Instagram For Indie Dyers Part Four: Hashtags

If you're using Instagram, you should be using hashtags on every post. What are hashtags? The nerdy definition is:

hash-tag: A word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), used within a message to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate a search to it.

As a business, you want to make sure your content gets seen by your target audience. If you're an indie dyer, your target audience is most likely knitters, weavers, knitwear designers, knitting magazines, yarn stores...you get the picture. You want your target audience to discover you. Instagram's a vast place-- hashtags are how you stand out; they're the SEO of Instagram.

There are two types of hashtags: Branded hashtags and community hashtags. 

 

A branded hashtag

A branded hashtag

A branded hashtag is a hashtag that's unique to your business. It can be as simple as the name of your business, like the one I use, #pigeonroofstudios. A branded hashtag is a fantastic way to aggregate user related content. Remember how we talked about reposting in the last article? This is how you can find posts that you want to repost on your feed. Branded hashtags are designed to connect themes for you and your audience. 

 

 

Community hashtag

Community hashtag

A community hashtag is one that connects users around a specific subject or topic, like #indiedyer, or #indiedyersofinstagram. 

So how do you figure out what hashtags to use? First, look at other popular posts to see what hashtags other indie dyers are using. 

 

@uschitita, one of the dyers we looked at in the last article, uses the above hashtags. I'm not in Europe, so I would probably use all English hashtags myself, although someone on Facebook did mention that they use a few foreign language ones, which is something I'm going to play around with to see if it expands my reach. The English ones she uses are:

#indiedyerslife
#knitting
#instaknit
#knittersofinstagram
#knittingaddict
#knitstagram
#knitting_inspiration
#knitting
#yarnlove
#yarnporn
#yarnaddict
#yarn
#handdyedyarn
#indiedyer
#yarnstagram
#handdyed
#yarnologist
#yarnlove
#yarnporn
#specklesaresohotrightnow
#findyourfade

She came up top when I typed in the hashtag #indiedyer, so that's why I'm looking at what hashtags she used. I would also go look at other posts that came up and investigate what they're using.

For finding even more hashtags, look at the top of the image. It says Related: and then a bunch of other hashtags that might be relevant. 

Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags, and you can post them either in the caption or in the comments. 

 

When posting in the captions, I like to separate my hashtags from my caption, so that there isn't a big distracting hashtag mess that might take attention away from my words. So I'll use a period and the return key to place the hashtags further down. When someone clicks on my post they'll see them, but when scrolling through their feed, they won't. 

 

If you place them in the comments, they get hidden nicely by the following comments; it's only when clicking to view other comments that they show up. It looks nice and clean. You want to make sure, however, that you comment with your hashtags instantly so your post performs well. 

You also want to make sure you mix up your hashtags. Posting the same hashtags on every post can actually work against you, making you not show up in hashtag searches. That brings me to another issue that you might see around the internet: "Shadowbanning". Is it real? Not really. People will notice that their posts won't be showing up in hashtag searches of those who aren't following them sometimes. It's confusing, but Facebook has admitted that there is a filtering of the content that appears in the hashtag searches. Hashtag searches are personalized, so not the same for each user. High volume or top-performing posts are more likely to appear in a hashtag search. There can be other factors, too....the Instagram algorithms are not always understandable, but it seems like mixing up the hashtags is definitely something that you want to do. 

Jenn's Trends has a fantastic blog post on strategically using hashtags. Basically, first you want to figure out which hashtags are the most relevant for you. Start off with using 4-5 really popular hashtags. When you type in a hashtag in search, it'll show how many posts have that hashtag. 

If I type in #knitting, there are over 7 million posts related to that hashtag. So for your super popular hashtags you want to use ones like #knitting, #yarn, etc. 

 

Next, Jenn advises using 5-7 moderately popular hashtags. Ones related to your content, but are a little more targeted. #handdyedyarn and #indiedyer are an example-- they still have a lot of posts, but are in the hundreds of thousands instead of a million. 

 

Then, she suggests using 2-5 niche-specific hashtags. Since speckle dyed yarn IS hot right now, and let's say I'm posting some, #speckledyarnissohotrightnow and #speckledyedyarn are perfect. 

Finally, use 1-2 branded hashtags; I would use #pigeonroofstudios. 

I like to use all 30 hashtags when possible, so I might also throw in hashtags like #mycreativebiz or #makersgonnamake, hashtags that aren't specifically yarn related but are craft/art related. 

You might be asking yourself, "Do I have to type each individual hashtag every time? That seems like a hassle." I suggest putting together several batches of hashtags and saving them in your Notes (at least it's Notes on an iPhone; I don't know what it's called on Android), so then you can just copy and paste. Just remember to not use all the same hashtags on every post. 

Finally, just experiment, and see what works for you! 

Instagram For Indie Dyers Part Three: Visuals

When it comes to what to post on your Instagram feed, you want to put a little thought into it. Think about it. When you look at someone's profile, you see a whole grid of images. You want to look at your posts and ask, do they all work together? Do they provide value? 

There are several ways to approach the visual aspect of your profile. Of course, you want to showcase your yarn. However, having every post be like "Just listed X in the shop!" can get a little repetitive-- and over sales-y. Yes, you want to promote your yarn and your shop, but trying to sell in almost every post isn't going to make you stand out. 

 

@twistedfinch is a fantastic example of a visually consistent profile. He has a slightly moody atmosphere to every image, which tone down the bright colors but in a seductive way. What is so impressive is how every single image is carefully planned out and staged. Yarns aren't just posted on their own; he takes the time to make flatlays of them, adding props to make the image tell more of a story and to be visually enticing. In the first post image, the third photo, he's actually managed to make the yarn be part of the photo...without being obviously the main focus of the photo. Japanese characters, a coffee cup, foliage, embroidery scissors, old spools of silk thread, and the dark blue cloth are carefully arranged around the yarn, which is set coming in at an angle. That angle draws your eye immediately, and draws your eye down to the props. Notice the color theme-- the dark brown of the coffee and the indigo blue cloth are the perfect complement to the smoky deep purples and blues of the yarn. 

In the second post, he's got a lighter palette, but it still manages to fit in with the images as a whole. Notice the geometric staging of this post-- the angled tray set just in line with the wood planks of the table, the yarn horizontal coming in on the right, and the perfect amount of grey green foliage for visual balance. Yarn bits, snips, and baby's breath give the yarn some context. 

The Pomfest post is really the only post that doesn't seem to fit in, however...

 

The Archive Feature

The Archive Feature

Instagram now has a handy little archive feature. Rather than deleting unwanted posts, you can archive them. If you put any back, they'll appear in their original chronological location. 

This is huge. I've just gone through and archived several posts that didn't visually fit to me. Having this ability to edit your feed without having to delete posts makes things a whole lot easier!

 

@uschititia doesn't have quite as much balance, but she consistently uses a light background for her yarn, which, although brightly colored, have a touch of quiet moodiness so that no one color is jarringly brighter than the rest, and there is a delicate feminine touch. She also has all her yarn placed in a visually captivating way in the posts. On the first post above, she also places her skeins at a diagonal coming up from the lower right corner. The touch of flora breaks up the space just enough to balance it.

The last post is my absolute favorite, though; I hope she does more photographs like these. It could almost be the cover of a book. I love how the yarn takes up only a third of the screen, and all are horizontal. I'm also partial to those colors, so that might bias me a bit! The props echo the colors in the yarn. Even though the yarn takes up less space than in other photos, it's such a well balanced and styled photo that it actually makes the yarn stand out. I'm going to be making a note of that for myself! 

 

 

Those were two very carefully curated feeds, with every photo being carefully staged. What if that just doesn't suit your style or that idea sounds more like a hassle than a strategy to you? Not everyone has the discipline-- or the desire to create such feeds. 

So let's look at a completely different profile, the one of Indie Untangled. It's not so visually "perfect"; each post has its own thing going on. That, however makes total sense here, as Indie Untangled is an advertising platform to connect buyers and indie dyers. One of the things that Indie Untangled does so well is using user-generated content, as you can see above in the re-post posts. It's a great way to give a nod to the dyer or knitter themselves, but also to show off what the yarns that Indie Untangled sells is used for, as well as pattern and color combination suggestions. Reposting is a great way to show off what customers have knit or spun from your product

There are several third-party apps that re-post-- it's not available yet natively to Instagram. I use Repost for Instagram, which is available for both iOS and Android. It automatically inserts a watermark on the image with the original creator's name, so they're always credited. It's a good policy to ask before you re-gram someone else's post; aside from being polite, it makes sure you avoid any possible legal hassle by someone getting upset you've reposted something of theirs. Plus it makes them feel very flattered! Be aware, however, that you won't be able to repost if the original poster has their account set to private. 

 

Last but not least, we have the Instagram account of Sweet Georgia Yarns. Their slogan is passionate + relentless + unapologetic color, and their account clearly shows that off. It's not as painstakingly repetitively styled as the first two profiles we looked at, or use a lot of user-generated content, but that's because it just wouldn't suit them. Their feed is cheerful and happy...and colorful! It completely shows what Sweet Georgia Yarns is all about. 

The Creative Color Vignette post is ingenious for pairing the swatches with the most perfect foodie flatly. As one commenter said, it's a clever way to introduce new color combinations. It's a very graphic-design approach, which I personally love. 

Do you remember the color wheel image that Purl Soho used to have in their ads? The rainbow of mini-skeins is such a good use of color and presentation-- the mini skeins forming the spokes of the wheel of the bamboo plate they're on. It stands out to me as being one of the best posts; the circular image is one that I don't see very often, as most yarns tend to be displayed in a more horizontal or vertical way. Almost every post has some amazing pop of color, although as a whole nothing looks garish or out of place. To me, it gives off a very nurturing sensibility; one can't help but feel happier when looking at the feed. 

You'll notice there aren't too many, if any, posts of kids or pets. Giving a peek into your world is great, but really start to look at your posts with a critical eye. As I believe I said in the first part of the series, you can have more than one Instagram account, so you could easily keep one account carefully curated, in whatever way fits your style the most, and a second one that would be a more personal one, where you do post pictures of your kids or your pets or your plants. Or, an alternative is to post those photos when you feel the need but archive them a couple days later. Or not-- do what feels best to you. 

I think that to me, the most important takeaway that I want you to get from this post is that it doesn't always have to be Sell, Sell, Sell...at least overtly. Of course, if you're excited about something you just listed, and want to post it, then do so! Just consider creating variety with your posts so that you're telling the story of your brand...however that may manifest itself. 

Above all, be true to yourself. I love looking at the perfectly styled feeds, but that just wouldn't suit my personality or my product. I have become far more selective, though on what I post, to keep the balance.  

Instagram for Indie Dyers Part Two: Applying Analytics

Now that you have a business profile and access to analytics, what do you do with them? 

First, you need to be aware of the Instagram Algorithm. Much to the chagrin of pretty much everyone, Instagram is no longer chronological. The algorithm works to show only the best content to the most people. That means good content is key. Gone are the days of posting five times a day to reach people. Less has become more when it comes to posting.

Instagram displays posts "based on the likelihood you'll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting, and the timeliness of the post." So the algorithm determines which posts it thinks you will be interested in seeing based on your activity. It's similar to Facebook in that way...which isn't surprising, seeing as Facebook owns Instagram. 

When you post on Instagram, IG will serve that post up to a small amount of your followers. How they respond will determine how high the post ranks in other followers' feeds. If someone you follow has engaged with the post, it will also rank higher. No matter how popular, however, IG takes into consideration how relevant they think the content of the post will be to the user. The algorithm knows what genres users have interacted with in the past. Instagram also combines that with hashtags to figure out what to show users as well. Hashtags will help you reach users that aren't following you yet. 

Is your head spinning yet? 

This is where analytics come in. 

So here are my posts sorted by Engagement. Unfortunately, because of my stupid attempt to deal with what I imagined was "shadow banning" by switching back to a personal account temporarily, when I switched back to a business account, I'd lost all my previous analytics. Obviously the more data one has the better. 

Engagement is the combined likes and comments on your post. Since we want high engagement, we not only want likes, but comments, and one way to do that is, in your caption, always ask a question. 

 

The post with the highest engagement.

The post with the highest engagement.

As you can see, I had a good dialogue going on, asking my followers to suggest colorways to me. Make sure you respond to every comment-- besides being good manners, it helps the engagement-- you are literally engaging with your viewers. 

 

 

The post with the second highest engagement.

The post with the second highest engagement.

On the post with the second highest engagement, I also have asked a question, this time asking my followers what they are planning to buy in my update, as many have been buying from me or at least seeing my fiber and yarn for years. That familiarity is a great advantage for me, because there is so much history to mine. 

 

The post with the third highest engagement rate.

The post with the third highest engagement rate.

On this post, that has the third highest engagement rate, I don't ask a question, but I tell a story. Think of your IG posts as mini blog posts, and tell stories. Maybe the history of the color way, maybe some musings on knitting or spinning or some story of your life. There are a million options, but try to have more than "Just put these up in the shop!" 

Also, really look at the photography. The top three posts have vivid colors and interesting perspectives and angles. Piles of yarn are always fun to look at. You want your posts to be eye-catching, because remember how Instagram first shows your posts to a small selection of your followers to see how it does?

Why people engage with your posts will vary, but really try to reach out to your audience. These top three photos weren't top three engagement because they were just pretty pictures. They were the top three because I reached out to my audience and I know who my audience is. 

 

Posts sorted by reach.

Posts sorted by reach.

So let's go to reach now. Reach is the number of unique viewers who saw your posts. Unsurprisingly, the two posts that had the highest engagement also had the largest reach. However, reach isn't just from likes and comments; it's also based on how your hashtags perform.

 

Hashtags will be the next blog post, but you can see what hashtags I used. Since these posts had high engagement, the likelihood of them showing up in hashtag searches increased. Notice how I switched up the hashtags between the two images. You can use up to 30. There's debate about whether or not hashtags in the comments will affect the reach, but I split the two. I don't really know if this helps or not, but it doesn't seem to hurt. I decided to try it after someone said it seemed to work out for her on The Manly Pinterest Tips Podcast.  (Listen to it. It's good.) I do the dot dot dot so that there isn't a glut of hashtags immediately after my caption. 

 

 

The third highest reach post...video. 

The third highest reach post...video. 

Here's where it gets a little interesting. The post that got the third highest reach is not the post that had the third highest engagement rate. Why? The answer is video. Video appears to be the most powerful form one can use in social media these days. There are actually 7 key factors in the Instagram algorithm. They are:

  1. Engagement
  2. Relevancy
  3. Relationships
  4. Timeliness
  5. Profile Searches
  6. Direct Shares
  7. Time Spent. 

Notice that last one. Time Spent. What is going to capture a viewer's time? Video is going to trump still image every time. Try to give some value with your video. This video is a how-to on braiding spinning fiber. It's simple, and just shot with my iPad, but I'm giving value by showing my technique. A how-to video is likely to get repeat views by someone. The above factors, by the way, are from the Buffer blog post on the Instagram Algorithm, and I highly recommend checking it out. 

 

Let's get into the Followers information. The more posts you have analytics of, the more insight you will have, which is why I'm kicking myself for that brief switch to a personal profile. Above on the left, it's showing me the days my followers are the most active on, which is Thursday and Saturday. However, keep in mind that this may change as I get insights on more posts. Another reason these analytics are so valuable! 

On the left, it's showing me the time of day my followers are the most active each day. 

We'll take one of the most popular days, Thursday. According to the bar graph, on Thursdays my followers are the most active at 1 p.m. That means I should make sure that on Thursdays, I post at around 1 p.m. Remember, how your post performs in the short time after you post it is going to decide the amount of reach it will have. 

See why analytics are so important? They give me important feedback about my posts, so that I can have a better sense of what content performs the best and when. If we go back to the 7 key factors, number four, timeliness is how recent the posts are. That's why you want to schedule your posts strategically. 

There are third party apps you can use for analytics, like Iconosquare, but, although I actually use Iconosquare myself, I still like to be able to easily see throughout the day how my posts are doing.  Hopefully this post helps you up your Instagram game!