Saturday, November 21, 2015

a (Facebook) group of your own - with Julie of Uglibeads!

Facebook groups have been around for a long time, but they are really gaining momentum! Whatever you love to make, share, or learn about, for every medium and technique imaginable - chances are good that there is a group for that.

Each group will vary in what sorts of things people are invited to post. A group may be dedicated to sharing new work, exchanging technical tips, providing fun challenges and inspiration, or reserved exclusively for auctions or sales of the members' work. Michelle McCarthy wrote a short post here not too long ago about buying and selling in the larger Facebook groups, but today, I wanted to take the time to share some of the wonderful things about having your own Facebook group! 

For those of you who are considering starting a group of your own - I'm here to encourage you and give you a gentle nudge to take the leap! We all need a little push sometimes.

The best way to get a feel for how groups work is to join a few. If you'd like to focus on selling your work in your own group, I think it's an excellent idea to try your hand at selling in some of the larger art jewelry or component auction groups first. You'll get the nuts and bolts down in no time, and you can perfect your descriptions, policies, and the steps you need to take to complete the sale - messaging, invoicing, etc. It's good to have a system all worked out - it makes life a lot easier. You will make some great connections with people who love your work and enjoy the experience of buying on Facebook. When the time comes, many of them will be happy to follow your sales in your own group.

It's also a great chance to observe how the groups are organized and how the group administrators handle the day-to-day operations. You'll get a feel for some of the little hiccups that come up from time to time in the groups (non-payment is one that you may run into) and how those hiccups can be handled smoothly.

To get a feel for the buyer's perspective, join a few groups where you can purchase work from artists you love - and give buying during an auction or a sale a try! Once you get going with it, (as long as you have time to follow the posts) purchasing beautiful and unique items on Facebook, directly from the artist, is remarkably easy!

(Just a note - many groups are 'closed' groups - you must request to join to participate. This protects the privacy of the group members, and helps the owner of the group to avoid spammy posts. When you join a group, have a peek around. If it's not your cup of tea, simply click on the 'Leave Group' button up top. It's very easy peasy.)

After some time spent participating in other groups, you may feel yourself longing for a place you can call your own. Just like the things you make, your group is your creation, and it will be a reflection of your unique style, personality, and artistic interests. You can guide it in any direction you choose, and build a space where you feel truly comfortable being your authentic self.

Sell your work, share in-progress photos, videos, workspace shots, inspiring quotes or photos, stories, insight into your life as an artist, giveaways, challenges - it's your group, so anything goes! I even hosted a fun chocolate swap in my group this past summer!

If you enjoy writing or story-telling, a group is an especially great place to do that. Joanne Louvaine-Bell has a special group to showcase her creations (Twinkiedinky (handmade jewellery by Joanne Bell) showground group). She's an absolutely *beautiful* writer, and her group reflects her love for weaving a tale around her work. Is this magical 'Moth Bracelet' not the most gorgeous thing ever?:

Joanne has an event coming up at the end of the month in her group called 'Princesses Behaving Badly.' Inviting her group members to stop by, she writes:

"Mirror Mirror on the tree... Let's ask a few to follow me... Into magic and through the leaves, past the glades and over streams.... Jewellry as a Narrative. Fresh and New. Stories. Glories. Follow do....."

Who wouldn't be intrigued by that? Joanne says, "My showground group is like a little pop up shop where I am free to be essentially me. Where I have the freedom to tell lengthy meandering tales of the why of a piece, inspired by a theme. I'm in a billion groups but that one is all mine."

I really feel the same way. In your own little corner of the overwhelmingly huge world of Facebook, you get to set the tone. It's all about having the space to interact on a much more personal level with the people who love what you do. 

Maria Grimes is a lampwork bead and jewelry maker, and her group is called 'Garden Path Beads by Maria Grimes'. In addition to beads and jewelry, she also sells her *ridiculously* cute sculptural creations there:

Maria says, "There are so many wonderful things about having a Facebook group... I think my favorite is being able to interact with my customers. I also think my customers like being able to interact with each other, there's sense of community there. It's a fun place to gather and see some of the happenings in my studio, from new beads to Miss Molly's shenanigans (who is in charge of shipping and receiving)."

I couldn't agree more. Having a group is a fantastic (and fun!) opportunity for people who are interested in your work to get to know you a little better. Maria is the loveliest, kindest, friendliest person you could imagine, and this shines through in the way she runs her group. You can't help but feel welcome, and to develop a deeper connection with her work because of the extra-special person (and cute little shipping assistant!) behind it.

Kristi Bowman-Gruel started her group (KristiBowmanDesign) to share what she is up to in her studio, or as she says, "A little peek inside my world!" She has been posting some new, exciting work for sale there too - I hope she will list more of these totally amazing copper beads soon:

One of my favorite things about Kristi's group is that in addition to new work, she's been sharing some behind-the scenes process photos too. She has some veeeeeeerrry interesting new components in the works, using the electroforming setup that she shows here: 

I think those peeks behind-the-scenes are really valuable. The more we can learn about what goes into handcrafting beautiful things, the more we appreciate how special they are.

Kristi says, "Even though putting yourself out there to the world is good, posting to all kinds of groups and sites, having a smaller group of people who you know are interested in your work is more intimate."

Jewelry designer Suhana Hart also runs a fabulous group for sharing her work, called 'Buttoned Up Beads (Handmade Jewellery by Suhana Hart)'. 

I'm just a little obsessed with her gorgeous wrap bracelets that can also be worn as a necklace:

Like most of us who have our own groups, Suhana also loves the interaction and says the best thing about the group format is "interacting with my customers and knowing my posts will be seen by more than a handful of my fans.

And she makes an excellent point - when Facebook changed the way posts from business pages were seen, it became far more difficult to connect with your audience. Group posts seem to have a greater reach and engagement tends to be much, much higher. For that reason, in addition to selling your work directly in the group, it's also a great place to announce Etsy sales, blog posts, and other non-Facebook happenings.

The amount of time and effort you wish to devote to your group is up to you. It can be an enormous (and worthwhile) investment of energy if you really love to interact with your group members and to get to know everyone, but you can also decide to stick to 'for sale' posts. You have the freedom to pop in only when it works for you. I've been experimenting with having a short auction on some Saturday mornings, when I'm available to chat and catch up with everyone. During the rest of the week, I'm around a little less, but many of 'the Uglipeeps' (my beloved group members) keep the party going! It's a lot of fun to watch. They often share photos of their beads when they arrive, and the beautiful creations they are making. It's a very friendly bunch of people, and I also encourage folks who don't necessarily buy lampwork to join in and feel part of the community.

At the beginning of November, I celebrated the one year anniversary of my group (Uglibeads - lampwork beads by Julie Wong Sontag). This group has been so vital to the growth of my business over the last year, I can't even tell you. A year seems like a long time ago, but I vividly remember the feeling of clicking on that 'Create Group' button. It was totally scary! What if no one joins? What if no one participates? Of course, we all have those fears and doubts - but don't let that stop you. 

I posted the following quote when I had about 150 members in my group - just taking a moment to reflect on what a wonderful experience it had been up to that point. It's a good one to keep in mind whenever you're considering taking a big step forward - 

"In the end, we only regret the chances we didn't take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make." - Lewis Carroll

To my group members I said, "Being able to share my work with you is the greatest gift imaginable" and I still feel that way every single day.

I now have 500 members in my group, and it's been so much more fun and rewarding than I could ever have imagined. So much sharing, so much growth, so many special relationships, so much inspiration.

So - if you've been thinking about it....... Take a deep breath, and dive in! Joanne, Maria, Kristi, Suhana and I all did it - we love it - and so will you :)

Do you have your own group? Do you have favorite artists you love to follow in their groups? Have they helped you connect in a deeper way with other art bead and jewelry fans? Is your gut telling you that you would love to have your own group? Your thoughts are always welcome in the comments below!

Until next time...


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Julie is a glass beadmaker with a passion for building community and inspiring conversation around her writing. Her best work comes from that magical place where nature meets creative flow. She is fascinated by all things weird and wonderful. You will find her hanging out most days in her Uglibeads Facebook group or on Instagram, and you're invited to join in the adventure by signing up for her weekly email newsletter.


Honey from the Bee said...

I've been thinking about this for awhile and reading this makes me think now is the time! I'm a member of your delightful group and a member of Kristi's new group. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

Another excellent article Julie, thank you. I am a member of your group as well as several of the others you mentioned and I love the sense of community they have as well as seeing all the beautiful glass, bead and jewellery art.
I set up my own group on Facebook a few weeks ago but I have come across a bit of a hump, there doesn't seem to be a way to just invite people to join. You can add people directly which I don't want to do because that just seems rude or you can e-mail them to ask them to join which is ineffective. I don't want a particularly big group but I can't work out how to actually ask anyone to join. Do you have any advice about that please?

Anonymous said...

I am a member of a few groups - great way to meet and connect with other jewellery and bead makers - and being in the same group means you already have at least one similar interest.

Unknown said...

I think groups are great. They really do promote a sense of community. People there do already have something in common, and then discussions can lead to more shared ideas etc. I'm not always that chatty, but the great thing about groups is you can just go and look, read and if you have something to say comment. It's all ok!

KristiBowmanDesign said...

Good stuff Julie, thank you for encouraging me to give groups a try. It's been an adventure and a very enjoyable one. You've given us all tons of good information, you are so generous. Thanks again!!

baymoondesign said...

I don't have my own group. I am a member of a few groups. I really feel like I have to limit what I join because I get sucked into cyber space very easily. If I join too many groups, I would never get anything done in the real world!

Julie Wong Sontag said...

Hi Judith! To answer your question (I'll send you a note also in case you don't check back here) - Facebook does not currently allow group owners to 'invite' potential new members to the group - other than via email, as you say. Which is too bad because I agree with you that many folks don't take kindly to being added to a group without having given you permission first. My best advice would be to remember to post a link to your group with a personal note about what you're up to over there, either on your personal or business page - or in groups where you are allowed to include a link, such as Creative Bead Chat. Often! Remember that not everyone will see all of your posts. The only way to build a group is to let people know that it exists! I think that organic approach to letting your group grow works really well - that way you have a group full of people who took the time to opt-in, and want to be there, vs. a large 'number' of members with few who are truly interested in your work. Keep putting yourself out there, and people will find you! I hope that helps! xo -- Julie

Unknown said...

Thank you very much Julie, that is most helpful - Judith xx