Authenticity, Storytelling and Selling on Social Media

Madison Hampton of Vancrafted Studio discusses how she uses Instagram as a marketing tool and a space for authentic connection.

Last edited: 1/26/2021

If you visit Vancrafted Studio on Instagram, you’ll see co-owners Madison and Gage polishing turquoise, sketching designs, and exploring the Montana landscape that inspires their sell-out creations (don’t blink or you’ll miss a shop update.) Madison credits social media as an invaluable tool for connecting with her community of customers. Read on as she shares lessons learned, discusses authentic storytelling and offers insights on building a brand with integrity.

How would you describe your customers? Who do you think your “ideal customer” is?

We've been very lucky that our actual customers are truly our "ideal customers." Through persistent story telling on our social media channels we have attracted quite the amazing crew of customers. Let me dive into this a little further and generally describe them. Our customers care about what they are buying, they want to know where it comes from, and how it came to be. Whenever we show "the behind the scenes" of our jewelry-making process on our IG stories we find that we get the most engagement, which I understand, because I tend to get excited and shop in the same way. How cool is it to see something that you will one day call your own, being created by hand!

Madison Hampton working at her truck tailgate jewelry bench

How would you describe your brand?

I would definitely describe Vancrafted Studio as a lifestyle brand. This is for a few reasons. We go far beyond just the handmade jewelry that we make. What Gage and I set out to do so many years ago,  moving into a van to travel and living freely is still part of our foundation today.  We seek to inspire our followers in everything that we do. We get outside as often as possible and are laser-focused on building the life we want for ourselves. We sometimes do sponsored posts for brands whose products we truly use and believe in. These partnerships have ranged from handmade clogs and warm winter hats to plants and athletic wear, among others. We really try to highlight our lives as a whole - not just the pretty turquoise jewelry that comes out of our studio.  A big, unexpected change that 2020 has brought has been offering online metalsmithing classes. When the pandemic hit, we decided that we wanted to share metalsmithing with our customers. This craft burns so bright in our lives, and we thought it was only fair to make it more accessible to people everywhere. We currently offer two classes, Introduction to Metalsmithing and a second class that we actually partnered with Rio on, Intermediate Metalsmithing: Ear Wire Class. Our students are so talented and pretty awesome, just check out the #vancraftedtintro hashtag on IG to see for yourself!

What social media channels do you use, and why?

We utilize Instagram the most. We find IG to be the perfect platform to speak directly to our customers and to showcase what we’ve been working on. We reserve grid posts for beautiful, tailored photos and for important announcements. We utilize the story feature to more informally share snippets of our lives. On our stories you’ll see jewelry related videos, yes, but you’ll also see us out on adventures, you’ll see our dog Tobin, and in the foreseeable future you’ll be seeing a lot of our new home that we just purchased in the woods because we’re pretty in love.

Silver and opal bracelets
This Instagram post describes the moment when Madison defined her "ideal" customer.

What were your goals or expectations when you started using social media? Have they changed over time?

It has been interesting to watch social media change from when we started Vancrafted Studio in 2014 up to now. Honestly, we first used instagram as a streamlined tool to update our friends and family about where we were and what we were up to as we traveled around the country in our van. My focus at the time was getting my work into local farmers’ markets and stores in the towns we would pass through, as I didn’t yet realize the potential that this free app in my pocket had. Boy was I focusing on the wrong avenue. A few years into using the Vancrafted Studio IG I got the hang of it. After someone purchased something from my Etsy shop, I would ask them how they had found my work, as I didn’t do any marketing at all. I found that I had more and more customers who became customers because they found me on Instagram. At that point, for me, the dots were connected. I realized that if I put more energy into creating a strong, authentic online presence, that might be all I needed to attain some level of success. Today we still believe that, and put a lot of time, money, & effort into making sure our feed is cohesive, interesting & beautiful for customers, potential customers, & spectators to look at. We strive to make our page an experience.

What’s your favorite thing about social media? How has it helped your business?

I enjoy many aspects of social media—the  new friends I’ve made from it and how easy it has been to build a community of budding silversmiths using our #vancraftedintro hashtag. But for now, let’s skip over all of that and get right to the business side of things!

For anyone hoping to use social media, and more specifically, Instagram, to help grow their business the first, most obvious perk of it is it’s FREE! The fact that this marketing tool comes with no fee almost feels like luck or a happy accident. As you may know, running your own business can be expensive. Don’t take this free tool for granted. Start using Instagram for your business today! In addition to social media being a free and easy way to get the word out about your business, when you use social media to share about your products, you are opening yourself up to a much larger audience than what your local one might be. Having more eyes on your work usually means a higher volume in sales. Utilizing social media for your business will put you in a place of endless potential, and that’s a good spot to be in!

Madison and Gage sitting in their truck camper with their dog

What has surprised you most about using social media?

I like to think all people are good, so the biggest surprise for me has been having people copy our designs, titles of pieces, website descriptions word for word (I’m sadly not kidding), photography, captions and more. It will never feel good to be scrolling on social media and come across a photo with a piece that you thought was yours at first glance, or to be accused of copying when you know in your heart that you didn’t, but over time you will build a thick skin and learn how to handle these situations professionally and with grace. I personally try to look at the bright side & find a lesson within everything bad that happens, especially when it comes to my business. This inevitable problem has led us to a new project. We are working on creating a free PDF and video, in the same format as our online classes for anyone anywhere to download. This free class will cover ways to find inspiration for your work, and how Gage and I personally do. We will tackle inspiration vs theft, & we will talk about ways to peacefully and gracefully handle these uncomfortable situations whether you feel that you’ve been copied, or someone has approached you thinking that you have copied. This is an aspect of social media that we feel is not talked about enough, so Gage and I plan to help educate and discuss this touchy subject head on in hopes of helping others navigate it and stay original!

What advice would you give someone trying to grow their presence?

Simply put- show up! Posting and sharing consistently is an excellent way to grow your presence on social media. On top of that, really talk to your followers and consider sharing beyond just your business. You could share what you like to cook, where you’re from, what your favorite breed of dog is, and so on. Your followers are people too, and there are absolutely things that you have in common. This will help you build a real relationship with your followers and will let them know that they can count on you to be there, delivering some of their favorite content. Interacting with your community is also very key. My thought process is, if someone took the time to comment a sweet note on your photo, make the time to thank them! Let your followers know that you see them and that you care. We host giveaways every now and then, and even partner with brands or other makers that we align values with. With the possibility of free stuff, people get drawn in and participate, and in turn you gain more eyes on your unique business. I encourage you to research how the algorithms work, and how you can use hashtags that lead to more exposure. I could go on about social media all day! It has been an invaluable tool that we have used to build Vancrafted Studio into what it is today, an authentic business with a wonderful community.

Learn more about building a strategic social media presence in our interview with Rio Grande's Kimberlee Staffieri.