Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Would you like to win this sewing machine (rrp. £799)?

WIN THIS SEWING MACHINE....

Janome Memory Craft 5900QC
The lovely Janome Memory Craft 5900QC is first prize in our Christmas Creativity Competition that ends in just 3 weeks time.  Still time to get an entry in and with a total of 6 fab prizes your odds of winning a prize are good.... What are you waiting for?

Full details of how to enter here.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Using Facebook to promote your business

We are starting a series of articles over on our site about running your own craft business one of which is below.  If you'd like to view the others please click here.

Promoting Your Business

Self Promotion


Nowadays self promotion is important for 2 reasons, firstly there is an increasing amount of competition out there so you have to keep reminding people you exist, and why you are different/better than your competitors. Secondly, it is so much easier to promote yourself since the advent of social networking, forums and e-mail.  You now have the option to promote your business for free, rather than paid advertising, all it costs is time.
Personally I’ve found a mix of paid advertising & social networking works well, but not every business can afford paid advertising so social network is ideal as it is available to everyone, free of charge.

I have to start by saying don’t try to do everything at once, many businesses set up accounts on several social networking sites, a blog, a Flickr account etc go overboard for the first few weeks and then realise they can’t keep it up and end up pretty much giving up on it all.

Start with one thing at a time and get yourself into a routine that you are comfortable with and can keep up with, consistancy is the aim.  For people who are new to social networking I would suggest aiming for 2-3 social networking updates a week or 1 blog post.   Once you have got the hang of that then you can try to increase it, or add another platform.  If for any reason you don’t get around to updating for a while, don’t give up on it you can easily start posting again and things will pick up again in time.

Facebook


For most people, especially if you already have a personal Facebook page, Facebook is a fairly easy place to start.  It’s very simple to set up a Facebook page, just visit an existing page (mine is here) and on the bottom left is an option that says ‘create page’.   If you don’t already have a personal Facebook account you will need to set one up first from the sign up option on the front page.  Don’t worry fans of your business page will not have access to your personal profile.

The harder thing is to decide what to put on your page and how to get (and keep) fans!  Firstly, content wise please remember than constantly posting links to your site/shop and nothing else will put people off (same applies to other social networking platforms).  You are best off viewing social networking as a way of engaging your customers, dealing with queries/complaints and getting feedback, any sales you get from it are a bonus.  People can tell when you are just using it to get sales and will stop following.

I try to use what I call the rule of three; I aim to make 1/3 of my updates on Facebook & Twitter about my website, 1/3 about things that are related to my area (sewing) but not on my site (ie. Free projects, interesting interviews, sales/offers & newspaper articles) and 1/3 about my customers.  You may choose to go 50/50 and make half about you and your business, and the other half about other things that would interest your fans.  The main thing is you need to find a balance between promoting your business and keeping your fans interested.  As to what would interest your fans, that is for you to work out through trial and error, see which posts get lots of likes and comments and which don’t.   Think about which products/services/lifestyles are complimentary to your product or services.  For instance if you sell felt why not share links to felt projects, reviews of felt craft books etc.

Another thing to consider is timing and frequency of posts.  Are you target audience likely to be home during the day or checking Facebook in the evening.  Do you want to post at a set time each day, or several times to reach different audiences different times of the day.  Frequency wise it is best not to stick lots of posts on at once, you need to give people time to read and digest each post.  I try to leave 2-4 hours between my posts, but even leaving 10-15 minutes mean people have time to read & respond to your first post (or click on the link you've posted and visit your site/another site) before seeing your next post.  If you post several updates at once it spams people's news feed and they will quite likely unlike your page.

Another great thing about Facebook & Twitter is that it’s an ideal chance to conduct market research; you have many people interested in your products/service there ready to interact so make the most of it!  If you are thinking of new product ideas, ask their opinion, if you want to know how to improve your service ask them!   There is a useful option just above the text box on your page to ask a question, this is essentially a chance to conduct a poll, a great way to get input from your fans.

Facebook is also a good for connecting with other similar businesses, it is very easy to share posts from their wall.  To do this on your page select the option on the right that says ‘use Facebook as [company name]’ and then go to the page that has something you want to share.  Under the post or image you will see a share option, select this and it will bring up an option for you to add your own description to what you are sharing and then press the share button at the bottom to post it onto your page.

WARNING

Please do not use Facebook to spam other people’s pages, whether it is a blatant ‘come visit my website’ type post, or a supposedly more subtle ‘I just wanted to say hello from.... with a link to your business page’.  It is annoying and quite frankly rude.  That person has taken the time and effort to build up their own fan base so what right do you have to try and hijack that?

Doing things like that will only put people off and is not going to make you friends or get you business.  Build a natural relationship with people (by commenting on their posts where you have something to contribute, dropping them an e-mail if you have an idea of a way you can work together etc) and if they think your page is something that will interest their fans they will post a link themselves.  That kind of post is a lot more likely to send fans your way than spamming.  Also I understand that Facebook is getting very strict on spam nowadays and if they see you putting the same type of post on several pages (such as the ‘come visit my page’ post) they will block your access for your account for a while.

One new company to Facebook recently (who sell fabrics – I expect many of you know who I mean), spent their first few weeks posting on every single sewing/handmade related page they could find telling everyone about their great new site & fabrics and several of their posts were on the walls of companies who sold fabrics themselves.  That is incredibly rude, trying to steal your competitors’ customers right in front of them, in fact through their own business page! 

Also another big Facebook no-no is the tagging games, where you tag lots of other pages and they pass it on by tagging more pages.  It has no business benefit as people just find it annoying, also it looks very unprofessional.  If you want to tag someone for a genuine reason you can do so by typing @ followed by their name.  It’s useful when recommending someone, telling people the source of a project or link you have just posted or when talking about someone.

I found this blog post a great round up of what to do and not to do on Facebook:
http://contemporaryhandmadealliance.blogspot.com/2011/07/facebook-etiquette.html

Nifty Knits have also just pointed me in the direction of a great post on the Build a Little Biz about using Facebook for business: http://www.buildalittlebiz.com/blog/category/facebook

Saturday, 10 September 2011

My giveaway philosophy

Top prize of our Christmas Competition
I recently spotted this great post over on the Sew Mama Sew blog with their throughts on giveaways and I thought it was a great idea so share about why you run giveaways, and why they are run the way they are so I've decided to do the same.  My giveaways have been evolving over the last year and a half that I've been running the site and this is a good chance for me to explain why I do things the way I do now.

Why companies give us prizes 

First up you may want to know how I get prizes and why people give them to me.  As with many things it is all about publicity, the companies want to let you know about their products, new website, latest offers and want to incentivise people to visit their site which is why most my giveaways require you going to the prize givers site to enter.

Now to be honest I don't think that is much of hardship, often the purpose of the visit is for you to choose your own prize so it means you are guaranteed to get something you want if you win.  Plus taking a couple of minutes out to look at a site full of lovely fabrics, sewing supplies or books isn't a bad way to spend your time ;-)  It's cetainly easier than having to go and follow their blog, twitter account, facebook page etc as many competitions demand.

Why do we have to fill out a competition entry form each time? 
 
There are 3 main reasons for this requirement in my competitions:

1) All entry forms come to me as e-mails which means I can store them all in 1 e-mail folder, count them up at the end of the comeptition and use the random number generator to choose a winner (way less time consuming than having to enter it all into a spreadsheet!)

A sneaky peek at an upcoming prize
2) Facebook introduced new rules a while ago preventing you from running the 'comment on this post to enter' type comptitions which means they now expect you to pay for a special app to run 'official giveaways' through their site.  Personally I think this is just another way for them to try and make more money and do not agree with it, hence the use of my onsite entry form instead.

3)When I used to run competitons that you could enter of Facebook/Twitter/Blogger I would not have the winners full details and would have to try and contact them after the competition to get their full name and address.  Often I could be waiting a week or 2, or even get no reply at all which is a waste of a prize, and of my time.  Now I have everything I need on the entry form so once the winners have been picked I can just cut & paste their details into an e-mail and send it off to the company providing the prize.

Why are competitions fornightly and not weekly as before?

Again there are a couple of reasons for this.  The first and main reason is that competitions involve a lot of admin, sourcing a prize, planning the competition format, writting up the details, scheduling competitions, picking a winner & sending their details to the company giving the prize etc.  I found I was spending so much of my time working on competitions that it was effecting the rest of the site.  The primary aim of my site is not to giveaway prizes but to share great sewing businesses, news, articles, reviews, interviews & projects with you so I had to reduce the frequency of competitions to ensure a fairer balance.

Secondly, the turnover of the competitions were so fast that many of you told me you were missing some of them.  I would only get chance to mention it once or twice before it was over and given that most of you don't spend all day online you would sometimes miss it.   I want to make sure that you all get a fair chance to enter so now with 2 weeks to enter hopefully you all do.

Why do some competitions require more effort?

A past prize from The Eternal Maker
Every now and then our lovely site sponsors offer some big prizes sewing machines, sewing kits worth over £100 etc.  Now as with all of our prizes I want to make sure that these are going to genuine fans, people who use the site and follow me because they love sewing.  Unfortunately, there are a group of people out there who are what I would term 'professional competition enterers' who enter any and every competition, sharing links on their competition forums, spending hours entering competitions each day and often they don't actually want or need the prize.  In fact many of them either sell them on or swap them with others in their group (they have Facebook pages and forums where they do this).  I think many of you who run your own competitions know exactly who I am talking about!

When it comes to the big prizes I try to take extra precautions to make sure that these type of people are not entering, for instance by asking you to write a sewing tutorial (as with our christmas competiton), or answer a question that requires sewing knowledge etc to make sure it is genuine sewists winning the prize.  I'm sure that you, like me, would like to see our competition prizes going to people who will actually use them.

Geographical limits

A lot of my competitions are limited to the UK & Ireland.  Obviously one of the reasons for this is that this is where I, and the companies giving the prizes, are based.  Often prizes are provided by companies who only trade (and ship) within the UK.  Also on many occasions the cost of shipping abroad (especially books & bigger prizes like sewing machines) can be the same, or more than the prize itself.  The companies giving the prize are the ones who ship them out and often they are small businesses already giving up some of their profits to provide the prize so it would be unreasonable to expect them to pay even more to cover international shipping costs.

I do love the fact that we have a fan base around the world, in particular many fans visiting from Europe, America and Australia (hello all!) and I do try to ensure that every 2-3 months I source a prize that can be sent internationally so as not to exclude you, but I cannot do it every time. 

Anyway I hope that all of the above helps you understand why I run my competitions the way I do.  I am of course always open to suggestions so if you have any ideas please do comment below or contact us.  I look forward to many more great competitions!  Plus don't forget there's only 6 weeks left to enter the Christmas Competition which has over £1,000 worth of prizes!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Focus on...


Focus On... Blooming Felt
Blooming Felt are online suppliers of funky felt supplies.  Whether you are looking for felt sheets, felt shapes and felt balls or want the supplies to make your own felt you can find it all on their site.  They have a great own brand range of needle felt starter kits which priced at under £10 would make great gifts for craft loving friends. 
As well as their huge range of handmade 100% wool felt products they have a great selection of other colourful craft supplies including buttons, ribbons, trims and jewellery making supplies.  Also popular is their range of felt craft kits such as the pictured adorable penguin kit. 
What’s more their claim to fame is that they supply felt and craft supplies to CBeebies Zingzillas and to Paris Fashion Week 2011!  To view their site please visit: www.bloomingfelt.co.uk/

Friday, 2 September 2011

The Quilter's Guild needs your help

Unfolding the Quilts


Great news the Quilters' Guild have reached the finals of the National Lottery Awards with their Unfolding the Quilts project.  They need people to vote for them to help them win.

Watch the video below to find out more about their project and to vote for them please visit: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards


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