Susan Gordon Pottery is a small batch pottery studio that started right here in Birmingham in 2013. But you can find Susan’s work in boutique retailers across the country. Susan’s team makes dinnerware, serving ware, decorative accents and handmade jewelry. Her work speaks for itself- just check out their Instagram account with over 10,000 followers! So we’re here to share Susan’s Instagram pro tips with you.
Do you have any advice on how to choose hashtags?
YES! I would do a few things: First, find accounts similar to yours and see what hashtags they use. Click to see what comes up and if it appeals to you, then most likely it will appeal to your followers. Second, keep your hashtags saved in your notes and copy and paste them on every single post. Third, only use hashtags that are relevant to your content. I have mine separated into “earring hashtags” “Dinnerware hashtags” etc. Fourth, keep your hashtags fresh…it’s good to stay abreast of what hashtags are trending. Fifth, try not to use ONLY the most simple or overly popular hashtags. You run the risk of getting your content lost in the mix. As you type your hashtags in the search box in Instagram, you can see how many posts are tagged with that hashtags. Don’t let all of yours be in the millions – use some that have been used a few thousand, a few hundred thousand, and so on.
How do you pick what time of day to post?
This is kind of a tough question. I don’t pretend to understand the Instagram algorithm that calculates which person sees what content. I can speak to my own experience and what I do know about audiences. When determining when to post I always ask myself: Who is my audience? Is my audience a college student? A mom of babies? A mom of older kids? It’s good to think about when they would most likely already be on their phones. For me, I’m a working mom of two babies. I’m usually “scrolling” on my phone first thing in the morning and at night after the babies go down. Generally Monday mornings after 8:00 aren’t the greatest. Most people are busy with work meetings or class; Friday nights and Saturday mornings tend to be good for me.
How often is too often to post on Instagram?
I try to post 3-5 times per week, sometimes more. I think once a day and then taking a breather one day a week is good practice for you and for your audience. I also try to let my stories relate back to my post. If I’m running a sale or promoting a local show, I will post twice in a day, but it’s fairly rare. That’s me. Others post more often and that works for them just fine! I think it’s best to be as authentic and organic as possible. You do you. If you are excited about a particular post and the content is time-sensitive, then go for it! Post twice in a day!
Do you partner with other Instagram accounts to cross promote? How often?
I haven’t done this a lot, but I would certainly do this for a giveaway or to promote a local art show or if a particular retailer or gallery just posted a pretty picture of their new SGP. I would limit this so that your feed remains true to who you are and what you desire to accomplish.
What’s one of your most popular posts and why do you think it was so successful?
I think the post with the most likes is one I posted not too long ago. It was one of my large vases with an arrangement of flowers sitting on my kitchen island. I think people like to see how my work can be used, in the context it was meant for (a kitchen). The roses were gorgeous, so that was a large part of it. I also think people like to see “you”. See your house, occasionally pictures of your dog or you, or your kids. Not all the time, but glimpses. It makes your audience feel connected to you and reminded that they’re following a real person and not just a feed of pretty pictures.
Here’s what we learned from Susan:
- Try to find hashtags that relate with your business but aren’t tagged millions or thousands of times!
- Think about what audience you’re targeting when posting and that can help you choose exactly what time to upload.
- Limit partnering with other accounts so you can stay true to your specific mission.
- Show your audience glimpses of your personal life!
This October marks one year since Ashley Chesnut launched Down in the Ham’s website, Facebook, and Instagram account. Although she didn’t have a product until eight months after the online launch, she knew it would take time to cultivate a following leading up to the release of her children’s book about Birmingham. Ashley shared with us what she has learned about Instagram marketing in her first year of business.
However, I was not a marketing or business major in school, and while I had a personal Instagram account, I only posted on it a handful of times a year. Needless to say, I’ve had a lot to learn – and am still learning, especially since trends and social media platforms (and their algorithms) quickly change.
Here’s ten things I have learned in year one:
- Know your purpose. Why are you getting on Instagram? What will you post about? Put this in your profile bio, so people know what you’re about. @happeninsintheham does this well. They’re “curators of fun, cheap, and FREE events in Birmingham,” and the content they post matches their purpose.
- Identify your look. Solidifying a look helps you create a brand that is recognizable to your followers. Knowing your purpose will inform your look, but there’s more to consider here. Will your Insta have a color scheme? For example, check out how @laurenmary.co plays off the bright colors of her blankets or how @fullpantry uses white or neutral backgrounds in most of her pics. Another example would be @objectivetyrach whose use of editing and color is so distinguishable that one can recognize her pics on sight. For Down in the Ham, this means that I play off the colors in our book, prefer bright and warm pictures, and, if I use a filter, it’s probably going to be one of a handful that I’ve preselected as my go-to’s.
- Story what doesn’t match your look. If there’s something relevant to my followers but doesn’t match my look, I add it to my Instagram story. Instagram stories give followers behind the scenes glimpses of real life for you and/or your business. So the day my first shipment of books came in the mail, I got on Instagram story to document the moment and my excitement about it before I even unlocked my front door. If you tend to do more video than pictures in Instagram stories, consider paying for an app called Storeo for Instagram that films you in one sitting but cuts your video into seamless Insta story clips.
- Search for ideas. Save what you like. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pinned ideas on Pinterest or saved Instagram posts. During those times when I’m needing content, I go back to those ideas, study what I liked about them and work off of them to create new content.
- Pay attention to what your followers like. For Down in the Ham, the posts with the most likes and comments are the ones where Abby (Down in the Ham’s illustrator) and I are in the picture because our followers prefer personal over impersonal pictures. To be honest, this is harder for me because I’d rather be behind the camera instead of in front of it, but I can’t ignore that pics with people get more responses from our followers than anything else we post.
- Work on your photography skills. Since I am not a professional photographer, I have searched on Google and Pinterest everything from basic photography tips to how to do a flat lay. My motto – If I don’t know how to do it, I can Google, YouTube, or Pinterest it to learn. I also suggest carving out time for a photo shoot a couple of times a year, even if it’s just a mini photo shoot. For example, I took about 1 ½ hour this month to snap photos of our books with pumpkins, cotton, and leaves that I could use during the fall. Here’s one example of those pics:
- Post your hashtags in the comments section. Unless it just adds to your caption, put your hashtags in the comments, so your followers don’t feel #spammed. Also, it looks more pleasing aesthetically to have a clean and clear caption.
- Utilize Instagram’s Insights. Insights allows me to see the days of the week my followers are most active and the average times they are on Instagram in a typical day. This is how I have identified my target days/times for posting. So take advantage of this data they’re collecting on your followers and plan accordingly.
- Sponsor posts. Know your purpose for sponsoring a post. Is it to increase your reach? Is it to let people know about a product or event? If so, determine your budget, and go for it (and if you have questions about how to sponsor a post, you can Google that too).
- Be a learner. Read up on the trends and changes because things will constantly be changing. Even this month, I had questions about the new polling option on Instagram Stories, so I quickly read up on it then gave it a whirl.
Essentially, how are you using Instagram to serve your followers?
Pay attention to how they receive and respond to your content. Keep in mind that, while photos capture people’s attention, what are you using the photo to do? How are you using them to engage your audience and communicate your purpose?
Ashley Chesnut serves as the Associate Singles 20s/30s Minister at The Church at Brook Hills and has a Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School. Ashley also loves her city and has authored a child’s guide to Birmingham called Down in the Ham, which was released in 2017. When she’s not mentoring younger girls or doing homework (she’s back in school working on a counseling certification), you can probably find her at the farmer’s market or trying some new local restaurant.
With over 26,000 followers, IN Birmingham faithfully shares what’s happening around our beloved city. The Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau uses its Instagram account to post about anything from new restaurants, cityscape photos, Birmingham events, historical photos and much more. Their main function is to show tourists, visitors and convention attendees what a great city Birmingham is! Jim Windsor, Director of Web Marketing, shared his Instagram advice and tips with us!
Picking the best time of day to post.
Afternoon/evening is the best time of day for us to post unless our post is time sensitive or if we’re running a contest to give away tickets or that type of thing. The ticket giveaway posts usually go on for several days and consist of tagging a friend for a chance to win the tickets so the time of day of the original post really doesn’t matter. For other less specific posts, we usually set these from 12noon until 9pm.
How often is too often to post on Instagram?
We set up a schedule of selected posts at the first of each month and the frequency is one-two posts a day almost every day. Sometimes we may skip a day or two but we feel our presence is important. We have fill in, unscheduled posts if we’re at a live event or location and shoot the perfect image, it’s getting posted. We feel anything else would be too much but, if it’s newsworthy or photo worthy, we’ll post it!
Do you partner with other Instagram accounts to cross promote?
We occasionally partner with community leaders in the Instagram world that we feel represent the city in a positive way. Our friends at happeninsintheham, styleblueprintbham and steelcityurbex come to mind. We may share content, offer free ticket giveaways, or even post as guest for an organization that is bringing a convention into the city or do an post that represents Birmingham for one of these organizations. For example, Six in the City BBQ event in Washington, DC at the end of this month. We’re partnering with Jim N’ Nicks BBQ and taking the show on the road to DC area meeting planners to show them how real southern BBQ is cooked! We’ve posted as #sixinthecity announcing Birmingham’s participation over the summer to boost attendance for this event.
What’s one of your most popular posts and why do you think it was so successful?
We’ve had some really good ones fortunately! Historical images of old Birmingham do really well as it shows the city well before the current boom. I think these images do well because, since Instagram is a younger demographic, the images may have never been seen before by our followers and they have a real appreciation for how we have progressed, in my opinion. Images posted from a live event, restaurant or cool new lounge do well, as does posts announcing new events and things to do for the month. The posts mention that the link is on our profile page and usually links to a blog post on our website. We prefer driving traffic to our website, www.inbirmingham.com, so the visitor can get the full array of information we offer as well as links to our other social media platforms.
Here are our takeaways:
1. Don’t post more than twice a day.
2. Focus on positive content for your account.
3. Partner with community leaders.
4. Always link to your website and continually drive traffic there!
Thank you IN Birmingham for sharing your Instagram wisdom with us! SaveSave
Russell Hooks followed up last week’s Lunch & Learn with Part 2: Instagram Micro-Influencers. Russell says the role of social media influencers is changing. The Kardashians aren’t the only ones who can boost a brand! We delved into the emerging field of micro-influencers and talked about how to identify and work with an influencer who is right for you.
“Micro-influencers are testimonials on steroids- they’re effective for marketing your brand, service or product.”
In the beginning of Russell and Amber’s Happenin’s In The ‘Ham account, they wanted to keep their identity anonymous. They thought this would be a good way to focus solely on Birmingham and its activities and events. But their followers started to wonder if they were working for a company like Al.com or even the City of Birmingham. So they eventually decided to begin posting selfies at different events around Birmingham to personalize their Instagram account. This helped them continually gain more followers as people felt more connected to them!
Now they are micro-influencers in Birmingham! Many different local companies, nonprofits, brands and events partner with Russell and Amber to promote to the Birmingham population.
In the past, you needed to be rich to be a influencer! But Instagram has totally changed the game. Micro-Influencers can help get your product in front of a new population of customers who wouldn’t have previously seen it.
Happenin’s In The ‘Ham ‘swipe up’ feature
“Micro-influencers are identified by their industry or geographic location.”
Many ask, “How can you identify who a micro-influencer is?” Accounts with over 10,000 followers can add the swipe up feature on their Instagram story to provide a link to a website or product. So find someone who is in your industry! Think fashion, food, lifestyle blogging, travel, fitness, etc. Just make sure their following population aligns with yours. (Compare your Instagram insights if you have a business account)
Direct messaging on Instagram can easily connect you with an influencer who may help grow your business. Whoever runs that Instagram account clearly has influence over the company and makes big decisions for the brand!
“Treat Instagram as your storefront window- showcasing your product/service to your customers.”
So in conclusion, go after the personalities that fit your brand and align with your consumers.
It’s very likely that you’ve heard of Happenin’s In The Ham before. And if not, be sure to follow their website and social media accounts. Russell and Amber Hooks have a dedicated following and almost 20,000 followers on Instagram! They know exactly what’s going on Birmingham, and they’ll connect you with the best events and activities around town.
Russell Hooks is one of our founding members at Forge, and he led our first Lunch & Learn event. Focusing on the power of Instagram marketing, Russell talked through location tagging, organic engagement, Instagram stories, frequency and time of posting, hashtags and much more.
“Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all have their own language. You have to learn the native language for each of them.”
Over the last two and a half years Russell and Amber have developed their Instagram account without boosting any of their posts. They decided to use Instagram as a platform because it was the best way to show visually what they wanted to portray about Birmingham.
A few quick tips from Russell:
- Instagram is best for a quick overview. Use Facebook and your own personal website to go into more detail.
- Location tags on Instagram are often overlooked but they are valuable- USE THEM!
- Asking questions in your posts gives you more comments from followers…which brings you up in the algorithm feed!
- When you have 10,000 followers or more you can add the “swipe up” button to send people directly to a link.
- Most popular times to post: early morning, lunch, 4:30-6:30pm and right before bed!
“Social media is a lot like fitness- the results take time. It takes consistency.”
Many people ask “How many people should I be following on my Instagram account?” Russell says you should strive to get 2 followers for every 1 person you’re following. And avoid paying for followers- people can easily spot that and they’ll assume you’re disingenuous!
Forge Members at our very first Lunch & Learn!
Use Instagram for business purposes in the right way and you could have a viral marketing success. But use it incorrectly, and your efforts on the site could be a big fail. Thank you Russell for teaching us these valuable tips and tricks!