thoughts on social media and small business marketing


Yesterday I watched a video about social media strategies for small business owners, and one of the presenters said something to the effect of "if you post a random photo of yourself drinking tea or playing with your cats, you'd damn sure better be selling them something at the same time."

I physically recoiled away from the screen Then I angrily closed that tab and went back to watching NCIS while working on subscriptions. But those words kept bothering me. 

I have loved the internet for as long as I've had access to it, starting in the days of command lines and text-only interaction. To me, the internet is a way to learn about things outside my personal experience, and to meet people who I would otherwise never have the privilege of knowing. Wyrding Studios was born out of uncalculated internet interactions. When I started, I didn't have beautifully styled product photos and compelling CTAs.

I had spontaneous (and often out-of-focus) snapshots of things on my workbench, and honest enthusiasm for what I was doing: Hey, check out these gorgeous new beads I just got! Oh, wow, I finally figured out how to do that twisty wire thing I've been struggling to learn. I wonder if I could make this [random object] into a pendant.  And on the other side of the glowing screen, friends and friends-of-friends and random strangers responded: Oooooh, those beads are amazing, would you make me earrings with them? The twisty wire thing is so neat. Can I trade you a [different random thing] for a pendant made with a [random thing]?

Lately I've been feeling discouraged because social media marketing feels like a completely alien skillset that I haven't been able to learn. I don't know how to compose a compelling CTAs, hashtags kind of mystify me, I don't upsell in order receipt emails, and I post pictures of my kid and my cats on my business Instagram, which is apparently some sort of unforgivable sin.

This morning, though, I realized something: small businesses have always been built on interpersonal relationships.  Small business owners - particularly creators - are able to get to know their customers as individuals; we know their names, what they like and dislike, and we care about what goes on in their lives. And customers come back because they like what we make and trust that we will stand behind our products, and because they want to see the business thrive and grow. It's not about aggregating data on consumer spending patterns, or using every interaction as a marketing opportunity.

Yes, I do want to sell you things. I like having money. I would like to be making more of it, because I'm almost 38 and and a single mother with seven pets and a mortgage and I don't have anything even vaguely resembling long-term savings or a retirement plan. 

But I want you to buy things because they speak to you. I want you to be as excited as I am about the new beads I just bought or the new twisty wire thing I've learned to do. I want to keep getting emails like the one I got yesterday, telling me that her not-quite-a-dinosaur-tooth pendant had made a really horrible stressful day a little better.  I want to hear about your cats, and your kids, and the fabulous tea you just discovered, and what you think about the new Star Wars movie, and what books you're reading or writing or editing, and what you're cooking for dinner tonight. 

And if that means that I'm failing to unlock the true potential of my social media presence? I'm okay with being that kind of failure. 

Now, check out these gorgeous new beads I just got...

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