Friday, September 20, 2013

An Untapped Opportunity Comes Through Pinterest

I opened up my email this morning and found this letter from Pinterest.

Just over a year ago, my wife and I welcomed our son into the world. Since his first day, I've been pinning fun things we can do together, right now while he’s still little and later when he gets older. I know many of you do the same. Pinterest is where you keep your wishlists, vacation plans, dream home ideas, and other things you want to do soon and in the future. 

That's why for us, it's so important that Pinterest is a service that will be here to stay. To help make sure it does, we're going to start experimenting with promoting certain pins from a select group of businesses. 

I know some of you may be thinking, "Oh come the banner ads.” But we’re determined to not let that happen. While we haven't figured out all the details, I can say that promoted pins will be: 

* Tasteful—No flashy banners or pop-up ads. 
* Transparent—We’ll always let you know if someone paid for what you see, or where you see it. 
* Relevant—These pins should be about stuff you're actually interested in, like a delicious recipe, or a jacket that's your style. 
* Improved based on your feedback—Keep letting us know what you think, and we'll keep working to make things better. 

For our first test, we'll promote a few pins in search results and category feeds. For example, a pin for a Darth Vader outfit from a costume shop might be promoted in a search for “halloween.” Nobody's paying for anything yet—we want to see how things go and, more than anything, hear what you think. 

Thanks so much for all your support these first few years, and we hope you'll keep pinning with us for many years to come! 

All the best, 

It occurred to me that this could be a wonderful opportunity to give businesses that create handmade items a fighting chance to compete with the big box stores, if implemented so that these promotions favor such businesses. Those who hold the cards in social media sites can make a difference if they believe in handmade and in giving artists and crafters a leg up, and keeping handmade alive and thriving in the larger pond of entrepreneurship. Since many handmade businesses utilize various forms of social media as guerilla marketing on a daily basis, they/we provide a constant stream of material to keep these systems pumping. I figured I'd put my advocacy background to good use and write in to ask that Pinterest consider my proposition. Below is my letter;

Hi Ben,
I like this idea but have one request. Could you prioritize small businesses like mine who are sole proprietorships making handcrafted items? As the economy has gotten tougher those of us in this category have really had to be up around the clock many nights to compete with the big box stores, yet we don’t have near the advertising budget that the big box stores have. I see a lot of commercial mass produced brands also being pinned and often it feels as if I am John Henry competing against the machine.
If you would do this it would go a long way towards leveling the playing field for us “little guys” who make things one by one with our own two hands.
Please write and let me know what you think and if you can make these small handmade businesses a priority in this effort.
Hope to hear from you soon.
Pippit Carlington

If you have a small business producing handmade items, if you have an Etsy or similar online shop, you spend long hours promoting your brand, or you feel that this would help your business and/or that of someone you care about I encourage you to write Ben at Pinterest too and let him know you'd like such businesses to be the focus in this new marketing experiment. At least for the time being it's free and could have great potential to put many artists and crafters struggling to get a solid foothold on the map!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Let's Put A Stop To Gun Violence Now!

The recent events in Washington DC's naval base have brought into clear focus that the problem of gun violence has not gotten any better over time. One by one as each of the massacres in recent years took place and grabbed the media spotlight they each fizzled when it came down to Congress adjusting laws which would better protect American citizens from such events.

I have not personally experienced gun violence but increasingly find myself feeling uneasy and a little more unsafe as each of these shootings happens.

As I watch the news over the past few days the overall sense of defeatism makes it impossible for me to remain silent any longer. The burning question that comes to mind is "Where is the outrage surrounding this issue? Where are the protests in the Streets?" We have recently seen people get up and organize around the country after the death of Trayvon Martin, a growing presence of activism to increase the minimum wage and to allow unions into large companies like McDonald's and Walmart, but why is it that despite the fact that polls have shown that the majority of citizens agree that new protections need to be instituted surrounding guns, that we are not seeing the kind of energy in the streets to insist that happens?

If Red State Legislators don't want to provide the necessary votes we have to make them with our voices and wear them down until they have no other choice. Those of us who believe something needs to be done about this problem must "be bold" as former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords would say, and just refuse to give up until we get this accomplished!

So today I went to Gabby Giffords' Americans for Responsible Solutions organization and signed onto her pledge and sent my message to Congress to ask that they take the bull by the horns this time and get it done, come hell or high water! This is just one of many small things you as an individual can do. After all you live here too! Why should your voice not be counted?

I thought as an example I'd post the letter here that I sent to Congress through the site;

Dear Congressmen/Congresswomen,

I need you to do the right thing now and pass reasonable safety protections to prevent gun violence as much as is possible.

After yet another rash of recent shootings, this time in DC, there is no reason to hold this up or put it off any longer. Too many people have been irreversibly injured and killed because a minority of people selfishly want to have no restrictions or regulations on their guns.  Although I have not directly experienced such atrocities (yet),  I pray that we can get this fixed so that  neither myself nor people I love ever become a victim of such violence, allowed to spiral out of control.

Sometimes as a member of Congress you have to do what's right even if it's not what's fun, just like you may not  let your 8 year old have a motorcycle and drive it on the expressway even though he might want one.

This problem has been allowed to go too far.

We need background checks now! Not in a few years, not in a few decades! Now!

We need a way to keep track of where legal guns go when they are transferred from one owner to another. We needed this yesterday!

We need to set some limits on what types/quantities of guns and ammo are allowed for civilian use. Even though it might take time to hash out it should have been started a long time ago and that should be well on its way to a viable solution now!

Our country can no longer afford to divert attention away from this central matter concerning these deadly weapons with side-chatter about "video games", "mental health", "evil", or "nanny-state government".

No gun owner who is honest and law abiding has anything to fear of these protections being put into place.

It is a problem that any American is willing to tolerate these violent incidents and become desensitized to them.

It's very simple; safety first! There are wants (guns), and there are needs (life and self-preservation). As adults we have to do the responsible thing and put the needs of members of our society before its wants.

Gabrielle Giffords, one of your own made the ultimate sacrifice when she became a victim of gun violence, and will be sacrificing probably for the rest of her life. This issue chose her, insisting that she address it whether she wanted to or not. If she can do it, so can each of you.

Please start this process now.


Pippit Carlington

If you're wondering what this has to do with you as an artist or entrepreneur; it's that the old adage is so true that "The Personal is Political, and the Political is Personal". Often we don't realize the effect we have on those around us and others' effects on us.

As artists we are in a special position to make the world better than we found it and we can be an active participant in shaping our lives and improving the lives of others. Even if you don't have money to contribute to various causes and can't get out that often each one of us can make a difference in this world we live in through letter-writing, phone calls, through social media, through blogging, and via other avenues we already use in the function of our daily lives and routines.

I found this video that features a beautiful song Overcomer  with a beautiful message.With all the heavy issues facing our nation today, and whatever you're going through as an individual, just keep your eyes on the prize. Once you realize that 9/10ths of the way things are was man-made you come to know that almost anything is possible.

You can keep up with Gabby Giffords in these places as well;
Imstagram: @GabbyGiffords
Twitter: @GabbyGiffords and @ShuttleCDRKelly

You can also contact the organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns comprised of over 1,000 mayors around the country from 46 states who support common sense gun legislation. They had a demonstration here in Atlanta not too long ago. I was not able to get there on that day but I hope to be able to attend another one if they do it again.