A Short Lesson in Modern French Slang

Bon Chic Bon Genre. Observe the first letter in each word and say them as one word. "Baysaybayzhay." Say that more quickly and there it is, "Baisebeige!" Translated, it refers to people who think they're all that. I am exploring the changing values of world culture and expressing through dress the evolving image of the pillar of our modern society.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Marketing on Twitter



I describe my own experience with marketing on Twitter as a blend of failing forward and learning by doing. I believed Twitter was an ideal platform for shamelessly self-promoting my own content, but in my early days online I had very little content of my own. I did the next best thing. I published sponsored tweets for an online ad agency. I could write the tweet content, and the tweets were automatically posted during times of high engagement. As pennies per click added up to hundreds of dollars, I learned valuable lessons about when to post and the best formats for tweets. Times have changed and Twitter's own sponsored tweet program has driven the agencies from the network. In fact, the appearance of the network is different. Instead of being a stream of text messages, timelines have become visual and tweets with images or video are most effective at capturing attention. I have learned to observe what others do to get ideas for my own projects.

Because big brands have marketing strategies that are not very relevant to small businesses, I have a tendency to visit their profiles, instead of following them, to look for information and promotions. Any business's well-managed social media profile is a place for sharing and discussing content (Ryan & Jones, 2009). However, the small businesses and organizations in my own timeline are a source of ideas and tactics I can model. It is especially beneficial for me to see their tweets in real time and in the context of online chatter. The most eye-catching tweets have "pictures worth 1000 words" and are crafted to complement the text of the tweet. I observe social listening practices to see how small brands engage users and see how hashtags are used for market targeting. Once again, I find myself failing forward and learning by doing as I promote my chicken sweater shop for an Etsy contest. With just one day into the project and just one brand image to promote, I am discovering that the more Twitter changes, the more it stays the same. It's going to take considerable work and patience to determine an actionable strategy to fit my purposes, but my belief that Twitter is a formidable marketing platform is still unwavering.

Reference

Ryan, D., & Jones, C. (2009). Understanding digital marketing: Marketing strategies for engaging    
     the digital generation. [Books24x7 version] Retrieved from
     http://common.books24x7.com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/toc.aspx?bookid=31037




Thursday, March 16, 2017

My Moving Experience... Part I

The house where I had been living had a certain je ne sais quoi from before the time when I moved in more than two years ago. For more than twenty years, every resident who moved out filled up the dumpster on the way out. What a curiosity, right?

It didn't take long after moving in to begin to understand why. I've lived in old houses for most of my adult life and never had negative experiences. My luck completely changed. A variety of toxic conditions took a terrible toll on my health, including impacting my ability to walk.

Drastic action was required and I joined the ranks of former tenants who discarded significant worldly goods on the way to a healthier future. I snapped a quick pic of my first dumpster load from the kitchen window. It was too physically taxing at that point to even go outdoors and capture a better image. I filled the dumpster a second time. I only kept things that were well-protected from the environment in the building the whole time, which included my Etsy shop merchandise and supplies, art supplies and tools, my clothing, my kitchen equipment and tools, a couple of small pieces of furniture, and a few precious personal items.

I did have a plan in the beginning of the move and was as well-prepared as I possibly could be. Since I had lived in my neighborhood since 1989 and didn't have a good idea of where else I would want to live, I was going to live in a temporary place for awhile. However, at the last minute, my friend reneged on the room, leaving me the choice of living on the street or checking into a hotel.

To be perfectly fair to the person who was helping me move everything I had left from my life into storage, I let him choose the general location of the hotel for convenience, since there was more work to do after that apartment had been vacated. I made the final choice of hotel after seeing the selection on Shadeland Avenue. You have to understand that I have only spent a maximum of two hours total on Shadeland Avenue in the whole 35 years I have lived in Indianapolis.

Then, the most unexpected thing happened after I became isolated in an unfamiliar place. The person who was helping me with moving and transportation unexpectedly abandoned the responsibility. That left me stuck worse than I have ever been stuck as I helplessly watched the hotel room rate erode my moving fund.

I found irony in the situation, though. It was fascinating that a decision that I made to improve my overall situation put me in another precarious situation. It was a different sort of bad situation, because of the extreme financial instability. I was living the truth of that out-of-the-frying-pan-and-into-the-fire adage. On the other hand, almost immediately, after being in the clean environment of the hotel, my sleep and digestion patterns had become more normal after two years of disruption. My suspicions were being supported, but I still have a long way to go until I completely recover from living in a toxic place. And, to make matters worse, there is nowhere to call home.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

[P]interest[ing] Observations

Having a short hiatus from my everyday life provides the opportunity to evaluate how I use social media for promoting my Etsy shops as well as how I share other elements of my personal brand. In the beginning,when the Internet was new to me, I believed I had to use all of the social media without really knowing much about social media at all. So, not surprisingly, I jumped at the opportunity to be a beta-tester for Pinterest. I created a profile, but didn't do much with it for years. More than one year ago, I discovered that the target market for my Etsy business closely mirrored the overall demographics of Pinterest. I, therefore, decided to explore that site with fresh eyes. Through the years I have experienced delightful personal engagement on a variety of social networking sites, but the interaction has done little to advance my personal projects or to be measurable in profit. To be effective for social business, engagement is essential to inspire collaboration between business and customers in a variety of combinations. So, as one of my social media marketing strategy course textbooks stated so well, I decided "to fish where fish are and not where I wish they were" (Evans, 2010).

Building an engaged network took longer than I had expected. The task involved creating boards that reflected my business and personal interests. I then found content that related exactly to my interests and pinned it to my boards. I kept calm and pinned on, day after day. I pinned dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of pieces of content every day. The idea was to aggregate content that would be interesting to my target market. That meant I had to be selective about the users I followed to make sure my choices for shareable content perfectly reflected my taste and creative aesthetic. As much as I might like a particular user or brand, I will only follow the account if the content relates to me. I can always visit profiles and individual boards for specific information. Avoiding clutter in my own feed reduced distraction and increased productivity. Minutes matter when there is massive pinning to do.

It's true. If you build it, they do come. Once my network was up and running like a well-oiled perpetual motion machine with 10,000 followers, I switched my personal account to a business account and began inserting my own content intermittently to gauge my followers' reactions. I now have more than 15,000 followers and that number increases daily.  Happily, my content has proven to be a good fit with my carefully nurtured followers who interact with it at the same rate as content from other sources. People click through to my shops and sales are made.

Once engagement is established, a Pinterest network grows effortlessly. Content is shared effortlessly, too. Pinned content has eternal life, never falling into oblivion at the depths of news feeds like other social networks. Pins circulate, whether or not I am actively pinning. It is simply magical.  The theory has been tested and proven, but there is still work to do. As I look forward to reopening my Etsy shops soon, the goal is to make content even more convenient for others to share. I am also exploring methods to create even more eye-catching promotional pins for my content for posting directly on Pinterest or to be shared to Pinterest from other social networks. The only disappointment is that Pinterest engagement doesn't enhance social influence scores. However, a better "social network fit" is leading to purchases and making online success finally measurable in profit.

Reference

Evans, D. (2010). Social media marketing: the next generation of business engagement. [Books24x7 
     version] Retrieved from
     http://common.books24x7.com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/toc.aspx?bookid=41104. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

From Crickets to Profit


This wasn't my first holiday season on Etsy, but this was the first time I actually had a holiday season. Look at this! My little Etsy shops did this much business in just one day and I am not particularly "seasonal." Needless to say, I got my rock star mail lady a nicer-than-usual Christmas treat for all that bending over she did. I'll bet she wonders what happened. My home-based, online business used to be the one business on her route that she could count on to not vex her during the December package rush. The deafening sound of crickets used to fill the space outside my door where the Priority Mail boxes are stacked. What happened to change that? I did the smart and right thing and repaired the titles, tags, and listing content in all of my Etsy shops and then ran Etsy Search Ads to maximize that effort. Will the trend in increased sales continue after the holiday merriment ends? Yes, it will. I can say that with confidence because I paid attention in the integrated marketing communications course I am finishing today. After I press "submit" to turn in the final assignments, I'm logging onto Etsy to discover what all of the data I collected informs me about the next direction to take.

Etsy, as a company, has such an intimate relationship with data that, in September, it acquired Blackbird Technologies, a Big Data company, to be able to apply Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligences, especially to consumer searches. The idea is be able to provide an enhanced shopping experience which is unique to the buyer (Armstrong, 2016). I want to take advantage of these changes, and, fortunately, Etsy provides me with data relevant to the daily activities of my shops in addition to data generated by my ads. I also have data from Twitter and Pinterest, which are my social media networks I use most to promote my shops. For having a tiny business, it certainly seems I have plenty of numbers. That's good because I know, that no matter the size of the business, evaluation of marketing campaigns is beneficial. In a way, I am reverse engineering research. My goal is to more deeply understand my customer and discover the messaging to communicate better in the future. The better I align my goals within the Etsy strategy, the better my results will be, and the outgoing boxes will continue piling up. I have to be able to understand what happened until now and data can tell me that.

At first glance, when I started running and paying for the ads, I felt like my efforts made a good example for the marketing concept called marginal analysis. The spending on ads seemed to have a limit to profitability (Clow & Baack, 2014, 103). Plenty of clicks seemed to generate an underwhelming amount of sales. On one hand, the increase in traffic was desirable, but conversion was elusive. The process short-circuited at the listing level and that becomes my first focus when creating an integrated marketing strategy that works better. There were sales. There also was a product-specific awareness determined from keyword searches that included exact words from item titles and listing content. Affective responses, "hearting" items and shops, increased. The short-term successes are indeed noteworthy achievements in evaluating a simple ad campaign (Clow & Baack, 2014, 413). Evaluating the metrics will help me make decisions about tailoring future ad spending to conform better to results already observed. However, I must exercise caution about my judgments since online shopping, especially for one-of-a-kind items, suggests a Cinderella's slipper situation. A poorly performing ad might simply indicate the right shoppers have not yet searched for the item. 

Doing everything I can possibly do to increase the visits to my shops is only part of the plan. The messaging, which I use in my shop content as well as the messages I create on social media networking sites to promote my shops, is also ripe for evaluation. My online metrics will provide some insight (Clow & Baack, 2014, 421). However, getting to better know the customers who were motivated to add items to the cart, can shape future communications. I have ZIP codes and the A C Nielsen company has narratives that describe, with amazing accuracy, persons living in every ZIP code in America (A C Nielsen, 2016). Knowing to whom I am speaking can guide the words I write and the images I create. Being specific optimizes effectiveness of the futuristic technology Etsy now owns. Similarly, care must be taken to avoid alienating other market segments by being too specific. Finding the balance becomes the challenge as I attempt to address what I think my customer thinks about my content and how the customer thinks that content applies to a want or need. Applying inferences about thinking as derived from generalities is beginning to sound suspiciously like the realm of cognitive science. Lucky for me, the next course I will study, beginning in January, is cognitive psychology. And, yes, I will be playing along at home.

References

A C Nielsen (2016). ZIP code look up. In My Best Segments. Retrieved from
    https://segmentationsolutions.nielsen.com/mybestsegments/Default.jsp?ID=20&menuOption=
    zipcodelookup&pageName=ZIP%2BCode%2BLookup&filterstate=&sortby=segment_code&
    prevSegID=CLA.PZP
Armstrong, P. (2016, December 15). What you don't know about Etsy (and its 2017 strategy). In
    Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/paularmstrongtech/2016/12/15/what-you-
    dont-know-about-etsy-and-its-2017-strategy/#40cd9e3b4d90
Clow, K. E., & Baack, D. (2014). Integrated advertising, promotion, and marketing communications 
    (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.; 103, 413, & 421.








Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thinking About Priority Mail



As an Etsy seller, and because I do 100% of my shopping online, mail is important to me. I don't want to put pressure on Terri, my rock star mail lady, especially at the advent of the holiday package delivery season, but she will be more likely, than not be, the person who will confer my diploma someday. Why not? She's my biggest fan and most important business and personal support system. My mail carrier as well as mailboxes locked far from porch-pirate-thieving-hands securely inside this building are reasons why I chose my current home. It was a sobering revelation, in the midst of celebrating the important Etsy milestone of 100 sales in my QualityJunk shop this week, to realize that meant Terri bent over 100 times to pick up those packages. Every single one of those packages was a United States Postal Service (USPS) Priority Mail package!

Priority Mail is a magnificent product that allows me to provide a superior customer experience as well as provides me with peace-of-mind that the package arrives at its destination safely and quickly. That is such a simple concept and one would think that simple concept would be simple to communicate and simple to understand. I was astounded, from the point of view as a long time user of Priority Mail, that the feedback about one of the earliest commercials for the Flat Rate variety of Priority Mail had mixed and mostly negative feedback. Apparently,"If it fits, it ships" is open to a wide range of interpretations (Audit Field Financial - West team, 2010). When thinking about that, I remembered spending significant time failing forward while learning how to use Priority Mail. When visiting the USPS web site, a user can't find one cached file of everything necessary to know about Priority Mail. I'll admit it. I get "warm fuzzies" from watching Priority Mail commercials because of my experience with the product, my wonderful mail lady, and how easy Priority Mail makes living the Etsy shop dream. However, when trying to visualize how someone who has never used Priority Mail might perceive it, the effectiveness of the message is quite different.

Currently, as I am pursuing an online education, I'm studying a marketing topic called Integrated Marketing Communications, which essentially involves creating uniform marketing messages to strengthen the impact of marketing campaigns (Clow & Baack, 2014). The first thing I notice about Priority Mail is that there is absolutely nothing to be integrated with those lovely commercials. If a viewer is inspired to explore the product, there is no next step to take except for trying to navigate the USPS website (USPS, 2016). I learned firsthand that will yield confusion more often than relevant information. I do believe research would help USPS understand this consumer dilemma. After all, important reasons that motivate marketing research include centering business on consumers and focusing on consumer needs. Additionally, research allows businesses understand target markets better and can help improve messaging and communications (Fletcher, 2013). At this point, any messaging and communications would be better than nothing. Spending the time to interview focus groups could help shape a plan for developing a Priority Mail resource that provides both information and support. Not everyone is willing to spend the time I did to learn how to use Priority Mail and not everyone learns in the same way. What would be the best marketing tool? Is it a dedicated web site or a social media site or a collection of how-to videos? Research can, and should, determine that. I do believe that improved marketing strategies would convert potential first time users into loyal customers, and it's my wish that the USPS will soon make their Priority Mail product easier for everyone to use.

References

Audit Field Financial - West team (2010). What do you think of the Priority Mail advertising 
     campaign? [web log post]. In Products & Services. United States Postal Service Office of 
     Inspector General. Retrieved from https://www.uspsoig.gov/blog/what-do-you-think-priority-
     mail-advertising-campaign 

Clow, K. E., & Baack, D. (2014). Integrated advertising, promotion, and marketing communications 
     (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Fletcher, B. (2013, April 25). Five reasons why market research matters (and five tips for using it).
     In MarketingProfs. Retrieved from http://www.marketingprofs.com/opinions/2013/23874/five-
     reasons-why-marketing-research-matters-and-five-tips-for-using-it

USPS (2016). USPS web site. Retrieved from http://www.usps.com


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Difference Does Make Us

Etsy. Sometimes I live it, breathe it, and sleep it, but still feel everyday I am operating my shops within an ever-evolving larger context that isn't completely known to myself or much of the world. All I knew in the beginning was that "Etsy" was a nonsense word coined from transcribed dialog from Federico Fellini's film 8 1/2. The characters were saying "eh, si" a lot and Etsy evolved from that (Etsy, n.d.). Etsy didn't even have a business plan when the site launched, and the intention was to evolve the site as circumstances dictated (Walker, 2007). Interestingly, the trials and tribulations of building the Etsy brand closely emulate the process of rebranding, because a more universal understanding of Etsy has been revealed, the market is constantly being evaluated, underlying issues are being addressed, and new strategies evolve (Geyer, 2016). As a result, I have struggled with resulting changes in the Etsy algorithm that guide search, considered consumer traits when creating listings, and reassigned product categories. I have sided with Etsy in the controversy surrounding the evolving the definition of the handmade business and welcomed public trading of the company. Having flexible intentions for growing into its destiny spared Etsy the pain of reevaluating and starting fresh. All of the hard work is an ongoing process for Etsy and its loyal sellers. However, Etsy isn't simply just an online global marketplace for handmade and vintage items as well as craft supplies. What Etsy needs most is a clear, concise, and consistent statement to communicate what Etsy is to consumers. The careful crafting of a tagline seems to be the missing part of the Etsy brand.

Etsy recently launched its first global online advertising campaign called "Difference Makes Us" (Klara, 2016).  To me, the operative word in that statement is "Us." The most identifiable element that distinguishes Etsy from all other marketplaces is its strong sense of community. There is little to distinguish buyers from sellers in our internal social network and we participate together as members of special interest teams. The phrase, "Whoever you are, find whatever you're into," currently invites visitors to initiate a search for products. Melding the idea of individuals with diverse interests with belonging to a community would yield an ideal message that perfectly describes Etsy. The current commercials focus on the wide array of merchandise, but a human element drives the content. Ads are constantly edited to include new items posted by sellers. Viewers see different commercials every time they watch (Klara, 2016). Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson is acutely conscious of the human element in the business and emphasizes that each transaction ends with a real product from a real person. He calls it "existential satisfaction" (Etsy, n.d.). "Difference Makes Us" is certainly a step in the right direction toward a tagline and there is certainly more to consider. The biggest challenge seems to be squeezing many positive attributes into few words that perfectly describes Etsy.

References


Etsy (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Etsy
Geyer, F. (2009, March 24). Four best-practices for renovating your brand -- before its too late. 
     MarketingProfs. Retrieved from
     https://www.marketingprofs.com/9/best-practices-for-renovating-your-brand-geyer,asp
Klara,R. (2016, September 14). Etsy's first global campaign is an expression of individuality, just like      the stuff it sells: Here's what makes it and its everyday items different. Adweek. Retrieved from
     https://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/etsys-first-global-campaign-expression-
     individuality-just-like-stuff-it-sells-173404


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tiny-fying

An important aspect of living sustainably is being able to do more with less and space definitely is included with that. I am currently living in a tiny house that was originally built semi-detached from a grand house in 1892. The industrialist who built this house put his science lab on the third floor, so the maid's room and her loo as well as an open first floor plan to accommodate parties were part of his controversial home design plan. This space was enclosed sometime during the mid twentieth century and this is my home today.

I do have a large kitchen as well as the 17' by 35' front room and spacious storage in the basement to share, but I'm trying to find that sweet spot of comfortably living and working in my textile studio and running an e-tail business and gardening in my BathroomFarm conducted inside this room. So far so good, but it can be better. So, that means tiny-fying. Constantly. Like. A. Lot.

Small space living with an eye on profit and productivity certainly adds a new dimension to the process. At this point, there is probably nothing wrong with most of the things I have. Most of that unnecessary fluff is long gone. I do have to keep scrutinizing possessions to determine if they are appropriate to my goals and release them if they are not. Lucky for me, my neighborhood has the best neighborhood yard sale ever and it's coming up soon.

Right now my life is an intricate exercise of sorting, sifting, stumbling knee deep over tubs of stuff, separating the Etsy biz wheat from the yard sale chaff, photographing, editing and listing and there's not much fun stuff to talk about. I enjoy this part because I know that I'm going to wake up on the second Monday of June with a more ordered and focused life.

Intrigued? Visit my neighborhood yard sale during the first full weekend of June every year. Shop 80 acres of yard sale paradise at the Woodruff Place Flea Market this year on June 7th and 8th in Indianapolis, IN. We tithe 10% back to our neighborhood to preserve our historical prettiness. I love to participate in this event because I appreciate the luxury of living in an outstanding historic district. Being able to efficiently declutter allows me to enjoy doing that even more.

Can't wait until June? Shop for vintage textile treasures at my Quality Junk shop on Etsy! This is where textile items that are too fragile or difficult to sell at my yard sale come to find new homes. I named this shop after my own sale at the Woodruff Place Flea Market. Of course, there will be plenty of other textile items for sale on my porch in June. I'll see you there.