NOTE: This is a copy of a story I wrote for my work blog Astekblog.com.
I’m a huge fan of the Indie-Craft Movement and I have been impressed with the way the community as a whole has embraced Social Media Marketing.
Indie-Craft – also called alternative craft, alt-craft, new wave craft, craftivism, green-craft, eco-craft, DIY (do-it-yourself) craft, etc – is often paired with the tag line “Not your grandma’s craft.” The artists and makers who art part of this movement use traditional crafting techniques like knitting, needlepoint, screen printing, felting, crocheting and more to make fashion, accessories and decor often with a punk, indie-music and urban aesthetic.
Another trend of the movement is the embrace of entrepreneurism – similar to the Arts and Craft movement at the turn of the century, these makers are exploring ways to make a dignified, self sufficient living selling things they have made themselves. In this movement “handmade” and “self-employed“ are badges of honor and many makers are dedicated to ecological and economical practices like sustainability, reuse and “up-cycling.”
The internet provides today’s makers with easy and free access to buyers across the globe. In fact, many credit the internet with the rise of the current indie-craft movement. Sites like etsy.com make it possible for part-time and full-time crafters all over the world to connect with customers.
Another online trend in the Indie-Craft movement is the free exchange of ideas, patterns and resources. Sites like instructables.com make it easier than ever for DIYers to share instructions on making just about anything. The Indie-Craft community has undeniably blossomed around the free exchange of patterns and how-to’s now available on the internet.
The community jumped on the blog bandwagon early and with great success. Blogs are a great medium for an individual to share photos and videos showing off projects, asking for feedback and sharing instructions. Soon blogs like blog.craftzine.com and indiefixx.com sprang up, aggregating the best projects from the individual crafter’s blogs and exploring current trends.
Lately, I’ve been noticing how plugged in many of the indie-crafters are to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. blog.craftzine.com has created one of my favorite Twitter feeds through @craft_tips which watches twitter feeds of various crafters and publishes helpful tips like
“burn/melt the ends of nylon strapping or cord with a lighter to prevent it from fraying”
“A 6″ wisk broom, found with camping gear, helps to scrub the fabric bits out of your cutting mat and sweep them off. (via @sanourra)”
“Make replacement shirt collar stays by slicing the plastic fake credit cards you get in junk mail. (via @justsomeguy)“
So what lessons about marketing and creating online communities can we learn from the Indie-Craft movement?
SHARE: This community created a vibrant market out of a previously far-scattered audience by pooling their resources. Etsy.com has consolidated buyers and sellers and gave them all one place to meet. Contrary to common wisdom, setting up shop ”next door“ to their competitors actually strengthened the majority of these sellers businesses.
SAVE THE WORLD: Because of it’s ties to sustainability and ecology, the Indie-Craft movement gained a lot of traction with the renewed energy of the ”green“ cause. Also, the collapse of the economy in the last year has lent strength to the messages of self sustainability, self sufficiency and the trend of making instead of buying. Set against these noble causes, the products that these sellers are offering are solutions to some of the greatest problems facing America right now. Being able to put your message in the context of being part of a movement to save the world is a great way to build brand loyalty and allow you to move the conversation away from price. And in fact, some Indie-Crafters have noticed an increase in the price buyers are willing to pay for their goods in the last couple years.
BE TRANSPARENT: The members of this movement pride themselves on their ”authenticity.“ Many blogs will show the failed projects right along with the successes. There is a free flow of advice and conversation back and forth between maker, reader and buyer. This solidifies the sense of community and creates intense customer loyalty. Constant customer feedback also allows the makers to make improvements to their production methods and products almost constantly.
GIVE: Indie-Crafters are constantly giving advise, tips, links, how-to instructions, and encouragement. This both creates community and builds recognition for those who’s advice is particularly insightful or valuable. It’s a great example of brand building.