How to make an impact
With one billion active users, Instagram has fast become the go-to social media platform for craftspeople trying to reach new audiences. The platform is reshaping how we consume and buy products and many creatives are using it to build brand awareness and promote their products – sometimes forgoing the need to find retailers. We asked four craftspeople with impressive Instagram followings how they engage audiences, build their image and sell work.
1. How to take the perfect shot
On an image-led platform, visuals are key – so make sure your photos are well lit, framed and styled, and free of clutter. ‘Avoid strip lighting and yellow tones, which are hard to filter out,’ says Rosie Wolfenden, co-founder of jewellery brand Tatty Devine, which has over 90,000 followers. ‘Instagram is great for highlighting details such as micro glitter, intricately etched lettering, hand-curved acrylic and super-sparkly Swarovski action.’
Potter Florian Gadsby, whose minimalist photographs and process shots have earned him over 200,000 followers, suggests investing in a decent camera and lens. ‘Once you’ve got to grips with a DSLR, start videoing yourself at work – films that show process really draw people in,’ he says.
Weaver Christabel Balfour – who has a following of over 28,000 – disagrees on the need for professional equipment: 'Most of my best-performing posts were shot on my iPhone and edited using VSCO and Instagram’s in-app editor,’ she says.
3. Find your voice and stick to it
Creating a personal and unique tone of voice creates a sense of familiarity that will draw in and retain followers. ‘Users are much more interested in following a person than a brand,’ Gadsby explains.
Balfour describes her voice as ‘chatty and relatable’. ‘More often than not I’m talking about what I have going on that day or what I’m excited about that week,’ she says. She and many other craftspeople also share information about their processes on Instagram, as well as behind-the-scenes stories. “I think that makes you more relatable,’ explains paper artist Patrick Cabral, who has nearly 60,000 followers. ‘I write about my struggles and successes and hopefully inspire people to get creating.’
4. Create a dialogue with your followers
As far as possible, it’s worth replying to comments, messages and tagged pictures, as well as finding ways to strike up conversation. ‘Instagram has proved to be essential in building brand awareness with fans all over the world,’ says Wolfenden. Engaging with other people’s posts is also vital. ‘Make sure you are liking and commenting on people who do similar things,’ Balfour advises. ‘What goes around, comes around.’
5. Avoid the hard sell…
Beyond just promoting your craft, Instagram is a great as a mood board and to showcase your wider interests. ‘We like to mix up our feed with snaps of things that inspire us: amazing street art, makeup inspiration, exhibitions we’ve visited,’ says Wolfenden. ‘Being able to purchase from an independent brand who loves the same music as you, follows the same TV shows and collaborates with causes close to your heart is a real USP in a heavily saturated market.’
6. …but do try creating adverts
Targeted adverts may help you reach new audiences and get taken more seriously. Cabral says he has just started to try these out to sell his work. ‘I don't really do exhibitions so Instagram is a big part of what I do,’ he says. ‘I try to reach the type of people that I want to own my work and so far it has been successful.’ Balfour has found the platform to be a great place to sell things at £300 or below, as well as to promote the craft workshops she delivers. ‘Instagram is something that press, interior designers and galleries will look at to decide if your work is worth investing in,’ she points out.
7. Don’t forget to use hashtags
Hashtags are a useful for reaching new audiences and being picked up by online galleries that may show your work on their feeds, but they should be selected carefully and used sparingly to avoid dominating your captions. Balfour advises researching what hashtags could work best and using planning apps such as Mosaico or Planoly to update and keep track of them. ‘Hashtags can sometimes feel a bit cringe, but most of my new followers find me that way,’ she says.
8. Play the long game
Most of all, take your time. ‘Look at what else is around in your sector and try to take a different approach,’ Gadsby advises. ‘There are more people than ever trying to grow their online followings, but a lot of their postings are dull or just “sell, sell, sell”. You can do better than that.’
It took Balfour three years to build up to 10,000 followers, but then in 2018 she suddenly gained 10,000 more in six months. Rather than chasing instant results, she says, it’s important to plan for slow and consistent growth. ‘Growing organically means that you build a loyal following of people who will follow you anywhere. If Instagram got deleted tomorrow, you know they’d keep in touch.’