I recently had a fellow woodworker ask me if I had any tips for someone new to Instagram. As I thought about it, I realized I have learned a lot about the platform over the past year. I am still VERY small from a follower perspective, but I am continuing to grow and have pretty good engagement. My thoughts on “best practices” are discussed in this blog post.
These nuggets of advice are just my opinion and based upon what works for me. Your situation might be different or you might have different goals. This leads me to the first topic to cover:
You, Do You
My first piece of advice on how to use Instagram is… use it to accomplish YOUR goals. You have goals right? Have you written them down? Are they something you remind yourself of often? At a bare minimum, ponder them. If you know WHAT you want to accomplish in a few months, a year, 5 years, start planning. Look to others for advice, but do not copy someone else’s style, aesthetic, mannerisms, presentation, etc.
You should be yourself.
Trying to emulate others, results in coming off as fake. You might fool some of the people. But why? It is exhausting, not fun and won’t pay long-term rewards. Be yourself. Those people that find you and decide they identify with something about you or your work, enough to follow you, will continue to do so.
Back on the goals and focus topic, if you want to be known as a professional custom woodworker, then focus on that in your Posts. If you have other day-to-day things that are unrelated to custom woodworking, feel free to share those in moderation, though your Stories.
Do you want to be known as a hobbyist maker, parent with a love of wine? Then that is your thing. People with similar interests will find you.
Wait, Stories vs Posts?
- Stories are short 30 second snippets. You can record for longer, but they will be broken up into 30 seconds. These also go away after 24 hours unless you “highlight” them. Other peoples stories show up at the top of your home page (thehouseoftimber, toolgirlsgarage, etc. in this screenshot). People can react privately or reply to you only.
- Posts are indefinite (can be deleted/archived), can be liked and can be commented upon. They show up below the story feed (iron_gordon on the screenshot) Full conversations can happen here. All of your posts show up under your profile and are where people will gather their first impression of you.
Consistency here means a couple of different things, both frequency as well as the presentation of content.
I fail at this regularly. However, with pretty much any social media platform, a consistent, predictable stream of content will almost always drive larger audiences with higher engagement. Decide what works for you and stick with it. Maybe that is a short story every morning and one post in the evening. Maybe it is a string of posts on the weekend and a ton of stories throughout the week. Figure out what you have the time to do and what people seem to react to and keep it up
From a presentation perspective, pick a font and color scheme that matches your logo, your personality, the vibe of what you are “selling”, etc. Stick with it. It becomes part of your brand. It makes your content more recognizable. Being consistent also yields a much nicer looking profile page.
Find Your People
With woodworking, metalworking and making, there is a great sense of community on Instagram. I know that the platform is FILLED TO THE BRIM with toxicity, fakes and “influencer” types. Fortunately, in our circles, it is pretty wholesome and lacking those Instagram stereotypes.
Are you like me and do mixed media (wood, metal, electronics, etc.)? Are you a focused wood turner or scroller? Are you a bladesmith?
Use the search (magnifying glass at the bottom of the screen) to search for those things. Browse through the results. Click on #hashtags (more on that in a minute) that seem to match your likes/goals/style. Find folks you identify with (but don’t want to copy) and click the “follow” button.
Once you find some folks, watch their stories. Who do you “click with”? Start liking and commenting on their posts. React to their stories. ie: be engaged. You are building a network and relationships. Just like in real life, just because you think you would be great friends with someone, they might not feel the same way. They might be super busy with others, sponsors, making money, etc. Know that a handful of people will probably become your friends. A few will end up being people that you are inspired by and a whole lot might just end up adding to the count of follows or followers. Its ok. Just move on and don’t wake it personally.
Once you have a circle of folks you interact with regularly, feel free to tag them in your stories or description of your posts if they somehow inspired you, helped you or if you have a tip or helpful idea to share.
If you like someone else.. tell your followers to go check them out.
SHARE information. Don’t just share the end result. Share the process. The tips. The secrets. Sure, there might be a little competition between each of us, but in reality, there are plenty of followers and work to go around for everyone. Helping each other to get better is best for everyone involved.
You should get used to using #hashtags.
You can use the #hashtag sticker on your Stories to highlight what you are trying to get across, to convey humor, etc.
Hashtags on your Posts weigh into who will see them. Remember using hashtags to find people with similar interests? Yeah, everybody does that. If you want people to find you, use hashtags. (by the way, you can subscribe to a hashtag. Posts from people you don’t follow will show up in your feed under the heading of a hashtag you follow.
You can embed hashtags in your description of your post, but don’t go overboard. It makes it harder to read. Instead, put the block of tags at the bottom of your post. Separate them from the body of your post by using a period and <enter> five times. Like this:
#hashtag1 #hashtag2 #etc
Instagram won’t show the hashtags or the period on the feed, only when someone clicks the …more… link.
Pay attention to what hashtags other folks are using. Click on them and make note how many posts use that tag. If one of your friends made a tag up, it might not have been used but a few times. Discuss with them if it is something they want to promote or keep for themselves. I usually will have #mastersondesign on all of my posts, so the count is pretty low. However #makersgonnamake has over 7.5MILLION posts. I always try to include some of the biggies. Go look at the tags though… sometimes context is important and it might not mean what you think it does. 🙂
Be careful not to use more than 30 hashtags in a post. If you do, Instagram will just delete your caption and post your image/video and you won’t even realize it!
Don’t Worry About The Numbers
Grow your audience organically and honestly. It is easy to get thousands of followers through “follow loops” and by following back every “aggregate” content account that follows you. However, those numbers will decay and are fake. Your engagement will be low. If someone follows you, go look at their profile. Do they have content you like? Do they have real comments and discussions on their posts? Do they have a legit looking profile description? Follow them back.
Does someone that has 10000 followers and follows 8000 people start following you? Are their posts filled with museum quality photos? Does it seem inconsistent in content and hardly anyone commenting? Does their link on their profile take you to a page with some low-quality “woodworker” shirts for sale? Feel free to ignore them. They are going to stop following you in a few days anyway. They are bot driven accounts that repost others content and automatically follow and unfollow in an effort to sell more shirts or whatever other crappy high margin trinkets they are hocking.
Figure out what you want out of Instagram, be yourself and have fun. Be honest and genuine. Find your people and join the tribe. Consistently engage with your tribe in a recognizable manner using hashtags, and grow organically and don’t worry about how long it takes.
Feel free to ask questions below or send me a direct message in IG.