit of time in between.  Spacing out your posts also gives you some time to be productive or enjoy life without always having your eyes constantly glued to your phone. -Mandi

Instagram

4. Move closer vs. zooming in. Camera phone resolution is truly remarkable. But, zooming in digitally degrades the quality instantly. If you can, take a step closer instead of using the zooming option. Helpful tip: Also try to take a step back and see how it looks. Doing this forces me to move and interact with the scene and see it differently.  -Mark

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5. It’s okay to Instagram photos from your fancy camera. Using beautiful camera photos will not only beef up the visual appeal of your stream, but can be a good way to give a sneak peek of a photo shoot you’re editing or to showcase a nice photo that didn’t quite make it onto your website.  When I do this, I’ll usually edit a photo and resize it to an 800px square on my computer and then e-mail it to myself so I can open the e-mail and save the image to my camera roll on my mobile device. Just don’t upload too many DSLR camera photos onto your stream, or you may come off as overly styling your life, which makes you appear inauthentic. Helpful tip: Instagram etiquette suggests that you should use tags that will let your followers know why your photos are bangin’ and theirs aren’t. Try using #frommycamera or #notiphone. -Mandi

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6. Dabble with different angles. Phones are small and can often fit where a traditional SLR can’t. Put the phone on the ground. Hold it up over your head. Hold it out the window (very carefully). Hold it directly against the glass of a window. Trying different angles doesn’t only enhance your creativity for future posts, but it also creates a visual balance on your photo stream altogether. -Mark

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7. Download an editing app. Filters are often extremely overdone on Instagram, especially when using the built-in filters that the app itself offers. You can actually edit your mobile phone photos with a more tasteful touch by using editing apps like Afterlight or VSCO Cam. Those are my two favorites because you can adjust the strength of each filter and adjust the coloring, tones, brightness, and contrast. Look at it as a light version of Photoshop, but just on your phone. -Mandi

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8. Breaking the “Rule of Thirds.” I’m always on the lookout for “existing framing” or in other words, real world elements that frame an object or cut the scene in half. Just as good light is important, shadows and contrast are essential. Yes, the “rule of thirds”  (where the frame is split into a grid of three vertical lines and three horizontal lines, creating 9 quadrants) is often a good rule to keep in mind when framing up. But you can also produce successful images by breaking this rule whether it’s centering your object or placing your horizon line just right above the bottom of the frame. –Mark

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9. Tread lightly on hashtags. They can be a great way to engage with other users and perhaps find new followers, so I can understand their appeal, as annoying as some Instagram users might find them to be. Try limiting yourself to using hashtags as a way to gain visibility for a less broad term or to connect with a niche audience. For instance, if you’re trying to gain exposure for a holiday craft, #holidaycraft would be an appropriate hashtag, but you’ll be sure to get mega eye rolls if you also include a bunch of inane tags like, #glue #crafts #ornaments #paint #makestuff #ilovechristmas #hashtagsforever. Pick one or two hashtags that will get you the most mileage, and maybe consider creating a unique tag so your followers can cut to the chase and check out precisely what they want to see in your stream. -Mandi

instagram1Caption: I’m selling this #midcenturymodern #plycraftchair to anyone who can make it to Canton, Ohio to pick it up! Asking $175 for it.

10. Make use of negative space. Be willing to leave some air in the frame. It can help your viewer focus when you leave negative space around your subject. Take it to the extreme and make 90% of the frame negative space, you may be surprised with what you find. -Mark

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11. Interact with your followers. Always show courtesy and respect as your following grows. Even if you only become moderately popular, don’t let the fame go to your head. It can be difficult to notice every comment on every photo when new notifications are constantly popping up, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss comments on month-old photos. But please do check out your most recent uploads to see if people have asked questions about where you got your fabulous shoes or if you’re from Cleveland too. You don’t need to respond to every compliment or friendly comment, but if people ask you questions, be decent and answer them. There’s nothing more eye-roll-worthy than a popular Instagrammer who frequently ignores his or her friendly followers who ask simple questions. -Mandi

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12. Post what you like and don’t worry about what people think. It’s your Instagram account and this is reflecting who you are creatively. If there’s an everyday (or odd) object that you find to be interesting, cool, or funny — go for it! If you find yourself in a creative rut, take the time to be inspired by other Instagram accounts.  Don’t force yourself to photograph a popular concept (aerial shots of meals, text on top of images) if that isn’t your style. When you find an idea you like, give it a try and add your own personal touch to it. -Mark

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These 12 awesome tips were written by Mandi Johnson | Making Nice in the Midwest and Mark Weinberg | Mark Weinberg Photography. Follow them on Instagram @mandimakes + @markweinbergnyc.

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The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: BLACK & WHITE

February 1, 2014

Instagram Challenge: Black & White

The next #UGInstaFun theme is BLACK & WHITE. I have to say, there’s something about black and white photography that calms and excites. It’s as if the photographer’s letting me in on a little secret through a timeless moment they captured. Whether the photo is happy, whimsical, mysterious, dark, simple, or fun — a black and white photo usually puts more focus on the subject. It slows down the eyeball and keeps it from jumping frantically around the picture. It reminds me to take a step back and to slow down a bit. Share with us your black and white timeless moments. On March 5th, 2014 a winner will be chosen and the prize is a $50 gift card. Be sure to hashtag #UGInstaFun on Instagram and if you want to see entries that have already joined in on the fun, click here.