Contextual essay

Althea and Co

The idea for Althea and Co first arose when I noticed the sudden increase of candles appearing on my Pinterest and Instagram. I loved the plethora of different aesthetics and the colours, shapes and blends. I really liked the idea of making and selling candles as I am a very creative person and enjoy making aesthetic things. To begin with, it was a bit of a toss up between starting this candle business or creating a YouTube channel. I decided that I would pursue this road for my DA as I really wanted to work on something that would include me giving something physical to my audience. I thought starting a business would be a great opportunity to set me up for the future as well. So, I began to research deeper into the candle world to find some inspiration.

She is Jolie and Studio Billie were both huge inspirations to me when creating my own brand. I really loved the clean tones and classic style they portrayed through their candles.

However, I didn’t just want to create candles for the aesthetics. For as long as I can remember I have battled with feeling stressed, especially when I am busy. Now, as a uni student, I am experiencing this stress daily as much of my time is spent trying to keep up with all my assignments as well as work and other commitments. This battle was the driving force which pushed me to continue pursuing opening a candle business. I want to be able to help myself and others to create a relaxing environment in their home that promotes peace and comfort.

Because my focus of this brand is to promote relaxation and positivity, I wanted to frame my business in a way that would appeal to people seeking these things.

“Frame essentially involves selection and salience. To frame is to select some aspect of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communication text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation for the item described.”

Teodor Mitew

I created a starter pack to really narrow down who my target audience was.

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I wanted to capture that they were predominantly women, who enjoyed creating and living in a relaxed environment. I also included gifts on there as I hope that the brand can not only be enjoyed by people that buy the product, but also by their friends and family. Creating this starter pack helped me to think critically about the steps I need to take to frame my DA in a way that will appeal to those that fit into those described in my starter pack.

The first step I took to attract my target audience was to pick an appropriate name. I really wanted to obviously promote rest, but also have a beautiful name that reflected the European style candles that I was aiming to produce. I researched for hours online until I found the perfect name: Althea. Althea means Healer and Wholesome so it fits perfectly into what I was trying to promote through the brand.

The second thing I did to begin to gain an audience was create an instagram page. I wanted this to be a place I could share my progress, but also promote that brand and what it stands for.

My instagram posts have all been carefully planned out to present an aesthetic that appeals to women seeking rest and relaxation. I did this by posting inspiration to relax, and creating a clean, inviting aesthetic.

I stuck to a muted pastels colour palette as I indicated on my starter pack. This decision was confirmed as the right one when I posted this poll on my story:

I also incorporated posts that promoted rest to attract those who are stressed and help people capture the message of the brand.

This post doesn’t explicitly say that Althea and Co is all about rest in big bold letters, but it does remind followers that the brand does want to promote rest and relaxation. Making posts like this can encourage the audience’s schema to start to link rest with Althea and Co.

Schema, as described in my week 7 blog post, is the way we individually develop a unique way of framing things. This could be impacted by the places you go, people you meet and things you experience. As humans the way we perceive things is reliant on the frame that we build from past experiences.

First Post

The first post I did was describing the name in depth. I thought it was really important to make it clear what the business was about.

I made the graphic using Canva. It was super easy to use and helped me kick start my posting in a really strong way. Canva is a great example of the FIST (Fast, Inexpensive, Simple and Tiny) analogy. It is a free platform that allowed me to create graphics quickly and easily. The whole process was very simple and I didn’t have to waste any time trying to figure out complicated graphics or software.

The audience response was really good for the first post. Having 19 likes and 3 comment was encouraging, especially for the first post. I was also able to reach 89 accounts, 71% of which weren’t following me.

Overall the feedback was really positive and I think it was a great foundation post for the Instagram page.

Launch Announcement

I used Canva to design a launch post, announcing that I would be launching the business on June 6th. I had already posted the graphic for over 24 hours when I realised that I had gotten the day completely wrong. I had accidentally written that the 6th of June was a Saturday, when it was actually a Sunday.

By this time, I had already posted other content after the launch announcement, and people had already seen the post and not realised the mistake. I quickly deleted the image so as to avoid miss-informing people and instead put the announcement in my bio, as well as regularly reminding people on Instagram stories.

I made this choice as I believed that it would be more effective to have the announcement visible right under the title, and be brought up regularly on the instagram story then to repost the correct date and confuse those who didn’t notice the mistake in the first place.

Giveaway

I decided to conduct a giveaway on my instagram page to encourage audience engagement. I scheduled the winner to be announced on the 6th of June in order to drive people to my account on launch day, where they could purchase a candle.

I made the giveaway requirements consist of three things:

  • They must follow Althea and Co on Instagram
  • They must tag a friend in the comments
  • They must repost the post on their story.

I thought really critically about the requirements as I wanted to maximise the number of people interacting with the account. Requesting that people follow the account would result in more long term support while the other requirement help broadcast the business and draw people in. This resulted in more public interaction and sharing than I had received on any of my other posts.

I really wanted to make the graphic for this post engaging and framed for my target audience. I went with a simple white and black theme and added some pink to make it more feminine.

I wanted to make sure that the main elements were enhanced so I changed the font size around, to make sure that the giveaway and entry requirements were bolder than the other text.

I also included different fonts to add some fun and variety to the post and catch peoples eye.

I did make the image on my computer, rather than my phone which meant that I was seeing a much larger image than my audience saw from their phones.

I received some private feedback from a follower who expressed some concern over my graphic. This was really helpful as I was able to make a note of that and make sure to use a font style and size that is appropriate for viewing on phones in the future.

Receiving this feedback reminded me of a fact I learnt in week 3; Gmail was released when it was not finished. It was improved based on people’s feedback. This really inspired me to take more steps to gain feedback and responses from my audience in order to improve.

Stories & Highlights

One thing that I really focused on in the last few weeks was Instagram stories and highlights.

I mentioned in my beta that I wanted to make the instagram page more of a place where I can share progress. I began to share more of the behind the scenes content and progress shots.

This included fails, and wins and really made the account more of an interactive place where everything doesn’t have to be perfect all the time.

I wanted to frame this in an imperfect way by including both wins and losses in order to create a welcoming and accepting environment for everyone. Most people only post their wins on social media and this only promotes stress and comparison for people. Posting about both the good and the bad allowed the brand to appear more accepting.

Posting progress shots on my story resulted in a lot more private interaction through direct messages and reactions.

I really tried to utilise the different features on Instagram to reach out further to my audience. I found the question and answer sticker especially great in increasing my audience interaction!

Highlights, situated within my bio, are where I saved all the stories I had posted. It was a really great way to allow viewers to look back on what I posted. As my candles are directed at busy, stressed people, I know it can be easy to miss a story or skip over it when you are rushed. By saving all the content in my highlights, it caters to my target audience.

Instagram Tactics

Instagram has a strange algorithm so I found it quite difficult to figure out how to reach lots of people. The first thing I tried out was using hashtags that related to the image I was posting. I compared two different posts of the exact same candle from different angles. The first post had hashtags and the second didn’t.

As you can see, the post with hashtags has a lot more interaction then the post with no hashtags.

Another tactic I used was to share all my instagram posts to Pinterest. I did this to encourage the shift from centralized, to decentralized data. As mentioned in my week 4 blog post, centralized data is data that is coming from one source to everyone else and decentralized data is data that is shared and adapted between people. The more decentralized data becomes, the more people will be interacting with it. Pinterest, somewhat like collective intelligence, is a web of sharing, saving and liking between participants so it is a good way to encourage the sharing of Althea and Co products.

Etsy

Etsy is the platform I chose to tell my candles from. It has become increasingly popular lately and is easy to use, cheap and has everything I needed to launch Althea and Co. Like Canva, this fits into the FIST analogy and works really well for my business. Etsy is known for predominantly selling hand made crafts and gifts so it also matched the aesthetic of Althea and Co. From my very first day of the business being available on Etsy, I was able to get a total of 24 views.

Although I am yet to make a sale, Etsy enables me to collect data that will allow me to see what days the store is most popular. This in turn allow me to make changes to promote the business more on those days to encourage people to buy the candles.

Although Etsy is great for selling, I wanted to create a page of my own where I can have creative freedom. I designed a website for Althea and Co to help promote the business further and have a creative space to blog about what is going on within the business!

Sharing

The BCM112 students created a DA support group to give each other feedback and constructive criticism on their posts. I used this to my advantage and shared a number of my posts with the group to gain some feedback.

Even just having the support was amazing. I was able to get some really great feedback too!

A lot of my followers and friends were also reposting my posts on their stories and promoting my business which was amazing! I made a highlight to save them in to encourage others to do the same.

Conclusion

Overall, starting a business during a full semester of uni was not easy. There were many times where I felt like no one cared about the business and I felt that I didn’t have enough time to get it done. However my motivation to help people create a relaxing environment for themselves is what kept me going. I learned so many useful techniques in my BCM112 classes that I was able to apply to the construction of my DA. These include, framing, FIST, centralized and decentralized data and the importance of gaining audience feedback. When my perfectionism was preventing me from progressing I kept remembering Ted saying that it is better to have an incomplete thing out receiving feedback from an audience, then nothing out at all.

I received so much great feedback encouraging me to try new things with my business. I will be absolutely putting out more variety in my range of candles in the coming months. For now, I have taken Ted’s advice and produced as much as I can in order to launch my shop and start selling to my audience. It is not perfect but I have worked hard and learnt a lot throughout the process so far.

Thank you for following my journey! I hope you will continue to support Althea and Co through the coming years.

Sources

Mitew, T 2021, ‘The Logic of Digital Production and the Network Economy’, online lecture, BCM112, University of Wollongong, viewed 15 March 2021, <https://www.youtube.com/watchv=X2L4W_d4PYE&t=1s&ab_channel=TeodorMitew>

Mitew, T 2021, ‘Networked Participation and Collective Intelligence’, online lecture, BCM112, University of Wollongong, viewed 22 March 2021, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=IufUFmHACGI&feature=emb_title&ab_channel=TeodorMitew>

Nesta – The Innovation Foundation 2020, ‘What is Collective Intelligence?’, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pO2gVRVFe6w&t=2s&ab_channel=Nesta-TheInnovationFoundation>

Ward, D 2021, ‘Dan Ward’s Corner’, AcqNotes, viewed 6 June,<https://acqnotes.com/acqnote/tools/danward#:~:text=In%202004%2C%20I%20coined%20the,rapid%2C%20low%2Dcost%20innovation.>

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