Friday, July 15, 2011

What Hustle & Flow Teaches Us About Treasuries

For the past week, I have been experimenting with treasuries on Etsy. I'm trying to break down what actually makes a hit treasury a hit treasury and how trends actually work on Etsy.

Yesterday, I had a bit of an epiphany: it's all about the pimping.

Think about it for a second. You only get 16 slots in a treasury. Etsy wants you to not include yourself (boo hiss) and not to repeat sellers. It's a rare day that I see all 16 featured sellers even comment on a treasury while there's a chance of it hitting the top of the hotness charts. Rarer still that a treasury with no promotion beyond creation goes anywhere.

So what does this have with the seminal Academy Award winning film about pimping, drug trafficking, and rapping? Everything.

Music to read by: "Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from Hustle & Flow

My understanding of promotional efforts comes from 3 years of a business degree and a long history of reality TV auditions (aka famewhoring). If you want success, you need to promote like the rent is due tomorrow. It's all about who you know, who knows you, and how you exploit those connections.

There is an urgency to making a treasury explode on Etsy. If too much time goes by without clicks, comments, and favorites, you're out of luck. You need to hit early, hit often, and treat that treasury like your only chance to pay the rent on time.

The first thing is almost completely beyond your control. Etsy chooses different themes they'll be focusing on for a given month. They aren't the only themes, but they're a place to start. If you are serious about Etsy using one of your treasuries, your best option is to find a unique spin on these themes.

For example, one of the July topics is Autumn. Everyone is going to make a treasury with fall colors or in anticipation of Halloween. A few of these will be promoted by Etsy. If you want to increase the chance of front page or e-mail exposure, you have to do something a little different with it. Why not focus on the fall harvest or a different fall holiday? Maybe do a treasury all about leaves or a treasury of fall-appropriate clothing and accessories? You have to take the idea and spin it to stand out.

The second thing you need to know is organization. If you look at the treasury page, you'll see that only the first four items in your treasury are shown. You need to make your theme clear in four pictures. Either fall into the creamy, barnwoody goodness that constantly populates the front page or choose striking photos that draw the eye in. If the first four photos are confusing, fuzzy, out of focus, poorly cropped, or seemingly random, your treasury might not get the casual clicks that can push it closer to the top of the list.

The third thing you need to know is to use the people in your treasury to promote for you. It's not always enough to just list someone in a treasury. If they only check their shop every few days and don't get e-mail notifications for treasury inclusion, they might not find out until your treasury is cold.

Just take five minutes after you publish the treasury to contact each of the sellers in your treasury. You want a simple and friendly message personalized to each seller. I've been doing something like this and have been getting consistent responses from it.
Just letting you know that I included your [title/description of object] in a [reason why the treasury is special: all part of a team? a certain craft? a certain location? a certain target demographic] treasury: [link to treasury].
Figure out what your comfortable with in a message.  I like to title the message [Name of Treasury] Treasury so the seller knows why you're contacting them. Then I leave a brief and polite message that gives them a heads up on what I included and why they're in the treasury. Some people do this by messaging the seller about the item itself. I think this can be a little misleading, but if you make it clear that the treasury is why you're contacting them (you can adjust the title), it should be fine.

The fourth thing you need to know is outside promotion. You might have up to 16 other people promoting the treasury, but that's not enough. They're not as invested in it as you are. This is where Hustle & Flow really kicks in. You need to pimp that treasury with all your might.

Do you have a Twitter account? Send out a message with a brief description and a link to the treasury. Do you have a Facebook? Publish a message on your wall inviting your friends, fans, and family to check out your treasury. Are you on any Etsy teams? Leave a message in an appropriate thread about the treasury with a link. Are you a member of any Etsy related sites with message boards? Leave a message about the treasury in an appropriate thread or start your own thread. If you can embed images, even better: take a screengrab, edit it down to fit the site, and embed it as a link in your post. That way people are drawn in by the picture.

But don't stop on your own accounts. Does your Etsy team have a Facebook page? Post a link there. Know anyone who can throw your link up on Reddit, Digg, or Del.i.Cious? Ask them to submit for you. Don't submit it yourself as those sites punish blatant self-promotion. So long as someone else starts it, you're good to go. On Twitter, use the hashtags (#topic) to draw attention to the theme. Always include #etsy if you can fit it. Tweet it @yourteam if your team has a dedicated Twitter account.

Timing is everything with this. I think the best way to space it out is to do a little bit at a time. Immediately do everything you can on Etsy (convo the sellers, post to your teams). Wait a few minutes and then hit your social networking. Wait a few minutes more and start hitting up other people's sites that allow you to link to treasuries. Wait a few minutes more and start asking a trustworthy friend to submit your link to social networks. And don't be afraid to click on the items in your own treasury each time you look at it. It only helps in the long run.

So what led to this post? My Nightmares and Dreamscapes treasury. There is nothing on Etsy to suggest that a horror-themed treasury would be promoted in anyway. I was aware of that, but I wanted to try my different marketing methods. Turns out people really responded to this treasury when I actually let people (outside of Twitter feed/shops) know about it.

While my early efforts got the treasury to page 9 in about an hour, it was when I opened up and started pimping it on one message board and my team's Facebook page that it took off. It gained and additional 150 views before the night was over, some non-included in treasury admirers (formerly favorites), and a bunch of clicks. I know within minutes of posting on the Facebook page it jumped up fifteen slots on the hot list.

Coincidentally, a few other people started posting twisted, bizarre, horror-esque treasuries that also started to climb. Did I subconsciously hit on a trend or did people try to ride the fast rise of this treasury? I don't know. What I do know is that it's hard out there for a pimp, but it's rewarding to promote a treasury like one once you get over yourself.

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