Raise your hand if you’re a small business owner who is currently in a love/hate relationship with your brand’s Instagram account. It’s ok if your hand is up—know that you’re not alone. From debunking algorithms to building an engaged community, it can feel like a full-time job. But what if we told you it could become your favorite part of running your business? After trading in a quantity-over-quality mentality for transparency and vulnerability, Katie Kruithof, the Spoonflower maker behind Yeah Baby Goods, the IKEA highchair accessories brand with a cult-like following, saw her Instagram following grow by 30k in six months.
We’re so excited to welcome Katie to the blog to share her tips for growing a devoted Instagram community in our next installment of the Spoonflower Small Business Handbook. Before you dive into Katie’s tips, get to know how her small but mighty business started!
Katie: My firstborn hated every high chair he ever met, until the day he sat in the IKEA Antilop. We were eating in the IKEA cafeteria and couldn’t believe he didn’t scream bloody murder when we put him in. We bought both the highchair and support cushion that day. The pattern on the cushion was not at all my style, so for years I told my sewing friends they should start a business making home décor-friendly covers. I couldn’t get anyone else excited about the idea, so I started my own Etsy shop selling cushion covers and coordinating silicone tray placemats in April 2016.
The variety and caliber of Spoonflower’s indie-designed patterns is a large part of our success. There’s a constant flow of newly created patterns we can try in our cushion cover lineup. I love that there’s something for everyone—gorgeous florals, modern mudcloths, cute animals—you name it, and I can find it!
By the grace of God, we’ve experienced incredible growth in the last six months. This year, we’re analyzing our current systems and processes to see how we can do things more efficiently on a larger scale. We started YBGs to spend more time together as a family, and we don’t want to lose sight of that in this season of growth. We are also super excited to add several new products to our lineup in 2020. It’s a very exciting time for us!
Katie’s Top Tips for Growing a Devoted Instagram Following
When we started Yeah Baby Goods in 2016, I immediately created an Instagram account for the business. I took the quantity over quality approach and diligently posted content. My captions were short, generic platitudes that included the name of the highchair cushion and placemat that were shown in the picture. I wanted to expand my reach, and without doing much research, I assumed the more I posted, the more people would have a chance to see the posts. The problem was, there was no interest, no engagement. I would get around 25 likes per picture (and I’m guessing most of those were family and friends!). For years, I kept it up, but my excitement for social media dwindled. I wondered if it was worth the effort, if anyone was even seeing the posts.
In September of 2019, I decided something needed to change. I was very open and honest with my followers (I had around 20k at that point) that I was entering new territory. On September 3rd, I made this post:
“Every so often I get a surge to mix it up and try new things with Yeah Baby Goods. I listen to podcasts and stay up late thinking about new ways to engage the people I am blessed to call followers. I‘m incredibly thankful for the growth we’ve had over the last 3.5 years, but if I’m honest, I want more. I want to grow my skill as a business owner and our reach as a company. Chasing success can feel weird, but in my heart, it’s not about making more money. I want to do the best I can with what God entrusted to us and I want to work my hardest at whatever I put my hands to.
I’m excited to try some new things here on Instagram…maybe more videos, more thank you rewards, more behind the scenes looks at our family-run business, more opportunities to really connect. I’m excited to see what hits home with you guys and what totally flops. It’s a season for learning, taking risks and leaning into this wonderful role I’ve been given!“
From there, I just started experimenting. In six months, my Instagram following grew to over 50k. There was a lot of trial and error, but I figured I had nothing to lose! What I gained was an active, loyal following of mamas who look forward to our posts and love to tell others about our company. The first thing I needed to do was give some thought to what I really wanted for this space. Instead of trying to go wide and grow my reach, I pivoted to go deep and grow my relationships. I want our Instagram to be a place where connections are made and community is built. I want our followers to know us, and for us to better know our followers.
Here are a few tips I learned through this journey:
1. Get Personal
This can look a lot of different ways. For me, it literally meant showing my face more. I made my first IGTV video and did selfie stories to explain upcoming sales and launches. I spent more time telling the story of what it’s like running a family business from our basement, including behind the scenes videos of us fulfilling orders while our kids build forts and make huge messes. My husband and I also started doing “Tuesday Topic” videos every week so people could get to know us as real people.
2. Be Transparent
We talk through every launch and restock with great detail so people know exactly what to expect. We communicate how much inventory we have, shipping times and when sold-out items are expected to come back. Our customers know Instagram is THE PLACE we disperse information and the best way to stay in the know about new products and upcoming restocks.
3. Engagement is a Two Way Street
The best way to build engagement is to let people know they are being heard! Respond to comments on your posts and take time to personally answer direct messages. When people feel like you care about them, they’ll return the favor. Our Yeah Baby Goods followers know their support is directly correlated with our success. When we sold 2,500 footrests in 4 hours, they celebrated with us! I know they are rooting for us and want to help build our business by telling friends, tagging us in pictures and continuing to order.
4. Involvement is Key
Several years ago, we started doing mock-up polls on Instagram to select our newest cushion cover fabrics. We search Spoonflower for designs we think would be a good fit with our product and audience. Then we do a series of polls on Instagram to let our followers pick their favorites. It’s a great way to increase engagement (which translates into more Instagram impressions), find out in advance which patterns will be hits, and build excitement about a new collection weeks in advance. By the time the collection launches, people already feel invested and attached to certain patterns from the polls!
5. Give Followers a Reason to Follow
We like to give our followers plenty of reasons to stick around and check back often. We do a variety of giveaways, my favorite being our monthly cushion cover giveaway. Every post I write ends with a question so I can get to know our customers better. Anytime they comment on a post, they are automatically entered in our monthly giveaway. At the end of the month, I randomly pick one post and one random comment from that post, then that person wins a free cushion cover!
The best advice I can give is to just have fun with it! If you aren’t enjoying what you are currently doing on social media, mix it up and try something new. Instagram can be a wonderful way to build trust and likability, as well as a helpful tool to find out what your customers want!
Katie Kruithof is the co-owner of the family-run small business Yeah Baby Goods alongside her husband Brent. What started on Etsy in 2016 as a way to offer stylish cushion covers has boomed into the must-have IKEA high chair accessories for parents worldwide. Keep up with what’s in stock, chat with Katie and vote for upcoming designs by following @yeahbabygoods on Instagram.