Welcome to the fifth installment of the Spoonflower Seller Handbook! This article is all about the thing most of us are constantly trying to balance the presence of in our lives these days: social media.
Setting aside your personal social media habits, (I for one have been avoiding that new feature that shows you how much time you’re spending on the apps…), if you’re not utilizing platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook to promote your designs and connect with the creative community, you’re missing out on a lot more than just potential commission revenue. Allow me to explain:
Social media is one of your most effective low-cost promotional tools as a designer. The most successful surface designers are already taking advantage of these platforms to build awareness, connect with potential customers and fellow designers, and connect with brands to cultivate meaningful partnerships. There are a ton of social media platforms out there today, but we’re going to focus on the three that have the biggest impact for designers: Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.
Which channels are best for you?
If you’re new to social media, don’t try to go full-force into each and every platform. Get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each one and decide where you want to focus your efforts. For surface designers, Instagram is a great place to start because it’s highly visual. But Facebook and Pinterest are also extremely valuable for their own reasons. Let’s go through some of the ways Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest can uniquely benefit you as a designer.
Out of all the social channels, Instagram is easily the most active and engaged community for surface designers right now. Perfect for visual storytelling, Instagram is a way for designers to showcase their best work, but also give their audience a behind-the-scenes look at the process.
So many designers get discovered by big brands via their Instagram accounts thanks to relevant hashtags and features like the explore tab. For example, Spoonflower designer Annie Parsons (@anniedrawsthings) was discovered by the popular marker brand Tombow (@tombowusa) via Instagram, and the brand asked her to do an Instagram takeover on their account.
In case you’re not familiar, an Instagram takeover is where an influencer / blogger / etc. creates content for a brand’s account in their own authentic voice, for any given period of time (usually a day or a weekend). It drives a ton of new followers to their account, and the brand gains exposure to the influencer’s audience. It’s a fun, engaging way to work with brands and grow your audience, but if you’re just getting started, we suggest focusing on the content you’re creating first!
Think of Instagram as a snapshot of your portfolio or even as the homepage of your website Show snapshots of works in progress or reveal newly finished items for sale, but don’t stop there. You can also use IG stories to go behind-the-scenes with “IG live” sessions of you creating your designs in real-time or share timelapse videos of your creative process.
Use hashtags to connect with potential customers and locals who follow your brand or could become followers. Hashtags are virtual links to others with a common interest. They can help you reach potential customers regardless of whether they follow you or not. For example, if you use a popular hashtag for your home state it may lead you to connect with local buyers. Don’t forget to tag your posts featuring your Spoonflower designs with #spoonflower to catch the eye of small business owners using Spoonflower fabric for their handmade products.
5 Instagram Tips from Ohn Mar Win
1. Your profile photo is one of the first things people see when they visit your Instagram profile. It’s important to put a face to your business so folks connect with YOU as the person who is creating the art that they can view.
2. Writing a good caption for your post cannot be underestimated. If you’re posting a new pattern design, perhaps talk about your concept behind it, or why you chose that palette or perhaps what product you’d love to see your pattern on. Folks love to know your process.
3. Engagement is key, whether through commenting on other peoples posts or replying to comments left on your posts. Use more that five words in comments to boost the algorithm. Overall, try to project your personality behind the patterns you create. It’s a social platform so people are trying to forge connections.
4. Hashtags are still very important and you should use between 5-15 on each post so potential customers can find you. And you can also follow hashtags, too. Engage and comment with others who use similar hashtags to yours by using the search function on Instagram.
5. Instagram stories are fast becoming as important or more important than the main feed. Show some of the behind-the-scenes action of your daily life, or work in progress, or even new flowers that are growing in your garden. It’s a snapshot of your life and its gone in 24 hours.
Unlike other social platforms which are more about capturing the present moment, Pinterest is used for planning and organizing future projects and events. Savvy designers approach this as a platform to post new and popular designs that link back to their Spoonflower shop so that sewists, makers and interior décor enthusiasts will find their designs and pin them to their various boards for project planning.
5 Pinterest Tips from Ohn Mar Win
1. Using Pinterest as one of your main platforms to share images is one of the easiest ways to generate traffic directly to your website. Visual marketing in every field has grown in popularity over the years and is likely to continue to grow.
2. It’s a visual platform, so your pins need to be eye-catching. Tall, vertical images look best on Pinterest and their algorithm will favor pins that are approximately 2:3 proportion, so it pays to spend time optimizing images.
3. Don’t forget to write a good pin description – it helps to give more context and reinforces your branding. It also affects how your pins appear in search results.
4. Keywords are very important. Start typing your topic – for example, surface patterns – into the Pinterest search to see what other recommended and related topics Pinterest shows and add these to your descriptions. There will also be top related searches – they are helpful to see what folks are searching for.
5. Try to pin often. It’s better to pin 10 pins every day than 60 pins in one hour per week. Pinning consistently helps to maximize your exposure and engagement.
The way people use Facebook has evolved a lot over the years, and these days the best way to use this platform is hands down for private (or public) groups and events. Are you part of the Spoonflower Fans group? This is a community-run, private group of some of the most successful / most active surface designers on Spoonflower, and there are constant conversations buzzing over there about everything from trends in the Marketplace to design challenge themes and tips for using certain design tools.
Many designers use it as a forum to gain valuable feedback on their designs, or to ask questions from the peers (“I’m stumped on which colorway is best, what do you guys think?” that sort of thing.)
Aside from groups, Facebook is extremely useful to connecting with locals in your area for events. Are you selling your designs at a local market? Just want to get together with creatives in your area and organize a “Drink and Draw”? Get a Facebook event started and grow your network as well as potential sales.
A whole ‘nother side to Facebook and Instagram is the paid advertising side of things, which if you’re set up with a business account and have a bit of money set aside for digital advertising, is absolutely a great idea if you want to get your designs in front of more people. If this is something you’re interested in learning more about, leave us a comment below to let us know! There are also a ton of great resources for getting started with Facebook ads on the web.
Managing Post Frequency and Scheduling
Okay, so you know you definitely want to ramp up your presence on social media, but you’re still not sure about things like when to post and how often. “And what’s the deal with that pesky algorithm on Facebook and Instagram I keep hearing about?” Don’t worry – we’ll get to that!
The best way to approach organizing your social media strategy is to start with an editorial calendar or a content calendar. This doesn’t need to be fussy or complicated at all – and it doesn’t even need to necessarily be digital if you feel more comfortable planning in analog mode. I recommend starting out with whatever digital calendar app you use (Google Calendar, iCal, etc.) or with a spreadsheet (either Excel or Google Sheets will work great). This will allow you to take a look at an entire month and easily map out what you want to share and evenly distribute it across the month. Planning this all out in advance will help you create consistent, high-quality content.
And speaking of doing things in advance, if you want to try scheduling your posts in advance (oh snap, that’s next level!) there are some scheduling tools that also double as content calendars. Programs like Later, Hootesuite and Buffer will not only allow you to batch schedule your posts saving you time in the long run, but you’ll also gain tools to help you see when your followers are most active, so you always know the best days of the week and even time of day to post to receive the best engagement.
Did you know that when you post on Facebook or Instagram, it’s likely that less than half of your followers will ever even see what you posted? The more engagement you get, the number of followers who actually see your posts will increase (aka your reach) and if that content is really good, more people will like and comment on it and the cycle continues. Boom! We just learned how to beat the algorithm.
Are you following Spoonflower on social media? Come say hello on your favorite channel!
About the Guest Author
A Spoonie since 2012, Theresa manages social media here at Spoonflower HQ in Durham, NC. Because she just can’t get enough surface design, Theresa keeps busy on the weekends making patterns for her Spoonflower shop, and doodling watercolor illustrations (probably of fast food). When she’s not buried deep in the world of surface patterns, you can also find her sewing up handmade apparel from one of her fave indie pattern designers, making big floury messes in her kitchen, or teaching herself Britney Spears songs on the ukulele.