The Key to Instagram Success: Great Pictures and Engagement

Video produced by Knoxville Weekend | Article written by Susan Alexander

Success on Instagram starts with great pictures.

“It’s a photo sharing app; it has to look good,” says Knoxville maker Hope Brasfield, whose Instagram account, @hopebroidery, has 150,000 followers. “Learning how to take good photos totally changed my game.”

Hope Brasfield

Hope’s success built quickly. She learned to hand embroider in 2015. “I needed a hobby; I thought I was very boring, and embroidery is affordable and portable. In late 2015 I had 200 followers, and then it really ramped up last year.”

But it wasn’t because she focused on marketing. “I wanted to share,” she says.

And that’s what she did. She shared photos of her embroidery projects. She shared cheap embroidery kits that she gave away. And she bought a tripod and started sharing her knowledge in short how-to videos – about embroidery, about specific stitches and about starting a small business.

“It’s very important to have something to offer for free. It adds value for the people following you.”

Ryan-Ashley Anderson, whose gallery Smart + Becker opened this month on McCalla Avenue, agrees.

Ryan-Ashley Anderson

“I do a Tuesday giveaway each week, and my followers know it, so I see traffic pick up every Tuesday. Sometimes it’s something tangible I give away, like a piece of my jewelry, and sometimes it’s knowledge about craft or tips on doing blog posts.”

She also follows a theme every “Wordy Wednesday,” for which she shares a word that’s common in maker communities. Recent words have included “letterpress” and “warp and weft” (yes, we know that’s actually three of them; it’s a term familiar to textile artists).
Ryan-Ashley aims for an emotional connection with her followers. “The goal is to be really authentic. I do Wordy Wednesday because my goal is to create a network of people who are fluent in the language of craft.”

That’s important to her, as is sharing the process behind creating products. “You want to steer clear of just posting product shots. You want to see the kiln or the wheel; the process is everything.” 
Engagement is important on Instagram, Hope says, but it doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Because her embroidery is a side gig, she usually catches up on posts to hopebroidery during lunch and at the end of the day. 

“If you don’t enjoy engaging with people online, Instagram may not be the platform for you,” she says.

In addition to responding to her own followers, she follows other accounts and talks to their owners. “You get to meet some really nice people.”

“Without reciprocal engagement Instagram feels empty,” says Ryan-Ashley.

“That connection is the feeling of seeing and being seen. People want to feel valued. It’s like if somebody told you they like your shirt and you didn’t respond, that feels really crappy.”

Hope finds time management to be her biggest Instagram challenge. Because of her fulltime job, she only has the weekends during daylight hours to shoot photos for upcoming posts. “If it rains on the weekend that really screws me up,” she says.

Hope Brasfield and Ryan-Ashley Anderson

Tips + takeaways:

  • Invest in your photography

  • Provide value to your followers

  • Try giveaways

  • Use themes

  • Be authentic

  • Engage with your audience

  • Manage your time

Hope Brasfield and Ryan-Ashley will lead a discussion on Instagram best practices at Make. Learn. Grow. On Instagram at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center on February 15.

Do you have favorite tools and tricks for Instagram? Let us know in the comments!