Winning at Instagram, Part 2 – Interaction is Key!

Go here to read part one – defining your audience!

Welcome back! In this blog series, we are exploring some of the keys to being successful on Instagram. But first, a word of warning.

Are you looking for the top secret strategy to Instagram your way to huge success? Looking for that one tip or trick to up your engagement and find yourself with thousands of followers?

Because secretly, we all believe that there’s just some formula out there that we don’t yet know about yet, don’t we?

This is not that article. If there’s a trick or a formula, I don’t know it.

But what I do know is this. I’ve been instagramming for a few years now, sometimes successfully, sometimes less so. And in the last two months, I’ve managed to grow a brand new account from zero – yep, ZERO – subscribers to 5K, without purchasing any followers or doing any silly follow for follow games. I’ve applied some things I already knew, tried a bunch of new ideas, and I want to share with you what’s working and not working.
Instagram, according to me, all comes down to a few simple principles.

Part one explored the first principle – defining, understanding, and finding your ideal audience. Because if you don’t have the right audience, it doesn’t matter how great your instagram skills are.

Part two involves interacting.

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So let’s say you’ve thought through the items in part one, targeted a bunch of well-focused followers, and started following them. How do you entice them to not only follow you back but stay involved in your feed for the long term?

Here’s the non-surprising answer to this question: you have to interact.

Here are a few thoughts on how to interact well.

  1. If someone reaches out to you, always respond. When someone takes the time to comment on one of your photos, comment back and thank them or engage in a conversation. This is the best way to get to know your followers and keep them coming back.
  2. On the other hand, please don’t spam. Sending an automated direct message to every single person who follows you isn’t helpful. There are probably a million articles out there about instagram marketing that tell you to do exactly this, but for any account with a good sized audience base, this runs the risk of being both distracting and annoying. Also, I just can’t believe it works. Has anyone reading this ever followed up on a coupon code they’ve gotten unbidden in a direct message as soon as they follow someone? I know I haven’t.

    That’s not to say direct messages aren’t a great tool. But it’s much better to reach out with a more personalized and thought out question, comment, or introduction. Call this my little bit of tough love for this post. If you don’t want people to treat you like a spam bot that clogs up their inbox, don’t act like a bot.

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  3. Remember that instagram is a two way street! As much as you want people to like and comment on your content, all of your followers want the exact same thing. Try to schedule in time here and there to go through your feed, see what’s new from your followers, and like and comment on a few things.
  4. Don’t fake it. It’s important to be genuine. Don’t like things you don’t actually like. Don’t post the same comment on a bunch of different pictures. Try to find things you genuinely like and interact with those posts. Try to show your personality a little bit in your interactions. Remember – your followers aren’t looking for a generic account to interact with. They’re looking for a person.

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  5. Share the love! If someone else posts something great, don’t hesitate to share. Sometimes handcrafted biz owners get into a mindset where everyone else is the competition and we can’t share things posted by other people. I’m here to tell you that’s counterproductive. If someone else has a beautiful picture or a helpful post, feel free to repost (with attribution!!!) and help send some audience over to their feed. There is enough love to go around in the instagram universe, take it from me.

All right crafty friends, that’s it for today! I hope you’re enjoying the series! Hop on over to the instagram feed to see what we’ve been discovering lately, and stay tuned for part three of our series – posting enticing content!

 

11 Super Cute Back to School Supplies

Most of the time, I’m really glad that my schooling days are behind me. (And just to note, they’re not THAT far behind me as I was a late-in-life career changer and just finished my final round of school a few years back.)

But school supply season, I must admit, makes me a little nostalgic. Especially when I see the super cute stuff that kids get to choose from today! Where were our ombre-colored notebooks and cute erasers shaped like emojis? I got a trapper keeper and some folders and maybe a pencil case. Done.

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite finds from recent school supply posts on Pinterest. It’s ok if you get some of them just for yourself and not for the kids. I won’t tell anyone.

 

First row: erasers are much less basic with these beauties from Kate Spade, DIY for how to make your simple clipboards gorgeous from lovelyindeed, , animal rulers rule from Inspire Lovely on etsy, cutest ever fox backpack from Zulily.

Second row: simplified planner from Emily Ley, pastel notebooks from mochithings

Third row: multi colored gel pens from Pilot, awesome tribal stretch notebook cover from sewingtheABCs on etsy, Shakespeare pencil set from six0sixdesign on etsy, goldfish flash drive from little dutch shop on etsy

 

 

Weekly Roundup: Handmade Artists You Should Be Following

It’s the weekend, which means it’s time once again to highlight a few of the great handmade artisans we’ve shared on the Happier Handmade Instagram feed in the past week. I’m very excited by how our community continues to grow!

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Here are a few of the talented artisans we’ve featured on the Happier Handmade Instagram feed this week!

 Top row: gorgeous digital print maps by @modernmapshop, beaded bracelet by @sunsetstyleandco
Second row: phone cases by @modernandvintage, leather bows by @hellocharleybows, embroidered stars by @annie_and_wilf
Bottom row: mountains woodwork by @madewithbearhands, mountain banner by @cactus_and_co, assymetrical skirt by @purplefishbowl

Is that everything?

Why no.These aren’t all the wonderful pieces we’ve highlighted this week – head on over to the @happierhandmade feed to take a look at all of them. Whether you’re shopping for a gift, looking for inspiration, or just want to feast your eyes on some pretty things, I know you’ll see something you like.

Another reason to check us out

We have fun community features on Wednesdays and Friday, including work in progress highlights on Wednesdays and introduction threads on Friday, and we focus on themes on Tuesday. This week it was mountain-related crafts all day on Tuesday.

Also our twitter feed is growing by leaps and bounds! Interested? You can find the Happier Handmade Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/happierhandmade.

Want to get featured?

If you’re a crafter or artisan who would like to be featured, tag your pictures on instagram with the hashtag #happierhandmade, and I will find you! Features are currently free and offer exposure not only on Instagram but also here on the  blog, on twitter, and on pinterest!

Come on by and take a look!

 

Winning at Instagram – 4 Key Ideas

Are you looking for the top secret strategy to Instagram your way to huge success? Looking for that one tip or trick to up your engagement and find yourself with thousands of followers?

Because secretly, we all believe that there’s just some formula out there that we don’t yet know about yet, don’t we?

This is not that article. If there’s a trick or a formula, I don’t know it.

But what I do know is this. I’ve been instagramming for a few years now, sometimes successfully, sometimes less so. And in the last two months, I’ve managed to grow a brand new account from zero – yep, ZERO – subscribers to 5K, without purchasing any followers or doing any silly follow for follow games. I’ve applied some things I already knew, tried a bunch of new ideas, and I want to share with you what’s working and not working.
Instagram, according to me, all comes down to a few simple principles.

General Principles of Instagram Goodness

Here are the four general principles I think contribute to success on instagram. I’m going to tackle these one at a time in a series of posts, because I hope I can help some of you figure things out without going through all the trial and error I have!

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Learn from my mistakes (no really, please do)

Now I’ll share a secret. I have two Instagram accounts – one is a personal feed for my shop, Bellflower Textiles, and one is my bigger account celebrating handmade artists as Happier Handmade.

I’m going to share a little case study from each of these accounts. Because honestly, I’ve made every mistake in the book online over the years, and it’s only recently that I’ve started to figure out how to correct some of these.

Part one – Figure out your audience

Sounds so easy, but honestly, this is the hardest part. Here’s a quick quiz. How easily can you answer these questions?

  • Who is your audience?
  • What do they want?
  • Where are they?

Do you know the answer? Are you still kind of wondering? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

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Case study #1 – Bellflower Textiles

Here’s where I make a lot of mistakes.

My first Instagram account, Bellflower Textiles, has been running for about 3 years. I use it to publicize pictures of my makeup bags and travel products that I sell on Etsy. However, even with three years of work, it has always been rather small and not generating a lot of sales or traffic for me.

What I realized recently, though, is that I was really focusing on the wrong audience. I was mostly following other Etsy artists and hand crafters, many of whom were happy to follow me back, but most of whom are not my target. I’d occasionally make a sale to someone who wanted a bag for their crochet supplies or something, but those were few or far between.

This spring I started thinking about it more seriously, and realized that while I definitely love to follow other crafters and see what they are up to, if I’m truly branding myself as a makeup bag and travel accessories seller, my audience is probably more like… people who like makeup and love to travel.

I know, right? Seems so obvious.

Once I started searching some big beauty related tags and following beauty bloggers, I quickly identified a much more promising core audience. Following and interacting with them has led to a 60% increase in my follower base (an additional 300 followers).
Yes, 300 isn’t a huge increase. But still – 60% increase at a time when I’m spending most of my online time building up my Happier Handmade account – that’s not too shabby, right?

Takeaways

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who am I trying to reach and for what purpose? For example, are you trying to sell something to home shoppers? Reach gallery owners? Build following for a blog or facebook page? Just meet maker friends and build a tribe? The clearer you can be on the answer to this question the better.
  2. What kind of content are my followers posting and liking? What seems to be working well to reach them?
  3. What are some important hashtags in the space I’m trying to join?
  4. Who are some of the bigger successes in the area I’m working in? Who are their followers, what hashtags are they using, and what makes their feeds compelling?

Case Study #2 – Starting Happier Handmade

Here’s where I applied what I learned.

So as most of you know, I started Happier Handmade (@happierhandmade) on Instagram this past June, towards the end of the month. From scratch. From zero.

I did, and am still doing, a TON of market research about handmade artist feature accounts. Let me tell you, there are a LOT of them. But I love research, so I opened up a spreadsheet, entered as many of these accounts as I could find, and started gathering stats. How many followers. If they were charging money. What kind of features they offer. If they have other associated social media streams. What they were doing to try to differentiate themselves. How long they’ve been around. You name it, I looked at it.

And then I slotted myself in on the very bottom of the list, organized from high to low by number of followers, and got to work.

Let me tell you, that’s a bit intimidating when the big names in the field are sporting 200K+ followers and you’re trying to get started with zero.

However – defining an audience for this account was really clear, compared to figuring it out for Bellflower Textiles. For Happier Handmade, my audience is absolutely online sellers and handmade crafters. And this makes me happy because honestly, that’s mostly why I want to be on Instagram. There are so many talented artists out there!! It’s so fun to find them and see what they’re doing! I do a little happy dance every day that I get to spend time doing nothing but looking at amazing pics of crafting.

Have a good starting idea of who your audience is? Maybe you’re trying to sell blankets to new mothers. Maybe you’re selling wedding invitations to newly engaged brides. Maybe you’re trying to reach boho enthusiasts for your great line of feather necklaces.

Here are some ways to help fine tune who your audience is.

  • Go out and hashtag search for this core audience you’ve defined.
  • See who is posting with tags that are probably going to be important to you. Follow them.
  • See what other related hashtags show up when you search that you hadn’t yet thought of. Repeat steps one and two for those tags.
  • Make note of big accounts with a lot of followers – these are some of the key influencers in your arena. If you can follow, interact, and develop a relationship there, you have a potential ally to reach even more people.
  • Take a look at your competition.

That’s right, your competition. Here’s a key principle in my world:

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Today’s call to action – take a little time to poke around Instagram and fine tune your idea of who your audience is. What are they interested in? Who are your influencers? Who are your big competitors?

Stay tuned for part 2 about engagement! Coming next week.

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Weekly Roundup – Artists You Should Be Following

It’s the weekend, which means it’s time once again to highlight a few of the great handmade artisans we’ve shared on the Instagram feed in the past two weeks. It’s been an exciting week for Happier Handmade – we’ve hit 5000 followers in just under seven weeks, we’ve had our first giveaway, our Twitter feed has just passed 200 followers, and we’re working on our second artisan interview that will be posting here very soon.

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In the meantime, here’s a roundup of some talented online artisans you should be keeping an eye on. Because these folks, they are going places.

Top row: mixed metals bar necklace by by @debbeesplace, glitter ears headband by @penelopeandsophia, marbled ceramic vase by @fettleandfire.
Bottom row: bucket full of stuffed owls by @handlefeltcreations, swan print romper by @shereeandme, handbound leather journal by @leather.mill, and cross-print toddler hoodie by @littlebeansbabyshop.

Is that everything?

Why no.These aren’t all the wonderful pieces we’ve highlighted this week – head on over to the @happierhandmade feed to take a look at all of them. Whether you’re shopping for a gift, looking for inspiration, or just want to feast your eyes on some pretty things, I know you’ll see something you like.

Another reason to check us out

We have fun community features on Wednesdays and Friday, including work in progress highlights on Wednesdays and introduction threads on Friday, and we focus on themes on Tuesday. This week it was moon-related crafts all day on Tuesday.

Also our twitter feed is growing by leaps and bounds! Interested? You can find us at http://twitter.com/happierhandmade.

Want to get featured?

If you’re a crafter or artisan who would like to be featured, tag your pictures on instagram with the hashtag #happierhandmade, and I will find you! Features are currently free and offer exposure not only on Instagram but also here on the  blog, on twitter, and on pinterest!

Come on by and take a look!

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5 Ways To Make your Product Pics Shine

Let’s talk again for a moment about a subject dear to my heart – product photography for online sellers.

I started @happierhandmade just a few months ago, but since then I’ve been scouring instagram and finding the best pictures I could of handmade artists’ works and sharing them with the world. We’ve grown exponentially from those first 15 followers who showed up on day one and are now closing in on 5000, which is seriously exciting for me!

So over the last eight or nine weeks, I’ve chosen three or more pictures every single day to share, and I do my best to look through every new account that follows me to see what their products are like and look for items I might feature.

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If you haven’t been chosen yet, you very well might be in the future! Three a day sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t compared to the thousands and thousands of artisan accounts that are out there.

But — I do notice a few things that I wish handmade shop owners knew about their pictures, because these things will really, really help your chances of getting featured. Here are a few key things that help me make the decision on who I’m going to feature.

5 Tips To Help Your Photos Get Featured

Here are my best tips to help you understand why your pics might or might not get selected:

  • Don’t hide your product with too much text. Don’t use watermarks and added text on every single picture. I’m not likely to feature a picture that has text across it or even a watermark, because it interrupts the flow of the visually-appealing feed I’m trying to create.
  • Think carefully about your backgrounds. You absolutely don’t have to use a plain white background – but if you use something else, pleasepleaseplease make sure it’s well lit. Invest in a good photo editing app (I use Snapseed obsessively – it’s great!) and play with lightening up the brightness, modifying the ambient light, and changing the warmth factor of your pictures. You will be amazed what you can do to turn a so-so picture into a great one!

    Also, just personal preference but I’m not likely to post a pic if it’s shot on carpet or on a really wrinkly piece of fabric.

  • Consider how you’re cropping. If your picture is not square, I’m probably not going to feature it unless it crops down nicely to a square. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t post whatever shape you want to – but occasionally post a nice, square pic that’s centered in a lovely way and I may be able to use it more easily.
  • Make it clear. I’ve seen some really adorable pictures that look great when you see them in their tiny form in a search panel but are just poorly focused when I open them up, and not in that artful, soft-focus way that some instagrammers are deliberately fostering. Practice setting your focus, invest in a small tripod, and take several versions of every shot so you can pick the one that’s most in focus. After seven years of taking product pics for my own shot, I’m still amazed at how two out of three shots I take of the same item can be blurry and only one is usable!

    This stuff is hard, yo. Word to the artist peeps.

  • Vary between single and collage shots. Collage shots are awesome but I often pass them by because they can look somewhat cluttered in the feed I’m producing. If you mostly post collage pictures, consider varying things up a bit so you include some single product pics too!

That’s it! Hope this is helpful to you!

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