#nofrillsfriday17 - Us on Instagram - building a following and connecting our platforms

All the things you have to learn and remember to do in you first year of selling often sees the creative / making side feel like it's left on the back burner. How do you find time to stay on top of all the different social media platforms to get your work seen, let people into your making world, and network?

We cheat! 

There are two of us, which eases the burden compared to the average solo maker and designer. I am not a tweeter. Before our not-for-profit work, and before Frilly Industries, I can honestly say that Twitter was not my platform of choice. I have always had a penchant for long sentences, and the twitter character restrictions makes me mash my phone and rewrite my sentences a million times. So I let Adrienne be our twitter networker.

I am the lead on our Instagram. I am a visual person. (although so is Adrienne, she shouts over my shoulder!) I devour the visuals and imagery from the people I follow personally, and we follow. I am not an Instagram expert, I can only share what I've learned over the last year, the half truths I think I know, and suggestions from other makers that we plan on implementing.

My own Instagram account has been neglected in favour of @FrillyInd. On my account you will find pictures of strangers I fall a little bit in love with because of a great sneaker sock combo, or a commuter I'm shaming for bad conduct. Things not relevant for our feed. This leads me to tip number 1.


This has long been a demanded feature and until a couple of weeks ago it had been a pipe dream. Keep your business and personal life separate. Have two accounts. That way you can follow your friends and family, see their life moments and share the same in return from your own personal account.

It will help you streamline who you follow through your business account so that you see the content that will help you connect to your peers, bloggers, influential customers, style leaders and inspirational creatives.

Now that this feature has launched I can show my own personal feed some love, take some vanity selfies and streamline who we follow, so that both me and Adrienne don't have to see our respective friends families. No offence friends, we love you and your support, and yay I can finally see when you tag me in images again!

In case you don't know how to have multiple accounts, just click on the settings wheel, scroll to the bottom and there you will find the 'Add Account' section. Hurrah!

Having said that....

2: What to post

You need to show more than just a stream of your products! People love being nosey, and DON'T love being bombarded with sales pitches. They want behind the scenes in your workspace, the work in progress shots, to get a sense of what inspires you, and also the frustrations you face too. Instagram is a primary place to continue to cultivate your brand.  If you're all minimalist spaces and muted colour palettes, outdoor fun and plants - then a shot of neon streamers and colourful donuts is not consistent to your story and aesthetic, and not necessarily very relevant to your customers. You want people to instinctively know who a post is likely to be from as they scroll their feed before they read your name. That's the big goal of brand development. 

For us its about being authentic, playful and sharing our passions. We celebrate the successes of our peers, engage with those that comment on our feeds and use appropriate hashtags. Don't forget to regram customers pictures of your products! Your items in their new native homes is the biggest affirmation of your work! In return reward customers with sneak peeks of new items and exclusive competitions. 

Also - don't be selfish!  If you're posting photos and hashtagging and linking in to various themes - make sure you're also liking other people's images and commenting on their posts!  Actively engaging other people with a quick like and occasional genuine comment will do wonders and will enable people to see you're not a small business robot, but instead a person with interests and personality! (As an aside, Adrienne has just reminded me that many giant companies are getting really good at using their social media channels creatively, rather than just as a giant sales pitch - some even employ 'secret comedians' to run their social media accounts - such as Betfair Poker whose Twitter stream is just complete random comedy, and not linked into betting at all.. but in turn generates great press and interest in their social media, which in turn raises the positive profile of their brand!) 

3: When are the best times to post

You need to post at different times of day to see when you get the most responses from your followers. 

Is it 9am in the morning (commute-o-clock) or 10pm at night? (winding down before bed)

Does this change depending on what day of the week it is?

Is there anything big happening at that moment, like a Wimbledon tennis final, that could impact on visibility?

Remember your followers will not just be in your home country. 

So what times of day are your followers likely to be checking their feeds? 

When could you post to work for multiple sides of the globe?

4: Apps to help!

Some people carefully edit and cultivate their posts from their desktop to share at a later date. However, when you aren't yet working to a solid and defined content plan you may have ideas on the fly to work with - or be playing catch up on your plan to post an Instagram a day. That is one of two realistic marketing goals we have for the for the year, the other is to reach 1,000 followers on Instagram.. little by little!

So what apps do we use to help?

a) Over

We use Over to add text to images, we often snap potential backgrounds when out and about or textures and colours from our studio materials to save for future occasions. Here's a post we shared using Over and one of their Birthday bundle packs.

over 1.jpg
Both of these images had text added using Over

Both of these images had text added using Over


b) Adobe Post

A newer text adding app which is free - although you do need to create a Creative Cloud membership to access this, but you don't have to be subscribed to their software packages to access and use it. The thing I love about this app is that it offers you colour palettes that match those in the images you use. The other winner is, if you do have a fully integrated Creative Cloud subscription then you can access those edited files you save in the cloud and pull them into your phone for tweaking and posting online. 

c) & d) Diptic & Pixplit  

Before Instagram built in layout frame options these were two apps we would use to pop multiple images in a post. We still use Diptic and Pixplit despite the Instagram feature. They aren't a necessity but ones to be aware of. 

e) & f) (&G!) VSCO CAM & Colorstory (& snapseed!) 

We tend to stay away from any obvious Instagram filters for our posts - but sometimes we need to edit and boost a picture (it might be a bit dark, or he colour balance might be out a bit..). That's when these apps become our friend! VSCO is a long time favourite for professional photographers and Colorstory is new to the game and gets a lot of love by makers whose aesthetic is bright popping colours. (Adrienne has piped in again, to say she prefers using Snapseed for great control over light/dark/contrast/saturation etc.  Handy!)

H) & I) InsTrack & Followers

These are both apps that lets you see who your top engagers are and who may have unfollowed you. Whilst they are both free they are full of in app purchases if you want extra insights. I haven't yet taken the plunge to explore the depths of these reports, but just observing who unfollows you is interesting enough to determine if they are just spam followers and irrelevant, a fellow maker who has unfollowed because you didn't follow them back, or a potential customer who doesn't feel engaged by your feed. 

All the apps we've listed we use on our iPhones/iPad on the run - because that's what we use.  Many will be available on Android devices, but we can't say which as we don't use any Android devices!

5: Hashtags

I've read so many tip posts about limiting your tags to 5 - OR that Instagram is the place where you can go crazy with hashtags.

Honestly - see what works for you. 

Just keep your tags relevant. Just like with keywords, see what comes up when you start typing, and look to see which has the most posts. Equally - when creating your own hashtags for competitions, check it isn't already being used for something else, otherwise things will become very confusing very quickly! 

It is always best to keep all your hashtags at the bottom of your post unless there is one key hashtag you need your followers to be aware of and then embed that within. 

There are some great regular hashtags to use as a handmade business. Keep batches of regular hashtags saved in your notes on your phone for easy cutting and pasting to save time. 

We recently stumbled across a super handy blog post that lists some of our faves, but also loads we hadn't thought of.

6: Content plan

Yeah...so...maybe this is something you want to think about.. it could be as simple as weekly or seasonal themes for content.

For us, we want Instagram to be responsive to what our day is like, the things we are up to and what we are thinking about - as well as national and international events that are happening.

Maybe when we are more ahead of designing for seasonal trends and themes we'll get better on this one. ..Hey, we never said we had all the answers!  And after all, Google is a powerful tool full of blog posts galore to inform!  

Adrienne is keen to start embedding a content plan into our work, but we're still mostly at the research phase and so instead we'll keep things fresh and real and based on our day! 

Lots of makers create or participate in daily or weekly photo challenges for inspiration in creating new posts.  As part of our Birmingham Etsy Team we've decided to set weekly theme prompts for members to respond to, including #bhametsy so that we can spot them.  This week's prompt is 'show us your raw materials!' - and we're looking forward to seeing what our members post!

7: Collaborate

Collaborating on products and promoting each other is a fab way to increase followers, but you can also collaborate on Instagram pic themes. The lovely ceramicist KT Robbins has a clean, minimalist aesthetic and muted colour palette with a hug love for flora and fauna. Upon discovering A Playful Day's #wipsandblooms tag which celebrates the moment of making and the creative process Katie, knew this was something she wanted to use on some of her images. From being a participant of the tag, Katie now co-hosts the tag. Using the tag featuring images of works-in-progress with seasonal plants, they choose their monthly favourites, share those pictures and post blogs featuring their picks. This is a great way to network and get your work seen by the followers of your peers, and those who share a common interest around a theme. 


8: Competitions

This is something we want to do but haven't done yet. We've personally entered Instagram comps and have been lucky to win some! (Adrienne is convinced her one talent is raffles?!) We've asked established makers in the past how they've found running comps and it can be hit and miss - with some choosing collaborations over comps as more effective for increasing followers and sales.

As this is something we still really want to try, we twisted the arm of the lovely Mica Peet to reveal her secrets of running a good Instagram comp.

This was Mica Peets last insta comp, check out her  instagram

This was Mica Peets last insta comp, check out her instagram

These were her tips:

Celebrate the launch of a new collection

 - 'I love celebrating the launch of a new collection, it helps create a buzz about it and gets your designs out to a much wider audience. When its for a new collection, I run the giveaway for a week before I put them up for sale in my shops. This creates excitement and a feeling of really wanting that product. More often than not people will buy it if they really love it but by giving them a chance to win I think it shows your appreciation to them as customers.
 Once I had announced the winner, I also announced that it was available to purchase in my shops and I got quite a few sales that night, some from brand new followers that I had got from doing the giveaway'

Celebrate a milestone

- 'Running a comp can be a great way to celebrate a milestone in your business, such as 100 sales in your Etsy shop, your businesses birthday or reaching a certain number of followers. Its not just about giving something away for free, look at it as a marketing opportunity which could lead to new followers, which could be potential customers.'

Comp Hashtags  and rules

-'I don’t use hashtags like ‪#‎instagramgiveaway‬ as this attracts spam accounts that literally share every single giveaway' 
- 'You set the rules of your giveaway, I run mine internationally but you could just do the UK. 
- 'I also state, they must be following me in order to qualify and must tag me in the photo and use the competition hashtag, this is how other people will find you'

Photo choice

- 'Use a beautiful photograph and add text to it with the instructions and your brand name clearly written on it'


Instagram is a place to play with imagery, be as creative as you are in your making and engage with your followers, and ultimately share a little of yourself.  

Don't forget the video function. Instagram isn't just for photos. Make a time lapse to show the work that goes into your creative process or the simple act of packaging up orders all shiny to generate excitement over what is coming in the post! 

10: Linking it all up and sharing 

We know how tempting it is to hit those share functions to your other linked accounts. Sadly your shared Instagram link to an image within a tweet never looks as good as a visible twitter photo. Some people say you should have unique content across your platforms, and there's definite content we'd share in specific platforms over others - however we believe in in a 50/50 split of unique content and shared content across the platforms.  With Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram you may wonder how do we manage that? That's next weeks post.