ByHand is a website with a similar goal to SoopSee -it seeks to combine your shop(s), blog, Twitter, and other sites together in one place. The developer intends for it to be like a free homepage/domain where artisans can direct their potential customers who will then get everything they need to know about you, your products, and your social network without having to type in a bunch of different site links. To help accomplish their central goal, ByHand (obviously) offers a profile page for every user where you can post links, photos, and other important content. The one major advantage ByHand has over SoopSee is that they allow a wide variety of artisan venues, while SoopSee only offers links to Etsy shops. The free "domain" is an interesting concept but it's not the only thing this site offers. Even those who already have a domain may find this site very useful.
ByHand also has an artisan directory where you can list information about your business. The screenshot below is of my directory entry. I'm able to easily have all of my shop links and social networking profiles as a part of this entry and I can update it as my information changes. Directory entries also have the advantage of allowing you to post an image of your product and visitors are able to rate your business right from this page. Search engines can likely pick up these directory entries and the additional, unique links to your shop can help your page rank in sites like Google.
If you zoomed in on the image, you might have noticed I'm mentioned in the Facebook badge on the far right of the page. This leads me to my favorite feature of ByHand: Spotlights! The Etsy Treasury system is the closest related resource I've tried so far, but there are numerous reasons why I think Spotlights are better. If you know what a Treasury is, skip down to point #1. If you don't keep reading. A Spotlight is like a gallery of products from different artisans that fit well together (i.e. because they're all blue or they all relate to horses in some way). An artisan showcases other artisans work and can display some of their favorite handmade items in a very cool, artistic way. It's a way to not only earn yourself goodwill and karma points, but to promote yourself indirectly. Remember how in my last blog entry I said that one of the major mistakes artisan bloggers make is talking only about themselves and what their products look like as if a blog is just a multi-page advertisement? That strategy doesn't make you any friends because it's really annoying. That goes for Twitter, Facebook and any other social media of which you may be a part. Spotlighting your favorite products from other people and then promoting that Spotlight will make people more interested in you and more likely to click on your links on the occasions that you do tweet or post one of your own items. Artisans that you've featured may also decide to return the favor and promote you via a Spotlight or tweet. And, as artisans promote the Spotlights they are a part of, the creator gets some extra exposure as well since their name and profile are attached to it. Okay, now for the reasons I'm in love with this feature:
1. You can feature any items you want. Etsy, ArtFire, Zibbet, Dawanda, Made It Myself, 1000Markets...yep, all supported. Want to put an item you saw on iCraft alongside one you found on Zibbet? You can do that too. You're given 9 spaces to use and it appears that items from all of the most popular crafting sites will work.
2. ByHand promotes your spotlights for you on their Facebook fan page (only if you want). This ideally can lead to people clicking on your spotlight, then your ByHand profile, then your shop. Your spotlight can be posted whether or not your items are "front-page worthy" in the eyes of site staff members.
3. There's no restriction on how many of your own items you can put in. (Etsy treasuries limit you to one and even including one is seen as bad form.) If you want to do a whole 9 image set with items from your shop(s), go for it. It might be a good way to get a gallery image of your work without having to edit and piece together the images yourself in an editing program.
4. Spotlights never expire. They can be deleted, but unless you click that button your spotlight will be available for viewing long after an Etsy treasury would have expired.
5. You can make a spotlight whenever you want and make as many of them as you want. It's not like the Treasury where you have to get in at a certain time or like Poster Sketch where you can only create a gallery of one set of images at a time. Spotlights have a lot more flexibility.
If Spotlights aren't enough to make you interested in the site, there are also some pretty handy features with ByHand such as RSS support. You can add your blog feed, for example, and your latest entries will show up on your profile page. I definitely recommend checking out this site - it's free, so there's no risk of wasting any money. If you end up liking it though, you should consider making a small donation to keep it free for others like you.
Note: You may have trouble accessing this website in Internet Explorer. Make sure your security settings are set to allow mixed content. If you still cannot access your profile page, you probably need to use a different browser.
Do you have any experience with ByHand? Share your knowledge with us by posting a comment. Want to be in my next Spotlight? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time,