Instagram Rehab: Update 1

The Allegan District Library has been swiftly working to expand its reach within the community, as well as expand physically. After several years of jumping through hoops, the library has finally received federal funding for a well-needed building expansion and renovation.

This highly anticipated project is being followed with a few growing pains but also community excitement. And while the library has been making leaps and bounds to improving it’s productivity for patrons, I felt there was something that was lacking – our social media presence. By the time that I had received my job at the library, our instagram account hadn’t been utilized in at least a year, the last post having been put up in the summer of 2016.

I wanted a way to be more involved in my job and take on more responsibilities outside of my member services role and had been keeping our instagram account in the back of my mind, not thinking they would actually be on board with allowing me to contribute. But then one morning I showed our Assistant Director some pictures that I took in the early morning.

And our conversation about them led to her saying, “You could be our social media coordinator.” Wanting to make sure she was being serious, the next day I addressed our Director about my serious interest in taking on the role and after our talk he granted me full control of our Instagram, which took significantly less convincing than I was prepared for.

Demo Day

At the point in which I received access to our account the page had 174 followers, all of the pictures had likes ranging between 1 – 6 at the most, and it did not strike me as visually appealing. My first order of business was purging the account of the previous pictures that did not fit the aesthetic that I hope to create. I kept just a few so that the page didn’t look completely bear but I may still change that as I update it.

The First Post

I had the best photo opportunity when a mother with two children came into the library to watch the construction workers. Her son was thrilled to be able to see the construction in action which inspired a creative caption and thankfully the mother was so gracious to allow me to take a picture.

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Over the course of a day the picture received 17 likes on Instagram, 12 reactions and 2 shares on Facebook which to me was significant considering the amount of interaction other posts of ours had previously gotten. Since posting, our account has also gained 3 new followers, one of which came from the linked Facebook account.

My Goals:

  • I hope to build our Instagram following exponentially
  • Create a heightened awareness of the events and happenings at the library and boost attendance and interaction as a result
  • Reach and connect with the younger patrons

Building An Online Busness: Week Three

This week I focused my attention on the products themselves, determining pricing, creating descriptions and names for each product based on its makeup, and photographing everything.

Pricing and Naming

We pulled all of the products, sat down and went through them all. We listed what materials were used, how much money was invested in the materials, the amount of time invested in making the piece, and based on those factors we were able to determine a selling price.

There was a small amount of debating the final price of certain items, I recognized the amount of work and quality put into many of the products and so I wanted slightly higher pricing. She came from the viewpoint of having received very good deals on the materials used and therefore didn’t want to go too high on the asking price. We were always able to meet in the middle and come up with a price that we both found to be appropriate.

Then it was on to naming the products. This was slightly challenging at first because we initially were too focused on being creative with the names. For instance, for the following product, we had initially named it “Montage Hodgepodge”. After exploring jewelry that was for sale on Pinterest and other platforms, we found that a lot of vendors used their names in a more practical and descriptive way, rather than just something creative. Following this, we then adjusted the naming process, and changed this one’s name to “Blue Montage”.

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Photography

Initially, I had planned to find a photographer for this project. I believed this to be the best way to get quality photos of the products. But after the business owner had shown me another jewelry vendor who had very poor pictures but clearly a decent amount of sales, I thought “I can do that, and do it better too”.

I also realized that it would be beneficial to enable the business owner to take pictures of products herself as she may not always want to have the expense of paying someone else to do it for her. Having the ability to take pictures of products as she makes them would help her improve efficiency as well. After scouring Amazon for some sort of a backdrop, I purchased the Depthlan Folding Photo Studio Kit Box. 

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 This product provided great lighting as well as a quality backdrop. I was very happy with the purchase. Using this and a Nikon camera that I borrowed from a relative I was able to make quality looking photos. 

I was surprised to learn that great photos aren’t just about taking a great picture, it’s also reliant on the way the photos are edited. With a standard editing tool on my MacBook, I was able to take a picture from looking like the first picture to the second picture.

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Building an Online Business: Week Two

This week I did not follow a concrete plan, instead focusing the smaller details.

For shipping the items we had originally planned to take a simple route by wrapping the products in bubble wrap and placing them in standard shipping envelopes. After some thought, however, I realized that this would not properly convey the craftsmanship that she puts into her products. I want someone to have a positive impression of the products before they even open it.

Together the business owner and I determined that the product will be contained in a white box wrapped with black ribbon and our logo on a customized tag, using standard shipping envelopes to protect it. Eventually, we hope to design custom shipping envelopes that we can put the logo and a fancy print on but for now, it’s an unnecessary expense.

Tags

The process of creating the tags with our logo required a bit of documentation. I needed the right size, with the right amount of product, for the right price. I scoured several websites that offered customized tags in search of the perfect fit. We decided to use the following image on our tags.

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I found that the best way to find the best value was to calculate how much I would be paying for a single tag with the given pricing. The first website I looked at was iprinting.com. I selected one-sided for the tags, and the size 2″x 3″. They offered 25 for $9.83 which came out to $0.39 a tag but it was an extra charge to add a hole as well.

There were a few websites that I was able to rule out fairly quickly. At storesupply.com after including all the options required my total came out to $0.30 a tag which is a reasonable price. Unfortunately, a minimum purchase of 250 tags would be required which seemed a bit excessive to me. Evermine.com offered a variety of shapes which I really liked, however, 45 tags cost $35.97, equivalent to $0.80 a tag and I couldn’t justify spending nearly a dollar per tag. And uline.com had a bizarre layout of their website with weird sizing, and no image upload option.

The one I chose was one that I had initially looked at but wasn’t sure about because I wanted to see what else was available. With Vistaprint, I could easily upload my design and I could purchase 25 tags for just $6 which is $0.25 a tag – by far the best price I could find. I purchased the 25 to give us the flexibility to change the tag design later without feeling obligated to go through all that we have first.

Domain

I had initially purchased website hosting and a domain with SiteGround and was building the website from there. Shortly after beginning this process I heard from within the Praxis community about the convenience of Square Space for creating shopping websites. I decided to move the domain name over and cancel my website hosting with SiteGround in order to create a website that’s more easily manageable for the person that I’m making the site for. So far I love the format and ease of using Squarespace.

Basics

Setting up with Squarespace required an email and I had previously set up the website with my email and planned to transfer it over but then realized it would be more efficient to create an email specifically for Lachlan Designs. Apparently, the username lachlandesigns was taken by some kind of an architecture or home decor business (which I discovered upon a quick google search) so I went with michigan.lachlandesigns.

Next week I will be focusing on the photography and adding the images and descriptions of products to the website.

 

Building an Online Business: Week One

I’ve known someone for many years now who creates amazing jewelry. It began as a love and curiosity for natural elements and has turned into a great hobby for her. She has sold items before to friends but has never had an outlet to sell to a larger crowd. This month I have set out to help provide that.

The first step was to create a name. Our challenge was finding something that rolled off the tongue easily but also harnessed the natural elements that she used in her jewelry and alluded to her love of Michigan.  I suggested we to try to choose a person’s name because of the iconic fashion brands out there like Chanel, Tommy Hilfiger, Jared, etc. After searching through lists and lists of names and their meanings we decided on Lachlan, meaning from the land of lakes.

I was then able to purchase a domain name and begin the process of building the website. Next was the logo. I made as many as I could with what she had described that she envisioned, worrying less about making it perfect and more about having a wide range of concepts.

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I used a serif font for a clean look and incorporated flowers to represent the natural elements that she uses in her designs for this one. This was her favorite of the ones I made akin to what she said she envisioned.

 

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Here I used a mix of serif and san serif fonts to add more variety to the image. This was my personal favorite of the ones I designed based on what she wanted.

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In this one, I continued the “L” encircled design and incorporated the leaves as part of the circle for the natural element. While we both very much liked the way this one turned out, it was still a bit too plain.

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I created these with minimalism in mind and in all honesty, I made them more for fun. They were the farthest from what she said she wanted but were surprisingly her favorites and she had a hard time choosing between them.
Page_1My solution was to keep the standalone design as the logo and use different backgrounds or incorporate small elements that don’t change the overall design for various purposes.

 

My Top Three Skills

 

Quick Learning

I had a math class in particular that proved to be challenging in my junior year of high school. Not because the subject was difficult, but because our teacher was poor at explaining the material. This lead to me practicing my self-teaching skills and using it to assist some of my classmates in learning the material as well.

Because of this experience, I catch on to jobs rapidly. In my first job at the Regent theater, I quickly became one of the most thorough workers and by the time the company needed to hire again, they relied on me to train the incoming employees.

I attribute my ability to learn quickly in part to my willingness to ask questions. It’s important in any job to understand why things are done they way they are and how to properly do them. Asking questions is a part of my growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that you can constantly work to improve yourself while having the willingness to do so.

People who have a growth mindset, such as myself, are far more eager to try new things, make mistakes, and challenge themselves to learn from their experiences. If I ever do come across a mistake I see it as a learning opportunity to better myself and enhance my productivity, making it a point to never to create the same mistake twice.

Communication

For a long time, I held the belief that good communication was a skill that one was either born with or born without. But this idea changed for me when I received a job at the local library.  In this job I was in a position where I had no choice but to interact with people regularly, giving me the opportunity to experiment.

I observed what things worked and didn’t work and from there I built my professional social skills. And when my father suggested to me that I read How to Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie my skills only further improved as I applied the things I read to my day-to-day life.

By building my social skills, I have built better relationships. There are many people who I see at one of my jobs who know me by name and I know them by name. Daily, I joke around with our UPS delivery man, there are kids who will stop in who get excited to see that I’m working that day, and there are patrons who ask for me by name because I made a strong impression as someone who can easily and effectively help them.

Upon one occasion my boss relayed a compliment to me that he had received during a phone call in which the person said “I always love coming to the library when Aly’s working, she’s always so friendly. But not too friendly- I hate when people do that.”

Aesthetic Sense

Having an aesthetic sense didn’t come naturally to me. It was only after I began to observe what other people enjoyed visually and apply it to my own social media did I begin to realize the power of aesthetic. By posting content that was more trendy I was able to grow my own follower count on several different platforms by at least 100+ followers each.

I’ve learned that aesthetic applies to not just fashion wear and home decor, but to business as well. Consumer’s decisions in where they take their business are made very quickly and more often than not their choice is hinged on looks. Every business needs to have a brand to be easily identifiable by potential and frequent customers and a company’s aesthetic is a means for customers to instantly see how professional and legitimate a business is.

I have utilized this in both of my jobs from assisting with putting up eye-catching displays to organizing common areas to be visually appealing and inviting, keeping everything in line with our brand.

In my job at a vintage movie theater, I’ve used the building’s art deco theme to inspire different projects and advertisements, extending the art deco style and history of the building into our social media. This has helped us to capitalize on the classic aspect of our theater that large-scale cinemas simply don’t have.

 

Personal Introduction

“In the end, she became more than what she expected. She became the journey, and like all journeys, she did not end, she just simply changed directions and kept going.” — R.M. Drake

I don’t consider myself to be very conventional- I’ve always been quite the opposite.

My educational career was spent in public school, though for a long time I didn’t really fit in. I was the wild child with crooked teeth and a behavior to match. It wasn’t that I didn’t respect authority (well, maybe at first it was) I just had a fickle curiosity that always seemed to propel me into trouble.

But I was also expressive; I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. And there was always this budding compulsion to do something- anything to set myself apart from the rest that emboldened me to try new things like singing a song I wrote for the school talent show or wearing mismatched clothing because I thought it looked cool. 

Over the years my behavior improved, I got braces to straighten my teeth and my fashion sense no longer caused my mother physical pain. Through it all, my love for art remained but the belief that I could turn that into a career diminished. Every teacher I had in high school seemed to recite the same narrative to us, “Everything you’re doing here today is to prepare yourself for college tomorrow”. I was enveloped by the concept that college was the only next step.

My yearning for a self-curated foothold in life drove me out of my city- the small lasso that held me back, as I had thought. By the end of my senior year, I decided to make a move to Florida to attend college.

My most indelible memories, one would think, would be of the warm beaches or the colorful, fleeting moments of daylight where the sun gave the earth a lingering goodnight kiss, giving way to darkness. But it’s not. What I recall most vividly is betrayal.

Only having brought minimal items with me, my room laid bear, a cage of white walls, white doors, and white sheets- the only witnesses to my internal struggle. I wanted so badly to find success in college, to have the esteemed college experience, to make lasting memories. But with each passing day, enthusiasm turned to a somber dread as I came to a daunting realization. I hated college.

I tried to power through, part of me still wanted to strive for that degree. But I was a girl conflicted. My desire for success was wholly contradicted by my abhorrence of all that I was doing (or as I now realize, how I was doing it). My feelings clashed and raged against each other until something inside me finally said, it’s okay, you can go home now.

I finished up the semester, taking my finals and leaving for home that very same night. I drove straight through the night and made it home within 24 hours. With each passing minute, I felt a weight lift more and more off my chest. If I had any doubts about my decision before I left, they were now miles behind me.

It was shortly thereafter that I learned about Praxis: a program that takes ambitious people and gives them the tools to hone their skills and build a great career for themselves. I enjoyed my new job but something, a sort of draw, kept bringing me back to this program. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

It took me awhile to work up the courage, but once I actually applied, I wondered why I ever hesitated. Throughout my application process, I just knew that this was what I wanted to do. This is what I wanted to invest my time, money, and energy into. I literally screamed when I learned of my acceptance. I can’t imagine I could have been any more excited if I had received an acceptance letter from Harvard.

Now I’m realizing all the ways that I can incorporate my passions, like my love of art, into a career that I create myself. I don’t need college to find success.

Success is never easy, but at least with Praxis I know I can achieve it and relish in the process.