November 10, 2014 | By Natalie Robinson, Homespin
Using social media for business is a new skill entrepreneurs must have. This can be intimidating. Homespin is a marketing company, serving businesses from Barry’s Bay to Eganville, and it offers, among many other services, social media management. We want our clients to learn from the best so, last week, I interviewed one of the founders of the highly successful Killaloe-based craft blog Twig and Toadstool, Maureen MacMillan.
Twig and Toadstool was started in 2010 by two Killaloe homeschooling moms, Maureen MacMillan and Shanti Nordholt-McPhee. With their children, the two loved making crafts using items from nature and they kept coming up with new ideas. They suspected others would be interested in learning to make children’s crafts that were more like works of art, things to decorate the house. Today, images of their crafts are all over the internet. Twig and Toadstool crafts are featured monthly on the CBC Kids webpage.
The Homespin interview with Maureen MacMillan
Homespin: Your personality really shines through when you use social media. Were you always comfortable with it?
Maureen: Yes, I love it. I’ve been online since the internet started, when it didn’t have graphics.
Homespin: Why did you start using social media?
Maureen: To share our creativity with the world. Blogs were new and exciting and a good way to share creative ideas with other parents. We also did it to fight off the feeling of isolation you can feel as a parent. And we wanted to share our bliss, remain creative and feel connected even though we were at home everyday with small children.
Homespin: So, to build a sense of community?
Maureen: Absolutely. A huge sense of community. That was what started it. I also wanted to have a website that was super successful. When we started, we blogged almost every day. It was a lot of very hard work in the beginning to have a successful blog.
Homespin: Now you have a business, Gal Capone Photography, but at the time it was just for interest, to build community?
Maureen: Yes, and to grow our website. It was the challenge of creating a successful, popular website.
Homespin: What social media platforms do you use currently?
Maureen: Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook. We do have Google+ but it doesn’t work that well for our website. And then we have our blog.
Homespin: Which are your favourites?
Maureen: Facebook is the favourite. It’s growing really quickly. We grow 1000 new page likes every few months. We really work our Facebook. We post at least 7 times per day and we have our peak times where we know people will come check out our stuff and follow us. Pinterest would be my next favourite. We have a big following and it’s a great way to share ideas. Craft ideas from our blog are all over Pinterest.
Homespin: Did you research how to build a following or would you say that you’re naturals?
Maureen: I think we just knew what to do. We reached out to a lot of people. Initially it’s just about finding like-minded people to come to your site. So, we went around and commented on all the pages that were like ours and told them about us. We submitted our crafts to any website we thought would be interested in featuring them. In the beginning it was a lot of outreach and that’s how we gained our following.
Afterwards I read books about blogging and I realized we were actually doing the right thing. [Laughs.] And our site grew really fast. There weren’t a lot of blogs back when we started Twig and Toadstool in 2010. Blogging was still gaining popularity. In terms of figuring out how to blog and use social media, we’re part of a network of craft bloggers so we’ve learned from that too.
Homespin: Do you find it’s equally easy to use social media for community building and for business?
Maureen: I think so. I think there are different platforms and you just have to find the one that’s best for you. We have Twitter but it doesn’t do much for us. You have to find the places that you’re going to grow, that will move your business forward and go for that. Not everything works for everybody. For a business, you may use different forms of social media.
Homespin: What are the biggest social media tips you would have for businesses?
Maureen: Lots of outreach. Lots of time in the beginning, reaching out to people who are like-minded, in your niche and friending them, making sure they know about you. Advertising yourself everywhere. That’s how it works with social media, when you reach out to people, they see your name, they start to know who you are. If you do it enough and you’re genuine about it, you’re not just promoting your site but saying, hey, I really like what you’re doing, then people eventually come check you out and share your work on their pages. We’d offer to do crafts for other people’s high profile sites and be seen by millions.
One thing that’s worked really well for us is giveaways. Don’t be afraid to give things away to increase your business. I just did a photoshoot giveaway for my photography site, Gal Capone Photography. I gained fifty new followers on my Facebook and I got four jobs by giving one away. More people heard about me, I was seen all over and there were a lot of inquiries so giveaways are huge. I had lots of shares and likes because people love to win things. It’s a great way for people to find out who you are who might not have heard about you yet.
Homespin: What are your tips for Facebook posts?
Maureen: If you find things that have already been shared 5000 times, when you post it on your page it will be shared more than other posts. If you want a successful Facebook page it takes work. You’re not sharing once a day, you’re posting 7-8 times per day because different people see your posts at different times.
We get hundreds of likes on pretty pictures, beautiful crafts, nature images. That’s what works for us; that’s our audience so we stick within that fold. We know what our followers like.
Homespin: What gets comments?
Maureen: That’s more difficult than likes. If it’s been shared a lot of times already, people will comment. Or, ask questions. For instance, I posted an eye-popping image of people in hammocks suspended over a gorge and said, would you do this? That gets interaction.
Homespin: How is Pinterest different?
Maureen: It’s more craft idea related whereas on Facebook we post all kinds of pretty things. On Pinterest we post nature-based things to do with kids, nature crafts. We stick to our niche and we’re very consistent. We’ve created our community around natural parenting, Waldorf, pretty crafts and things you want to make with your kids and keep around the house, not throw in the garbage. We’ve stayed fairly consistent and that’s what we like, it’s sort of naturally what we would gravitate towards so it’s authentic. I think the most important thing is being authentic.
Homespin: How have things changed over the years?
Maureen: People’s attention spans have decreased. People used to want to read about your family and commiserate about how hard it is being a parent. Now they’re looking for a quick craft; they scan the blog titles for one that indicates it’s easy. If you don’t have something on there that people can get satisfaction from quickly then you’re not going to have comments, you’re not going to have interaction. The posts that get the most traffic are showing quick craft ideas. We get between 70,000 and 80,000 hits per month and people are drawn in by the easy activities.
Another thing that’s changed is that there are now many, many craft blogs of varying quality. It’s harder to sift through and find quality content. This isn’t a threat to Twig and Toadstool; they’re so well established they’re at the top of search engine results when people look for nature-based craft tutorials.
Twig and Toadstool’s TOP 3 TIPS? Be authentic, post often and reach out to others in your niche! Click here to check out the Twig and Toadstool blog.
Maureen’s new business, Gal Capone Photography, may come on board as a Homespin associate once she gains more experience.
MA Environmental Education and Communication