Monday, February 22, 2010

Social Media for Starters

I have been thinking recently about a comment made by a friend of mine with regard to Soaperstar - he said "it's really an experiment in social marekting isn't it?".  In part, he's right - when I started the business, I used Facebook and Twitter socially, just as me, Celine.  Not as me, Soaperstar.  I didn't (and still don't have) a marketing budget per se - looking at what the big guys spend on marketing makes me faint! I thought "how do I get my message out there with the budget I have?".  And my answer was social media - it's free and the only investment you need to make is time and energy.  You don't need £££'s or €€€€'s or $$$$'s to use them and you can get many rewards back. 

Firstly, I don't proclaim to be any sort of expert on social media but I am someone who runs a small business and is trying to use social media as a marketing tool to get the message out about my products and my love for making them.  I had a Twitter account already but barely used it - I didn't "get" Twitter.  As part of my new strategy, I decided to take a step into social media networking to build on relationships as a sales and marketing tool.. .in order to do this, I had to set up a company profile on both Twitter and Facebook. 

Facebook does allow you to set up a business page as an extention of your personal profile - it's pretty easy to set up and allows you to present a company profile to people.  By inviting your existing friends and family, you can start building networks.  As I explained in a previous post, these networks can be built on by asking your existing network, ie your friends and family, to extend it by inviting their networks to join yours.  It's termed viral marketing. 

However, Twitter seems to be a real mystery to people and I thought I might concentrate this post on it specifically, in terms of setting out as a small business to use it as a marketing tool.  I took my existing profile and changed the name to Soaperstar - easily done.  I added a picture as my avatar (the picture that appears beside your posts that says "this is you").  I had thought of putting up a picture of myself but I then decided to add a picture of one of my soaps instead - given this is a company profile, and the company is about soapmaking, I thought it was a great way to get an image out there and implanted on peoples' brains that Soaperstar = Soap.  I change the picture pretty regularly whenever I make a visually bright and interesting soap - another way of showcasing your products.  If you don't have a product that is visually that interesting, ie something like widgets (I'm not even sure what they are but I'm sure someone makes them), then add your logo or, as I do elsewhere, a visual representation of your company.  This the image I use, for instance, on Facebook.

It's clear and uses the same font as my company name - I don't have a logo per se, but use this image in exchange for that. 

Ok, so now you have an account set up and a nice image - you've made progress.  You can also add an image to the background of your profile page - again I take a picture of my soap and tile this as my background.  This has a limited impact however, as lots of people use different programmes to access Twitter - my personal favourite being Tweetdeck.  With Tweetdeck, I'd rarely see someone's profile background picture (but I would always see their profile pic, which is why it's more important to have one). 

I would always advise someone to fill out the profile page as best they can - include where you are, your name, your website address .. any information that people will find interesting about you.  In your description, think of something short and to the point. 

So, now you have a profile and some pictures.  Now what? Well, you start talking to people... follow those who you know are already on Twitter, your sister or cousin or whoever.  Again, as with Facebook, work on the networks you already belong to - members of your family and friends.  You're not going to make your fortune from them however (no matter how nice they are to you!) so you need to extend beyond that but, for a first venture into the medium, it's a good start.  Ask them to introduce you to their friends.. some people may follow you just because they've recommended you. 

The key to marketing on Twitter is making networks .. which basically means making friends.  If someone comes up to you in the street and says "here, buy this from me", your first reaction will be "nutter" and the second will be "no way am I buying anything from a random stranger".  However, if you know hat your friend is in business and selling something, lets say soap, and you think "Oh I need to get something for my wife for her birthday", who will you go to? Your friend who'll sell you the soap, nicely wrapped and presented, delivered to your door.  Your friend who you know has a special offer on and include a freebie or a card or something (you know this because they tweeted it a few days ago).  You're happy to deal with your friend and they're happy to get the business.   Think of Twitter like that ... building friendships. 

But how do you do that, I hear you say, when you don't know anyone? You do it the same way you to anywhere else - online is no different from offline.  When you don't know someone but think they might be nice or interesting, you say "Hi, how are you, having a good day?" or something, to them.  It's not going to rock their world (but it might make them happy, sometimes a nice hello is worth it's weight in gold) but it's going to say that you're a decent nice person .. generally speaking, the reaction will be "hi, I'm fine, how are you?".  And so it starts.  Just like it does no matter where you are - yes, it feels a little awkward at the start but it does in real life too.  You cannot get to know someone without starting off with a Hello!

So now I hear you saying, "Ok, that's fine, just say hi, what next?".  What's next is keep up the conversation, or chat to others in the same way ... talk about something interesting, something they might want to talk about.  For example, imagine you're selling ski equipment - a hard sell but you could start out with a shout out to everyone saying "I've just come back from a ski holiday, it was fantastic, anyone else been on one?".  You'll no doubt get an answer or two .. ask them some questions, be interested.  Don't jump in with "oh wanna buy some equipment?".. drop the fact that you sell equipment into the conversation but don't make it the topic of the conversation.  They'll know now that you sell equipment but it doesn't mean that you're a nameless faceless person selling equipment and nothing else - you're a human being, interacting with them, being interested, being funny (hopefully!) who happens to sell ski equipment.  Keep up that conversation over time, make friends, chat when you get online and who will they go to for their ski equipment if they need any?? Their friend, who's a nice person and funny and who, handily enough, sells ski equipment.  Get it? That's the beauty of social marketing and the key to it - you have to be a person, you have to be real, you have to be YOU.  You are the company yes, but you're also a person with feelings and thoughts and opinions, not just a person selling ski equipment.  So share yourself, whilst you're sharing your business.

That's the thing to remember about social media and marketing - it's sociable! You need to interact with people, chat, talk about things, give an opinion, be yourself.  Drop in some tweets about your business in the mix, link it to what people are talking about, let them know that you sell soap or ski equipment or whatever and do it in a way that it seems to meet people's needs and wants. 

I have to say that the network of friends I've made from Twitter is excellent - they are lovely people, who are funny (made me laugh til the tears came rolling down my face at times), they are caring (when I was ill recently, the number of tweets I got to see I was ok was amazing), they sometimes need help themselves... and they've also are customers of mine.  I am happy to know them all, for every reason and not just the latter. 

So, if you're a small business starting out, think about your marketing strategies, your budget available to you - see what time you can offer to social media (it does take time to build up friendships, online or offline, so dropping in and out once a month isn't going to cut it, I'm afraid).  Don't be afraid to be yourself, show people that you're someone they want to get to know.  Get your brand out there via your profile and your business related tweets but don't make it just about the business - the business is you not just the brand.  I make it a rule not to follow people who ONLY post links to their business - they are offering me nothing, I don't know who they are.  Follow people and offer others something that will make them follow you.  Build your networks, and spread the good word.  You will need to give it time and energy but it will pay you dividends in the future.  And remember, it's free, it's something you can do anywhere and everywhere and it won't cost you anything! Which, as a small business, is a VERY attractive option!

I hope I've helped people out who may not understand social media or who don't "get" Twitter - it's no different from a group of friends getting together anywhere, it just means you're in different rooms, not all sitting together.  Which means that you can get your company message out anywhere and everywhere at any time of the day and there will be people there to receive that message - as long as you're participating in the network, people will take notice. 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Irish Blog Awards Nomination for Soaperstar!

Well... I am tickled pink, and purple, and green and red and orange and all the colours of the rainbow! Why you say? Because the blog you're reading right now has been nominated for the Irish Blog Awards 2010 in the Pop Culture Category.

I'm just delighted.. it's a long list of nominees and I might not have the best chance in the world but hey, I really am delighted to have been nominated at all.  The awards night is being held on 27 March in Galway - I imagine that judges will short list (from the long list) and then decide the winners.  So I may never get an opportunity to wear some fancy schmancy dress on the red carpet but no matter, I'm pretty happy as it is right now!

So, the next question is, should I practice my speech?!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fabulous new Soaps! Rain Shower & Oriental Crush

As I said in my Facebook/Twitter post, I've been a little poorly lately but I've still managed to go ahead and make two stunning new soaps... I'm really proud of these.  Both are made with our excellent quality goatsmilk and glycerine soap, which, if you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know I'm completely in love with! I just adore them because they are so excellent for your skin - glycerine is a natural humectant... a what now? I hear you say.... it simply means that it draws moisture from the air into your skin, which means that it helps you have silkly soft skin.  As usual, I also add an Ecocert skin hydrating factor - I find this so incredible to increase your skin's moisture levels - honestly, I've made lots of soaps, some with this and some without and there is NO way on this earth that I'd make any without this in it.  As you know, I will NEVER sell anything I wouldn't use myself and I wouldn't not add this hydration factor (you know what I mean, I never said I had a degree in English!). 

First up, we have our new Rain Shower goatsmilk glycerine soap - unusually for me, it's actually quite a muted coloured soap (you know me, I do love my colours) but I had a beautifully fresh fragrance oil and had been trying to design a soap for an age that'd do it justice.  Then I thought ... pastel, muted, calm, clean, soft ... and here we have Rain Shower. 

Rain Shower - what can I say about this fragrance? To me, it's such a fresh and light scent and it reminds me of the smell of a garden straight after a rain shower - you know that clean, fresh fragrance that smells like the world's worries have been washed away and everything's all clean again?  Along with the excellent qualities of the goatsmilk and glycerine soap, we've added pure Avocado Butter - this is a very rich and moisturising butter cold pressed from the pulp of the avocado. The soap is wonderfully pastel coloured and calming with a hint of glisten provided through the used of natural mica. It has a blend of soft turquoise (THE colour of 2010) with cool green and pure creamy white and a soft glisten.  Our Rain Shower Fragrance Oil is a fresh aquatic blend of lily of the valley, gardenia, raindrops, mist & clean green countryside - so reminiscent of the fresh scent of a spring day, after a rain shower.  I think this is such a wonderfully uplifting and fresh soap - a perfect start to your day.

Then I decided to go crazy and make my next soap, Oriental Crush - this one took a minimum of 4 hours! I stopped counting after that!! Each of the soap "bubbles" is moulded seperately and have to be hand trimmed before embedding into the goatsmilk white soap.  It is really perfect for all skin types, and especially those suffering from dry skin conditions.  Along with the usual skin hydrating factor, I have also added pure Coconut Oil, which has been called the healthiest oil on earth - it has incredible abilities to moisturise your skin and is particularly good with dry or mature skin. Oriental Crush is fragranced with a blend of zesty lime & mandarin, leading to a base of basil with warm accords of precious woods & amber. To match the scent perfectly, we've used glistening brightly coloured spots of glycerine soap in co-ordinating colours. The soap is wonderfully citrusy with a herbal background - a very beautiful blend and a perfect oriental influence. This really is a wonderfully fresh and zesty soap and will gently scent your skin throughout the day.

I hope you're enjoyed a glimpse of our two new soaps ... I just loved making these (even if they took ages to make!) and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the fragrances.  If you are interested in purchasing either of these soaps, or in fact any in our ever extending range, don't hesitate to check out our online store at - we'll be delighted to see you!!!

Soaperstar Blog Posts via Email - Subscribe now!

I just wanted to noted to you that you can now receive our Soaperstar blog posts via email! On the left hand side, there's a box for you to insert your email address so that you can subscribe... that way you can receive our latest blog posts straight into your mailbox! I subscribe to a couple of blogs that way and it is so handy! We all know live can get very busy at times and we don't always get the chance to check out all our favourite websites, so it's handy to get updates delivered straight to you - that way you miss nothing. 

So, if you fancy signing up for our subscription service, please feel free to include your email address. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Facebook and Twitter Tip for businesses

Firstly, can I say a quick "sorry" for not having posted in a while? I've been under the weather and, in the main, under the radar.  I''ve been working away quietly and slowly making some soaps and experimenting with lip balms and bath bombs too.  I'll post about this tomorrow as I've to work on some photos beforehand.


So... the real point of this blog post to give you a tip about Facebook and Twitter.  Lots of small businesses are focusing on social media to get their message out - it's a hugely powerful tool and it's free! You can reach millions of people via what is called "viral marketing".  What is that I hear you say? Basically, it's marketing through networks.  Let me give you a scenario - before I started Soaperstar I knew that I had to get a presence online and build up interest for the product and company before I could start selling.. otherwise who will buy something they don't know exists? Ok. So what did I do? I set up a blog firstly (you're reading it!) that just told of what I was doing - plain and simple English, just to say "hey folks, this is my stuff and this is what I'm working on now".  Then I decided to set up a Facebook Fan Page.  Lots of people already have personal pages on Facebook but you can also set up a business page too to promote your products to your network... who are they? Your friends and family that you've sent a link to and said "come and join us on our new business page". 

Ok, so now my friends and family have joined but I'm not going to take over the soaping universe through them am I? Well, yes in a way.  You ask your friends and family to send an invite to your Facebook Fan Page to their friends and family.  So .. how you've reached two layers of people.  Then on your Facebook Page, say to everyone please feel free to invite your network to join.. so now how many people can you reach? Plenty! Loads more than the number of people you ever know.  They invite their network, who invites their network, who invites their network.. see how it works? Ok, not everyone is going to be interested or join or even click the link - but imagine if even 10% do!

I've just done a forum post on some tips arising from the use of Facebook and Twitter and thought I'd do a blog post on it also; it may be of some interest to people so I thought I'd share it. 


Vanity URL's with Facebook:  When you've built up at least 25 fans, you can change your facebook fan page to what they call a "Vanity URL". When you first create your Facebook fan page, pretty much just a string of letters and numbers and long and not very attractive.  To make it more like your own site link, that contains the name of your company this is what you should do:

Click  At the bottom of the page, you'll see a link called "set a username for your pages".  Click on it and then you'll see a drop down - click on this and you should see your "business fan page".  At that point, you should put in the name of your company/fan page, ie Soaperstar.  Word of warning, at this stage you have to make committment to using that name - you can't go back and change it later so make sure you've clicked the right thing!!!

After doing all this, you'll have a nice simple Facebook Fan Page address ... example - instead of a mass of jumbled up letters and numbers after the dot com.  This is handy to quote on your business cards, the end of your emails, on Twitter, your blog, the end of forum signatures etc.  

Twitter and how to manage your messages:  If you're using Twitter regularly, download Tweetdeck, click; it's free and it manages the process far easier.  You can set up columns for your friends or for specific people you want to keep a track on.  If you want to use hastags (which are used for subjects of interest to people - if lots of people use it for the same subject, it's called trending) then add the hashtags #soap and/or #handmade to your Tweet.  Then people can search for all the #soap tweets if they want.  Also it makes it a more trending topic. 

I hope this information proves useful to someone - I am a big fan of social media and I think, for small businesses who don't have marketing budgets the size of the big guys (or any marketing budget at all!), then the social media route is so important to check out.  Don't underestimate the power of a network!!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New February Special Offer!

We've decided to continue with our New Year resolution of offering our valued customers a free gift with their orders! In January, we offered a mystery soap with every order for 4 or more soaps and it proved hugely successful!

This February we've decided to offer our customers a free, 100% cotton washcloth with every order of 2 or more soaps - no need to add them to your order, we'll pack them along with your soaps.  The cloths are made of the softest, white cotton and would be perfect to use in the shower with your Soaperstar soap! It will come tied in a beautiful purple bow!

Just a little "Thank You" to our valued customers - we hope you love this offer and we're working on ideas for continuing offers for the months to come.

Don't forget to order your Limited Edition Valentine soaps online soon! A perfect piece of practical art for the love of your life!

Check out all our products online at  See you there!!!!
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