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When Instagram Shadow Bans or Soft Blocks You

Posted June 09, 2017

Has your Instagram follower growth fallen off a cliff? Has the new algorithm rendered you invisible to your current followers? Are your hashtags no longer bringing you new views? And have you blamed yourself, thinking that maybe your art is stale, your photos boring, your Stories irrelevant?   And have you tried many new improvements with little or no results, until self doubt starts to eat at your creativity like slugs in a garden? Me. Too.

I'm a chronic researcher. Another way to say that is I'm curious- maybe even a teeny bit nosy. I found plenty of helpful tips on Instagram Shadow Banning. I did the suggested fixes. It helped a bit. I began getting more likes per post, but my Follower growth was still sludgy. In my Notifications I could see an average of 25-30 new Followers a day. My growth should have gone up by 100 every 3-4 days. Yet I would not advance to the next 100 for weeks at a time. I reported the problem several times.

I discovered this website that tracks your daily followers. Alarm bells went off! On the same days that I was seeing new follower growth of 25-30 people, I was losing followers overall! My count was going down! A Google search for that problem led me to the lesser known issue of Instagram's Soft Block. Take note of #7 on that list! I found the best answers for why my follower count was stuck here. I still have not found out why my numbers were going down. But I did find out how to fix it- which is just as good! I asked my followers for help in this post.

And blessings flowed! I can never thank you all enough. You've saved me. My follower account has risen by even more per day than before my problem started. So here are all the things that I found helped:

1) I took a 3 day break from Instagram- no posts and no peeking.

2) I asked for help, and found out this is happening to many people. It didn't feel so personal then! I also shared insights and learned some new tips. 

3) I put hashtags in my title, not the comments. I am now experimenting with no hashtags. That might be my preference. I think no hashtags or just 1-2 are getting better results.

4) I am only checking IG 4X a day max. Checking too often now makes you look like a bot. So does replying to comments too quickly.

5) I found out that comments help posts show up. That's probably why giveaways work so well. I am now commenting on accounts who have helped me more rigorously. We can help each other!

Hope this helps you out. If you have other suggestions please leave them in the comments. I will try to reply to all questions, too. One thing I love about Instagram is that we can learn from and grow with each other. You are my creative support! Let me be yours once in awhile. Let's use Instagram to find more beauty and enchantment.

 

 

 

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Caramel Popcorn

I took this to the NCClay Club meeting recently. My fellow clay makers referred to it as "Crack Corn." It's a great holiday party snack because it's very low fat, relatively low in calories, and likely to be the tastiest thing on the potluck table.
So here is my recipe. Be sure to follow the clean up instructions! That will save you scraping hard caramel from your pots!
Caramel Corn
Ingredients:
cooking spray
1 C packed dark brown sugar
1/2 C Karo syrup
1/3 C butter
1 T molasses
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
12 cups popped popcorn, no salt or seasonings (3 microwave bags)
Prep:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees
Coat 2 large baking sheets with cooking spray
line counter with 3 very large bowls or soup stock pans. Divide popped popcorn evenly among the containers, making sure that all unpopped kernels are removed.
Combine sugar, Karo syrup, butter, and molasses in a medium saucepan over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Bring to a boil, then cook 5 min, stirring once. Remove from heat. Immediately add vanilla, baking soda, and salt, beating rapidly until a uniform caramel color.
Work quickly. Pour over popcorn, stirring with large spoon or silicon spatula. Get as much coated as possible, but don't stress as the coating can be further distributed when baking. 
Lay out popcorn on the 2 baking sheets. Place uncoated kernels on top of coated ones.
Bake 1 hour, turning and stirring every 15 min. When you turn, press bare popcorn pieces into the caramel.
Remove and cool. Break up large chunks.
Store in airtight containers up to 1 week (if it lasts that long!)
To clean pots, bowls, baking sheets, and spoons, run under very hot water. The hard caramel will soften and can be easily wiped off.
Enjoy!
 

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Rustic Applesauce with Grand Marnier

I make large batches of this applesauce several times a year, and each one disappears like a video on fast forward. It's simple, and you absolutely can't really mess it up.It's also very healthy. You can make it without the Grand Marnier, and use coconut sugar to make it paleo style. It's still good! The one essential is high quality apples. Organic apples are almost always more intense in flavor, and worth the splurge. I use a hand held blender stick but you can get great results in a food processor, making some batches very smooth and some slightly chunky, then mixing the 2. This gives a nice rustic texture. When using the blender stick, push the apple chunks towards the blade and be careful not to puree into a single baby food consistency. It tastes best when there are some chunks of apple, although no larger than pea size.

Ingredients:

6 sweet apples

3 tart apples

1t cinnamon

3/4 C sugar

1/4 C Grand Marnier

2 C apple juice or apple cider

2 T butter

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Peel and core apples, then cut into small chunks (about 1/2 " D) Put in a large 9 cup microwave safe bowl. My large flower bowls or large Arabesque bowls are the perfect size. Add cinnamon and sugar; stir to coat. Add Grand Marnier, apple juice, and butter cut into pats.

Microwave on Hi for 10 min. Remove and stir. If apples seem dry, add a bit more juice. Microwave another 10 minutes. Blend with a hand held stick blender or in batches in a food processor. Be sure to leave slightly chunky. Serve warm or cool. 

 

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Buyers are good, fans are great!

A fan is someone who derives great pleasure from what you do or make. They see and seek to understand the smallest details of what goes into your process and design. They watch the evolution of your work with enthusiasm. 

If you mention on social media that you are having a bad day, fans will console you with real feeling. If you are having a good day, they will celebrate with you. Nothing surprised me greater when I first started out than to see an actual fan base emerge. Studio artisans are, by nature, introverted souls who lead lives filled with great internal pleasure but sparse external flamboyance. We tend to think, "there's not a lot to see here, folks", even though that's not actually true.

As you may recall, I alternate my reclusive quiet with audiobooks. My current fav is outside my usual genre. It's in Sci Fi and Fantasy, titled Ready Player One. It's great fun, and exceptionally well written, but what essentially grabbed me is how it articulates perfectly what is means to be a fan. 

Like the book's protagonist, I grew up in an unstable and neglectful home. In the 50's, there were no video games, no internet, and much less access to movies and shows, but we did have books, art museums, some notable filmmakers. And by my teens, the bands of the sixties! The best bands of any generation before or after. My home life was a mere backdrop for my real life, which was rich in female heroines struggling to assert our own power, creatives breaking the mold of conformity, and artworks that challenged minds and kindled passions.

Fans are blessed with the ability to transcend one's singular and individual circumstances. We are nurtured and fed by authors and artists and musicians as much as from our families and friends. A buyer wants a well made, functional, attractive piece of pottery, as a gift or a splurge for oneself. Sometimes that buyer feels the exquisite balance, notices the well placed foot rim, or the astonishing smile of a hand formed owl, and a fan is born. That is who I am working for. 

If you are a fan, I get you! Me, too.

 

 

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Flash Sale Preview

These listings will be stocked Tues, 9/27 @ 7pm EST

Preview 

Also watch for the Just Listed pieces;:noodle bowls, mugs,Birds Nest casserole, small poppies, large nesting bowl set, Arabesque nesting bowl set in Turquoise.

Just Listed 

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Why makers should post videos on Instagram

I resisted my fear of trying something new and shot a video with my cell phone for Instagram. It got around 5,000 views and I was hooked. Then I got really brave, cleaned up my studio a bit, and shot some videos of works in progress. 12,000 views. I got a bit delirious, and enrolled my biggest fan (aka, my husband, Ken) into shooting for me as I made a footrim on the bowl shown here. 27,000 views in 11 days! And 100 new followers per day for several consecutive days! 
Then I woke up to this announcement in my notifications:
All videos from your account are now eligible to be featured in the Ceramics Channel on Explore.
Which looks like:
This video has 35,000 views in 2 days, and my account has 200 new followers/day. Plus I got a $1400 order for dinnerware from a new viewer. 
Not bad for a free app, a little time, and that uncomfortable task of moving past the borders of the known, of my comfort zone. 
My videos are nowhere near professional! I use available light right now, but didn't like the gray quality of my earliest ones. My latest was improved with an app I purchased for around five bucks - Videograde . It's very simple. I like that. It adjusts contrast, color, saturation, sharpness- all the basics. I also purchased IMovie , because of the high recommendations. It can splice different clips together and add titles. But... you know... this is another learning experience, so I'm putting that off until I can find time to watch some YouTube vids. It will happen. But I do have that order to fill!
Some other tips:
Videos work well even for baby accounts (less than 500 followers) if you hashtag them properly. Look at your own Explore on Instagram (from that magnifying glass thingie). See what channels are recommended to you that fit your videos. Artisans and Makers is one. Then, for me Ceramics- for you, whatever you make. Then use those # when posting. Shoot, or edit to, 1 minute. That's all the time Instagram allows. Your Iphone shoots a vertical from which Instagram edits to a square. Shoot with what you want shown in the middle of the frame, as the top and bottom will get cut off. 
Follow me on Instagram! Who knows what fear I will take on next!

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When The Product is the Brand

Here's something Google got right. When Douglas Edwards was hired as head of marketing, he was given a paltry budget. and strict limitations on what he could do to build the budding search engine's market share.  He was told by Sergey Brin,  Google co-founder, that money would primarily be spent on developing the best search engine available, and that if Google wasn't the best, it didn't deserve to have the most users. The product is the brand.
So let me backtrack a bit. I know this anecdote because I listen to... okay, I devour- audiobooks in my studio. I have very eclectic tastes but generally love biographies and memoirs of just about anyone. So I purchased I'm Feeling Lucky. I got more than expected. Sergey's philosophy on marketing, his pride in his product, his ability to innovate, his yearning towards mastery of his craft all match my own. Who knew. 
Makers today are swamped by marketeers with rosy promises. In their worldview, the best SEO, the best Facebook ad campaign, the slickest website, the one who Understands The Ideal Client wins. In fact, should win. They know the game and will teach you to play it, or play it for you, for a price. 
And sadly, sometimes that might work, but more often it doesn't . In my world, the world of makers, and people who buy and treasure fine artisan goods, being really good at what you do, being innovative, making things with integrity matter.
On this path, you don't need a marketing course or coach. You only need to make something so good that people want to buy it, without being tricked into it. You can grow your skills at photography, product descriptions, social media posting, but all of that is secondary. 
If you are one of my buyers reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart! You make it possible for my work to be one of the rare places where I can fully just be myself. It's a privilege! If you are a maker reading this, please allow yourself to grow as an artist and designer continuously. Express yourself in what you make. And if you don't know what that means, dare to find out.

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Restock preview for 9/7

I'm trying something new. This is a preview of the new work for you to see before it goes live. Remember that you must check out to complete a sale. Just putting something in a cart won't hold it, so make your selections quickly!

These will be available here when the Restock opens Wed. Hope you can make it!

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Restock!

Here are the new pices!

Just Listed

Look for new Arabesque bowls and poppies in 2 sizes.Enjoy!

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Shop Update!

Yes! I'm back, baby! After months of illness and surgery I am back to work and feel better than I have in many years. Creativity is bursting out, too, so look for many more One of a Kind pieces!

Here are tonight's Just Listed offerings

Hope you find something you like! In progress are poppy bowls, Arabesque bowls, and mugs.

Hope you are finding a way to stay cool this summer. And eating the bounty from a good garden or farmers market.

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