Etsy’s DIY Social Strategy: Q&A with Dave Brown

Written by Bonnie Boglioli...June 8, 2011

Etsy. The name alone conjures up images of grey woolen scarves made by loving hands around the family dining table. In fact, the vision is not far off. Hundreds of thousands of artists have flocked to set up ‘shop’ from the comfort of their own home, peddling their artistic or vintage wares in ways unimaginable at local craft fairs.

Etsy’s crowd-sourced, user-generated business model may sound cozy and small, but it’s proven incredibly lucrative for the Brooklyn-based company that requires the extensive use of social media to continue its upward swing. This year alone, between $30 and $40 million of goods have been sold each month and the site records astonishingly high hit numbers that would make any website admin drool (to the tune of 972,562,809 in March). While doilies, doo-dads and iPad jackets may ultimately be responsible for these figures, Etsy’s stellar use of social media offers up the right concoction that bridges the gaps, attracting sellers and buyers alike.

In today’s Q&A, we interview Dave Brown, the brains and brawn behind Etsy’s carefully crafted social campaigns and day-to-day tasks. With an interconnected cyber-social-super highway, Brown participates in many social channels. Alongside Etsy’s blog, video streams and virtual classrooms, the 2-person social media team offers advice and inspiration to ‘shopkeepers’ and shares the latest trends and shop additions to millions of buyers. With fearless attitude towards social media and their signature DIY style, Etsy has created the previously unimaginable (notably, quitting your nine to five to sell those iPad sleeves) thanks to their flare for creativity… something the company carries over to its social strategy.

STR: Dave, you captain Etsy’s Social Media department and have quite a creative background yourself. What attracted you to Etsy and what is a typical day like for you at HQ?

DB: I was living an entrepreneur's life in San Diego for 12 years when my longtime friend and Etsy Design Director, Randy Hunt, turned me on to the opportunity at Etsy. I was immediately intrigued. Having the opportunity to be a part of a community and company whose vision is to build a new economy and present better choices for people is thrilling.

A typical day for me includes curating content that is engaging, creative, authentic and inspiring. I also respond to tweets and Facebook posts, engage with our social community, manage my intern, collaborate with cross-team projects in developing social media campaigns, track our social analytics and strategic planning… and try to sneak in some time to develop our Etsy Music and Etsy Dudes initiatives.

STR: That sounds like an incredibly busy schedule! Do you partner with social media strategists or utilize third-party tools to assist in the implementation and analysis of your social campaigns?

DB: Our social media team currently consists of me and my awesome intern, Laura. There are no marketing companies or robots involved. We do all the tweeting, Facebook posting, replying, commenting and everything in-between.

On a daily basis, we look at Twitter Analytics, Facebook Insights, Google Analytics and Bit.ly. Each week, we compile a report that outlines metrics from Etsy’s social media channels for traffic and engagement. We look at a lot of information and we’re always on the hunt for a product that will make our lives a bit easier. Currently, there are a lot of great social media products available but I still haven’t seen one that serves all our needs.

STR: Many Etsy staffers play active roles in driving unique content and providing help across an extensive list of outlets. How does the team work together despite their specialized departments?

DB: One of the best parts of my job is the on-going collaboration with cross-team projects. Instead of sitting in a cubicle all day, I get to bounce around the office and develop social media campaigns that highlight seller education, product releases, marketing and partner promotions, editorial support, events and company initiatives. Lately, I’ve been working closely with our product team to develop social integration across Etsy’s site and newsletters.

STR: How important is social diversity, in the form of multiple social channels, when it comes to delivering fresh content?

DB: There’s no doubt that content is king and while the majority of our focus is on the big two (Twitter and Facebook), social media is all about experimenting. We’re often doing just that with a number of interesting platforms including Tumblr, Pinterest, Vimeo, iTunes, Meetup, Livestream and Flickr.

STR: As a do-it-yourself organization both in terms of your sellers and social media implementation, what are some take-away’s that other organizations can learn from Etsy and readily implement into their own strategy?

DB: One recommendation is to establish a social media calendar that allows for organization, consistency, responsiveness, acknowledgement and a fresh mix of content. You may not always follow it but it’s a good foundation to work off.

STR: Etsy users leverage social outlets to build their own brands and share their interests. Does this require you guys to be ahead of the curve in the social arena, and if so where do you find answers to new challenges?

DB: I’ll let others decide if we’re ahead of the curve or not. What matters most to us is that our community knows we’re here for them - to respond, communicate, interact, engage and inspire. Being in a field that’s constantly evolving is incredibly exciting and challenging.

I feel really lucky to be doing what I do and devote a healthy portion of my time to staying connected by following a ton of RSS feeds, blogs and Tweets. I’m also a big proponent of offline interaction at conferences and events and recently became co-organizer of a monthly Meetup group of social media professionals.

STR: Dave, it’s been a pleasure hearing about the many ways that Etsy uses social technology, DIY style. Thank you!

DB: Thanks!

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