Growing Our Instagram to 51,000 Engaged Followers

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Mat Hofma

We are Mat Hofma and Erik Polumbo - owners of Mini Materials. We shared our business previously on Starter Story about how we came up with the concept of Mini Materials and how we’ve grown to where we are today selling realistic miniature building supplies worldwide.

We are back again to discuss a part of our business that we really enjoy. We, along with Alli Goldwag, our social media guru on staff, put a lot of effort and time into social media marketing with a major focus on Instagram.

We were offered to discuss this topic by Pat and felt it came at a good time as we just recently eclipsed 50k followers. Here is some background on why we focus a lot of energy into Instagram and how we do it effectively and efficiently.

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Why we focus on Instagram

Our products photograph very well. They are easily recognizable to most people and when we add something for scale that is also obvious like a pencil or a banana or a human hand, it makes for a really catchy picture.

growing-our-instagram-to-51000-engaged-followers

This gets reactions and creates engagement. Instagram thrives on this, more than any other social media platform. So for us, Instagram has always been our main focus as far as social media.

Testing out new ideas

As we continue to grow as a business and debut new products or try out new scales, we can pitch it first to our followership to get some feedback. And when we bring out a new product and showcase it on a post, it generates immediate action.

That’s comforting, not only are we getting some guidance from our customer base, but we typically get treated well when we hit the mark on a new product.

Our journey with Instagram

We started the @MiniMaterials account when we started the business back in March of 2015.

Growth was slow at first because we didn’t have the product line built up or a firm branding concept nailed down, so our posts were a bit redundant or rehearsed.

As we rolled out new products and really started to hone in on who we were reaching out to, our methods started to take shape.

Here are some of our benchmarks in followership:

We opened account on March 30, 2015. Here’s what follower growth has looked like:

growing-our-instagram-to-51000-engaged-followers

We’re currently adding about 1,000 followers per month.

Our content schedule

It’s a lot of work so we try to keep a schedule, albeit loose at times, but we do our best to use it as a framework for how we post throughout the week.

Here’s what a typical week looks like:

Monday

On Mondays we like to feature other miniature artists and hobbyist, we call it “Mini Maker Monday”.

This cross-markets the featured maker as well as opens their audience to us and others in the miniature community. We’ve found that Instagram accounts that focus on a community tend to be the most successful.

It gets others excited when they see that their products/services or talents are being featured on another account, especially one with a large following. Our friend Kate at @DailyMini is a perfect example of how a community can build your success as well as others.

Tuesday

Tuesdays we call “Tiny Tuesdays”, and we try and stick with simple and catchy tiny items that we sell or have created with our products.

This helps to answer the common customer question, “What can you do with these things?”.

Wednesday

Wednesdays are for woodworking. Woodwork, in general, is very catchy and performs well on Instagram, but serve up some realistic miniature versions and it really gets people going. Here’s an example:

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Thursday

Thursdays we generally go with a “Throwback Thursday” post to some of our more popular creations.

Friday through Sunday

Friday through Sunday are free range. Sometimes we list new products, sales, or giveaways but we try and be more creative than salesy.

Instagram best practices

Engaging with other accounts

To get engagement you must also engage with other accounts. Luckily for us, we have three users on the Mini Materials account, so one of us is always active.

We reach out to accounts that are similar in nature to collaborate on ideas, posts, and shared experiences. The world of miniatures is far larger than you may think and again it photographs really well so there are several big accounts on Instagram that we can collaborate with.

This works both ways for us, we love working with bigger accounts like @DailyMini, @TinyDoorsATL, and @Guldies because their exposure and reach are great, but also being able to return the favor by boosting smaller accounts is important for our mini community.

Post once a day

Posting once a day is about our limit, it either will get too redundant or too spammy and probably does more harm than good.

However, we have realized that you want to keep your customers engaged by posting with some form of consistency.

Best practices are always changing

Since the Instagram algorithm changes somewhat regularly, we have to make sure to keep up with the most up-to-date best practices which require trial and error. For instance, the previous chronological feed was much easier for accounts to get positive engagement provided they posted on a regular basis, but now the algorithm seeks out the most engaging posts and keeps them at the top or higher up. So it’s imperative you have strong hashtags and post at a time when you are more likely to have active followers that will engage with your post. But, Instagram is always “improving” so it seems as soon as we seem to figure it out, something changes and we have to tinker again.

What we’ve learned

Don’t put text on images

When posting about a sale or promotion, we steer clear of using any words on the actual image itself, it comes off too much like a sales pitch. Instead, using a visually appealing content photo with a catchy caption works best.

Don’t use hashtags in the caption itself

Since you can link your post directly to Facebook simultaneously from Instagram, we have seen that forgoing hashtags in the caption tend to be more successful.

After we post, we will use the comments area for relevant hashtags. Keep away from using irrelevant hashtags. There are apps available like Plann that will provide some clues on the best hashtags to use.

Change up your hashtags

Mixing up hashtags and geotags increases the potential for new followers and engagement across the platform. Using the same hashtags every post gets stale and statistically railroads even the best posts. We use the Plann App for researching hashtags.

Do giveaways

Giveaways always do well for us. We can grow our followership and get positive engagement that can keep us in the spotlight for a few days. We typically post a picture of what we are offering to give away and require they like, comment, and tag a friend. They can do that as much as they’d like so the post gets plenty of engagement. We hope the followers tag their friends that do not follow us yet, so we also get new followers (or customers).

The key is, you must actually pick a winner and send the gift out (far too many businesses act like they give product away for account growth but rarely do).

Getting started with Instagram

We have noticed, and have read, that businesses that have recently joined Instagram are having a harder time building their follower base. This is very unfortunate because Instagram is a major social media source for us and we know the benefits that stem from this platform.

Our recommendation would be to stay with it, research and keep up with the algorithm changes, maintain consistency with your branding, and make sure your content is visually appealing for your followers.

Contact bigger accounts that have some similarities, and ask for feature posts - this may cost a bit but it can easily be worth it if your content is engaging. You can offer to send product for unboxing videos or promoted feedback, and this can do wonders for you. But also, be open to criticism.

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Thanks for having us, we hope some of the knowledge we’ve gained over the last 3+ years to grow an engaged and active Instagram account can assist you in some way.

For more info about us, you can find us at:

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