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Starting a Blog: Find Your Audience

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, June 29, 2017
Updated: Thursday, June 29, 2017

Starting a Blog: Find Your Audience

By Janet M. Perry and Anita M. Wheeless

You’ve decided to join the club and  use a blog as a way to let people know about your needlework business. FANTASTIC! A blog is a great way to build shop, brand, and name recognition. While most articles about blogs concentrate on software, there are many other considerations that go into making your blog successful. Don’t worry; there are easy ways to grow your readership as well as simple methods to implement on social media to promote your blog. 

 The most important decision to make is what you want the focus of your blog to be. Blogs could cover many subjects; however, with so many out there, you won’t get viewers if your blog does not have a focus. . You may want to write about your vacations, your knitting,  or the activities of your local PTA, but you have to ask yourself if all of the same people will want to read about those topics. You don’t have to ignore the rest of your life, but your blog should concentrate on one subject.


Related to this is understanding the purpose of the blog. Do you want to get more people in your classes? Is education your focus? Do you want to drive sales? Do you want to build brand recognition? Pick one main objective and one or more to be secondary. Putting too many topics in one blog dilutes its value and keeps readers away.


Once you know what you want your blog to be about, there are two important things to consider: your platform and your theme. The platform is the basic software that you use to build your blog. It’s what allows you to create this complex edifice without knowing how to program. There are many platforms to choose from, many of which are free. One of the most common platforms is WordPress. There are thousands of themes and tools for it, and there are people you can hire to help you with it if you are unfamiliar


WordPress exists in two forms. The first form is where WordPress itself hosts the website, while the second form is where you run the website on servers from a hosting provider. Both use the same software. There are many books, videos, and websites that will help you set this up. Google also offers popular platforms for blogs. Google's Blogger, a free publishing platform, allows you to publish a blog within your custom website, while Google's Blogspot is an all-in-one free domain service provider. Janet has always used WordPress and she loves it, while Anita uses Blogspot.


The theme is what gives your blog its look. Each platform has a default theme, but there are many others paid and free. You will want to look, test, and learn until you find one you like. Ask your colleagues and friends to look at it.


Another area where blogs can fail is in its accessibility. If your blog isn’t accessible, you won’t have as many people reading it.


Often website templates come with blog pages. You may decide to use one,  but the only problem is that it may not work with the blog-reading software many individuals use. Additionally, it may not give unique URLs to each post, or it may not allow people to subscribe in a simple way.  Any of these problems can wreck your blog. As a new blog, you want to make it easy for people to follow you and to read what you say.


Another part of making the blog accessible is the numerous little things that can make it easier to read. Some of these are:

  • Have titles for every post. People don’t want to read a long URL instead of words they can remember.
  • Use tags and categories so readers can find what they want. These tools make it easier for your readers to find the content they want and for them to see you as the source for authoritative info. As your blog grows, it also helps you find older posts to cross-reference or to give to customers.
  •  Always use dark type on a light background. You may want to be cool and white on black is supposed to be that, but it significantly reduces readability for everyone -- young and old.
  • Use vivid pictures and working links. Both of these make your blog more attractive and will keep people reading.
  • Use subheadings, bold type, captions, and lists. All of these make your blog easier to read and make it more attractive to the hurried reader.
  • Don’t neglect copyright. Image stealing on the Internet is common, but that doesn’t make it right Always give information about the source, even if it’s “unknown” or “public domain.” It sets you up as a good Internet citizen.
  • Remember the mobile user. When you are looking at themes, you may see some labeled “responsive.” This means they adjust so they can be seen on cell phones. As more people search the web on their phones, having this capability is important. Test your theme by looking at it on a phone. If it isn’t responsive, pick a different theme.
  • Add a Call to Action (CTA) subscriber check box. This is one of the first ways to grow your reader base, according to HubSpot.


About the Authors

Janet M. Perry is a needlepoint educator, creating print books, ebooks, on-line classes, stitch guides, and blogs that provide great information for stitchers at all levels. She has 13 books in print currently including Bargello Revisited, the most comprehensive Bargello book in print. Her Nuts about Needlepoint blog,, is the leading needlepoint blog. Her Needlepoint News blog provides news to all stitchers. She welcomes folks to contact her (and contribute news) at 


Anita Mumm Wheeless has been a member of TNNA since 2012 and has been certified as a knitting instructor by the Craft Yarn Council.  A former newspaper writer/editor, she designs knitting patterns for toys and novelties. Leisure Arts published her book, “Storybook Dolls to Knit” in 2011. Her patterns are also featured on, and You can find her on and Love Knitting. She maintains a website: and a blog: Connect with Anita on Twitter @AnitaPatternBox or by email:


Tags:  Business tips  education  Social media  tips  TNNANews 

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Ask Social: To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, June 29, 2017
Updated: Thursday, June 29, 2017

Ask Social: To Tweet or Not to Tweet

By Vickie Howell and Mari Chiba Luke

Welcome to Ask Social, an advice column for TNNA members aimed to demystify social media practices and strategy. In every issue, we answer questions from store owners, manufacturers, designers, teachers and bloggers about simple and effective ways to use new media to influence their businesses.

Dear Ask Social, 

I signed up for a Twitter account ages ago, and I just never post to it, because what can I say of value in 140 characters or less? Is this a channel I need to be spending time on? I'm just not sure what I should be posting on Twitter, or how important it is, when there are so many things I need to do to promote my business. 

- Clever Name

Dear Clever Name, 

I have good news; you don't need to add Twitter to your task of daily to-dos. The reality is,  our crafty demographic spends more time on other channels. Sure, there are knitters, spinners, and stitchers of all sorts on Twitter, but there might still be a few on Myspace too. As a small business, you need to focus on the channels where you're going to get the best bang for your buck, and  odds are, that isn't on Twitter. Twitter is predominantly male (22 percent of males online use Twitter, while 15 percent of females online use the platform), and the largest segment of Twitter users are 18-29. Furthermore, the average Twitter user spends 2.7 minutes per day on the platform, whereas Facebook users spend 20 minutes or more a day on the platform. 

That being said you could use IFTTT or another automation app that automatically exports your posts from other channels directly to Twitter, so that your feed still has fresh content. We recommend connecting your Instagram feed directly to Twitter, and if you can train yourself to write a short intro, then include a hashtag or two, and then the rest of your caption, you can get a post that also looks great on Twitter without any extra work. Bonus: Since Instagram also clips your captions, they will make more sense on Instagram, too. 

We do recommend that you check in on Twitter regularly (once a week or so) to make sure that people aren't trying to reach you there. Twitter seems to be a favorite platform for people with a complaint, so monitoring the channel for feedback and responding quickly will help you provide the best customer service. 


 Dear Ask Social,

As a relatively new knitwear designer trying to make a name for myself, I’m having a hard time balancing my design work with what I think I should be doing on social media. Other than a blog, how important is it that I have a presence on all of the prominent platforms? I want to be taken seriously by publishers and yarn companies, but I also want to maintain my sanity. Help!



Dear Overwhelmed,

First off, know that you’re not alone. Shop owners, yarn companies, and freelancers alike struggle with keeping all of the plates — involved in both running their businesses and promoting it — spinning.

Secondly, although in the digital age it is very important that you do have some social media visibility, it isn’t crucial that you are on ALL of the major platforms. Social media is the new portfolio, so publishers and yarn companies looking for designers go straight to the web as a source of confirming experience, talent and legitimacy. Because of that, we recommend that rather than spreading yourself thin by having a mediocre presence on several platforms, you instead work towards strong, well-thought-out campaigns on a couple. Digital marketing is a numbers game, and a perspective creative director or editor for company X will be much more impressed if you have 3,000, truly engaged followers on two platforms rather, than only 500 followers on five.

Lastly, as a designer, visuals are key. We recommend putting your efforts into a beautifully curated Instagram feed, including a mixture of your finished designs, styled shots of your works-in-progress, and perhaps some lifestyle or inspirational photos that exude your aesthetic. Most importantly, though is that the photography for your main stream is Instagram-worthy meaning, clear, well-lit, and styled, if appropriate. Fortunately, thanks to the ever-improving smartphone cameras and a plethora of photo editing apps out there, getting a strong snap isn’t difficult. We recommend using the A Color Story App (available in the iTunes App Store or on Google Play) to amp up your images. With over 100 filters, 40 effects, and 20 tools, it’s an invaluable asset at an affordable price (around $10.)

Designers are also often teachers of one form or another, so a place to interact with your community authentically, and in a less calculated manner, is Facebook. The ability to share info, give updates, broadcast live, and upload video tutorials is key to creating a community. Varying content is important, as is not only uploading native content but also sharing other people’s content. To quote marketing guru, Guy Kawasaki, “If you’re not sharing other people’s content, then you’re not following the right people.”

Perspective hirers look to see if you engage with fans of your work, and thusly —in addition to your mad, design skills — bring a dedicated audience to the mix. Your followers then become accessible to that company and therefore increase their promotional reach.

You’ve got this!


Got social media questions? Send them to or leave a comment below!

Ask Social is a collaboration between Vickie Howell (@vickiehowell), executive producer and host of The Knit Show with Vickie Howell (premiered on YouTube, October 2017), and Mari Chiba Luke (@mariknits), business integration manager and design director of Stitchcraft Marketing.

 Vickie Howell      Mari Chiba Luke
    Vickie Howell              Mari Chiba Luke    


Tags:  Ask Social  Business tips  Social media  TNNANews 

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Social Media Corner: 13 Tips for Taking the Perfect Shot for Instagram

Posted By TNNA HQ, Friday, June 2, 2017
Updated: Thursday, June 1, 2017

Social Media Corner: 13 Tips for Taking the Perfect Shot for Instagram

By Joy Macdonell

Whether you're an Instagram newbie or a veteran on the platform, here are 13 tips to bring engaging visual content to your followers. Our industry is colorful, vibrant and creative, so that's what you need to deliver!




 Framing 1 Framing 2 


Instagram finally broke free from the square frame. You can now post landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical) photos, too! There is still an emphasis on the square aspect ratio of 1:1:

  • The gallery still uses square thumbnails;
  • The app only shoots photos in square; and
  • If you input photos into the app for posting, the default is the square.

You can choose to preserve the original aspect ratio of your uploaded photo in the upload screen. There is now a small icon in the bottom left of the image where you can toggle between square and not-square. For landscape photos (horizontal), you can use aspect ratios up to 1.91:1. For portrait (vertical) photos, you can use an aspect ratio up to 4:5. And you can still use square, of course. But you can’t use very narrow banners or panoramas. If the square framing did not work for you, now there are more options for presenting your content!




Symmetry creates balance in photography. Look for opportunities to frame the subject of your photo with objects in the scenery: other props, architecture, branches, window sills, etc. Use objects in your environment to create balance and frame your shot.




Lighting is key. Natural light always reads best in photography. Prime times for shooting outdoors are: cloudy days, early morning or late afternoon. The lens of the phone camera absorbs light in a different way compared to traditional cameras. Play with the light coming from above or behind your subject. As you are taking your shots, move around the subject and look to see how the light changes position light in unexpected places to capture an ethereal look.




Look for depth of field. Most smartphones allow you to touch the screen and focus on your subject. Use this tool to bring the objects closest to you into focus and allow the objects further away to blur. The blurry background and the focused foreground creates depth in your photo and guides the viewer’s eye to the focal point of the photo.


Turn On the Grid

Turn On the Grid

Respect the Rule of Thirds. Use the grid on your phone to aid in creating a balanced composition. The grid marks break the frame of your photo into thirds, vertically and horizontally. Position the elements in your frame on the 1/3 marks instead of the center and you will find that your photos are instantly more interesting.


Clean the Lens

Clean the Lens

Get clarity and sharpness in your photos by wiping off the lens of your camera phone. Our phones go in and out of our pockets, sit on tables, and collect dirt and dust. Taking a moment to clean the lens before you shoot will make a big difference in the quality of your photos.



Top Instagram Editing Apps

With a little editing, every photo can be Instagram-worthy. My favorite editing apps are: A Color Story (in-app purchases), Snapseed, VSCO, Facetune ($3.99), Darkroom (in-app purchases) and TouchRetouch ($1.99). Each app provides a unique experience. To find your favorites, you need to play. You do not need to be a photographer to use these apps; you simply need to have the desire to try them out. These apps have great YouTube support. Download the apps, watch a few tutorials, and you will learn to produce Insta-awesomeness!


Tell A Story

Tell A Story

Find a clear point of interest. Shoot photos that tell a story about the product, person or place of interest. Remove clutter from the photo and lead the viewer’s eye right to the heart of your content.


Colors, Shapes and Lines

Colors, Shapes, and Lines

A powerful Instagram photo has strong colors, defined shapes and lines. These elements can frame your content and draw the viewer into the photograph. Train your eye to use these pieces of content to create emotion in your frame.


Shoot from Different Angles

Shoot from Different Angles

 Change your position and look at the objects in your photo from an unusual perspective. Try shooting from directly above or very low to get an interesting view.


Less Is More

Less Is More

Use white space to your advantage and give your content room to breathe, but also think about context. Give the viewer an understanding of the size of product you are filming or the use of an interesting object. Use your photo to engage your followers and invite them to investigate further.


Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice, Practice, Practice

Take tons of photos. Release yourself from perfection. If you see something interesting, take a photo. Through practice, you will learn more about your style, your aesthetic, and, in time, you will capture your brand.



Keep Your Feed Consistent

Keep a consistent look to your photos. When they tile together in your feed, you can see a story unfold. There are many approaches to consistency; it could be color, framing, lighting, content or the use of white space. Also remember to remain consistent with feeding Instagram: The more consistent you are, the more present you will be on the platform. A good Instagrammer considers how each photo looks within the whole feed. Planning is a big part of telling your visual story.

Instagram does not allow for automatic programming; each photo must be uploaded in real-time. How do you stay ahead and keep your feed cohesive? Check out Plann  a scheduling, planning app that makes curating your Instagram gallery quick and easy. The app notifications will keep you on schedule so that you never forget to post!

About the Author

Joy MacdonellJoy Macdonell is the education director at Simplicity Creative Group. Her job has provided her with lots of great opportunities to teach, including as the host of a television show on the DIY network (Greetings, from DIY) and one on PBS (Crafting at The Spotted Canary). She has also been the guest representative for Martha Stewart Crafts on the Home Shopping Network and has been the education director for the Martha Stewart Crafts brand since it launched in 2007. Prior to starting her career with EK Success Brands in 2001, she and her sister owned the very popular scrapbook store in Fairfax, VA, My Scrapbook Store.

Tags:  Instagram  Social Media  Tips  TNNANews 

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Ask Social: Facebook Live and Hashtags

Posted By TNNA HQ, Friday, June 2, 2017
Updated: Friday, June 2, 2017

Ask Social: Facebook Live and Hashtags

By Vickie Howell and Mari Chiba Luke

Welcome to Ask Social, an advice column for TNNA members aimed to demystify social media practices and strategy. In TNNANews, we’ll answer questions from store owners, manufacturers, designers, teachers and bloggers about simple and effective ways to use new media to influence their businesses.

Dear Social,

I’ve been seeing more and more live videos pop up in my Facebook stream. Should I be working on a lifestream strategy for my business?

Yours truly,
Fiber Company Owner

Dear Fiber Company Owner,

The short answer is, yes.

The longer answer is that live stream video is where current marketing is at right now. It offers a way to reach out to both a global (key, if you also have a e-commerce aspect to your biz) and local customers at once, while also enriching your consumer community. Because Facebook Live videos are interactive (meaning that those watching live can post questions during the stream, which you’ll see and can react to in real time), they give your followers the feeling of being a part of something — it’s the virtual equivalent to getting to talk to you in your shop, or chat via an old-school help line.

Conversely, the live videos are also recorded so that they can be viewed at a later time via your Facebook page, which means you can build a playlist of videos to act as a living resource library. As a bonus, currently (and I use that term literally, like right this very minute, because who knows how long this will be the case), the Facebook algorithm allows for more of your audience to see these than even natively uploaded video. This number increases if you also spend a few bucks to boost the post after you’re done recording.

Here are my top three tips for Facebook Live video success:

1. Be consistent. Pick a day (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.) that your videos will go live, and stick to it. You’ll be surprised how many people will fold you into their life schedules, if they know what to expect.

2. Have a plan. Pick a topic or topics ahead of time, so that you're clear on what’s happening once that on-camera countdown begins. Producing a relatively tight, 10-minute video is way better than a 40-minute ramble session. Also, if your followers know the topic to expect (I recommend promoting ahead of time), they’re more likely to be invested in seeking the video out.

3. Be yourself. Although I I just recommended going into your video with a general plan, feel free to treat the situation as if you’re having these viewers into your home. Talk to them as if they’re friends, which means not being concerned about staying too on-script.

Have fun!


Dear Social,

I see everyone using hashtags on Instagram, but I'm not sure which ones I should be using?


Dear LYSO,
Yes, you should definitely be using hashtags! Before we get into which hashtags to use, let's talk for a moment about which ones not to use.
I see many fiber related accounts promoting sales with #discount and #sale. Before you use a hashtag, I'd encourage you to first look it up! If you search either of those hashtags you'll find a lot of images that are totally unrelated to our fiber niche. The beauty of the hashtag is that it helps people interested in your content find you and your channel. What are the odds a yarn shopper is going to be searching Instagram for #discount? Not great. And what are the odds that someone searching #discount is a crafter? Also, not great.
Some of my favorite hashtags for knitting related accounts on Instagram are #knitttersofinstagram #knitstagram and #instaknit. But to get a fuller picture of the hashtags your brand should be utilizing, look at the hashtags your customers, the companies you admire, and your competitors are using. There are also some great tools (both free and paid) that will tell you related hashtags and the popularity of specific hashtags. is a free option that shows you related hashtags and their frequency; offers a variety of in depth tracking and analysis for hashtag usage.
And one more thing while we're on the topic of hashtags: Consider starting one for your own brand. This will be a way for others to share your products on their own feeds, and for others new to your brand to find related content quickly and easily. Make sure to search a few options that include your company name before you finalize your brand hashtag, and then put it in your profile so that it's easy for others to follow suit.
Have fun and start tagging!


Got social media questions? Send them to or leave a comment below!

Ask Social is a collaboration between Vickie Howell (@vickiehowell), executive producer and host of The Knit Show with Vickie Howell (premieres on YouTube, October 2017), and Mari Chiba Luke (@mariknits), business integration manager and design director of Stitchcraft Marketing.

 Vickie Howell      Mari Chiba Luke
    Vickie Howell              Mari Chiba Luke    


Tags:  Ask Social  Social media  tips  TNNANews 

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Social Media Corner: Why Facebook?

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, May 18, 2017
Updated: Monday, May 8, 2017

Social Media Corner: Why Facebook?

By Anita Mumm Wheeless

Setting up a successful company Facebook page can be more complicated than merely posting your address and telephone number. Facebook is not a business directory, nor is it a giant marketplace to sell your wares. As the term “social media” implies, Facebook is an outlet for connecting with other human beings. It’s about nurturing a community with common interests and ideas.

According to digital analyst, author/blogger Brian Solis, “Facebook is a social network to help people communicate, share and discover. With more than one billion people calling Facebook one of their digital homes, a social economy is a natural byproduct.” He also says that communities are built upon a foundation of:

  • Mutual value.
  • Entertainment.
  • Empowerment.

In other words, when you post, don’t overtly promote your business. Use your posts to strengthen the relationship you have with your audience.

“Facebook does not like promotional content — unless you’re paying for it,” writes Jenn Herman of “So it’s best to avoid anything ‘salesy’ in your updates. This means avoiding things like ‘visit our website...’” Instead, Herman advises clever wording, such as, “‘We’re in love with this new scarf! It’s gonna look amazing with your fall wardrobe.’ And then post the link to the sales page, and/or include a beautiful image of the product.”

According to Andrew Tate of Hootsuite’s AdEspresso blog, “A successful content strategy should involve a mix of infographics, videos, photos and other visuals” to attract and keep your audience interested.

As a social outlet, Facebook is constantly changing how and what its users see. Posts that are receiving a lot of attention (i.e., likes, shares, etc.) will be promoted, while posts with little activity might get buried. Although it may be frustrating if your posts aren’t reaching the number of people they used to, experiment with what you’re posting and when.

“If engagement drives reach,” Solis says, “then design content to not just be consumable, but also shareable. Likes, comments, shares, tags, et al, spark a social effect and extend the life and volume of your updates. Simply publishing or paying for each without considering shareability or SMO [social marketing optimization] is done so in vain.”

Louise Myers of Louise Myers Social Media offers these points to consider when you’re setting up your company’s Facebook page:

  • Have a strategy.
  • Build a community.
  • Figure out what your audience wants.
  • Create and curate top-quality content.
  • Post and engage.
  • Keep up with [Facebook’s] constantly changing algorithms, features and graphics sizes.
  • Watch your Insights to see what’s working — and flopping.
  • Pay to run ads to be seen (unless you can post amazingly engaging content).

If this seems daunting, Belle Beth Cooper of Buffer Blog encourages you not to give up! She recommends using your Facebook page as only one of several different marketing platforms.

As fiber and needlework artists, designers and teachers, we naturally enjoy sharing projects and techniques, which is why Facebook just might be worth your time.

I would love to hear from TNNA members with business Facebook pages. What strategies are working for you? Do you have any advice for members who would like a Facebook presence?

Additional sources:

Facebook Marketing Declines: How Business Should React (Social Media Examiner)

11 Facebook Tips, Trick and Facts You Probably Don’t Already Know (Buffer)

Setting Up Your Facebook Business Page (Facebook Business)

About the Author

Anita Mumm WheelessAnita Mumm Wheeless has been a member of TNNA since 2012. A former newspaper writer/editor, she designs knitting patterns for toys and novelties. Leisure Arts published her book, Storybook Dolls to Knit in 2011. Her patterns are also featured on, and You can find her on and Love Knitting. She maintains a website: and a blog: Connect with Anita on Twitter @AnitaPatternBox or by email:

Tags:  Facebook  social media  tips  TNNANews 

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