Still selling your handmade crafts on Facebook? That’s soo last decade! Anyone who’s scrolled through a feed full of cat videos, baby pictures, status messages, random petitions and selfies from last night’s party will tell you how hard it is for hard work to stand out and find buyers. For DIY craftspeople, home bakers, urban artisans and budding designers, there’s a new marketplace: Instagram.
The photo-sharing app is a great platform to showcase your creativity – Instagram is easier to use. Just point, shoot, tag and you’re done. It is designed to present visuals over chatter (no long-winded descriptions needed) and is hashtag heavy (so you can sift through food, fashion, décor or other images faster).
Best of all, it’s free. Here’s how to become an Insta-expert if you want to sell your goods.
Quirk it up
There are thousands of competitors on Instagram selling similar products as yours, says Dimple Sanghvi of The Mad Batter, which sells cakes and confectionery and has 1,204 followers. So when all you have are images to promote your products, make sure they look unique.
“Staying quirky is the key,” she says. Sanghvi plays with colour, design, and flavour – mint-flavoured nankhatai and towers of glitter-filled cookies. Her fun variations on Instagram got her noticed by food critics and she landed up on an Indian culinary show on television.
Aria Parikh of Dreamweb, which sells dream-catchers around the globe, says that exclusivity gives you an edge. “You’ll never see us doing the same designs, which creates a buzz about the product.”
Here’s the thing about quirk and exclusivity – people often have no idea what you’re selling. For most DIY gurus, starting out is especially tough.
Parikh, who got the idea of making and selling dream-catchers on a trip to the US, learned this the hard way. “Initially, it was difficult to explain the concept to people. Some thought they were wind chimes, others imagined them as wall hangings,” she says. “For a long time, I had only 20-30 followers. It took a lot of work and exhibitions to get the word out and finally get customers.”
Meghna Mehta, co-owner (with her friend Heli Shah) of The Pinkmint Store, which makes bags, clothing, customised phone cases and accessories, had to target customers directly too. “I started by following regular buyers on other pages,” she says. The ones who were interested began following her back, and word spread. The store currently has 13,700 followers.
Timing is everything
“Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are good days to post something new,” says Mehta. “Your customers have more time to look through products on the weekend.” She would know.
The Pinkmint Store’s customised phone cases got such an overwhelming response that they had to create a separate page, @thepinkmint_mobilestore, for them. “After 8pm is ideal, as people usually get done from work around then,” she says.
Another window of opportunity is the between 1.30pm and 3.30pm on weekdays. “Most people like to catch up on social media during their lunch breaks, while they chat with their colleagues and a grab a bite,” she says. Promotional offerings during festivals and the wedding season are bound to be more successful. Mehta aims for two posts a day and readies her products, photos, description and graphics so she can schedule her posts a week in advance. Sanghvi posts around three times a week.
Think like an artist
Badly shot pictures are annoying in the real world, but on Instagram they spell death – for your brand and your business. Parikh hires a professional photographer for her posts. “The focus should be on the product, and the picture should accurately reflect the product’s appearance,” she says. “Your image should make a user stop on your post while they are scrolling.” Mehta’s images include a hint of the colours pink and mint, to create brand recall. And often, a clear, straightforward shot works better than any filters or frills, finds Anjali Malhotra of the home décor brand 10am. “You don’t want too much happening in your picture, because you don’t want people to look at, say, the cushions in the background.”
When captioning your pictures, posting random quotes by famous personalities won’t bring in the sales. A proper description of your product will.
“The text below the picture needs to be specific,” says Mehta. Mention the price and make hashtags your lifeline. “People search through hashtags, so if someone searches for the tag ‘pink’, my page will appear,” she explains.
Don’t go overboard. Pick from within a set of hashtags (#OOTD or Outfit Of The Day for fashion products, #FoodPorn for snacks). “I avoid random tags like #followforfollow and #tagsforlikes,” says Sanghvi. Malhotra divides her tags into two parts: what the product is and what it can be used for. “Our captions are fun and involve puns and metaphors related to the product. Keep it simple yet entertaining.”
Tie-ups with more famous bloggers or better-known pages will help you piggyback to success. “They feature your products on their page and this can get their followers to follow you too,” says Mehta. Also, organising quick-window flash sales to generate a buzz and develop a loyal following is a great idea. Parikh recently did a lucky draw giveaway aimed at increasing her customer base. “That way more people landed up seeing my page,” she says.
And always, always keep the conversation going. Encourage customers to post pictures of themselves wearing or using your products. “You want people to tag their friends and comment on your pictures so it’s important to engage with your customers,” says Malhotra.
When you’re not posting product pictures, stick to images that match the mood or theme of your brand.
Open up to the world
Be detailed in your “About” section so impatient cellphone users know what you’re selling and how to reach you.
Make online retailing easy by tying up with e-payment sites so customers can buy instantly.
Of Instagram’s 75 million daily users, 35 per cent check their feed more than once a day. So give them something to look forward to. Winning ideas include behind-the-scenes shots, a flatlay shot (positioning your products flat on the ground) or artfully arranged still life, complementing them with visually pleasing elements like fairy lights or striking cutlery.
Being social is integral to social media, since your customers are only meeting your products virtually. So, respond to the most basic questions, and acknowledge even the bizarre requests. Sanghvi once got a request to make cupcakes with panty motifs for a bachelorette party – she said yes!
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From HT Brunch, December 14
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