Decoding Etsy — How Content Is Changing the Way We Shop

The lines between content and e-commerce are blurringchallenging businesses to market products effectively and keep customers hungry for content.

Alison Feldmann, editor-in-chief of, talks with tech writer Erin Griffith at the meetup.

Alison Feldmann, editor-in-chief of the hugely successful, a marketplace for crafty independent sellers, has had quite a bit of practice in this area, especially because she’s also the head of the brand’s social media accounts.

Feldmann joined Erin Griffith, tech writer for PandoDaily, at Outbrain’s New York offices on Tuesday for the latest Content Conversations meetup, co-sponsored by Contently and Outbrain, to share Etsy’s content modus operandi.  Here are five things we should all remember when balancing content and e-commerce:

1. It’s Not All About You

“We’re very engaged with the lifestyle blogosphere  what other blogs are covering, and how can we play against that. A lot of it is trend watching  it’s not like living in a bubble — you really have to keep your feelers out.” — Feldmann

Don’t be that guy who constantly talks about himself (see this Facebook page for an example of how not to be). According to Feldman, only about 30% of Etsy’s blog content is just about Etsy.

The rest is about “making stuff, [and] lifestyle content,” says Feldmann. “A lot of it has to do with embodying Etsy’s values…[and] the marketplace as a whole.”

2. Have a Personality

“You have to have a real voice, and a real mission  before you get out there and start annoying people with your stuff.” — Griffith

You’ll need to establish trust with your followers  and that means you’ll have to figure out exactly what your brand stands for. Once you’ve got that down, it’s OK to relax a little bit when you’re writing. Make the voice of your brand fit your company.

“We embrace a conversational tone,” says Feldmann. “You want each writer to write from the first person, instead of we the company. I think that’s one of the first mistakes people make.”

3. Rethink Content For The Sake of Acquisition

“The Etsy blog doesn’t exist to make sales.”  — Feldman 

When you’re a small startup, marketers and editors are often one and the same —which can sometimes be problematic, Griffith says.

Etsy’s brand marketing team and editorial team are separate  thus, Etsy’s blog content isn’t motivated by ad sales. Content is more about engaging and fostering community than acquiring tons of followers.

“Most of our blog posts can average close to 100 comments which are thoughtful and useful,” Feldmann says. “We really are focused on brand equity  featuring these quality conversations and fostering community is one of our top priorities.”

4. Put the Product in Context

“A customer might say, ‘I may have never justified buying a $300 pair of shoes, but after reading this post  if it’s going to be one of the three pairs I’ll always wear, I could’.” — Feldmann

When it comes down to it, Etsy’s marketplace and content work together  the content gives products relevance in a buyer’s mind.

“They exist in a symbiotic relationship,” says Feldmann. “We really try to provide that contextual background that makes the [shopping] experience more touch and feel, like you’d have in a typical brick and mortar shop.”

The content doesn’t just provide context, it also provides traffic  from Etsy’s active Twitter followers and Facebook fans, to blog posts and videos featured on the Huffington Post  relevant content draws consumers back to the marketplace.

5. Make Content Accessible Anywhere

“All of our content is original  It’s a really rich experience to, in context, explore something that you previously didn’t have any interest in.” — Feldmann

Etsy’s newest app, according to Feldmann, is a great integration of content and e-commerce.

Etsy’s cross-platform friendliness is paying off  recent data shows that one in five purchases on Etsy now happens on a mobile device. That’s not to say everything’s up in the cloud  Etsy just wrapped up a physical holiday shop in Soho, where customers met artists and curaters, learned to make crafts, and shopped in person. That more “curated, boutique feeling,” as Feldmann describes, is perfectly in sync with the company’s goal to create both context for products, and a close knit community.

In case you were wondering what Feldmann thinks about Regretsy, the blog that pokes fun at some of the stranger Etsy products: “Anything that sends traffic back to Etsy is great  it can be amusing; it can also be cruel.” She adds, “I don’t think you’ve made it until you have a parody blog.”

Make that point number six.

Images courtesy of Erica Swallow

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