Harnessing the Power of Facebook Groups for Artists

Harnessing the Power of Facebook Groups for Artists

I know, I know: there’s been a lot of news about Facebook lately, and not much (if any) of it has been positive. If you’ve sworn off the social media giant, that’s completely understandable! I don’t use it for personal reasons much at all anymore, especially since the newsfeed has turned into 90% ads. However, Facebook Groups for artists are actually great tools you can leverage to get your work seen by a much larger audience than just your friends and family. As you may remember, I touched on Facebook Groups in a previous post, but they’re so useful that I decided it’s worth going into a little more detail on the subject.

Facebook Pages vs. Facebook Groups

First, the basics: there are two types of pages you can connect to your personal profile: Facebook Pages and Facebook Groups.

Facebook Pages have their use. They are a great place for businesses to list up-to-date store hours, products, events, and so on. Customers can also leave reviews, which are useful for any interested parties researching a product or company. If you are trying to sell your art on a consistent basis, I do recommend having an artist page so you can direct potential buyers there when they have questions.

However, these pages have some definite drawbacks, too. The biggest issue is that Facebook’s algorithms make it almost impossible for your new posts to be seen unless 1) the few people who do catch a post share it widely, or 2) you pay through the teeth to run each one as a Facebook ad. For this reason, I’ve come to think of Facebook Pages as reference sources, not marketing tools.

Facebook Groups are far more interactive and far easier to promote than Facebook Pages. This is good news for you on both sides of the coin: if you join a group, you’ll often get notifications when someone posts something of interest, and if you create a group yourself, the people who join it are much more likely to see your posted work and information.

Facebook Groups for Artists: Join a Community

As an artist, joining a handful of Facebook Groups gives you an immediate community you can use to share your latest projects, ask for advice on anything that’s tripping you up, and discover new styles and materials you might want to explore. If you want great feedback on your work, comment on other posts as much as possible. People respond most frequently to the members who are most willing to help others. Bonus: if you respond frequently enough to develop a reputation as an expert in one material/technique/etc., you may even see people start tagging you when a related question is asked!

There are a ton of Facebook Groups for artists out there, and a simple Google search will turn up list after list of the best examples. I’ll plug Artists Trying to Make a Living Creating Art since that’s the one I use most. It’s a big, diverse group, and the level of talent you’ll see from the members is amazing!

This is also a good place for me to mention that I have my own group started: VanDuinen Studio’s Inspiration Club. Mine is still in its infancy, but I look forward to seeing it grow and develop over the course of time. Come join!

 

Become a part of the Inspiration Club

 

Facebook Groups for Artists: Lead a Community

If you decide to lead a community as part of your brand, I can tell you that it’s a big learning process! But it’s a fun process, and I have come up with a few pointers to help you breathe life into it.

1) Make it a closed group

Trust me, this will make the growth of the group go slooowly. But the beauty of a closed group is that you can set a few simple questions that potential members have to answer before you approve their request to join. If you’re like me and will be the only moderator of the group, this helps you ensure that you only have people involved who really want to be there and won’t set a bunch of virtual fires for you to put out.

2) Encourage engagement as much as possible

Just because someone joined a group doesn’t mean they’ll immediately jump in and start conversations. It’s a good idea to create a list of questions to ask the crowd each week. You don’t necessarily have to cover every single day, but a good handful will show people that you’re an active leader. I’m currently aiming for 3x per week. Plus, the resulting conversations will hopefully spark other questions and posts from the rest of your members.

3) Be present

Don’t just create the group and leave! I’m in several Facebook Groups, and the ones where the creator pops in and answers questions are by far the most popular and most helpful. It helps you develop relationships with your audience, too. If they know you and like you, they’ll be more likely to support you long term.

That’s all for this week! Once again, I invite you to join VanDuinen Studio’s Inspiration Club: a community built to support and encourage artists working with all mediums. It’s one of many in the sea of Facebook Groups for artists, but I do my best to make everyone feel welcome there. 🙂

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How to Choose a Theme for Your Brand

How to Choose a Theme for Your Brand

When you’re a small business owner, one of the most important things you can do is develop a clear brand identity. Of course, that’s much easier said than done! There’s a lot that goes into branding and marketing and all that jazz – whole courses have been developed on this topic alone – but this post will walk you through the basics about how to choose a theme for your brand.

Step 1: Freewrite

I am a huge fan of freewriting when you need clarity on something. I set the timer for 10 minutes, open up OneNote, and write whatever crazy stuff pops into my head without stopping. It’s so simple, and I always come out with a new idea that I’m stoked to get working on ASAP. In fact, it’s how I developed my plan for this blog’s content!

When you’re figuring out how to choose a theme for your brand, freewriting is a great way to help you define your brand’s message. What are you selling/providing? What kind of customer do you want to attract? The more detailed you are in your description, the easier it will be to write all of the content you’ll need: product descriptions, blog posts, social media posts, etc. Just the other day, I spent ~10 minutes just listing all the words that came to mind when I pictured VanDuinen Studio. Now I have a go-to list of language to reference when I’m stuck on something for the site. That’s the best part about freewriting: you never have to share the crazy results with another soul, but you’ll end up with a secret treasure trove of marketing copy and inspiration.

Step 2: Research

I don’t recommend comparing yourself to others very often. After all, the best part about running a creative business is knowing that you offer something unique to the world. But when you’re working on branding, it’s never a bad idea to poke around other similar sites to figure out what you like and what you hate. What fonts are you drawn to? Which ones are impossible to read? What colors do you like, and which ones make you leave a site immediately? What logos stand out to you and why? Jot down your answers in the same space as your freewrite, and you’ll be well on your way to defining your brand and its theme.

Step 3: Create a Mood Board

This part is the most fun! A mood board is great for visualizing all the different pieces of your brand in one spot. To make mine, I searched for a mood board template on Canva. I use the free version and have no trouble getting everything done, so no need to invest!

How to Choose a Theme for Your Brand Mood Board

There are a lot of different elements you could add to your mood board, but the most important puzzle pieces are:

  • Colors. I recommend choosing 5-7 coordinating colors. This streamlines a lot of the decision-making when you’re designing your website, creating pins, updating your social media accounts, and so on. If you need or want some color combo inspiration, play around on Design Seeds until you find the palette that speaks to you.
  • Fonts. At the very least, pick two fonts: one for your headings/titles and one for your body text. Not all platforms you use will have the exact same list of fonts available. But if you have a mood board, you’ll at least have a guide for choosing the closest fit. Of course, the more money you’re willing to shell out, the more you can guarantee access to your favorite fonts.
  • Logo. Design it yourself, or contract it out – whatever you feel comfortable with! I had my cousin do mine since she’s a graphic designer and that is most definitely not my specialty. No matter how you acquire it, your logo will come in handy for immediate brand recognition. Put it on business cards and social media accounts, use it as your website icon, and so on. The possibilities are endless!
  • Photos. Whether you use stock photos or take pictures of your own art, you’ll need a handful of photos that are easily recognized as part of your brand. These photos come in really handy when you need header images, pin backgrounds, branded landing pages, etc. You will also want 1-3 good photos of yourself you can use as profile photos on any websites or social accounts you have.
  • Signature. This one is really useful if you plan on blogging or sending out marketing emails. (If that’s not part of your plan, ignore this item!) To make mine, I wrote my name in permanent marker about a hundred times, scanned it in, then cropped out the best one and digitized it using Gimp. Yay free software!

Now you know how to choose a theme for your brand!

We’ve made it through the basics about how to choose a theme for your brand. If you’d like a FREE CHECKLIST for an easy-to-read reference guide while you work on your branding, you’re in luck:

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Also, if you have any questions about any of these steps, feel free to drop me a line. I’ll be happy to talk through this process with you!

Until Next Week,

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P.S. If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

Branding and Packaging for Your Creative Business4 Tips on How to Prepare for a Craft Show

Branding and Packaging for Your Creative Business

Branding and Packaging for Your Creative Business

Please note: this post contains affiliate links. For a full description of how these work, please see the full disclaimer.

This post on branding and packaging is part of my business evolution series. For anyone else out there who is wading through the logistics of starting a small business, I’m going to share the lessons I’ve learned. Hopefully, your journey to success will be a little bit shorter than mine!

I’ve touched on presentation before in my post 4 Tips on How to Prepare for a Craft Show (the first post in the series), but this week I’m going to go more in-depth into the nitty-gritty details that add up to a brand. I’m talking about the tags you put on your products, the bags you send home with your customers, the notes you include in packages. All of these are important puzzle pieces in the way you present yourself to your customers. After all, since the majority of your customers are not close friends or family members, these details are the only things they know about you!

Detail #1: Product Labeling

When I was prepping for my very first craft show, I was a stay-at-home mom with no idea whether or not this would be a lucrative endeavor. Branding and packaging were not on my priority list at all. To mitigate the financial risks I was taking as much as possible, I went with the cheapest options available and scribbled the prices on with a permanent marker. These tags got the message across, sure, but they were far from attractive:

Having done a mountain of research on marketing in between that first show and my most recent one, I decided that I was going for a more cohesive, brand appropriate look. Back to Michael’s I went, this time buying tags that were specific to the items I was selling:

New, professional tags for packaging

Not pictured: the cute tags I found for my crocheted items, which can be found here.* The earring cards are also easy to find.* On all of these tags, I used a calligraphy marker to write the prices not only legibly, but also attractively. Bonus: if I do decide to move this business into the realm of calligraphy service in the future, I’m already on track with brand recognition.

Detail #2: Packaging

You have to send your products home in some kind of packaging. Why not make it pretty and brand-specific? Personally, I’m big into recycling, so I haven’t actually bought packaging for my products. Instead, I’ve curated a collection of nice boxes and small bags that match the aesthetic I like for VanDuinen Studio:

VanDuinen Studio packaging

I have logo stickers to add to every package I mail out, and I send home a business card in every bag or box, too. The more customers see a logo, the more likely they’ll be to remember it.

Detail #3: Business Cards and Logo

Speaking of my logo, I’m doing everything I can to make sure it’s instantly recognizable as part of the VanDuinen Studio brand. I had help with this aspect – the owner of Megan Made It Designs (AKA my lovely cousin) was kind enough to turn my crude sketch into a streamlined, beautiful, professional design. (The details of that process are in this post if you’re interested.) I then used the Vistaprint business card tool to design my cards. This turned out to be really easy and fun to use, even for someone like me who has no background in graphic design! I love the way they turned out:

VanDuinen Studio branding with business cards

Having these cards has made branding and packaging for the studio so much easier. I use them as a reference whenever I’m making a decision about what works for the brand.

Detail #4: Thank You Notes

These are totally optional, but I’ve always thought they were a nice, personal touch in the packages I’ve received from Etsy sellers. I recently grabbed this pack of scrapbook paper* on super-sale at Michael’s, and lo and behold, there are a few pages of small cards designed to look like vintage seed packets:

Branding with thank-you notes

I love them, and I’ve already started adding thank-yous in calligraphy on the back when I ship to customers. (Again, working that calligraphy skill into the brand!) This is also a great way to include offer codes for return customers – another trick I learned from fellow Etsy sellers.

It’s a huge learning curve, this business of mine, but I’m up for the challenge! Do you think there are any branding and packaging details I missed? Any secrets you’d like to share?

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*This is an affiliate link.

4 Tips on How to Prepare for a Craft Show

4 Tips on How to Prepare for a Craft Show

Historically, I have not been a great strategizer. I tend to dive headfirst into projects and assume I’ll figure things out as I go. As you might expect, though, that’s not the most efficient way to run a business – even a creative one! Nothing has made that clearer to me than my path for learning how to prepare for a craft show.

Several times a year, I take the studio on the road to craft shows in the Grand Rapids and greater Ann Arbor areas. I’ve had mixed success at these shows; sometimes I go home with some extra money to feed back into the business, and other times I haven’t even covered the cost of the table.

New and Improved Look

Obviously, I’d like to find ways to increase the likelihood that I’ll go home with a profit. I’m not satisfied with leaving it up to chance. So I started researching how to prepare for a craft show, and it became instantly clear that my display DEFINITELY has room for improvement. After coming to this realization, I spent the vast majority of one of my daughter’s naps experimenting with set-up ideas on my coffee table, and came up with this:

I’ll have more space to work with at the craft show to alleviate the cluttered effect, but I at least have better ideas to work with now!

For context, this is where I started:

original craft table

Not the most visually appealing collection in the world. It’s hard to gauge jewelry from a distance, no matter how beautifully that jewelry is crafted – I noticed a lot of eyes simply sliding past my table. Not ideal! So, my new goal has been to draw people in close enough to see what I’ve created. I tested this design at the last craft show I attended, and even though I was stuck in the back corner of the show, I still went home with double the cost of the table. Score!

I am now going to share with you the highlights of my research. The following elements stood out to me as most important and effective when you’re preparing your display at a craft show. If you want this list as an easy-to-read infographic, it’s available here:

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1. ADD HEIGHT!

This is the #1 tip for how to prepare for a craft show for a reason. A flat table does not draw shoppers in from across a room. A flat table says nothing about your brand. I had the necklace stand and the earring trees at first, but 90% of the table was a vast expanse of tablecloth peppered with necklaces. Now, I have a vertical necklace display to bring more of them up to eye level, leaving table space open to showcase my crochet work. I also added books under the earring trees to catch the eye – I like the personality it adds to the table.

2. FOCUS ON YOUR PRODUCTS

This sounds like a no-brainer, I know. But as you can see in that original photo, my first set-up included a bunch of knick-knacks that I brought along to pretty up the table. Bad idea! Shoppers were confused about which items were for sale and which were just display. In fact, the stone pears I bought to use as door-stops were some of the most popular items on the table; I could’ve sold those five times over (*facepalm*). Now, I find ways to decorate with my products, not random knick-knacks; the books are the only things not directly related, and they’re being used as an intentional prop. After all, if you love what you’ve made, why hide it from potential buyers?

3. CREATE FLOW IN THE COMPOSITION

This idea is applicable to any artistic endeavor, really. It’s important to guide the eye toward whatever you want to showcase. Too much blank space is bad (i.e. a flat table), but too much to look at is also bad (overstimulation isn’t just for toddlers). Therefore, the flow of the products on your table is a very important aspect to consider when you’re deciding how to prepare for a craft show. You’ll notice in my revised arrangement that I have the earring trees set up extremely tall to catch the eye, then the necklaces, then the crochet pieces. There are three clear types of products and three clear levels on which they sit. (You’ll also notice that the background is too cluttered, which couldn’t really be helped given the coffee table situation, but it does serve to highlight my point!)

4. PRESENT YOURSELF AS THE BRAND REPRESENTATIVE

I rolled in to my first show wearing a typical jeans-and-tee combination, looking relatively indistinguishable from my high school photos save for the laugh lines I’ve accumulated since. But the more I’ve started to take myself seriously as a business owner, the more I’ve spent time polishing my look as part of my preparation for each craft show. It’s not like I glam up for a day in the office or a night out, but I do make sure that I’ve covered up the bags under my eyes, and I make a valid attempt to tame flyaways in my hair. After all, customers won’t take you seriously if they can tell you’re not invested in your own brand.

Whew! List over, at least for now. If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. I hope you feel like you have a better handle on how to prepare for a craft show!

Again, if you want to see the list as an infographic, it’s here:

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I’m sure I’ll make many revisions and/or additions to this list as time progresses, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? And remember, just because you’ve already started doesn’t mean you can’t perfect your approach. Change is the only constant in life, after all.

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P.S. Looking for new items to sell? Check out my tutorial on how to make your own beaded earrings!