My loves –
This is the story of two small businesses selling handmade stuff online.
And how they used social media differently, with great affect.
This is a true story – the one me + my team saw unfold before our eyes.
One story is one of those wonder stories – of social media done so beautifully it wins for everyone involved.
The other – a bit of a dramatic-filled trainwreck – that still leaves us with a sour taste in our mouths to this day.
Me and my team talk about it often.
The lessons we learned from seeing it play out.
And the very different outcomes it made.
It illustrates so beautifully the do’s + don’t’s of social media.
I wanted to share it with you to inspire you + help you find your own shining success story in social media that looks more beautiful than trainwreck-ish.
THE FIRST STORY: THE MUG THAT SAID FUCK
A couple of years ago, I saw a picture of a cup online.
It was kind of a grainy picture, low resolution. Not the most perfect picture in all of history.
But fuck it made me laugh.
This is that picture:
We had no idea who had created the image or that the cup was handmade.
We just shared it and laughed.
Other people laughed too. And kept on laughing. And started asking where on earth they could find the cup.
Someone else popped in, identified it as a Holy Flaps cup and linked to them.
Holy Flaps‘ owner popped in and left some lovely replies to people commenting, messaged us and asked us if we could add a link to their Facebook page in the original picture. We happily did. It was so great to find the original source of the cup, and to know its maker was a hilarious crafty small business! SO cool!
The photo started going viral… and has kept going viral.
To date, it’s been viewed over 35 million times (!!!!!), shared 390,000 times + has over 10,000 comments on it!
Whenever anyone messaged us (which was and still is OFTEN!!!) asking us where to get the cup, my lovely staff send them the link as well (because peeps are fucking terrible at actually reading a caption and finding that information out for themselves!)
We’ve probably answered hundreds of those messages… all of which I’ve paid my staff for… we’ve kind of ended up being bonus customer service staff for Holy Flaps! Hahaha!
Which is totally fine with me – I like that people know if they contact us, they are going to be helped by really friendly people. Even if we’re telling you about another business!
This photo has ended up being our most popular image shared of all time.
Did I ever expect that to be the case? Of course not. I just thought it was a fucking funny cup.
I have no idea what the net benefit to us is, but I’m sure we’ve gotten more likes and fans and people who know about our work all because of a hilarious, foul-mouthed cup picture that went viral.
- hand-drawn + illustrated quote images (designed by me + my team)
- blog posts (both old + new – we recycle content)
- longer text posts
- I share photos + stories from my own personal journey
- funny or inspirational images found around the web
- occasional links to other articles around the web (not often, I just don’t tend to see much interest in them among our tribe.)
So the cup ended up fitting in that penultimate category of stuff we share. Random shit I fall across that I love and think other people would love.
Our social media sharing style seems to have worked well for us though…
This is our current FB page numbers:
Pretty decent, right?
So thus far, it’s ended up being a bit of a win for us.
Was it a win for the original company?
A couple of months ago, Holy Flaps reached out to me with a lovely message.
They let us know that since the cup image went viral, it had made a significant and real difference to their small business, and they couldn’t count the number of orders they’d had because of it. They were so grateful that we’d shared the image to our audience, and directed people their way, and they asked if they could send me some cups as a thank you.
To which I was like:
They sent me half a dozen beautiful cups… they are delicate and yet completely filthy and my tea cup cupboard is a sight to behold. They bring me so much joy!
And of course… I’ve shared about them even more now.
Which has meant even MORE people have found out about Holy Flaps.
And so the cycle continues.
No money has changed hands… just a few hilariously course mugs!
Me & the mug that started it all..
Basically – it’s a win-win-win situation for everyone involved.
We get hilarious content to share with our audience.
They get free advertising.
Our audience gets to fill that hole in their lives that are shaped like vulgar cups.
(Co-incidentally… we decided a few months ago that one of our core values as a business is win-win-win… creating situations where everyone is better off. We try and create that everywhere we go… and we love when it manifests like this!)
And now… the trainwreck story.
About six months after I first shared the viral cup, I found another image of a craft item which I also thought was hilarious and gorgeous.
And even better – it had the url of the small business that had created it on the bottom of the image. That would make it easy for people to find where to get it from!
I shared it late one night on a weekend. It immediately started picking up popularity.
The next night before going to sleep, I started seeing a bunch of nasty comments on Instagram and then Facebook.
I investigated further.
The original creator had seen it.
In the space of six hours, she had:
- spammed as many of our inboxes as she could demanding that we put a URL to her store instantly
- commented on the image that we were stealing copyright for our own gain
- replyied to other commenters on the image to tell them that we weren’t responding to her about giving her linked attrition
- gone on to a crafter’s message board, complained about us, and asked them to band with her to take on the big, bad company that was stealing copyright and sharing her images and not answering her emails demanding for linked attrition
- we started getting Facebook messages + comments from other people on that message board demanding we respond to her and give linked attrition + telling us off for being terrible people.
On a photograph. That had a large URL directing to her website.
In a word, it was crazypants behaviour.
It was a weekend. All my staff were asleep.
I messaged the original creator. I let her know that we were always happy to provide linked attrition, but we weren’t able to do it instantly, especially on a weekend when my staff were asleep. And that the image already had the link on it as well so people could easily find her website.
She responded back. She was mean. She was snarky. She insinuated I was stealing copyright for my own gain, which made zero sense.
The post in the space of a day was already popular. I could see it had the potential to go viral. My audience size was far, far, far bigger than what she had. It was opening awareness, sales and a market she would not otherwise have access to. I was giving her free advertising to the tens of thousands of women who rabidly buy this kind of stuff.
But she didn’t see it that way.
So I clicked on over to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. And I deleted that post.
All that potential gone. All those sales gone.
Not just for that day. But for all the future too. (Holy Flaps still profits from one post from me two years ago.)
All because someone had reacted so badly to the very thing everyone wants – for their stuff to be shared and seen.
I think about the different outcomes for those two very similar small businesses.
Holy Flaps was courteous, lovely, gracious + wonderful to connect with. So much so I’ll happily shout about them from the roof tops. My experience with them was and is glorious. I feel happy in my heart when I think about them!
I mean – I’ve just written a whole ‘nother blog post about them right now! Even more exposure! Ka-ching!
And the other company… one I refuse to name and shame, or even just name at all.
Not only did they miss out on potential sales… not only did they miss out on free advertising… but the whole experience left me with such a bad taste in my mouth that I feel sad and icky when I think about them. Needless to say, I won’t be buying from them or sharing about their products.
So I wanted to write some tips from this experience.
If you’ve got a product that you’re sharing online, here’s some social media do’s + don’ts.
- DO get excited when people share your images online.
That’s the whole point of the internet! You want people to see what you are creating!
- DO get as good a photograph you can of your goodies.
The better quality, the more they will be shared.
- DO put a URL for your website on any images you share of your products online.
It makes it so much easier to share! It doesn’t need to be huge.
- DO send a nice, polite email to the admins of a social media account if one of your image is shared. Say something like:
“Thank you SO much for sharing my product! I’m just SO very honoured! Would it be possible for you to add a link in the caption to make it easy for people to find me? Thank you again!”
- DO give them enough time to respond.
- DO offer to send them a sample as a thank you (if their audience size is large enough).
- DON’T have the URL covering the product or crazy huge.
It takes away from the gorgeous visual of your product and makes people less likely to share it because it looks too much like an ad.
- DON’T band together the firing squad to go after a Facebook page unless the offence is actually, you know, serious. (Like artists having their designs stolen to be printed + sold for profit on products. That shit is stupid. Sharing images online is not. Because, you know, that’s what the dang internet is for!)
- DON’T freak out about copyright infringement.
That’s not helpful. People WILL share your stuff online. Your job is to make it easy for them to find you.
In summing up:
Don’t be a dick.
Be kind, gracious + lovely.
Ask for what you want nicely. Don’t demand it.
And behold! The wonders of the internet!
Your work can be loved + adored by even more peeps!
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