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/

Soaking Up The Mobile Ceramic Rewards

In 2012, Daily Clay, a mobile off-spring of Ceramics Arts Daily and produced by The American Ceramic Society, hit the iPhone mobile application market. I, like many other potters who use Ceramics Art Daily as a ceramic resource, were hopeful that the app would prove to be beneficial. The extensive website offers books, magazines, videos, educational, blogs and forums. Instead, the mobile app became a daily posting of a handmade piece of ceramic art. Although inspirational, it didn’t serve the same grandeur as the parent website. Daily Clay had a strong potential to be a useful tool integrating mobile ability and social media with the Ceramics Arts Daily website.

Increasingly, I find Instagram connecting potters with their audience and consumers. Instagram is a mobile-only network which means you create and publish from the mobile app only. You can view and  a picture from a laptop or desktop but that is it. Instagram has gone to great lengths to offer the user high quality resolution ensuring the visual of ceramics pictures and videos are inviting. Instagram offers “filters, special effects, and editing tools” (daCunha, 2015). If you download InstaCollage, an app that compliments Instagram with special effect, layouts, and borders, you can create eye captivating pictures instantly as seen here:

spinart

It also offers easy “sharing to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and Foursquare” (Hemley, 2013). This allows a ceramic business owner to expand his or her audience in vast numbers from one mobile social media application.

The Instagram platform used hashtags from its first inception, known as the symbol”#”, to expound on the content of pictures and videos posted (Gonzalez, 2012). It is best for a potter to hashtag their pictures to identify the place it was taken, subject, and description. Some popular ceramic hashtags are #ceramics, #potter, #throwing, #stoneware, and #loveclay. #clay is the most tagged at 1,172,085 posts. If a potter was looking for inspiration from other fellow potters, they could search #cone6, a type of glazing firing range, and find 4,382 posts. If they wanted to find a ceramic supply brand from a picture posted and  with a hashtag such as Amaco, they can use the spyglass on the bottom of the app. Once they find AmacoBrent, one of the largest ceramic supply company’s, they can click the name AmacoBrent which brings them to AmacoBrent’s Instagramer page.  The potter can start following AmacoBrent as well as view pictures they have posted. On AmacoBrents Instagram page they cleverly posted their website www.amaco.com drawing the viewer to their shopping cart website as seen here:

amacobrentinstagram

Instagram helps businesses like a small ceramic studio like Extrudergirl or a large company like AmacoBrent. Gerry Moran suggests building a strong profile on Instagram as noted in detail below (Moran, 2013):

Perfect-Instagram-Profile1

A well-developed profile becomes the foundation for Instagram as social media strategy. Posting pictures of handcrafted ceramic pieces or products a ceramic supply business is selling to potter allows the business to cultivate a following not just through Instagram but with the cross posting capability to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare. As a ceramic business builds their brand awareness, they can start following back their new audience. As posted pictures become visual commentaries with hashtags, a potter can create a theme or capitalize on current trends to complement his or her brand and increase credibility. They can engage viewers and consumers with consistent images and by leaving comments on follower’s postings. Developing a posting schedule will entice followers and inspire potential consumers. Over posting could cause followers to abandon your business. It is best to analyze how many posts, the kind of pictures, hashtags followers are relating to, and comments consumers are leaving. Iconosquare is a free tool to measure your Instagram success. It will give you a snap shot of the percentage of followers, lost followers, follow growth, likes, comments, and overall engagement (Lawrence, 2014).

spongeholder2

Instagram is a visual experience for your followers, consumers, and perspective fans to learn, like, and buy into your business brand. Instagram will help promote your business, build a community around your photographed work and hashtags, generate leads and encourage conversation with your audience and consumers. I like to think, that with my Extrudergirl shop, once I get attention from my customers with a sponge holder photo on Instagram, I soak up my ceramic rewards.

Resources:

Ceramic Arts Daily Home Page (n.d.). Ceramics Arts Daily. The American Ceramic Society. Retrieved from: http://ceramicartsdaily.org/

daCunha, M. (2015) 10 Instagram Marketing Tips to Make People Love Your Brand. Business 2 Community. Retrieved from: http://www.business2community.com/instagram/10-instagram-marketing-tips-make-people-love-brand-01115446

Gonzalez, P. (2012). How to Use Hash Tags on Instagram. Instagramers. Retrieved from: http://instagramers.com/destacados/how-to-use-hash-tags-on-instagram/

Hemley, D. (2013). 26 Mobile Apps to Improve Your Business and Networking. Social Media Examiner. Retrieved from: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/26-mobile-apps-to-improve-your-business-and-networking/

Lawrence, T.(2014). Instagram Analytics Website Review ~ Iconosquare.com (Statigram). Tyler Lawrence. Retrieved from: http://tylerlawrence.com/instagram-analytics-website-review-iconosquare-statigram/

Moran, G. (2013). How to Build the Perfect Instagram Profile Infographic. MarketingThink. Retrieved from: http://marketingthink.com/infographic-to-build-the-perfect-instagram-profile/