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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Boutique Basics: Using Instagram for Your Boutique

  There's been a lot of talk lately about how Facebook and Etsy are making changes that are hard on small boutiques. I completely agree and we don't have to let it drag us down!  When I first started my boutique I was having a hard time getting the facebook crowd that I wanted, so I asked my long-time friend how she was doing so well with her bow-making business online. Jackpot!  She gave me a bunch of great tips for selling on Instagram  (if you aren't familiar with it, you will be soon) -- and within a month I was getting more sales on Instagram than on my website and Facebook put together! 





Instagram is an online photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social networking app on devices, that enables its users to take pictures and videos, apply digital filters to them and share them on a variety of social networking services such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Blogger, and Flickr. It was launched in 2010 and last year it grew by 23% while Facebook only grew by 3%. What I love about Instagram is that our "followers" are able to see everything we post and not just the ones that a computer decides are important. To post on Instagram it is necessary to have a smartphone or other compatible device (most have it) but viewers can see our posts on a PC or any device that has internet! (Notice on the right column of our blog here that CKC has our instagram feed showing!) 
There is a LOT more to explain about selling on Instagram and that's why I brought in my friend and Instagram expert, Summer Robinson, to run us through her amazing advice!  She does not work for Instagram and she'll tell you right off that she's not an expert.  But I assure you that if you saw the armloads of packages that she hauls to her mailbox, you would definitely refer to her as the expert of all experts when it comes to a home-run boutique. So let's get to it.  Here's Summer!  

Hey! I'm Summer from Summer Sariah Barbecue Bows. I am a stay at home mom with two kids: Jemma is 3 and Parker is 19 months. I started selling my handmade product on etsy almost 4 years ago and then when fees got so high recently I switched to Storenvy. When orders are slow I brave Instagram to schedule and plan monthly sales! Please note that all ideas and words are my own and I am not a pro but I am sharing all the tips and tricks I have used thus far with all of you! My pictures are personal and most of them will come from my IG feed. Also I’m super casual and I write kind of like I talk so there will be some sarcasm involved!  I’ll try to keep it sweet and short and to the point and I apologize if it’s all over the place! I’ll be using "IG" a lot – it's short for Instagram!
Are you just starting to sell your handmade product and are unsure of where to start? Or you have been selling for months on etsy and/or facebook and sales are S.L.O.W., fees are high, and you are frustrated, just breaking even and need a new area to promote your business???
Well, I LOVE Instagram!!! I have made lasting friendships, traded, collaborated, connected with old friends and boosted my business and monthly sales. It is intimidating, it’s new, it’s confusing, it’s complicated -- but it is so so simple and so effective today for small businesses.
So whether you’re just starting out or you have been on IG for months this is all great information! 
-Set up an IG account using your business name, introduce yourself, and maybe post a picture stating your shipping and shop policies. Then post photos (good quality photos of your product being used and the process it takes to create it). In your profile share your email so that customers know where to contact you and your website so that one click takes them right to your shop!

- Browse IG. Follow other feeds that inspire you. Follow shops you love and follow your friends. Follow your followers and shoppers. Comment on their feeds and be an active follower. Share on your Facebook that you set up an IG account and will be having sales and post new products there. Link your Instagram to your facebook account so that when you post on IG it will automatically link to your facebook page and twitter. Make friends and buy product on IG. Post about your purchases when they come in the mail and boost other shops. Promote your friends' IG shops. Join a few groups. There are so many ways to connect through IG that it's overwhelming but beneficial for sure!
Your followers want to know you but they don’t really want to know you. Set up a personal IG or separate your personal IG from your business IG. I shared for the longest time and my siblings and even my husband would tell me they were sick of seeing bows! Once I separated, my followers went up, my husband was happy and my siblings were even happier (even though they all still follow my business feed just so they can see my progression and what I am doing business wise)!

- Gaining followers can be frustrating! I went from 200 to 2300 in 9 months. Some go from 60 to 6000 overnight! It is A LOT of work but can be so fun and so rewarding! The easiest way to gain more followers is to be an active follower and do giveaways with other small businesses that have more followers than you. I connected with a few very dear to my heart small businesses that were so accepting of me and were nice enough to do a small giveaway with me and share their followers. Hashtags are a great way to gain more followers as well as product reviews through blogs or trading with other shops on IG.
Giveaways - Do your own giveaways and do giveaways with other shops that have more followers. Here’s where the work comes in – you have to email and contact shops and ask them to be in a giveaway with you and then wait for a response. I emailed dozens of shops and a lot emailed back. (Some don’t but don’t get offended, they’re just busy or overwhelmed or maybe want to but completely forgot. I am guilty of this too!) Setting up a giveaway is a lot of work. I started out doing small ones (2-3 shops) and recently just put one together with a total of 19 shops. They are a lot of work but a great way to gain more followers. My personal advice – do not pay to be in a giveaway. You are already giving away your time and product. Paying someone is just an easy way for them to get quick cash and in most cases it won’t boost your following or your sales.  Do simple giveaways where the first 25 or 50 shares/comments are entered to win and then do more complex giveaways where they can enter once a day until the deadline and they have to share on their IG feed your photo with a hashtag specific to the giveaway. Each giveaway is great and fun. Be creative, but keep it simple. If there are too many steps your entries will be low, and to get the most out of any giveaway you want the most entries as possible.

Product Reviews – This is a great way to gain more followers, get a few sales and get more pictures to use on your feed. Send product to bloggers (make sure they have a great following first), and trade product with other great shops on IG. Bloggers love doing reviews, giveaways to get more followers, and giving their readers a coupon code. If you have friends that blog ask them to do a product review; you give them your product and in return they give you honest reviews and quality photos. This is a lot of work and you are giving away your time and money but in return you are potentially gaining more customers and followers. I try to do either one product review a month or one trade a month. Sometimes it’s more and sometimes I don’t have the time but I am always staying active and feel that is better than not having anything to do. Trading is a great way to gain more followers. It’s basically free. You get what you want and they get what they want, and you both post pictures of your treasures and share each other’s great product with your followers and you both boost your followings as well. It’s a win win for everyone!
Hashtags – When posting on IG, hashtags are great if someone is looking for a product that falls under your category. Personally I use them just for fun because I don’t have enough time to add 10 hashtags when I shouldn’t be posting on IG anyways (I should be folding the 10th unfolded load of laundry or doing the dishes). I have found great shops and products though by searching hashtags. My advice (since this is all my advice) keep it simple and to the point. Have a business hashtag as well as product hashtags. For example my company is Summer Sariah Barbecue Bows, so when I post a picture of a bow I will hashtag in #summersariah #barbecuebows and maybe add a few other generic ones as well including #bows, #bow, #bigbows, #headband and much much more.
Pictures – You want to have a follower take one look at your shop feed and know exactly what you do and you want them to instantly fall in love! Make sure your photos are clear, focused, clean and aesthetically pleasing. That doesn’t mean you have to have a fancy camera and edit every photo on the computer before you post to IG. I take most of my pictures with my iphone but I make sure and use natural light when I can and I do have great apps that HELP a ton! Also use the same filter or choose 2 or 3 and stick with those. You want your feed to look cohesive as whole and not 50 shades of who knows what. A few of my favorites are Typic Pro – it’s like a one stop shop. You can edit the photo, crop, add a border, add text, and add icons as well as your business logo and so much more! I use Diptic for making collages and when I want to be trendy I use the ‘A Beautiful Mess’ app. My all time new favorite app (and this is just for fun it has no business boosting magic) is Waterlogue – it will turn any beautiful photo into a gorgeous watercolor. Another great app I don’t have but need is the Rhonna Farrer app ‘Rhonna Designs’. (I just purchased it!)



When posting photos USE A WATERMARK! It is so important for your pictures to have a watermark so that one - no one steals them, and two - when and if someone wants to share your photo they share your business name as well. TypicPro is a great app to add a small watermark without taking away from the beautiful product all while burning your business name into their brain!
Photo Description/Content – This is where you describe your photo, add details and let your followers into your little world of handmade. Keep it simple! Most of the time they don’t have time to read your novels, and remember that a picture is worth a thousand words. The most important thing to do is engage your followers. You want likes and comments because when friends of your followers check out whats happening on IG they will see their friends movement on IG. Make sense? I get a lot of followers from just seeing their friends like or comment on my photos. So how to get followers engaged? Good pictures are a must and when adding text think about how you can get them to comment. Ask a question. For example “New products just listed – which is your favorite?” or “Who’s excited for Friday?” Simple questions that are easy to respond to! Have fun with it and let your personality shine through!

When to Post – This is SOOOO important. You shouldn’t post new product on Friday night at 9:30 pm and hope for an overwhelming response. Why? Most people go out on Friday night, right? Or if they didn’t go out ‘in my perfect world’ the kids are fast asleep and I’m taking a hot bubble bath with a good book and absolute silence! I could care less what is new on IG!!! Remember I’m not a pro but Monday mornings are a hit! Tuesdays and Thursdays are slow but I have noticed Tuesdays are a good day for a sale. I like to have sales when my kids are taking naps and it’s usually 12 or 12:30 to 3:00. During lunch is good too if some moms want to shop but are at work on their lunch break. They might be able to grab a few minutes on IG and snag that favorite product they have been eyeing for the last two weeks. Weekends are not great for posting new news and/or products unless it's super exciting and you just can’t wait! Good photos for weekends are “what I am working on now” or “family time at the park – taking a break from work”. The most opportune times to post are the ‘high traffic’ times. This is hard to pin point but late mornings 9:30-11:30 are great. Breakfast is over, the rush of getting to work is over, or kids are at school and there is some downtime before lunch. Late lunch is great – before moms go back to work there are a few minutes of down time. Lunch is over and kids are napping so you have a few minutes to check your phone. And last, late afternoon and right before dinner is amazing 3 -5:30. I get on to find a recipe for dinner and find myself browsing IG. The kids are being good or you’re just getting home from work and you have 20 minutes before you have to worry about dinner.  Late weeknights have been oddly good for me too lately anywhere from 9:30-10:30 I like to post pictures of late night order filling or “I just made this!” or “I made this but am unsure about it and need some advice”.  I don’t ever follow this to a T! Life is crazy and you post when you get a chance or a breather and sometimes it is always late at night! Just remember keep it simple and let your personality shine through!
Shipping – I ship using stamps.com. I know you can use paypal to ship or the local United States Postal Service but for me stamps.com is a hit! Here is why – I signed up for a 30 day free trial and paid $9.95 for a $50 scale. 3 oz. packages are a $1.93 with tracking and then it goes up from there. I ship priority starting at $5.05. It is less than the rates at the Post Office but the $15.99 makes up for it. I can ship from home in my pajamas, bra-less at 2 in the morning because I’m on a deadline! I am a stay at home mom, my husband’s a potato farmer, we live out in the middle of nowhere and our local small town post office doesn’t even give receipts. No offense to the small town PO, but a credit card receipt and writing the amount of postage due on my package isn’t reassuring. Instead I pay $15.99 a month to ship from the comfort of my own home and YES I ship internationally. I leave my packages in the mailbox and the mailman picks them up and I only leave my house to put them in the mailbox! The next closest post office is 25 miles away and it’s not exactly a happy day when my kids have to stand in line with me while I wait for the postal worker to label and ship 25 packages. I end up with one on my hip and the other one crying because they pinched their fingers or hit their head and I want to cry from the stress and time I wasted driving into town, running errands, packing two toddlers, missing naptime, checking off lists, and standing in line! It’s well worth it.
Now that you’re up to date on all the IG account information you are ready to have your first exclusive IG sale!
-  First you need to schedule a date and set a time, and then post letting your followers know when to get on IG with their PayPal email address copied and ready to paste. It takes time to post and add a description to every photo posted so you need to give yourself enough uninterrupted time to post everything, maintain, and answer questions. I have done sales where I post one item and then say ‘12 available’ which doesn’t take any longer than a regular post and most of those I don’t schedule. There are sales where you can post a handful of items and on each one say ‘5 available’. There are also ‘ready to ship’ sales where you have everything made and post sizes, quantities and all the details and most items are ‘only 1 available’.
- For most sales I set a date and then let my followers know what day, what time and what I will be selling. I prepare and have everything made and then photographed the day before. I type up the descriptions in my notes app on my iphone so that when the sale is live all I have to do is copy and paste my descriptions.
- Prior to the sale I will post a ‘1 hour’ warning and then a ’30 minute’ warning and then post my shipping prices and sale policies.
-  I have my business feed and then recently just set up an account for IG sales only. I found that every time I did a sale on IG  with a lot of posted photos in a row, I would lose 50-100 followers. This way I can keep all my followers without clogging up their feeds with sales they aren’t interested in and have an IG feed dedicated only to sales and have followers that actually want to shop and buy from me. I think I only have 200 followers but they are 200 followers that shop and spend money as opposed to followers who just follow to join a giveaway.

- When pricing items people love to see low shipping or no shipping and a higher priced item as opposed to a low priced item and shipping charges per item or higher shipping. Also don’t charge a PayPal fee. Just calculate it into the shipping or the price of the item. People love a good sale so give them a deal if you can. Maybe on certain sale dates or certain items say ‘buy three or more and get $3 off’ or ‘spend $30 and get free shipping’.
- Post somewhere obvious when your items will be shipped. I always give myself at least 12 business days and then 9 times out of 10 I can always ship a week earlier. This leaves buyers happy when they were expecting their items in two weeks but receive in the mail in a week!
-  Post your pictures and description and then wait for people to start leaving their emails.
- Once your sale is finished type “SOLD OUT” on each photo so that people don’t try and purchase something you don’t have any more of.
-  A great way to get more people to your sale and your feed is to post a ‘sneak peek’ of sale items and say ‘sale Tuesday 11 am. Share for $1 off!’  Remember to make it simple and an easy 1-step process so that other stay at home moms or working moms have time to repost.

- I always say “back up emails welcome” because a lot of times people change their minds and/or just don’t pay their invoices in general. Or if the product is a hit and I didn’t think it would be and a lot of people want one I can invoice everyone that was interested. Make sure you can fill backup orders before you invoice them!
- Invoice soon. If you don’t have a PayPal account you need to set one up! It’s super simple and super convenient. Don’t accept gifting unless you know the buyer personally. You cannot open a claim against anything that has been gifted. State somewhere that invoices need to be paid within 24 hours or it will be canceled. It’s a lot of work to invoice and edit and maintain. Plus if they aren’t a serious buyer the backup email might be and you aren’t stuck sitting on product that sold but buyer didn’t pay.
-  Have AMAZING customer service. State somewhere in your shop policies that if they have any questions comments or concerns to please email you. REMEMBER, no matter what, THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT. If it was not stated anywhere on their invoice or your IG feed then they are right. Always do whatever you can to do whatever will make the customer happy. You want returning customers as well as new customers and if one shopper is happy they are going to continue to buy and they are going to tell all their friends, who will tell their friends. It’s a ripple effect. If they aren’t happy for whatever reason they will never buy again and they will tell their friends what a horrible experience they had - the end of your future customers.
- When packaging and shipping orders I add a product card. It’s bigger than a business card, contains all my contact information, website, social media feeds and on the back it has an area where I can write in a coupon code. I always do anywhere from 30-50% off coupon codes. Most of the time they aren’t going to use it but if they do, ‘CHA CHING’, they are a returning customer and that’s what you want.

Remember, be an active Instagram follower and keep it simple and everything else will fall into place!
If you have an Instagram business account and are interested in collaborating to gain more followers, planning a giveaway, want to trade product or have a few questions, you are more than welcome to email me at summersrobinson@gmail.com. My personal IG is @sumshizzle (a college nickname), my business account is @summersariah and my business sale account is @shopsummersariah. I love making new friends, I LOVE trading and I am more than happy to help you reach your IG goals! I would love to hear about your first Instagram sale or your IG success stories! 
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Woo! Isn't Summer fabulous?! That was so much awesome info packed into one blog post! I hope it will be as helpful to you as it has been for me, and I can definitely vouch for Summer's sincerity (she loves helping people) and her inspiring work-from-home success. Sometimes it's overwhelming to jump into something new, but I'm confident that with these helps you can definitely make it happen for your boutique. 
Let's Create! ~ Kristen 

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