I first learned about Academy of Handmade through Twitter, where I heard they would be launching a San Francisco chapter in September.
They have three goals:
- Celebrate and recognize those who are making significant contributions to the handmade economy.
- Strengthen beginning and existing handmade businesses.
- Connect the handmade business community through meaningful relationships.
Their commitment to help grow handmade businesses really resonated with me, so I hopped over to Instagram and followed them right away. If you feel weird about what to do on Twitter, check them out. They use Twitter to celebrate the successes of others in the handmade industry instead of just tweeting about themselves all the time. Plus, it seems like they're always having a great time. Read my tips on writing Twitter and Instagram profiles for your brand. They're not the same.
1. Who are you, what do you do, and how did it all begin?
Hi! I’m Sharon Fain and I am the co-founder of Academy of Handmade Artists and Supporters and I also own Right Brain PR. I started Academy of Handmade because I saw there was a need to recognize and support professional makers. My friend KC and I had already been working in the industry a bit already and really saw a need for it as so many of our friends’ businesses were taking off. So the Academy was born and now we host workshops, social get togethers and, of course, our big awards show.
2. Where can we find you on social media?
3. What is your favorite hashtag?
The hashtag I use the most to find my “people” is #etsy. I wish there was a better one for professional makers that everyone used, but that’s it. My favorite fun one that my friend @bourbonandgoose uses is #emojisinthewild. I see them all the time now!
4. Why do you use social media?
I use social media to let followers get a glance into the operations of Academy of Handmade, see the events we do and let them know about our events. We also rely on it heavily to publicize when nominations open for the Academy of Handmade Awards.
5. Which tools do you use for creating or posting content?
I use IFTTT to use post our Instagram photos to Facebook and Twitter. My go-to tools for creating images are Afterlight and Word Swag. I also use Google Drive’s Drawing tool and Canva online. I don’t use it for Academy of Handmade much, but for some of my client’s I’ve used Latergram.me to schedule content. I also like using InsTrack for tracking followers and fan interactions.
6. What effect does social media have on your business?
It really depends. I feel like Instagram by far has been our most successful tool for people finding and connecting with us. This is huge. Twitter has been the same to some degree, too. It’s also one of the best ways for us to get the word out about events.
7. How do you measure success on social media?
It’s hard because there are few different goals involved. Of course, when you post something and everyone is liking and commenting on it, you know you’re doing something right. That said, working with sponsors there’s a fair amount of pressure to have certain numbers in order to show “reach.” But I don’t fixate on the numbers as success because at the end of the day likes and the number of followers doesn’t (directly) pay the bills. It’s how you connect with them.
8. What aspect of social media do you find most challenging?
When you’re running your business on your own, it can be quite difficult to run many different social media platforms. In fact, I just met with a volunteer today who is going to start helping us with our Pinterest (it’s a very sad and a little embarrassing at the moment). It’s been a struggle for me to create a business strategy for that platform since it’s less about “Here’s what I’m doing… let’s do things together!” and more about “Here’s what I like! Do you like it too?” As a service-based business you have to approach it a little differently to be effective.
9. What makes you follow another brand back?
For Academy of Handmade lately I’ve really tried to narrow it to people who are makers and that are in the major areas we have or are going to have chapters. It still winds up being a fair amount even narrowing it. I want to see what people are up to and see what’s happening in the maker community.
10. Which brands have social media you admire?
Weirdly (or maybe not), for being a neighborhood donut shop @californiadonuts is really killing it on Instagram. They interact with their fans and are always “on brand.” I also love how my friend and Academy member @newdressaday uses Facebook and Instagram to preview her blog and also post projects her fans are working on. I love seeing social media used as a two-way street (which is harder to do than it looks!).
11. Any advice for other brands just getting started on social media?
I guess the biggest thing I see (I’m combing through Instagram photos A LOT) is that people don’t use Instagram for business and are often off brand. They take photos of things that are cute and don’t ask “What story is this telling people?” It’s really hard to get caught up in just taking fun photos and not using it like a business tool. Makers (and I’m sure other businesses) are also constantly posting photos with TERRIBLE lighting. If you have product, it is CRUCIAL to learn how to take photos with your phone in good light and positioned clearly.
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