This week we take our first ever deep dive into social media with Natwar from Around.io. Natwar shares insights into the big social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter but it doesn’t stop there. We also chat about how to find and learn from your customers, making a transition from corporate job to self employed and much much more. Stick around for another great Etsy Jam!
Natwar started Around.io, a social media tool for e-commerce sellers, around ten and a half years ago. Before that he worked as an automation engineer which he loved. Even though he loved his corporate job, he always knew he wanted to do something on his own. The first company he started before Around.io actually failed miserably according to Natwar. Part of the reason for this was that at first he was offering his product for free. When it came time to make the shift and charge for his service people simply did not want to pay. Because of this he poured a lot of his own resources into this company. But within nine months he had to make the very emotional decision to shut it down. He said there were lots and lots of mistakes made, but out of this he was able to create Around.i.o which is an awesome product!
Nothing to lose
Around.io came into existence when Natwar was helping out another tech company. At this company they were making Facebook stores which was going really well. Natwar realized through doing this, however, that he could automate a lot things that people were already doing. It started as a side project and was basically put together within two weeks. Because of what he’d learned from his first business, he immediately decided on a price. And because he had nothing to lose, he decided to price his product twice as much as his competition. The reason for this was that he genuinely wanted to know if people had the problem he was trying to solve and if it was important enough to pay more in order to fix it.
Natwar says that talking with your customers in order to get feedback is always a huge help, as is watching your customer’s behavior. But according to Natwar, money is really what speaks the truth. If people will put money down to pay for your product it communicates that they are receiving value from it. And his customers were definitely receiving value from what he had to offer. His niche was helping Etsy sellers with their Facebook posts and how to automate them. He basically went to around thirty different Etsy seller Facebook pages, saw exactly what they were doing and wrote code to automate this. He also did a lot of one on one conversations during this start up period, telling everyone he personally knew on Etsy what he was offering and how it would help them. This was the official beginning of Around.io.
Jumping over the emotional hurdle
Natwar mentioned that shutting down his first business venture was a very emotional decision. We’re sure a lot of our listeners can relate to this. We’re all artists and passionate about what we’re crafting. There are times when we’re faced with numbers that communicate our product isn’t selling. You may even feel like you just can’t find customers at all. So we asked Natwar; “How do you get over the emotional hurtle of deciding that yeah, you can still make something, but it might have to be something else?” Especially when you’re so passionate about the first product you were pouring yourself into.
Natwar says he really should have shut his business down five to six months before he did because he’d invested even more resources and emotion into it by the time he decided to move on. But on the flip side, he realizes that there were some positives to letting it go a little longer. One of the main reasons is that he had a “buddy entrepreneur” who came along side him. This person really helped him to see his blind spots and areas that needed work that he may not have seen otherwise. Part of the reason for this was that his friend was not as emotionally invested in the product as Natwar. He could see it all for what it was. He was able to look at the numbers and literally tell Natwar that what he was seeing simply did not make sense.
Two sides to every story
Natwar says it wasn’t easy to hear all of this. He did have a plan set in place where if certain things happened, he’d decided ahead of time that they were red flags. So between his friend and the red flags he started to see. He eventually realized he truly needed to stop his endeavor. Natwar says he will often see other sellers who are extremely passionate about their product, but still not having any sells.
No one will ever be as passionate about your product as you, but at the very least your product needs to sell. That’s the base line. If this isn’t happening it’s a huge red flag. Of course you will always have your passion and art on the one hand. But there’s also a business side to being an Etsy seller and if it’s not making financial sense or good business sense, you have to be hard on yourself. You have to ask yourself what else you can do that will work and consider different options.
As one of Natwar’s friends likes to say “Have very strong beliefs but hold them very loosely.” Things change so quickly, especially where e-commerce is concerned. Look at the data in front of you and if what you’re e doing doesn’t make sense any longer, you need to rethink your strategy. Also, surround yourself with people who understand your product and whose opinions you can trust. Listen to their feedback and seriously consider what they’re telling you. Most of all, be brutally honest with yourself. This will be the number one thing that keeps you in the game.
Physically get out there
Natwar suggests going out and trying to sell your products in real life as well. Finding an art/craft fair or flea market are great places to see if your products will really sell. Set a goal for yourself,. Maybe it’s fifteen or twenty, whatever the number is, if you don’t sell the goal you have in mind when there are thousands of people physically walking by, you might need to reconsider if this particular product is worth your time. Now, if you sell close to the number you had in mind but are just short of it, definitely take that into consideration. You just have to be honest with yourself about how you did business wise and take it from there. Set those goals in front of you so you have something tangible to measure.
Physically selling in the real world will also help to remove factors like SEO, if your product photos are good enough, if you’re priced correctly and how your conversion rate is. Everyone is on a level playing field and your customers are truly there for products alone. This is also a neutral audience. They’re not friends and family who are usually filled with compliments. Compliments are awesome, but they won’t pay your bills. Seeing how your product does with people who are not emotionally attached to you is one of the most honest answers you’ll get on how it will sell.
Talking with your customers in real life is also a fantastic way to get feed back. You don’t have to worry about the stipulations Etsy puts on you as a seller where this is concerned. So ask questions, find out what drew them to your booth/table and as Natwar suggests, notice and capture their emotions. If they’re excited about your story or price, if they’re not excited about your story or price whatever it may be, pay attention. This is exactly what’s happening with your buyers on the other side of the computer screen as well. This can help you gauge what needs to change and what you’re doing right.
Going full time
Natwar has been full time with Around.io for three and half years now. In the beginning, he was still working a corporate job while also doing Around.io. He eventually had to move back to India because of visa issues. Natwar knew he could still run his new company from India with no problem. He also was involved in another start up company around the same time. Natwar was only with them for six months and then transitioned to full time with Around.io.
As many of us can understand, transitioning to full time with his new company was not an easy decision. Suddenly, the steady paycheck he’d been used to was gone. He also really loved his job, he wasn’t leaving because he hated it as a lot of people do (me included). Natwar also got married right around the same time he moved back to India, so there were many reasons to wait to go full time with Around.i.o. Thankfully he had planned ahead and had been saving for the transition he knew he wanted to make. The time came and he knew he needed to take the plunge. He didn’t want to keep waiting and never do it and then look back on his life when he was older regretting having never made the decision.
Identifying the customer
We were very curious about how Natwar identified who his customer base would be when he was just getting started. Natwar says he believes the most important thing in customer discovery is customer behavior. Defining demographics and a target market is one way to do this. But defining what kind of behavior you’re looking for in your customer can be game changing. The way Natwar identified the behavior he was looking for was by spending around eight hours a day on Facebook and Twitter. He began to see which Etsy sellers were super active on social media, who had their shop photos together, their SEO and descriptions.
Natwar also looked for who was active on multiple platforms. He had a specific criteria for who he was targeting: someone with a decent Etsy shop with sales in the three digits and who also had two active social media accounts being posted on everyday. The best part for him was that he didn’t actually have to talk to someone to figure out if they were a possible client. Natwar could look for these specific things and go from there. He then made a list of who he wanted to approach and did this on a one on one basis, being very clear about what he had to offer while respecting their time.
Natwar also made sure that he had been active in Etsy communities online so that Etsy sellers began to know who he was. He answered any questions he could in forums and if there was an answer he didn’t know he would search it out. He also never linked his website in his answers. Natwar wanted to make sure that sellers knew he was first and foremost helping the community and not just trying to sell something. This also helped his credibility when approaching future clients.
A run down
Around.io helps you automate your social media marketing on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, etc. It integrates your shop so you don’t have to upload new photos, you’ll be able to reuse photos already there, make collages out of photos, find interesting content that will do excellent on social media, find great blog posts using RSS feeds, find great gifs, and you can do all of this and schedule your postings from one place. They’re also working on allowing their customers to manage multiple stores on different platforms from the same account. Something else that Natwar is super excited about is the videos they’re going to be releasing. These will allow customers to make customized promotional or product videos for their shops with just a few clicks. Videos are doing fantastic on social media right now, so being able to offer this feature to their customers really puts them ahead of the curve.
Natwar does understand that not everyone wants to be in front of the camera. This is where the collages they offer come into play. It’s an easy and seamless way to showcase what your product is and add text over it.
One person brand
Something Natwar has noticed is how because of social media, people are literally becoming their own brands. Years ago, a company would come up with a product and then create a brand for that product. In the last decade, however, this has changed drastically because of social media. Every single person is now technically a brand. This might be because of a couple different platforms like Facebook or Instagram where they’re very active. This activity then organically falls into products. So the pendulum has swung where the brand is the person and the person then finds the product he or she is interested in. This is the one person company concept that Natwar and Around.i.o is thinking more and more about. He says that in the U.S. this is where things are heading and for companies like Around.i.o and Marmalead, the one person company will be the largest client in the future. This is already true for Marmalead as most Etsy shops are run by one or two people.
Which social media platform sells?
Natwar lives in this space between e-commerce and social media platforms. Since this is the case we wanted to know if he’d found that certain social platforms were better for engagement for e-commerce or if they were more product dependent. Is there a pattern he’s seen? He said the truth is that the “patterns” are changing so fast that what was true a year ago no longer is. He understands that a lot of e-commerce sellers are really frustrated with Facebook. However, this is still the biggest platform. Bottom line. You just have to know how to “do” the whole “e-commerce on Facebook” thing well. He sees sellers doing fantastic on both Twitter and Instagram. The moment we start looking at these newer platforms we think that Facebook is just old, but the truth remains that it still has way more users across the board than the younger social media platforms.
He says that he sees many sellers getting frustrated and giving up when it comes to selling over Facebook or social media in general. But it’s not something that you can learn overnight and it certainly won’t have success overnight. You have to practice over and over again. This is just a fact. Also, Natwar says SEO is the best strategy for long term e-commerce. You should ALWAYS try to understand SEO. At the same time, it’s still important to have other avenues. Maybe it’s social media or email. Whatever it may be, you need other avenues that are bringing in direct traffic. Natwar says sellers often don’t think of this. If you don’t have more than one avenue, open up several avenues! You have to try things out and stay consistent.
Getting started with social media
So what’s Natwar’s suggestion for an Etsy seller who has just dabbled in social media or for someone who is wanting to totally restart the whole process? He says as a rule of thumb, start with what you know and choose no more than two platforms at a time. Beginning with something you understand more will help you to not become as frustrated and you’ll see more results because of this. Then, once you’ve done this you should take on one more challenge and deep dive into it. For example: set some realistic traffic goals and then review the results after a week’s time. If you need to adjust those goals do it at this time. You can add on one challenge at a time as you learn to tackle each.
Now, if you don’t have amazing photos it doesn’t make sense to start with Instagram or Pinterest because you won’t have good engagement. And you MUST have excellent photos for either of these platforms. Because they’re totally visual the competition is very high photography wise. With Facebook you have more room to do other things. It all depends on what you know and what your strengths are. It’s important to remember that this is almost like learning a moving target, so it will take time for you to learn what works for you.
Also, keep investing in your email lists. It’s one of the best ways to get direct traffic back to your store. And we’ll all say it again: you can do all of this, but if you leave SEO out you’re doing it all wrong.
So how long do you have to wait?
I mean, how long does it really take to see results on social media? Well there are a few factors involved in this. The first thing Natwar would ask you is what are you good at? Do you already have a following? Perhaps on Instagram? And if so, if you presented a product to your audience do you think they would engage with it? If the answer is yes, then run with that and make the changes suggested above. Maybe you start making videos since they’re doing SO well on social media right now. Whatever the changes you make, give it at least two months before expecting substantial results. Honestly, two months really isn’t that long in the social media world either. Things don’t usually happen overnight, at least not things that are sustainable.
Personal vs. business
Let’s say you’ve built up a following on social media personally. Your personal brand is thriving, but it doesn’t have anything to do with your Etsy shop. So what should you do? Do you use your personal social media platform to try and drive traffic to your shop? Or should you start fresh with a social media platform for your shop alone? Natwar says you should definitely use your personal platform especially in the beginning. You want to use the currency you already have. If your large following is on Instagram, slowly start introducing photos of your product. Post “in progress” photos and even consider changing the name of your account to the name of your business. Definitely keep a heavy personal aspect in the beginning and slowly keep introducing your audience to whatever it is you’re selling. Eventually, if your business completely takes over what was your personal account consider starting a new personal account. Allow your business account to keep growing on the platform you built.
Business vs. hobby
The difference between a hobby and business is that a business has a repeatable process. Basically, selling things. For example, if you go to a flea market and you sell everything you bring, that’s awesome! But, can you keep doing that over and over? The same thing is true for online. What’s allowing you to have a repeatable process? Are you selling more things because of ads, postings, email marketing, when changing your SEO? Natwar says whatever it is, finding that repeatable process is the only way to define a business. Otherwise it’s just a hobby.
We loved chatting with Natwar and hearing more about his story! If you’d like to check out Around.io click here. He and his team are doing a fantastic job and offer a wonderful product. And as always, listen to this week’s jam! There’s always more fun content that we can’t always cover in the blog.
Happy selling everyone!