It’s one thing to create a successful brand online but when that brand sweeps up hundreds of designers and artists and makes them successful too, we think that’s worth celebrating. Belinda Nash catches up with Jessica Whiting, one of the country’s craftiest entrepreneurs.
The Auckland Art & Craft Fair, co-created with Kylie Richardson and launched in 2010, held its largest event at the Aotea Centre in Auckland this June. It attracted 4,000 people and saw ten of thousands of dollars go directly into the pockets of New Zealand designers, from illustrators and photographers to fashion and accessory designers. The next fair is timed for pre-Christmas shopping, on November 30, and the pair received hundreds of submissions to be part of it.
Whiting believes these events as well as her First Thursdays, We Can Create and Silo Park designers’ markets have succeeded through a commitment to using social media to connect to people with similar interests.
“Being online has helped me in more ways than I could imagine. By being able to instantly connect with my followers, I collectively reach almost 6,000 people with one update. Without social media I would be standing on my soap box with nobody to listen and people would come across me and these events purely by chance.”
Whiting’s blog is an interactive online magazine showcasing style, tutorials, music and product reviews and giveaways from New Zealand and around the world. She writes all her own content, which include styling tips, Weekend Tunes music posts, and new designer and artists profiles. Her audience is predominantly women aged 18 to 40 from New Zealand, Australia, Belgium, USA, the UK and Norway. She uses Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook to connect her blog and Linkedin to connect to other professionals.
“Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are my most valuable channels because they are so instant and make me feel as though I am engaging directly with people rather than talking at them. My most quality engagement is through direct comments on my blog, and through Twitter and Facebook.”
Whiting believes when people can see and read online what a person or business is about they can identify with them faster. The result in Whiting’s case has seen her translate a successful online image into a thriving business as a premium events organiser. She puts this down to being authentic, timely and evolving to the needs of her audiences.
“When I post something, my followers know it will be something they’ll like and want to see. A lot of my blog posts are very visual and are accompanied by relevant, quality content. Pinterest is perfect for this because an eye-catching image represents each post and through it my content is reaching even further the more I use it.”
She says Pinterest is now her preferred method of sharing blog posts. With followers in excess of 2,000 – growing by about 100 per week – Whiting is fast becoming a big deal in New Zealand on Pinterest where, by comparison, popular big brand Glassons has 1,300 followers. The advantage of Pinterest is that followers share (by re-pinning) her content and it gets seen all over the world, which promotes both her and New Zealand as leaders in design.
“People are pinning from my blog more and more, and links are being shared via other blogs by referring back to something they have found through my blog.”
She recommends that any business starting in social media should set out with clear objectives because each platform needs to be considered differently.
“I started out using Facebook to directly market to people, tell them about my posts or the products I wanted to promote and to share ideas. Twitter was a way of my readership getting to know the person behind the blog along with hearing about my posts. I began using Pinterest mainly for myself as a way of finding content and because I love, love, love style inspiration and beautiful images. I use it as a way of reaffirming my style and influence.
She advises to take care not to constantly “sell” or “talk at” followers.
“I want real engagement in social media where the people I speak to build a rapport with me and feel akin to the blog and what I am saying. My main advice to others is to be genuine, engaging and interesting. As with anything, you only get out what you put in.
So, is it all worth it? “Absolutely!” says Whiting.
“I love social media! I have connected to a whole lot of people that I’m interested in hearing from, that are interested in hearing from me and are supporting what I’m doing. I hear mixed opinions around social media, where people don’t ‘get’ it or they’ve tried it but became bored or just gave up or they feel it’s just full of ‘nasty’ people. I think this is a perfect example of when your objective or goal for that platform is not suited. If your goal is suited, it will work and be successful.”
Whiting adds that she loves that some of her best friends and favourite business collaborations have come from social media connections.
“I like that I can make a genuine connection with someone whether online or in person. It’s definitely enriched my business and my life for the better.”
Photo courtesy of: Auckland Art & Craft Fair.