Little Minnow Designs is a handmade women’s accessories line. My sisters, Lizzi and Mary, started it back in 2010 – first as a fun, creative outlet. It soon grew to be more than just an on the side job, and both of them left their traditional jobs to see where it would take them. Now, 6 years later, they sell in 250 stores nationwide. They grew online through their own website, an Etsy page, and their social media presence – learning by trial and error along the way. Today they also sell on Amazon Handmade and on Brika (a leading platform for contemporary, elevated craft with a community of 400+ artisans and designers). Little Minnow grew before my eyes, yet I had never really asked them about their social media strategy or lessons they have learned along the way, so I called up my sisters and asked.
What works well…
Lizzi runs the social media accounts on top of her other roles, so sometimes it becomes a bit of a burden. This summer they had 2 interns, one of which helped with social media management. Little Minnow has a social media presence on multiple platforms – however, Instagram is the one they devote the most time and attention to. On Facebook, they mostly just share their Instagram posts to reach those without Instagram accounts. To track user engagement, identify peak post times, and to schedule future posts they utilize Hootsuite. Additionally, Lizzi has been using Instagram for Business for best practices. They have yet to advertise on social media sites, mostly because the main segment of their customers are store owners/buyers rather than an individual consumer.
Being consistent on social media has been one of their guiding practices. By this I mean having a style, a steady stream of posts, and themes throughout their posts. Little Minnow does not always post photos of their products, rather they mix it up with #mondaymantra posts with original typography (posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6 percent more engagement than those without, according to a study by Simply Measured), photos of their studio or behind the scenes, posts of other brands they like, or photos related to current events, etc. They have also used user generated content that is either sent into them or they ask for permission to repost if they are tagged in a photo. These strategies allows them to interact more with their followers instead of just constantly promoting their products.
Here is a post from Election day last week and a re-post of user generated content.
Partnerships have also proved to be successful both in real life but also online, especially on social media. Little Minnow Designs is a part of the Maker Co-op – a group of small businesses offering home goods and other handmade products in Austin, TX. Whenever there is an event or giveaway from this group (ie a basket with products from each of these companies), each brand shares the same posts and each company sees an uptick in followers, likes, etc. Interestingly, Little Minnow has found that giveaways of just their own products are a less effective approach to reaching a greater audience and engaging their current followers. Lizzi also admitted that giveaways that require users to share a post seem gimmicky to her and she doesn’t want people to get annoyed when they see Little Minnow in their Instagram feed.
Additionally, when stores that sell Little Minnow post photos, Lizzi says she notices an uptick in followers because it allows Little Minnow to reach a different demographic in a new geography. Sometimes the stores will make a “behind the brand” post and feature Little Minnow’s story, which garners even more likes and followers for Little Minnows account. In terms of generating business, before trade shows Little Minnow will try to engage with stores who will be buying at the show. Just recognizing their name from Instagram helps bring more buyers into their booth.
One challenge Little Minnow Designs encountered was with Pinterest. One of their prints was shared 60k+ times, but the user who created the original pin only posted the photo of the print, not the actual link to the website, nor did the description have any information about Little Minnow Designs. Although they had high visibility, that couldn’t be reflected back into sales. This was a few years ago – before users had the filter option for “buyable pins.” Luckily, today on Pinterest the pin for this print is now linked and still sees a decent amount of re-pins.
Another challenge is finding followers who will likely buy the product. Handmade products generally are a bit more expensive than other alternatives, so Little Minnow targets an older demographic of people who have disposable income. However, connecting with this demographic is harder, as many of their followers on Instagram are younger. According to Statista, of Instagram’s users, 25.6 percent of are between 25 and 34 years old and 22.9% are 18 to 24 year olds. Little Minnow focuses on the former demographic, plus users older than 34.
Lastly, one other challenge which many small businesses face is keeping an authentic image online. Little Minnow obviously wants to gain more customers, but at the same time it doesn’t want to annoy any potential customers in the process. Lizzi said she has a hard time balancing those goals, but she thinks having a feed with a mix of posts helps.
Overall, Little Minnow has been able to grow over the past few years thanks to online platforms including social media. Although it poses some challenges, the benefits of having social media accounts and providing greater visibility outweighs the obstacles.