Sharing Stories: Growing an Instagram Community from 600 to 60,000 in 16 Months
I’m not going to give you step by step instructions on how to go from 600 followers to 60, 000 followers on Instagram. Instead I’m going to talk about stories. I’ve always loved stories. I grew up listening to them. My father’s a great storyteller and it runs deep in my veins. Our people, the Stockbridge Munsee Mohican tribe, cherish the power of a story and consider it an art form. This is how we teach life lessons, how we explain nature, how we pass down traditions. Stories speak to the soul, where facts and lectures fall short. I’ve learned over the years how to become a good storyteller and it was not from studying books or from watching Youtube videos or tutorials. It’s much easier to access than all of that. I’ve learned how to be a good storyteller by learning to listen to my heart. The rhythm of the heart, beats to the melody of a story.
So how does this romanticized view of stories apply to you and your business? Well, your business has a story. It has a heartbeat, because it is a part of you. Now you need to view your business as an extension of yourself, and start sharing bits and pieces of your story. The power of a story is that it engages, it draws people in, it connects. People are looking for a place to belong, they are looking for others to connect with, they are seeking community, purpose, and emotional connectedness. We typically find these things in social settings, but now with the popularity of social media platforms, we can also find these things through that avenue as well.
Not too long ago, before Google, you had to get out the yellow pages (as in, that big book made of real paper) and search for a business that way. You would take a risk by just picking a random hair salon, exterminator, antique store or whatever and you would call and hope for a good experience. Or, maybe a friend recommended one of these businesses to you and you trusted it more because of that recommendation. Either way, times have changed. The down side is that your clients have more power now, over how your business is perceived, but that can also be a good thing. The best part, is that all businesses are now equal because we have free access to social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!
Our business, Sons of Sawdust, definitely wouldn’t be what it is today without the power of social media. I’ve learned to harness the energy of our story; past, present and future, and offer that to our followers, inviting them in to connect and journey with us. We started small, my husband and his brother building tables out of our garage, selling a few here and there on Craigslist. Now, not even 2 years later, we have a 6,000 square ft workshop, with two full time employees(hiring more this month), a storefront opening soon, a 4 month long waiting list, and some 60,0000 plus followers on our Instagram. We’ve been featured in several magazines, newspapers, collaborated with brands like Aeropostale, Onward Reserve and more. We worked with Mike Wolfe of American Pickers on a sizzle reel last year and they pitched us to several networks, and after that contract expired we now have 8 other production companies that have reached out in the past couple months, interested in doing a TV show about our business. We’re currently working with one now, on another sizzle reel for a well known network. My point in telling you all this, is that all of these opportunities are just as possible for YOU, as they were for us! Promise. Here’s the secret sauce: Do you know what all of these people who have reached out to us ALWAYS say?? “We LOVE your story.” The story! They also say they love the product (you need to have a well-made quality product or service you are offering and it must be something you are super passionate about), and they love who we are (you need to be willing to be vulnerable, and let people get to know you). But the biggest thing we hear, is that people love our story. The story of the boys growing up with their Pa, the story of where the wood comes from, the story of how we overcame a lot of hardship, the story of how we had an idea and started a business, the story of where we are now, the story of what’s happening today, the story of how we continue dreaming of the future. I want this to light a fire under you as you read this. It’s not that our story is all that different than a lot of folks out there, the fact is that we’re TELLING IT. How will people hear your story if you don’t tell it? No one will know about you if you don’t put yourself out there. People won’t know what you’re about if you don’t educate them. Our business could just be 2 dudes in a garage building cool furniture, and a chick taking pictures of them to hang on the wall, but it probably wouldn’t grow or be sustainable. We chose to share our business with the world (literally the world, we have fans in Norway, Scotland, South Africa, you name it) through sharing openly and honestly about our lives, our business, our journey. The world is missing out on knowing you if you’re not sharing! We didn’t plan to grow our Instagram in a big way, it happened organically because, when you hear a good story your natural instinct is to tell someone else. Practice sharing a narrative about your business, keep it close to your heart, and I believe the natural flow of a story will draw others to you, because story is what connects us all.