Bern Chandley is a furniture maker based in a workshop at the Melbourne Innovation Centre – and he has a humble 38.4k Instagram followers.
Instagram is predicted to overtake Twitter as a marketing platform in 2017. With over 500 million active monthly users and 48.8 percent of U.S. brands using it to engage customers, it has well and truly established itself as a platform of social discovery.
And people are busy discovering Bern Chandley Furniture. He specialises in Windsor chairs, timeless handcrafted pieces that are visually striking and ideal for the highly visual platform. Bern started an account four years ago at someone’s suggestion. “It all seemed abstract at first,” he says. “I didn’t really understand what it meant or how it could work for me.”
Then after a year or so, he started receiving orders from customers who referenced Instagram at their means of discovering him. His big epiphany was when a 79 year old woman seeking a rocking chair said she’d found him on Instagram. That clarified the power and reach of the platform and exactly what it was doing for him.
“It’s a perfect PR vehicle for someone like me,” Bern explains, “because it’s free and all you have to do is take a photo, write a description, add hashtags, and that’s it.”
Hashtags are Instagram’s discovery tool. The right combination of hashtags can expose a business to a large and relevant audience. Bern used an abundance of hashtags in his early days, attracting relevant communities like wood nerds, interior designers, and consumers. His posts vary from beautifully finished products to process videos, so there is something to appeal to each community.
“I believe 70-80% of my business feeds through from Instagram now,” Bern shares. “That’s happened really quickly. It’s such a popular app, and more people are starting to use it for shopping, rather than googling. They know businesses are using it, so customers go straight to the source.”
Bern posts 3-4 photos a week. Research shows that top brands post 4.9 times per week, which increased more than 50% throughout 2015.
Bern tries to answer everyone. “I think people really appreciate it. I feel like if they’ve bothered to comment and look at my posts, then they deserve to have me reply to them.”
Not that he allows Instagram to distract him from his work. He spends a couple hours after work or on the weekend responding to comments, and as for staging the photos, all are taken with his iPhone in his workshop. He simply ensures he uses natural light and an uncluttered background. He also has a consistent neutral style to assist with brand recognition.
Recently, Bern experimented selling products through Instagram. He used a regular post, and wrote in the description that they were one-off chairs for sale. “I’ve listed two this year, saying that they were demonstrator chairs, and they both sold within an hour.”
Bern’s business goal is to take advantage of his Instagram popularity to maintain and build his online brand. “I want people to see the value in what I’m doing; to value my name being attached to a certain piece.”
A visual social media report from WebDam reveals that 60 percent of the top brands on Instagram use the same filter for every post. This highlights the importance of businesses creating a stylistic identity on Instagram.
The Melbourne Innovation Centre hosts events and offers mentoring and development sessions that assist startups with the implementation of digital technologies such as Instagram. For more info, check out melbourneinnovation.com.au/events