Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Resurrect old tees into wearable ones

This was a t-shirt that I got from a garage sale for 50 cents. No, not the performer. The monetary amount, as in half a dollar.

I loved the top of the shirt but the bottom always twisted sideways for some reason. So I cut off the bottom--from the rib cage on down--and sewed on a long piece of fabric and wore it as a dress. I used a t-shirt scrap to make a patch pocket on the right side and added a decorative tan wooden button. Ten years later, it was still in excellent condition, so I shortened the hem and I now wear it as a shirt over jeans. It's one of my favorite tops of all time. The sleeves look wrinkled on me because I had them pushed up above my elbows, as is my habit.

Find more remakes of t-shirts, along with directions.

dj runnels

Thursday, April 16, 2009

How, when, why to Tweet on Twitter

I've been on Twitter for about three weeks now and while I am by no means an expert, here is what I've learned.

People use Twitter for various reasons.
(1)To stay in touch with friends/family,
(2) To make new friends/find dates,
(3) To promote themselves (e.g.: celebrities),
(4) To promote a viewpoint (e.g. pro-lifers, pro-choice), and
(5) To promote a company that sells wares or services.
I may have left out some groups and if so, I will revise this later. Eat some cookies while you wait. But before we continue, please understand that I am not saying any of these reasons is right or wrong, but each could involve a more effective approach than the one you are using.

How, when and why you "tweet" (post a one-line message), what you tweet about, whom you follow or unfollow depends on why you are there.

If you are connecting with friends and family, you can pretty much do whatever you want. You might consider locking your account for privacy. If you are using it as a dating network, make damn sure your profile is witty, your photo is good and you give your location. If you have a cherished moral or political view you're obsessed with, consider using an icon instead of a photo. If you're a celebrity, run the account yourself or don't freaking bother; we can tell if it's you or not. Now on to the last group--promoting your company--because that is my focus and who is writing this thing, anyway? You or me? We'll decide that later.

I'm a sole proprietor of a yarn design business. I sell what I make, but 95% of what I sell is what artists and crafters use to make what THEY sell. I call myself a craft enabler. You may call me something else. Go ahead...Is that the best ya got? Heh. I've been called worse. ...Well, as a business owner, I have noted specific things that other Tweeters do that attract or repel me. Just in case you are a business owner, I share those thoughts now for your benefit. If you do not run a business, you may as well move on to the next post.

First of all, try not to be obsessed with the number of followers you have. It makes you look desperate. You don't need me. I need you. Take that attitude and be confident and make me want to read what you write.

Even more pertinent, there is no reason to freak or get mad if someone specific stops following you. As someone who sometimes "unfollows," I can give you many reasons why this may happen. Mostly it is because I have limited time for Twitter and I am selective. It's nothing personal against you. I have not yet unfollowed anyone because they made me angry. I unfollowed one artist whose very frequent references to her sexual activities bored me. I unfollowed a couple of people who spammed endlessly and never wrote any non-spam. And I unfollowed a couple of people who never responded to my messages to them, which is okay if it happens a few times, but when it hits a high number, the follower must ask him/herself, "Is this person's posts so great that I am willing to follow anyway?" Often the answer is Yes. Sometimes No.

If your posts are mainly written to connect with your former co-workers or your high school pals, your Tweets are probably just fine for them but not for me. I may remove you. Again, it's nothing wrong with you. It only means my criteria is different from that of your buddies. I may choose to follow your blog instead of your tweets. Or I may follow the goings-on in your Etsy shop instead. So puh-leeeeeze don't launch an anti-djrunnels campaign. I'm still recovering from the previous ones! Here, look at my neck. Did I get all the tar and feathers off?

I tend to follow marketing, advertising, online retail gurus and I wouldn't rant at you if you quit following them. They may not interest you at all. This obvious premise brings me to the lunacy of Follow Friday, wherein people on Twitter post recommendations to others on Twitter. How can you recommend someone for me to follow unless you know what criteria I use? The answer is: you can't. Just because I like following you doesn't mean I will like following your friends.

On the other hand, if you do make recommendations, that doesn't annoy me and I will not unfollow you for it. And if you recommend me, I will beam happily. But here is a better method: I click on the profile of someone whom I have enjoyed following and see who they follow. Then I click on those profiles. If the profile sounds halfway interesting, I will follow them for a week or two or longer. If they continue to pique my interest, I keep them on the list. If they do not pique my interest, I remove them and again, it isn't personal. They just do not meet my criteria.

So, are you with me so far? If you are a business twitterer (versus someone tweeting a bff) I recommend that you
decide why you are on Twitter (see list above) and then set some criteria for:
(1) the type of person you wish to attract and
(2) the type of person you wish to follow. And some of these latter people may be, as they say, off-topic. Just because I sell fiber art supplies doesn't mean I cannot follow CNN. You can get a smidgen of a clue about these people by checking out their profile.

As for whom to attract, what do you have to say that your desired followers will want to read? Someone on Twitter gave this bit of advice: write about what you know. That sounds like a good idea to me. Of course, I also know about archaeology and crinoid stems and some things that you may not want to read. Since I want to attract artisans, I make sure that a certain percentage of my posts point people to my wares on Etsy, but if I post ads and nothing else, I will lose followers in droves. (Duh!) If I post about what I had for dinner, I will also lose people, not because it is wrong to write about what you had for dinner, but because I am not writing for my neighbor Cheryl. I am writing for creative people who need inspiration and supplies. I try to always think: what will creative people want to see? Also, since I am a member of Etsy street teams, I will sometimes post links for their wares, not just my own. It's part of my implicit arrangement wherein they scratch my back and I scratch theirs, plus some of my creative readers may want their wares.

I make a point of writing some creative grist for the mill on my blog and point followers here via a link. But I do not waste their time by linking to every blog post I create. Some posts will interest many people. Some will interest only a few. Some are perhaps best left unposted and I may delete them later.

I avoid writing vague Tweets. I will not Tweet something like, "Oh, I guess I'll post in my blog now." Big yawn. There goes ten seconds of your life that you will never get back. And when I do post a link to my blog, I give a rough idea about the topic so you can decide whether or not to read that post. Teasing you with a vague headline such as, "You guys have got to read my blog!" is the same as saying, "I just wrote something boring as hell and couldn't think of a good way to draw you in." I can't tell you not to do this, but from the reader's perspective, it isn't effective at getting me to your blog.

Similarly, if I Tweet a link to something I sell, I will not coyly remark, "Look what I just listed! It's cool!" I will tell you whether it is a scarf or a garden stake or yarn or at least give you a hint that a buzzard is involved, just in case you are wild and wacky. And btw, I have always liked that side of you. I may even use exclamation points on Twitter, even though I do not use them in my writing much. They are amateurish, but on Twitter, we are there to have fun and be warm and engaging--even if we are there on business--and if I am on a roll and exchanging silliness with a friend, I will cut loose with my emotions.

What else turns me off on Twitter? You're still reading this, so you're either a glutton for punishment or you actually want my opinions, bless your heart. As I mentioned earlier, I may abandon you if I repeatedly Tweet you and you ignore me. Not right away. I give it time. But if I try to connect with you numerous times and get no response, it makes me feel as if you only want to talk about you and do not care about me. Maybe sometimes you have no response and that is okay. I will not take it personally. But if it keeps happening, I may wonder if you are reading me at all. I will feel unheard. Our relationship is on the rocks. Watch out for that jagged one over there.

Recently I tweeted that my nephew's body was found. I did not expect everyone to see it and respond. But when you have 120 followers and only one person comments on a rather shocking tweet, I see that as a red flag. On the other hand, the one person who did respond made a big impression on me. I remember her name and that she lives in Phoenix. I look at her Etsy store. I care. You can make this sort of impression on your followers, too, just by making a comment to them now and then. Later I learned to my embarrassment that people were, indeed, answering me but I was not finding their messages. I joined Tweetdeck and found the missing messages and wrote each of these people a warm thank you or an apology or both. If you are having similar problems or feel as if you are shouting in the dark and no one is listening, I urge you to consider Tweetdeck or a similar program. There are at least three or four out there.

Talking to yourself on Twitter, failing to answer messages, blurting endless quotes or spam, are misuses of the program, IMO. You will eventually feel unheard and give up, wondering what the heck you did wrong.

Other Tweeters I avoid: sometimes, despite your good intentions and whatever else you may have going for you, I may find that your Tweets make no sense to me. There are not a lot of people who lose me, but sometimes I will read a Tweeter's posts for days and days and realize, "I have no idea what she is talking about." Usually it is some political issue I have not been following.

A Tweet behavior that mystifies me is repetition of the same Tweet several times. I guess you feared I missed it the first time around, huh? I didn't. I read it and remembered it and now you are slinging it back to me and I have enough problems without you making me wonder if I am developing a premature case of Alzheimer's. Stop scaring me like that.

I WILL read your ads. But please don't promote similar wares one after another. I follow someone who will post a link for duck feathers that she has for sale... then another link for chicken feathers... then another link for goose feathers and so on, maybe six in a row. I get it. You sell feathers. If I need feathers, you will attract me with one link, not six.

Enough for now. Someone just tweeted that people on Twitter complain that others are "doing it wrong," so now, as the purple dinosaur toy said in Toy Story, "I have guilt." I am not trying to say that anyone is doing anything wrong. ...Okay, yes, I am. Mostly I am trying to say that tweeting can be more effective if you tweet the most effective tweets to your target audience.

UPDATE October 4, 2017.  I have now had five Twitter accounts.  One was removed by Twitter because I broke a rule I did not know about.  (Hangs head in shame.)  I deleted two other accounts because someone stole my photo, name and identity.  I reported them to Twitter but they would not  remove the offending parties until I produced a bucketload of identification and filled out a long form. Too much hassle.  I deleted a fourth Twitter account because I was posing as a Mad Men character and when the TV series concluded, I lost interest in being that character any longer.  I had a fifth account that I just got tired of, partly because it takes so long to be seen and heard.  Also, whenever I wrote something funny, someone would copy it and use it as their own without giving me credit.  Overall, I walked away from about 12,000 followers.  I probably won't go back to Twitter.  I am, however, on Instagram and enjoying it so far. My ID there is lifesanexpedition

dj runnels
Life's an Expedition

Saturday, April 4, 2009

You sent the wrong #@%!# color!

UPDATED December 6, 2014:  I sell very little on eBay any more.  Mostly I list destash and a handful of things.  But some of the complaints people came up with when I was a powerseller--and their extreme over-reaction to issues--really stunned me.  This is one of those stories.  But first, a few words about why the color you see online might be different from what you get in the mail.

One big misconception about the internet is that the color you see on the screen is the color it is in real life. That is virtually impossible to guarantee on the internet OR on television, for several reasons.
  • You can put two computer monitors or TV sets side by side--same brand, same model, same year, same everything--and see a product displayed in different colors on each screen. No two monitors can be exactly alike in how they portray color, ever. If you are shopping for something RED and the shade of red matters little to you, this is probably not a problem. But for some buyers (and sellers) this issue is a huge problem. And what are the odds that buyer and seller are even using the same brand of monitor, anyway?
  • Aside from make/model of monitor or laptop screen, the seller can also ADJUST his/her settings so that colors look accurate to him/her... yet customers, who are using all different types of electronics with all different settings, cannot adjust their settings in exactly the same way because that is impossible to do. It's not the seller's fault or the buyer's fault. This is just reality.
  • Now add LIGHTING to the equation. Your favorite fabric seller may have taken her photographs of that supposedly bright red fleece with a Nikon, a Sony (my previous camera, a Sony, distorted certain shades of red), a high-end megapixel, an iPhone, a digicam, maybe even a still camera.  They might be shooting outdoors in bright sunlight, indoors in bright light, indoors under poor light, indoors with an eerie flash that makes everyone's eyes red...or maybe at the bottom of the Grand Canyon at dusk while riding a mule. I'm sorry, but no two photos will show the same bright red and that's assuming it IS a bright red according to all who look at the fabric. Which brings me to the next point...

  • PERCEPTION varies widely. Your seller may tell you those shoes you saw online are denim blue, but how do we know what they mean by denim blue? To you, denim blue may be deep indigo or stonewashed or a faded blue. What does denim blue mean to the seller? You do not know. You can ask. But even if they say, "Dark blue," what does dark blue mean? What you call dark blue may not be the same as what anyone else on the planet calls dark blue.
  • DISCREPANCIES:  What if the color shown in the photo looks lime green and the seller describes it in text as olive green? Which one should you believe? Photo or description? If you trust the description instead of the photo and the product arrives looking lime green, then what? Accuse the seller of lying?
  • DEFINITION: What if the seller says the color is orange-red and the photo does indeed look orange-red (to you)... but the seller also says, "It's not nearly as orange as shown," what are you supposed to believe? Is the seller wrong? Is the photo wrong? Is your monitor adjusted poorly? Is the seller's monitor set poorly? Or is the seller's definition of red-orange different than yours? Are we talking about bright red-orange or more of a rust red-orange?

  • VISION ABNORMALITIES: What if the buyer or seller has cataracts, doesn't know it, and perceives colors differently than most people?
  • RIGHT v. LEFT EYE. What if the buyer or seller's left eye sees color differently than the right eye? It is my understanding that everyone's left eye does, indeed, see differently from his/her right eye. 
  • CLOSE-UP, LIFE SIZE, DISTANCE:  What if the close-up of the product looks different than a view of the product from four feet away? It almost certainly will.  The color of a product will vary depending on the distance between the camera and the product, especially considering lighting, type of camera, etc. plus whether or not the product has a pattern to it.  I recently got a comment from a buyer who said the close-up of my yarn was deceiving.  Well, a far-away photo would also be deceiving once you inspected it closely. So I have begun showing both a close-up AND a faraway shot of my yarns. Sounds like a good solution, doesn't it? But now I have customers asking me, well, which photo is right? Both of them!  Sometimes they do not want to hear that, because they like the close-up more than the faraway shot.  Now what can I tell them? "After you knit the sweater, stand right up next to people and do not let them walk away so that all they ever see is the yarn in close-up." I predict that people who try that will eventually get arrested for standing way too close to the wrong person.
Color accuracy on the internet is not generally a problem for people who buy and sell books, CDs or anything in which the color is going to be predictable, uniform or irrelevant. People want to know that the DVD is new or in mint condition. They won't care if the DVD case is a slightly different color than expected.

But color is a HUGE problem for anyone selling or buying fabric, yarn, almost any type of fashion or jewelry that isn't black (few people disagree over black), handbags, cosmetics, artwork, home decor and more. I get many questions about my yarn and I answer to the best of my ability. Over 99% of my customers are either happy with the color or realistic enough to deal with it.

For the other less than 1%, nothing I do will ever be enough.

Okay, now for an interesting story.

Last year, I received a ranting email from an eBay customer.  When I say "ranting," I mean, she really ripped me a new one over a tube of very inexpensive lipstick.  She said the lipstick I sent her was red, not pink.  She wanted pink. The photo in the listing had shown a deep pink lipstick with a photo flash on it that gave the impression it was dark pink except in that one spot. Most people could tell it was photo flash and the customer even mentioned the photo flash as part of my "evil marketing scheme."  That's a direct quote. I am not making up this story.  And the NAME of the lipstick color included the word fuchsia. And that name came from the manufacturer, not me. Most people who see the lipstick or a photo of the lipstick agree that it is, indeed, a deep pink, magenta or fuchsia. Every customer who has ordered this fuchsia lipstick has been happy with it ... until now. This woman screamed that it was red. What would you say to someone in this scenario? "Sorry, ma'am, but you must have cataracts."  Or how about this: "Return the lipstick for a full refund and I will sell it to someone else who will never suspect that you opened the tube and applied it to your germ-free lips." Eeeeeewwwww!  I think not.  What I wanted to say was, "Ma'am, your email has convinced me that selling anything on eBay is a sheer waste of my time and talent.  Furthermore, it goes against my Life Goals.  That's it. I'm done.  Finito.  You have single-handedly put Life's an Expedition out of business. Take this guilt with you to your grave."  Well, as it turns out, I stopped selling lipstick on eBay after that.  I donated the rest of my stock to female soldiers deployed overseas.

If you buy or sell merchandise in which color description or photography is a large factor, I have very little advice to give you, but having sold a gazillion things thus far, I am offering the benefit of my experience and the few solutions I have ever been able to think of:

SELLERS: Be prepared to offer a refund policy. This is not a good solution for every seller, because if your product cannot be resold--i.e.: opened lipstick--you may get so many returns, you will go out of business. It is also not a good solution if accepting returns causes other issues.  I am leery of accepting yarn returns because I don't know if the customer used some of it. Or smoked a pack of cigarettes and blew smoke rings through the center of the wound ball.  Or used the ball of yarn to play "catch" with Bowser the Wonder Dog.  If I did accept returns, what am I to do if the returned yarn reeks of expensive perfume? Charge less for it? Charge more for it?

For sellers of clothing, you might make sure there is a sales tag that cannot be removed and reattached without it being obvious. Tell the buyer they must return the garment unworn with the tag still attached. That way, if they wear it, they either must wear it WITH the tag dangling from it or try to reattach it.   Consider attaching the tag over the part of a shirt where their nipple would be.  That would probably discourage them from wearing it with the tag. Just sayin'.  And when that garment arrives covered in cat hair, you had best have a ready answer for your customer who is impatiently drumming her fingers waiting for that refund.

If you offer a no-questions-asked guarantee, you will likely have to raise the cost of your merchandise to compensate for returns. Sadly, your satisfied customers will have to pay more for the privilege of having your return policy. The bargain hunters will not like that. I do not know what to advise you.

BUYERS: My solutions for you are not nearly as good as the advice I gave sellers. For that, I apologize. I am truly searching for solutions because I am faced with this dilemma every day. Here is all I could come up with:

  • Shop with sellers who take the clearest photos AND write the most detailed description ...and then, for crying out loud, read and study both of them. A high percentage of my buyers look at the photos without reading the entire description. How do I know this? By the questions they ask.  Repeatedly, I receive questions whose answers are stated clearly in the listing. Most of these buyers are trustworthy and honest enough to admit that they did not read the listing carefully and they will not leave nasty feedback when they get something other than what they expected. I love you guys for your understanding, but please, just read the listing and you will be disappointed less often.
  • Continue shopping with the sellers whose goods you have purchased and have been happy with.
  • On eBay, shop with sellers whose DESCRIPTION star rating is high. That means that most people found their listings to be accurate.
  • Try to be realistic. If you want a pair of shoes that exactly match a skirt, you are taking a risk. Do not trash the seller for a photo or description that seems a little off. It may be your computer monitor or your vision that is a little off. Remember the woman who bought fuchsia lipstick from me and swears it is red? I'm sorry, but everyone else said that sucker was PINK. It's hard to hear the truth, but the erroneous perception may, indeed, be yours if we put it to a vote.

-- dj runnels (c) 2008-2009
Owner of Life's an Expedition

Etsy stuff that I make.
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