Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Grow Your Business with Social Media: Etsy Forums

Since the social networking craze began, many small business owners have gone from dabbling on Twitter, broadcast marketing on Facebook, and posting a few pictures on Flickr and internet forums to amassing hundreds, if not thousands of followers on these networks.

Yet, they've accomplished so much more than just attracting a big following; they've figured out who their target audience is and where they hang out, making it possible to grow a community which recognizes and loves their brand, mostly for FREE!

Let's face it, many small business owners, including EtsyMoms, want to get in on the game but are unsure of the "rules" or think they don't have time. So, we've invited 5 business women, most of whom sell on etsy and each successful in their own rites, to answer your questions if you're on the fence about adding social networking to your marketing plan.

Each Wednesday during February, our guest bloggers will cover a different aspect:

Feb 2nd - Intro and Etsy Forums - Meg Finn (Vintage Scraps)

Feb 9th - The ins and outs of Facebook- Melissa Lopez (WhimsyPics)

Feb 16th - Success with Twitter - Plats (Platipuses)

Feb 23rd - Multiple Social Networks -
Chelsea Ling (Papercakes) and Tara Gentile (ScoutieGirl)

Today's post focuses on becoming a greater part of the etsy community by engaging other shopowners and potential customers in the Etsy Forums. The questions pertain to etsy, but one can apply the principles to other business-related internet forums too.

Meet Meg Finn, owner of Vintage Scraps, the go-to etsy shop for retro, nostalgic paper goods. She happily shares the secrets of her success with others on the etsy forums. With over 1,465 sales in just 3 years, her recent forum thread, "Tweaks that Tripled My Takings", is often one of the most visited topics. Meg offered this insight to our readers :

When, why and how did you begin participating in the etsy forums?

I started participating in the forums as soon as I figured out what it was. I was asking questions and meeting people, and found the etsy community to be completely helpful.

How much time do you devote to the forums; has the amount increased or decreased over time and how do you fit that into your daily routine?

My time spent in the forums has dropped drastically, due to my business becoming extremely busy.

How has your forum participation affected your bottom line? Do you feel it is key to your business growth?

I don’t think I could have made my shop operate to its best potential without all the advice I found on the forums. The posts were such an easy to follow, concise and simplified collection of online business helps.

Some shop owners say they shy away from the forum because there is too much "negativity", have you experienced this and how do you get past it/work around it?

Like everyone else, I’m occasionally drawn to the “train wreck” posts, which can be harsh and negative, but they seem to be the small minority in comparison to the wealth of positive comments and posts.

What are some of your favorite forum questions to field?

I love the business topics, especially when I can answer questions that I remember having! I also know what it’s like to feel discouraged, so I really enjoy dropping a quick note of encouragement when I can.

Are there forum "rules of etiquette?"

I believe in a rule my sister taught me long ago: if it’s negative, don’t write it down! It’s true for letters and email as well as blogs. People are so often unnecessarily hurt by others taking advantage of the camouflage of a computer.

Do you use any other social media sites in conjunction with the forum?

Other than occasional blog or Facebook visit, I don’t spend much time online outside etsy.

What advice would you give to a new shop owner wanting to get the most mileage out of the Forums/in what area(s) of the Forum should they focus, especially if they have limited time?

The Business Topics and Site Help sections of the forums are loaded with amazing information, and I’ m constantly amazed at the time people are willing to give to other shop owners to help them succeed.

Meg is a self taught collage artist and vintage enthusiast, mother of three teens and one amazing husband. She is also a retreat and camp speaker, and a huge fan of everything etsy!

Join us next Wednesday, as Melissa Lopez, owner of WhimsyPics, addresses the "Ins and Outs of Marketing on Facebook".