Differentiation

Big Ceramic Store and Bracker’s Good Earth Clay are two influential ceramic stores within the ceramic industry. BigCeramicsStore.com was founded by a husband and wife team in 1999 when the ceramic industry was just getting involved on Web 2.0. In 2013, the couple sold the business to Vertana, a NYC based e-commerce company. Bracker’s Good Earth is also owned by a husband and wife team that starting selling ceramic supplies in 1985 and began a web presence in 2000. Each company has a e-commerce website; however this is where they begin to differ. Big Ceramic Store (BCS) website is a traditional e-commerce store with links to Facebook, Pinterest, and the company blog. Bracker’s website is enriched with offering an extensive collections of social media networks and it provides content rich information presenting them as a ceramic industry leader. Each company uses social media to create brand awareness, drive traffic to the company website, build relationships with consumers but they have different goals.

BigCeramicStore.com

Big Ceramic Store is known for selling “big” ticket items, such as a pottery kiln or wheel, with free shipping. This is an alluring marketing tactic in a niche industry. Big Ceramic Store has created a 1950’s diner style website that directs the consumer right to products they are looking for as seen below:

bcsbanner

The BCS social media strategy is apparent as soon as the consumer lands on the front page. BCS has invested in driving business through the store e-newsletter which pop-up instantaneously. The goal behind collecting emails is to turn potential leads into return customers. BCS e-newsletter is focused on conversion which is apparent with an immediate sign-on bonus of 15% off. Once the consumer joins the BCS e-newsletter, he or she will continue to receive frequent incentive discounts especially based on areas within the store where the consumer has visited. The BCS e-newsletter is designed to increase web traffic and sales through conversions while building brand awareness and communicating directly with the consumer.

Big Ceramic Store also uses the social media networks, Facebook and Pinterest, to post sales; however, Pinterest has a stronger impact with 1.6K followers, 29 boards, and 862 pins. A popular board on Pinterest is called BCS Announcements linking viewers to BCS blog and discounts. The Pinterest boards and Facebook link the consumer back to BigCeramicStore.com to watch ceramic videos, read the BCS blog, or make a purchase. Both social media channels support the company goal to convert the potential lead into a sale by driving the consumer to the website.

Brackers.com

Bracker’s has a distinctively different approach to socially engaging the ceramic consumer. The Bracker’s website is overwhelming the consumer with a large volume of ceramic content earmarking them a leader in the ceramic industry. In addition, Brackers.com offers repetitively links to the social media channels with banners as noted below that the consumer is lead to believe Bracker’s is super socialBrackers

This extensive presence promotes the Bracker brand to a wide audience and can leave the consumer feeling compelled to click through to one of the networks. The Bracker’s website offers upcoming events which can be conveniently added to a consumers Google, Outlook or Apple Calendar; it has informative video’s educating the ceramic consumer on relevant content. Bracker’s is using the tactic of search engine optimization (SEO) with keywords and the repetitive social media channel with reciprocal links to earn ranking organically on search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Since the actual Bracker’s e-commerce store is hard to find, the company goal is education and brand awareness as a ceramic industry leader.

Consumers Vs. Industry Leader

Big Ceramics Store is branded for “big” discounts and offers constant contact with the consumer through an e-newsletter. The company’s goal is to drive traffic to the e-commerce website, develop brand loyalty through social media channels, such as Facebook and Pinterest, and convert leads e-newsletter subscribers into sales. Bracker’s Good Earth Clay is recognized as a ceramic industry leader by offering a plethora of high quality content, informational videos, an educational blog, an extensive presence on the social media landscape, daily listings of ceramic events, and uses search optimization tools to increase web traffic. Both companies use their website to connect and communicate with the consumer, however Big Ceramic Store is effectively building a relationship with the consumer through the e-newsletter and discounts. Bracker’s is branded as a ceramic industry leader and used a reference and resource more so than generating a return on investment. What do you want from your ceramic supplier, “big” discounts or a social calendar?

Watch Out for the Mud Sharks

SherrillMudShark

One of my favorite tools to recommend at Christmas time or when a newbie potter comes in to the ceramic store is the Mudshark. Michael Sherrill designed as series of tools called MudTools which he created out of necessity to suit his ceramic needs. For non-potters you might not see the brilliance in this tool name and design or understand the versatility of its tail, nose, and mouth. The tail is used when throwing a pot to trim or create a 45 degree footed angle at the bottom. This part can cut away any waste sitting at the bottom of a pot or on the bat which the pot is being thrown on. The needle, or nose, can be used for trimming the top of a pot. It can be used to make designs on a pot or plate and for the artist to sign their name on the bottom of their handmade piece.  The mouth of the tool can be used to make the rim of a pot, bowl or pitcher. When your done using the tool, the needle nose folds inside and can slip into a pocket, clay bag, or into a tool caddy. Another cool feature like many of the other Sherrill Tools is it comes in six different colors.

Mudtools has gone to great lengths to take their brand social. It was going to be hard bait for Sherrill to get into the ceramic tool market swimming upstream against established companies like Kemper, Dolan, and Chinese Clay Art.  They needed social media to snag consumers with videos and pictures of their tools not just typical word of mouth promotion or traditional marketing strategies. The company wanted to turn tool trollers into loyal buyers.

Demanding a strong social media presence, every page on their website lures the consumer to the social media landscape to support their brand image (Agius, 2015) as seen here:

smmudtools

Michael started out his a social media campaign as his bite indicator on Facebook with pictures of his product. Over the years, Facebook has become his honey hole with a strong following and the launching pad to the other social media networks. He incorporated videos on creating with different Mudtools on YouTube channel and crossed over onto Twitter with tweets of pictures of potters using their favorite Mudtools. Google+ is alongshore of Facebook reiterating special promotions, pictures of their product line, their blog, videos and customer’s working with their tools. Their LinkedIn presence is more lie bank-fishing with a specialized traditional slant of Press Releases emphasizing their support to social and global responsibility. Instagram intertwines their professional and personal side giving a human approach to the company image. Although Michael has a Pinterest account, it is not directly related to MudTools. It is a minnow in the social media marketing strategy at this time.

By uniting product pictures, product how-to videos, and advertising promotions on the social media channels, the Mudtool brand identity has defined its value and the company ideals (Botts, 2014). The success of branding can be seen through consumers endorsing the tools and inviting prospective buyers to use them as well. MudTools consistency and frequency on the social media networks allows for credibility, authenticity, and likability. Capitalizing on the mud aspect of ceramics and the quality of the tools became the neutral buoyancy to sustain the brand. Social media branding keeps Mudtools consumers restocked with the necessary clay studio tools as seen below.

google+mudtools

Mudtools has remained in the uprush of growth by concentrating on increasing Facebook followers, optimizing YouTube videos, and maintaining Instagram attention. They assist consumers in navigating to their website, product pages and social media platforms. Michael spends time interacting on Instagram, Twitter and Google+ with their followers (Hemley, 2014). There is no daily limit on how brand social can make a company and its products. Once a consumer gets bitten by a MudTools brand, it’s hard to forget how great the tools are.

yellowmudshark

Resources:

Agius, A. (2015). The 4 Essentials to Building Your Brand on Social Media. Entrepreneur.com. Retrieved from: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/244677

Botts, S. (2014). Building Identity Loyalty Through Social Media. Thinking With Google. Retrieved from: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/building-identity-through-social-media.html

Hemley, D. (2014). 26 Ways Brands Succeed With Social Media Marketing. Social Media Examiner. Retrieved from: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/26-ways-brands-succeed-social-media-marketing/

Sherrill MudTools Page (n.d.). SherrillMudTools. Instagram. Retrieved from: https://instagram.com/sherrillmudtools/

Mudshark Product Page, (n.d.). Mudshark. Mudtools. Retrieved from: http://www.mudtools.com/product/mudshark/

MudTools Facebook Page, (n.d.). Mudtools. Facebook. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/Mudtools

MudTools Twitter Account, (2013). Mudtools. Twitter. Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/Mudtools

Sherrill Studios Page, (n.d.). Michael Sherrill. Pinterest. Retrieved from: https://www.pinterest.com/SherrillStudios/

Using Your MudTools, (n.d.). Do All Demonstration from Michael Sherrill and MudTools. YouTube. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/1GAWTZWY4Z8?list=PLLfY3U1eRSVgNJYEX41VIZNUHgahEu4Lw

White, C. (2011) Branding: How It Works in the Social Media Age [Infographic]. Mashable. Retrieved from: http://mashable.com/2011/12/15/branding-and-social-media/

Ceramics and Social Media Applications

The ceramic industry includes a diverse group of potters similar to the social media landscape. Most common communication channels will consist of announcements, pictures of work or events, blogs, and videos. The traditional social media landscape comprises of Twitter and Facebook, but over the past two years there has been significant growth on Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram and Google+. Quite often potters will report they don’t own a computer and if they do own one they don’t have an email address, so social media escapes a large majority of the community. But for the potters involved in the social media channels, they are using these tools to show and tell their art as well as develop and discover their talent (Zimmerman, 2014).

The professional ceramicist can be found in museums, art centers and galleries noted in a recent industry poll from NCECA , known as the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (Bracker, 2015). This group of potters favors Facebook and Twitter. This gives them a strong platform for promoting their website and next gallery or museum showings.

There is the production potter, who produces their ware in volume, whom will post on Facebook especially directing fans to their website.  They can often be found on forums and online communities. They are contributing to the ceramic industry evolution with discussions on clay and ceramic issues, offering advice, writing reviews of ceramic products and sharing global ceramic industry news. The production potter would be the known as the Critics on the Social Technographics Ladder (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

The studio potter is not production but more serious than a hobbyist by making a full time living selling their work. They are the Creators on the Social Technographics Ladder making the most contribution to the social media landscape. They will use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to push the consumer to their studio. These social media networks are free and can draw a good amount of interaction. The studio potter might post a promotion on Twitter or Facebook giving away a new ceramic mug like Joel of Cherrico Pottery to engage and invite the consumer to “Like” their page, build their brand, and follow their studio (Birkholz, 2015). The studio potter can be found on YouTube demonstrating, teaching and engaging other potters, artistic students, and viewers such as Master Potter Bill Van Gilder.

The hobby potter or leisure clay artist, one who works with clay for enjoyment, occasionally sells their work on a smaller scale like Etsy or local event. They can be found on Pinterest pinning works of the professional or average potters. Since they are not as involved on social media for promotion of their goods, they would be considered the joiners or spectators of the Social Technographics Ladder. As joiners they are interested in visiting the social networks for inspiration, Facebook pages of ceramic vendors like Stone Leaf Pottery to learn about products, and following their favorite ceramic groups like Amaco’s Potters Choice Exchange for tips and techniques (Sophia, 2015). As a spectator they are more likely to be involved in watching videos of ceramic demonstrations, read blogs from the studio potters, and being influenced by reviews by the professional ceramicist or average potters.

clay-social-media-icons

Social Media networks offer potters a vast level of publicity, the widening of consumer target market, and a growth in social interaction for and among the ceramic professionals, studio potters and leisure clay artists. By expanding their social media landscape from the more traditional sites such as Twitter and Facebook, they can amplify their exposure with Instagram and Google+. Not only do social media networks increase the potter’s audience, it offers the building of ceramic communities. Potter Adam Field used Instagram effectively to pull in consumers and widen his audience by creating a scavenger hunt involving ceramic objects. The idea behind the scavenger hunt was “to create a groundswell of community that would encourage sharing information, techniques, and inspiration”  (Johnson, 2014). As more potters become comfortable with the new form of marketing, social media can help them get their name and products out there at a very minimal cost.

Resources:

Birkholz, J. (2015). Cosmic Mug Giveaway, Laughing Squid Feature, And Mainstream Art Ambitions. Cherrico Pottery. Retrieved from: http://www.cherricopottery.com/category/social-media/

Bracker, C. (2015). Who Are We? NCECA. Retrieved from: http://blog.nceca.net/inside-nceca-vol-i-issue-13

Johnson, G. (2014). Hide-N-Seekah!Using Social Medial for a Pottery Scavenger Hunt. Ceramics Arts Daily. Retrieved from: http://ceramicartsdaily.org/ceramic-art-and-artists/ceramic-artists/hide-n-seekah-using-social-media-for-a-pottery-scavenger-hunt/

Li, C.  & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Social Media Page. (2015). Facebook’s Potters Choice Exchange. Stone Leaf Pottery. Retrieved from: http://stoneleafpottery.com/category/social-media/

Zimmerman, C. (2014). How Artists Can Use Social Media to Discover and Promote Their Voice. Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carlota-zimmerman/how-artists-can-use-socia_b_4756824.html

Getting Dirty With Social Media Tools

Getting Dirty With Social Media Tools

I spend eight hours a day five days a week talking ceramics. After work, I come home and walk in the countryside of Florida a mile and a half with my toy fox terrier, Puppup. As eight o’clock rolls around, I crack open the laptop and start my Master’s Program term homework. On the weekends during the day, when my hands are not covered in moist clay, I might be packing up an order, designing new plates, or blending glazes to provoke that exclamation “Wow!” from the next group of wedding registry millennials on Etsy.

On nights that are raining and we are not walking, I am select Etsy shops for my next Treasury on Etsy. This shopping gallery of 16 featured Etsy stores pulls in viewers, favorites, and orders to my Etsy shop Extrudergirl. Once the Treasury is designed, I post a link to it on social media networks like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. At the end of the month, I run a traffic source report to see which social media network is working for me as seen below*:

trafficsourceetsy

* (Etsy, 2015)

In trying to expand my marketing for Extrudergirl, I have started delve into Twitter, Instagram and Google+. Trying to maintain the different social media networks is time consuming even when I am not balancing work, home, a small business and school.  A month ago, I was introduced to a free social media management site called Hootsuite.  This program allows me to schedule my posts to a variety of social media networks. I can check daily, weekly and monthly scheduled posts making appropriate adjustments with one click.  I have new insight to my posts, followers and content with Twitter, Google Analytics and Ow.ly.  The reports created helped me make better decisions on content I was posting based on what my followers have been responding to (Hootsuite). The dashboard gives me a quick snap shot of my Twitter account when @Extrudergirl has been mentioned in a post, or I have been retweeted or liked as well as any current activity of those I am following.

A few days after Hootsuite, I came upon Klout. The Klout is tool that measures your presence on the social media landscape. When I first signed on my Klout score was an 18.94. I was disappointed. I had read that the average score is 40 and wanted to know how to achieve such notary (Klout, 2013). After following some very simple instructions on post content, time and volume, my Klout score increased within days. I held a new steady score of 48. Combining the results of Klout with Hootsuite helped me to decide to use Facebook for my personal use only and not my Extrudergirl ceramic business.

Using Hootsuite and Klout as my new social media tools for posting to my Twitter and Google+ account, I thought about an article I read by Cindy King where she talked about Social Mention (King, 2011) which tracks “and measures what people are saying about your company” (socialmention). This search reports specific keywords related to your company or products. This unique tool will help me be more conscious of words I wanted related to my Etsy store Extrudergirl when people do searches. I did a search of Extrudergirl. My name was linked to my blog, Extrudergirl, and the word ceramic as seen below.

socialmention

                This result was startling. I am new to the Hashtag world. Almost everyone has seen and a good handful of you have used the pound sign (#) with a word after it. I thought I would at least have something linked to #extrudergirl since I have been using that to tag pictures on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. In an article I recently read by Cindy King, she recommended Tagbound (King C. , 2015). Tagboard lets you see what is being said related to your hashtag across the social media landscape. I am hoping in the next three months as I expand my Twitter usage and remain consistent with blogging, that the hashtags will be measurable.

My Extrudergirl social media goal over the next three months is to increase my Klout Twitter Score, adding posts to my Google+, and use hashtags and keywords to drive followers, fans and buyers to Extrudergirl. As my blogging grows and tweeting content improves, I am hoping to increase my retweets, tweet likes and Google+1 volume as well. For now, I am heading back to the studio to get dirty.

Resources:

Extrudergirl Stats (2015). Shop Stats 2009-2015 Traffic Source. Etsy. Retrieved from: https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/Extrudergirl/stats?ref=seller_platform_hdr

Hootsuite Platform (n.d.). Everything You Need In One Place. Hoostsuite. Retrieved from: https://hootsuite.com/products/platform

Keath, J. (2015) Ultimate Recap: Top New Social Media Tools for 2014. Socialfresh. Retrieved from: http://www.socialfresh.com/ultimate-recap-top-new-social-media-tools-of-2014/

King, C. (2011). 12 Social Media Tools Recommended by the Pros. Social Media Examiner. Retrieved from: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/12-social-media-tools-recommended-by-the-pros/

King. C, (2015). 44 Social Media Tools Recommended By The Pros. Social Media Examiner. Retrieved from: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/44-social-media-tools-recommended-pros/

Measure (2015). Mesaure Page Extrudergirl Account. Klout. Retrieved from: https://klout.com/#/measure

The Klout Score (2013). What is the Average Klout Score? Klout. Retreived from: http://support.klout.com/customer/portal/articles/679109-what-is-the-average-klout-score-