Let me tell you a secret: here at Team Flea, we go straight to your IG feed when you apply to be a vendor. It's the quickest and often the best way for us to see what you're all about, how you market yourself, behind-the-scenes of your product creation, and more. We can tell pretty quickly by your IG feed whether your brand aligns with ours. Your application fills in all of the gaps for us and sometimes - if you don't have a website or IG feed - then it's all we have to go on, but IG is an easy-peasy avenue for us to see what you are all about.
This is the first of a series of blog posts I'm going to post about how to get accepted as a vendor into The Cleveland Flea. It is inspired by a small business owner who reached out to me this morning wanting to know how to better represent himself on social media as a brand. For some small business owners, Instagram can be overwhelming. EVERYONE and their aunt seems to have an account these days and they all look so damn pretty! We know this is something you want to nail as you market your passion, so here are a few tips and tricks to help you do just that. Let us help you have an account that shines like Soft Gold Co. above:
Utilize Your Profile Pic & Heading:
Your profile pic is often the first thing people see. Make sure it's a high-quality shot that says everything you want to say in one pic! In addition, put your website in your heading along with words that describe your brand and what you're selling as well as where you are located... all important things your fans will want to know. Too often I see headings where the actual product is not even listed! If you sell candles, say that! If you are a jewelry designer - let us know.
Create a Theme & FOCUS:
Choose 3-5 things that you'll focus on showcasing over and over (plants/people/behind-the-scenes/food, etc.) - each of these 3-5 things should showcase your product. Unfortunately it's not the best idea to post pics of your cat or your cute niece over and over again if you are selling candles. The loophole to this is if you want to post a pic of your cat NEXT TO A CANDLE! YES! You can totally do that. Stay away from unrelated content that doesn't align with your theme. Focus on what matters so your fans can rely on your content.
Pick a Color Palette:
You don't have to be exact about this, but you do want to have a set of colors you return to again and again that represent your brand so that you're not all over the place. You want to imagine your are curating a magazine with your product at the center of it all. Are you bright and poppy (think hot pink/vibrant yellow/show-stopping orange)? Are you soft & muted (blush/mint/buttercream)? Maybe you're rustic & masculine (dark chocolate/forest green/navy blue). WHO ARE YOU? What colors represent that?
Choose a set of FEELINGS:
You want to make people feel something when they connect with your brand/you/your product. What is that feeling? Your brand should consistently represent a series of emotions and feelings that make sense to and inspire your fans to want to stay connected.
When you look at the Domino magazine IG feed you may feel/see/think:
When you look at our very own, Steph Sheldon's personal IG feed you may feel/see/think:
- monochromatic (lots of black and white combos)
- pops of bright (that girl loves her some PINK)
- fashion forward
- kids & pets
- yummy food
- eye for good design
When you look at the Design*Sponge IG feed you may feel/see/think:
- a rainbow of colors
- exciting adventures
- so much texture!
- fun lifestyle
Whatever you want to say about who you are and what you sell: you can say it loud and proud through your IG feed. Decide FIRST what it is that you want to say and then use that as your brand filter. Don't allow yourself to get so attached to a photo that you ignore your filter and post it anyway. People often view your feed as a whole and see your top 9 at first glance. Your top 9 should all represent various aspects of your brand filter in a balanced way. This leads me to the next tip:
Balance Your Feed:
If your focus is cats, plants, and bright colors then make sure you don't have two cats right next to each other... or two plants... or two photos that feature bright pops of color. Look at your top 9 photos and hold on to one if you need to so that when it's posted it is balanced with the rest. A feed with 6 selfies in a row is not a balanced feed. Post your images in a thoughtful way. Practice control. If you love something but it's too similar to something you posted yesterday, then hold off. Remember: you are curating your own personal magazine. How does it look as a whole? The image itself may be great but it has to work with the others to create cohesiveness.
Write Fun Content:
Make sure you write something personal with your photo and not just, "Sale on the website!" Instead you can tell your audience what you're up to "Busy in the studio today packing boxes for shipping!" AND invite them to participate, "There's still time to get your candles before Valentine's Day!" Consider first what you're trying to get your potential customer to do and then re-work it a few times until you write a message that feels genuine & fun to read. It doesn't have to be long and it doesn't have to be insanely creative. Just put some thought into it before you post and make it personal. Talk to an actual person... not just "the people out there".
Make it a goal to post at least once a day. Don't let weeks or months go by without adding value to your feed and your audience. I know this can be tough for busy worker bees, but it's a great priority to have at the top of your list when you're growing a business.
Here are some images of Cleveland Flea Vendor's IG feeds that I think are pretty killer:
1. Revival Body Care
It's balanced, it's pretty, it's clean. She has a clear message & color palette that she's working with consistently that's feminine and natural: white, blush, gold, green.
2. Sweet Dish & Darling
Sweet Dish focuses on natural elements like herbs and flowers with neutral, wooden backdrops and lots of light. It's a cozy feeling but it's fresh, like spring.
3. Lakewood Plant Company
LPC is all things green & how those green things can fit into your home decor to make a room really stand out in a fresh, fun way. They re-post images their clients send them of LPC plants in their homes and only showcase the best of the best pictures of their stuff. It's almost entirely comprised of close-ups of plants with simple backdrops that don't distract OR plants in people's very beautifully decorated homes with lots of light.
4. Handmade By Chelsea
Chelsea's feed features behind-the-scenes looks of her making her cookies (which everyone loves to see!) as well as the finished product which is ALWYS photographed with a simple white or wooden backdrop to make the item itself stand out without distraction. She balances photos of herself with photos of her cookies AND the packaging she uses which is just as cute. Notice how she doesn't post multiple selfies in a row or even similar photos of cookies side by side. She balances at the top with a behind-the-scenes image next to a cookie pick with lots of cookies pictured and then next to that is valentine packaging. She's nailed BALANCE.
5. Fount Leather Goods
Fount has a moody feed with rich colors. You'll see lots of natural leather tones (chocolate brown and weathered black) as well as jewel tones like golden yellow and emerald green. Their Instagram reflects perfectly who they are as a brand. They are focused on luxe elements made with excellence and they want everyone who carries their bags to feel special. Each photo is high quality (here's where professional photo shoots come in super handy!) and thoughtful.
If you follow the tips above then you'll be growing your followers and converting them into real-life customers in no time! It takes an investment of time and creativity, but it's so worth it. If you're interested in actual, specific feedback on your IG feed, I'm happy to help! E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your IG handle and I'll check it out and send you some bullet points for how to improve. In addition, sign up for Flea School to learn so much goodness around how to grow and elevate your business!
When in doubt, look at our very own successful IG feed! We have over 36,000 followers and it's not by accident. Steph and her team have put a hellavu lot of work into curating one of the most fun, playful & relevant Cleveland IG feeds around, IMHO. Check it out for tips and ideas that you can use on your own page! It's focus is obvious: all things local hand-made, vintage, & food with a twist of inspiration & always firmly rooted in community & color. We are for the dreamers AND the doers and those two themes can be found throughout our page.
Happy posting peeps!
PS - Have you sent in your application yet for the 2018 season? There's still room for YOU!