I have met many talented artists, makers and designers in my career, who make beautiful work, but have no clue about marketing themselves. They may have set up an online shop or are dabbling in social media, but are all struggle with the same question: how do we get seen and earn money online and offline? Digital marketing for creative businesses, where do you start?
Be social: network offline and online
Before we get into the online bit, here is tip one: networking is very important, both online and offline. Knowing lots of people helps. Go to local business events, workshops, talks. Speak to people, exchange business cards, ask questions, LEARN. Chances are you will always come away with at least one new idea, useful contact or a bit of info that will help you move forward. Not everyone is comfortable introducing themselves to new people at such events, but just remember that people are all there for the same reasons: they want to learn something new and meet new people. So don’t be shy, because you have something pretty cool to talk about: your business.
Tackle social media like a boss
Which social media platforms are best for your business? It depends on what you sell. If you own a design business, you obviously have plenty of gorgeous visual material to use in your marketing. Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are therefore great media. On Facebook you can easily set up a Page for your business, sharing news and photos, videos and links. Nina’s Apartment currently has just under 5,000 Likes which didn’t happen overnight but grew through being engaging, entertaining – paying for some posts now and then (you can boost a post to reach more people) and just generally being active on it.
Saying you are ‘not into’ social media or online marketing is going to harm your business. You have to use social media – there is no way around it, if you want to be seen online. Again, perhaps a learning curve for some and a whole new field to explore, but it is fun and mostly free. I find it in fact quite a creative exercise, to design Instagram posts and blog articles. With the right approach it can really make your brand and product stand out and reach a big audience. Yes, it can be all consuming and rather addictive even, but if you choose your accounts wisely and set dedicated time aside to update them regularly (or use an app like hootsuite to schedule posts and update them all simultaneously for you), then it is not so daunting.
Design professional graphics with Canva
To create beautiful social media posts, or even e-books, flyers and business cards, I recommend Canva. The free account gives you many templates to design professional looking graphics. I couldn’t be without anymore!
Instagram, stories and hashtags
Instagram is a great social platform to share and promote your work, WORLD-WIDE! Post daily or a few times a week and make sure you use suitable hashtags to attract visitors looking for such topics. Use one of the online hashtag generators to find out which # are trending or popular in your field.
The stories feature on Instagram is a great way to post about your daily practice, behind-the scenes, things that inspire you or special offers, etc. The stories are only visible for 24h, but usually get seen by more people than the posts.
Twitter: connect with (local) media and journalists
Twitter is different and less useful for artists and designers in my opinion, with the added challenge of saying something worth reading in only 140 characters. However, Twitter can be good for following professionals, journalists and bloggers in the industry. If you are active on Twitter and start to reply to tweets by people you want to connect with (or be seen by), it is not too difficult to all of a sudden be speaking to a celebrity! Or perhaps a magazine that may be interested in featuring your work.
Be human, show the people behind the business
Social media is about showing the human face behind your business. It is about connecting with your customers, lowering the threshold, having a conversation. Smile, be nice, be yourself. Your website can be more static and informative – your social media activity however should be fun. An informal, friendly voice talking about what you do and why you do it, rather than a one-way stream of information about opening hours and what you have on offer this week. Listening to people as much as talking to them (and not at them – get it?) is a helpful way to find out what your customers need and think of your business. The ultimate goal of being on social media is to make people want to be part of what you do, to love your brand and tell others about it. Because once you get the ball rolling, social media really is ‘word of mouth on steroids’.
To establish your business name and brand (and remember, a ‘brand’ is not the same as a logo, it is the whole package: from type font to customer service!) you want to create recognition. A consistent use of logo, colours, images, type font and tone of voice are therefore pretty important in order to come across as someone who knows what she’s doing. Decide how you want to be seen, what look or style you want to portray and stick with it across all of your marketing. It will make your material online and offline look professional, coherent and recognisable.
I am not talking about your looks here. I mean the way your business is portrayed in everything you publish. If you design or craft things you want to sell or get seen, make sure your photography is up to scratch too – and consistent. Ever been on Etsy? You are probably drawn to those pictures that are really making the product stand out: white background, no clutter, beautiful styling. Keep this in mind when taking photos of your own products.
Don’t make things complicated though, just use what you have already and your imagination. You can easily take photos on your smartphone, against the same background (consistency!), and then edit them with the built-in image app or putting filters on them on Instagram. There are lots of great free mobile apps available to turn photos into videos / slideshows, add text, or turn them into collages. All very useful to make your product look pretty and be great at digital marketing for creatives.
Having an actual website is still important despite having your social media accounts. A website is your base, your home, the place where all your social media lead back to. This can be an online shop or a blog (my website/blog is built on WordPress). But everything you put out on social media should lead back to the base. And make sure you can be found.
Spend time on SEO
Spending time learning about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is pretty useful if you want to drive organic traffic to your website. After all, you want lots of people to visit your online business! If this kind of techy web thing dazzles you, I recommend hiring a cheap freelancer on Fiverr, to put things in place for you pretty quickly.
SEO Basics? Pay attention to all descriptions, words you use in titles, image captions, links – and get others to link back to your website too. Find out what popular keywords people type into Google on sites like Keywordtool and use them on your website.
Build an email list
An email newsletter is a great tool to directly contact your customers and keep a relationship with existing fans and clients. Collecting email addresses is therefore a good idea online, but also if you sell at fairs or other physical events. Software Like Mailchimp is free up to a certain amount of addresses, and easy to use and makes your newsletters look professional and attractive. These apps also offer very useful reports in who opens and clicks on links. It also tells you a lot about what campaigns work and which not.
Pinterest: the visual search engine
Pinterest…oh Pinterest. My favourite! Great for inspiration and highly addictive, but also be another tool for yourself to promote your products/business – linking back to your website. I have found that good, original images and graphics pinned from my blog, drive a lot of traffic back to my website. People look for certain colour schemes, products and ideas, so if you can give them what they want on Pinterest and make them click, you have just got yourself another website visitor. Now, make sure you have plenty of high quality content to keep that new visitor on your site. And don’t forget to tempt them to subscribe to your newsletter.
Video tutorials, e-courses and e-books for digital marketing
I know a lot of people who successfully use Youtube or Vimeo as well to boost their reputation and follower numbers. How about creating little ‘how-to’ videos or demos about what you do? Or a tour around your shop or studio? Videos have the added bonus of rating higher on Facebook, reaching more people. Video content is very effective and keeps people’s attention much longer than just a picture. Try it. You can post video content on all platforms.
If you are doing OK selling on Etsy or perhaps you have a physical shop, but would like to earn a passive income too, look at creating an e-course or e-book. Teachable and Listenable are great platforms to create both visual courses and audio courses on. If you fancy creating an e-book, I recommend Designrr, which helps you design beautiful e-books which you can start selling online.
Digital marketing for creatives: add an SEO blog
Last but not least: start a blog. A blog is very useful to increase visibility online. Why? Because Google and other search engines LOVE fresh content. Adding a blog post to your website once or twice a month will really help your website to rank higher. Use the right keywords, and people who are searching for something, will arrive at your website for the answer. What do you write about? Make sure it is something useful, beautiful, entertaining or informative. Around 500 words is enough. And break up the text with two or three gorgeous images.
don’t try to sell your products and services constantly on your social media platforms. use those creative skills in your marketing too.
Aim for high quality content that makes people want to come back to again and again because they like hanging out with you and your brand. What would you find interesting to read yourself? Getting them to subscribe to your newsletter is a great idea to keep the readers with you.