Building Virtual Artist Communities That Work
If you have a shop on Etsy you probably know that one of the features available to artists is a plethora of teams of individuals aligned for a variety of common goals. I've had the opportunity to be a part of a number of teams on Etsy over the past several years. Each has its own particular operations and focus, but all act as a sort of watering hole to artists; a central hub around which to focus group effort and mutual support.
What do teams do and what is the demographic make-up of them?
Some of these teams are based on a particular medium, and others focus on a common interest apart from Etsy, yet still act as a means through which to facilitate one's art-based business, while still others focus on a broader grouping of people and their handmade items. Still others are defined by a particular type of marketing, be that advertising on Facebook, other websites, or in magazines, or on social media sites. Some have even excommunicated themselves from Etsy and have opened up independent forums and e-commerce sites.
Teams as trend;
I was amazed recently to find how many more Native American Etsy teams and teams made up of artists who love and care for animals have sprung up since the first one or two began, and now that teams are given a space to create their own forums on Etsy's website it seems the number of total teams has grown exponentially!
What Works, What Doesn't;
Having been on several teams and having run one a few years ago I have learned a little more each time about what works and what doesn't, and that is always a work in progress. Initially I think many teams took the approach that more hours spent on promotion equaled better visibility thus more sales to each shop participating. That isn't necessarily true. For instance; posting more links of your work on social media sites will get shops seen by a larger number of people, but that in and of itself doesn't guarantee sales because it's like shooting bullets blindly into the night versus aiming and shooting at a target. You may hit a few targets by chance, but the momentum and energy expended is often lost in the noise. While you are promoting your team members many other teams are doing the same with their members. With all those links flying around in cyberspace and at top speed alot of it will be missed by many of your followers and ignored by others. Viewers become desensitized after awhile and stop reading what comes across their screen because there's so much of it that it's overwhelming. You only have a short window with which to grab the attention of serious buyers who really want what you have for sale.
Speak Directly To Your Market;
In the sea of links listed on social media sites I've found by trial and error that it isn't enough to be seen; you have to also be heard, not by just anybody, but by those who believe your work is exactly what they want and need.
While posting on Twitter I found that sometimes what works best is to ask your target buyer a direct question. Doing this separates those who aren't interested in what you're selling from those who are.
For instance; instead of simply saying "Blue, Silk Scarf" you might want to say "Brides; Need Something blue? Wear this Blue Silk Scarf and be elegant". If brides are one of the demographics you seek to attract their ears will suddenly perk up. In just a few words you have sent an effective message to someone looking for your product; someone who wants to be elegant on their wedding day and has been looking for something blue.
Spread the Word Through Treasuries;
For those reading this who do not have an Etsy store treasuries are online gallery pages; a grid of 16 items that can be created around a theme. Creating a treasury has the dual effect of promoting the shops from which you draw items, and promoting your own shop. There are a number of ways you can speak to your target customer through treasuries.
1) If you have a supply shop add items from shops who are likely to use the supplies you offer. Sometimes this results in sales when those featured get curious and look at your shop.
2) Include shops in your treasury that sell the same type of product as you do. This can have its pros and cons. On one hand those featured are in a sense competitors, but on the other hand each of these 16 sellers and you bring with you a following, and since you have the same market this multiplies the chances for all 16 plus you to have a serious buyer find what they're looking for in your shops.
3) Choose your treasury items by style, taste, and even color that matches yours. Some buyers may go on a search for these features.
4) Make the title of your treasury a question to your target customer. I've seen instances in which the title shows up on Google and several people in the treasury make sales from it (especially if the treasury comes up in the first few pages).
5) If you have more than one shop add the treasury to all shops' activity streams. Although this may gain exposure from some who are not your target customers it will also draw those who are your target customer and those will zero in on it.
Ask for Sales;
Creating a BNS (Buy and Stay) treasury is one of the quickest and most direct ways to bring in sales. These have a fairly large following on Etsy and not only are they fun and exciting, but often attract lots more buyers than a normal treasury will. Although the buyers are other sellers these special treasuries can grease the wheels and get stalled sales moving again, and increase your visibility in Etsy search.
Work Smarter, Not Harder;
It's easy to wear yourself out by spending too many hours without enough reach. Anytime you can make your efforts do double-duty you should. Look for ways to divide work between a larger number of people.
Here are some suggestions;
1) Collaborate with other teams in ways you already do with your own team such as dividing up the treasuries, 8 members from your team and 8 members from another team, then have both teams promote them.
2) Create mutually beneficial arrangements to re-tweet either with other teams and/or individuals, or provide incentives like a giveaway drawing which requires entrants to re-tweet, post on their blogs, or re-pin items being promoted.
Follow these suggestions and your Etsy team experience is bound to be a beneficial one!