How to harness the power of Instagram hashtags
Hi, this is Katie aka @ceramicmagpie from KT Robbins Ceramics. I make porcelain vessels inspired by the coast and botanicals. This month I teamed up with Folksy to offer a bundle of prizes to their favourite entry for my #wipsandblooms IG photo challenge. More on that here. They asked me to talk a bit more about how the #wipsandblooms hashtag started, how I do it and why. So if you are new to Instagram, or thinking of setting up your own tag this may be of interest.
#wipsandblooms: the beginning
The #wipsandblooms project came about as I was following Kate Long @aplayfulday, who describes herself as a storyteller. She is also a keen knitter and was sporadically using the tag as a way of encouraging fellow knitters to enjoy the process of making, with a pause; a styled moment and a seasonal bloom. I asked if anyone could join in – was this just a special tag for knitters only and she replied that it was open to everyone. I’m always on the lookout for a new tag, as a way of encouraging me to explore my creativity and to find like-minded people, so was quick to take up the challenge. Kate liked my initial photo so much that she asked me to be a guest judge, and I immediately said yes.
How did we start the #wipsandblooms hashtag?
The first things we did were to encourage more makers to join in our IG challenge, to reflect a little and show our enjoyment of the making process. Running and setting up a tag does take time, and Kate and I would always try to monitor the gallery and give feedback to those who take part and then showcase our favourites on the blog, and sometimes on our Instagram pages too. Kate now has other commitments, so I am running the tag on my own, but organising a guest judge every month to help choose the favourite images and to donate a little incentive of a prize.
We have had a variety of sponsors, ranging from knitting companies, Bloom & Wild, The People Shop, The We Make Collective and Folksy to name but a few.
Sometimes we have had an extra theme to add on to the tag. For example, last month we had #wipsandblooms_spring and next month we are having another Folksy seller who makes silver jewellery inspired by nature, Grace And Flora, and our theme will be #wipsandblooms_tools to really encourage people to show their process shots.
Why run your own hashtag?
I can see you’re thinking this must take up a lot of my time. So why bother?
Well, there are a number of reasons why I enjoy running this tag. As a maker it’s all to easy to forget that on Instagram people aren’t always looking to be sold to. They are hungry for inspiration – they want to consume nice images. By focusing on #wipsandblooms, I’m constantly challenging myself to come up with an interesting scenario, angle or behind-the-scenes peek into my studio and working practices.
And this is where the power of the brand comes in. By inviting people into my studio through Instagram, they’re getting to know me. They get to see what I have on my walls; they see my hands making; sometimes they will see a glimpse of me making and this allows them to form a connection with who I am. I think you are much more likely to buy from someone when you know more about them. I am much more likely to buy from an individual independent maker than from a faceless corporate company.
Hashtags grow your community
When you start to join in hashtags and look through the galleries you realise that Instagram is a lot smaller than it first feels. You can begin to find your tribe in terms of like-minded people who can offer you support or feedback, who actually become real friends that you chat to on a daily or weekly basis. I genuinely have such a large creative circle of friends and makers, including a number of #leaf_ladies (which is another tag I’m involved with). And I’m grateful to their advice, tips and you know, sometimes we even chat about the weather or Eurovision!
How to get started with hashtags
At the beginning it can be a bit daunting. After all, there are so many hashtags. If you are reading this I’m guessing that you are a maker, so you might want to look around at your local creative networks to get you started. I use #feelingfolksy and established maker community hashtags like #wemakecollective and #makersmovement. I’m also involved with a local market called Paperdolls Handmade Market so I use their hashtag #paperdollshandmade.
You can tag what you are making too, of course (eg #ceramics #jewellery) but these tags are so large it would be difficult for anyone to find you. You do have to do a bit of homework and look to see what your peers or other craftspeople are using. Then there are broader tags like #inspiredbynature_ (from Grace and Flora) and #hurrayforplay which might allow you to photograph your work with a different creative slant to it. Sara from @me_and_orla is an Instagram expert and you can sign up to receive her monthly choice of hashtags.
You can find a round-up of hashtags for makers here > The best Instagram hashtags for craft and handmade
I hope this has given you a little taster of what to expect and what you can achieve by joining in with a community.
If you are interested I have a shop selling a small number of mainly wheel thrown vessels on Folksy. And there are more photos of my garden studio tour up on the Paperdolls website. Prior to working with ceramics I worked for the PR and Marketing consultancy, McCann Erickson, where I also obtained a certificate in marketing.