Using Instagram to reach, meet and build valuable relationships with customers

Using Instagram to reach, meet and build valuable relationships with customers
Lorna Bladen
Lorna BladenOfficial

Posted: Thu 28th Mar 2019

#MarchMeetTheMaker is an Instagram challenge created in 2016 by Joanne Hawker and sees designers and crafters share daily posts about themselves and their businesses throughout March.

Joanne came up with the challenge to take her customers behind the scenes of her small craft business. The campaign has gone from strength to strength with the use of the hashtag growing from 25,000 in 2016 to 165,000 in 2018.




Over eight million businesses are now on Instagram and it has become a home for small business owners to reach, meet and build valuable relationships with customers, while showing off their creativity.

We interviewed Joanne to find out about her entrepreneurial journey and top tips for achieving business success as a creative maker.

How have you grown your 46,000 Instagram following?

A lot of the amazing people that follow me came through #MarchMeetTheMaker but they also come through the community side of things.

So, rather than not posting and running away, I try to reply to as many comments as I can while also scrolling hashtags and profiles of others that I love and being an active part of the community that way.

I find the best way to keep my audience engaged is to just be me. I'm really honest in many of my posts where it comes to running a small business, any problems that might be there, or behind the scenes activity that I feel is relatable.

I'm not here for the hard sell because let's face it, no-one likes that. I'm also not here to paint the illusion that I have the perfect business too!

I try to keep a good balance of what I'm up to, what I'm working on, thoughts on subjects relevant to me and my audience and just to try and keep the community feel going. The community side is really important to me because it's like having all of your friends in your pocket at once.

What are your tips for Instagram success?

1. Reach out to the small business community

It really is such a positive place to be, it's also very supportive and diverse. Instagram allows you to connect directly with your customers while creating a community based on the values of your business.

2. People want to be able to connect with the brands they love

Using Instagram enables me to share the full story of my business with them. It gives me the flexibility to share different aspects – behind the scenes while shooting new products, how a certain part of the product is made to the design process.

People want to see it all, because it's fascinating! It takes them on a journey and helps them to appreciate all the hard work that goes into your products, so try not to leave that part out! It can become a really good talking point and encourage interaction on your posts.

Also ask your audience questions; give them a reason to interact with you. If you're a brand they admire, they'll love getting a reply from you as much as you enjoy hearing from them.

3. No-one likes to be sold to constantly so if you can get the balance right, everyone wins

Over 200 million people visit a business profile on Instagram every day, so it's definitely not an opportunity that you want to miss out on. So while Instagram has given me the opportunities to grow my customer base, I also use it to try and inspire others, create excitement around new lines and then, hopefully tempt people to buy!

4. The most important tip is to just be you when it comes to your business and social media feed

Don't feel like you have to create posts in a certain way because you've seen someone else do it. By all means experiment and find what works for you but stay true to yourself and the vision you have for your brand.


How can creative people become their own boss?

1. Be persistent

If you want it, then go for it with all you've got, even if it means working a full-time job alongside your side hustle.

I did it for six years. I used what I could from my day job wage to buy various bits for my business, which I worked on in the evenings. I knew I couldn't quit my day job based on a dream so I had to work hard to make it happen in my spare time.

It's going to be hard. Really hard at times. But persevere, because it pays off.

2. If you're thinking about quitting your job and going full time, make sure you've done your sums

Before I left my day job, I made sure that I could support myself on what I was bringing in and left at a time where I knew that sales would soon pick up (Christmas was only a few months away).

I also made sure that I had a little bit tucked away for a rainy day just in case things didn't go to plan. I was excited and nervous about it but I went in with the attitude that if it didn't work then I could just go and get another part time job and it wouldn't be the end of the world. There's no shame in that.




What do you know now in business that you wish you knew when you started?

1. Keep all your bank statements, receipts and important documents in one place

Don't just 'tidy them away' in different locations all around the house!

2. Get help with the things that you don't enjoy doing or find hard

For me, that's accounting. I hate numbers and spreadsheets so I'd rather pay someone to help me with that so I can use my time more productively rather than use it shouting at Excel.

3. It's OK to say no

There was a time where I said yes to everything because I thought I should and didn't want to be seen missing 'opportunities'.

But if you don't feel like it's right for you, or actually you're not getting a lot from it or just don't have the time or energy to fit it in, just say no.

4. Starting a new business takes time and is a huge learning curve

Unless you go viral, success isn't going to come overnight. It's more of a gradual thing. You'll make mistakes, learn new skills and you'll work pretty damn hard to get to where you want to be!

How does connecting with other female founders help you grow the business?

I make nearly all of my connections through Instagram because it's the place I hang out the most. I've made some really great friends through the little squares. Finding these people who just 'get it' has enabled me to not only feel less alone in running a solo business, but also has given me a support network.

These are people I trust and can ask them for honest advice on areas that I'm struggling with. They're my number one cheerleaders, the people who pick me up when I'm not really feeling it and the ones who spur me on.

They give encouragement on new product lines that you might be feeling a little nervous about and they're the ones who help you out of your comfort zone when you need that little nudge. All of this support culminates in me being able to push forward and grow with my business with a positive attitude.

Relevant resources

Lorna Bladen
Lorna BladenOfficial
I'm the CMO at Enterprise Nation and I have over a decade of experience working in marketing and across the small business space.  I am based in Brighton, West Sussex and I thoroughly enjoy investing my time in developing my marketing and community-building skills to support UK entrepreneurs.  I have experience across social media, digital marketing, content production, PPC and partnership building. My previous roles have included: Head of Marketing at Escape The City Head of Partnerships at Moneypenny Head of Marketing and Communications at StartUp Britain Establishing myself as a freelance marketing consultant Working pro-bono for ambitious start-ups

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