Social Media Communication in the Artisan Economy

Social Media Communication in the Artisan Economy

Angela Au (Higher Learning Institute, Tucson, AZ, USA) and Peter J. Anthony (Walden University, Minneapolis, MN, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJMCMC.2016070103
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Abstract

Social media is a viable marketing and communication option for small businesses as it is cost-effective and easy to use. This study explores how small business owners in the artisan economy utilize social media to communicate with their customers. Artisan small businesses share similarities with small firms in other sectors, but they face unique challenges. Five artisan owners in the United States participated in semistructured interviews answering questions relating to marketing and communication. Artisan owners work in home-based businesses and rarely interact with customers in-person. Social media is a primary communication tool. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are sites artisan owners utilize to connect with existing and previous customers. Social media is helpful in maintaining customer relationships as well as reaching out to potential clients. When customers interact with artisan owners on social media such as liking and sharing posts, word-of-mouth marketing is created. Social media might help artisan owners increase customer loyalty and sales.
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Artisan Economy Characteristics

The artisan economy consists of craftspeople, art makers, farmers, and food producers (Heying, 2010; Holmes, McLean, & Green, 2012). Sectors in the artisan economy range from independent bookstores, microbreweries, custom bicycle framebuilders, cheese makers, indie musicians, to small goat farmers (Chang, 2011; Holmes et al., 2012). Artisan owners in different sectors face their own unique challenges, but the artisan economy as a whole share many similarities. Many of these artisan business owners work by themselves as freelancers, or are operating as microenterprises with fewer than five employees (Fuller et al., 2013; Kitching & Smallbone, 2012; Torres, 2002). One similarity artisan owners share is being flexible and resourceful when it comes to employment opportunities (Luckman, 2013; Yair & Schwarz, 2011). Many artisan owners and craftspeople only receive payments when the commission work is completed, which can take from 1 to 3 months (Aghdaie & Zardeini, 2012; Lihra, Buehlmann, & Graf, 2012). Some makers produce in batches and sell throughout the year. These makers do not receive payments until customers buy the goods. Even through artisan products are more expensive then mass-produced goods and customers are willing to pay premium prices for them, owners face financial challenges (Fuchs et al., 2015). Artisan owners do not have regular income like office workers and other corporate employees (Yair & Schwarz, 2011). Many artisan owners and craftspeople maintain part-time jobs or teach others their skills to supplement income (Yair & Schwarz, 2011). Craftspeople are knowledgeable with material selection, product design, and production methods, and many craftspeople conduct classes to teach (Fuller et al., 2013; Holmes et al., 2012). Even though artisan owners work in different fields, they share similar features such as being resourceful.

A majority of artisan business owners has a sustainable view on management as growth and generating revenue are not the only two goals. Instead, artisan owners focus on making products well and refining their crafts (Chang, 2011; Hwang, 2013). Businesses in the artisan economy favor fellow artisan companies and small firms in their communities (Mason, Carter, & Tagg, 2011). Artisan owners believe it is important to support the local economics by buying from other artisan businesses or independently owned stores (Luckman, 2013; Rosenfeld, 2010). In additional to community involvement, artisan companies operate more environmentally friendly than large corporations (Rosenfeld, 2010). Some owners choose to use natural products that are less harmful to the environment (Chang, 2011; Mason et al., 2011; Micken et al., 2010). The production process is on a small scale and owners are aware of waste, excessive energy use, and other environmental impacts (Rosenfeld, 2010). Artisan owner’s environmental awareness, business approach, and connection to others make artisan companies more sustainable than mass production factories (Chang, 2011; Mason et al., 2011; Micken et al., 2010).

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