Make Networking Meaningful
When I first started selling on Etsy, I noticed that a lot of other sellers mentioned teams in their shop announcements. Some people were on local “street teams” – others were on teams organized by craft. Artfire has something similar, called Guilds. I was looking for a way to get my name out there, so I decided to investigate.
One of the products I sell is personalized/initial jewelry for moms. So, I thought it would be only natural to seek out mom-related “teams” on Etsy – thinking I’d find my target market right there. And while I did learn some very interesting tips (I’ll be sharing one in particular in my next article!) the group itself wasn’t quite the right fit for me. So I sought out a few more.
Two months later, some of those groups STILL haven’t contacted me back. In the meantime, I’ve kept searching. One group got back to me right away – I jumped in, and I’m so glad I did.
When I set out to find a team on Etsy, I did it with sales and targeted audiences in mind. To date, I haven’t had any sales within my group (I did make one trade!) but I have gained so much more. Etsy’s Team CAC discussion thread is one of my first stops each morning and one of the last stops I make at the end of my day.
The reason I keep going back is that selling online is HARD WORK, but within that team I can find a great deal of support and feedback. There are people there who I can celebrate with when I do get sales, and people who can pick me back up when I’m feeling discouraged. And we’re ALL thinking of ways to support and promote each other – something you definitely need to succeed when you’re selling online.
Getting into a team, guild or group is something I’d recommend to any online seller. Here are my suggestions for making it work for you:
- If you’re on Etsy or Artfire, start with their internal message boards. The people there know exactly what you’re going through.
- If you’re solo, check out Yahoo! Groups, Café Handmade, Ning and other social networking sites. If you have a suggestion for a site not mentioned here, put it in the comments so others can find it!
- Shop around. Check out multiple groups. You may not find your fit right away.
- Remember, it’s a TWO-WAY (or four-way…or ten-way…conversation). You can’t just drop in, promote yourself, and walk out and wait for the sales. If you only talk about yourself, you’re really just teaching people to ignore your posts.
- Remember that age-old rule from junior high – if you want to make friends, you have to BE a friend. It’s very, very easy to feel ignored online. Don’t take it personally! You have to work at your online friendships, just as you would in your “real-world” ones.
When it comes to networking through teams, groups and guilds, the payoff can be much more rewarding than money. You can find mentoring relationships, emotional support, honest feedback and plenty of other value that make message boards worth your time. Just make sure to budget your time – so that your chatting doesn’t take away from your business.
Heck, you might even find some sales. While I haven’t sold to the people I’ve networked with, I have bought from them. And when Christmas comes around, I already know where I’m getting a lot of gifts. Because I know the person behind the shop, I can’t wait until I have the chance to support them.
Kristin Walters is a writer, crafter, and mother. Her shop, www.one9designs.etsy.com combines her passion for all three. Check out that site for personalized, hand-stamped sterling silver word jewelry in creative inspirational and family-related designs.