Organic Instagram Growth Tips for Woodworking Accounts - The Story of Jeff Mack Designs

Jeff Mack is the founder of Jeff Mack Designs, a Toronto area based high-end custom wood and metal shop founded in 2012. On Instagram, @JeffMackDesigns is one of the largest and most notable woodworking accounts in the world, with over 725,000 followers (As of December 2019). The average price for a custom table from Jeff Mack Designs ranges from $5,000 - $10,000.

We first met Jeff when he was "ONLY" at 279,000 followers (We were at 400 LOL), and it's been incredible to watch him grow over the two years we've gotten to know him.

The following is the core transcription of a Podcast we recorded with Jeff Mack. Listen to the podcast by searching "Maker Watch Cast" on most podcast players and search for Episode 11. Here is a link to the podcast on sound cloud:

 

 

Humble Beginnings

Jeff had early aspirations to become a police officer and studied police foundations in school. While applying for roles in the force, Jeff took a job at a steel shop to pay the bills. Getting into the police force turned out to be a lot harder than he thought. In the process of applying to become a police officer, he got laid off from the steel shop. At the same time, he had just purchased a condo and was living paycheck to paycheck with as little as $25 leftover at the end of every month. The layoff ate Jeff up inside. He didn't know what to do. 

The next morning he woke up and decided that he would not work for anyone else, Jeff couldn't imagine being blindsided like that again.

As a savvy bootstrapped entrepreneur, he founded Jeff Mack Designs out of his condo to keep overhead down from day 1. The early days were simple; he started off doing auto CAD programming for 2-dimensional steel designs and outsourced the cutting. He then got the cut steel powder-coated finished assembly himself and delivered the final product.

 

Instagram - The Fuel for Jeff Mack Designs Growth

At first, Jeff was skeptical of Instagram. When his wife showed him the app, he thought it was another Facebook (they do own it, of course) and stated that he "didn't have time for it"...

For the record, Jeff did not have a custom wood and resin Maker watch like this at this point to make rational conclusions about his time ;) 

Jeff decided to give Instagram a fair shot. He made table legs, added a finished tabletop, and sold the whole unit as a Jeff Mack Designs piece. The consistent posting on Instagram leveraging hashtags led to many inquiries, sales, and it just kept snowballing from there all organically via Instagram.

The big game-changer came when he got an inquiry for 104 tables from the Way Home Festival. The order consisted of 52 coffee tables and 52 end tables for the artist lounge. Initially, Jeff thought he couldn't take it on as he didn't have the resources, such as a shop. He led with his gut instinct and decided to quote it to see what was possible.

 

The Tipping Point for Jeff Mack Designs

The Way Home Festival committee decided to move forward, and Jeff received a deposit for the 104 table order!! He couldn't be late with this order. It was too big of an opportunity to fug up!

The crazy part is up until this point Jeff had never built a full table end to end. Talk about faking it till you make it (he'll like that if he reads this far). Before Jeff picked up the wood for the Way Home order, he secured a temporary a 1,500 sqft space with KeyWay Designs where he could work out of to fulfill the order. 

He budgeted a 3-month lead time to get the job done. He had no machines for manufacturing, was in the middle of wedding planning, which would take him out for 18 days. It was an INSANE time for Jeff Mack Designs. 

When he moved into his first space, he bought entry-level machines he could afford. However, he didn't realize the industrial machinery required special power requirements and could not just plug into the wall. Startup Warnings 101 - everything that wasn't an obstacle turned into one!

After the machinery was installed, he hired a guy from another woodshop to come in after his day shift to teach him the ins and outs of running a woodworking shop. He applied his new knowledge and ended up finishing the order before his honeymoon!

In hindsight, delivering this deal set Jeff Mack Designs up for the future. He strategically quoted six months' rent for the job, knowing it would take only three months. This not only gave him enough lead time to complete the job but also a few more months to find new jobs so that he can keep up with additional rent payments.

 

Growing Organically on Instagram

After the Way Home order, Jeff doubled down on Instagram and started posting even more one-off tables. It led to more inquiries and the acquisition of new followers. New followers led to more DM's, more comments, and people asking if he could make specific requests. It was then the light ball when off, Jeff now understood there was a real business opportunity with Instagram.

Most of Jeff Mack Design's early clients (Circa 2013-2014) were Greater Toronto Area-based. Jeff would engage on Instagram in the local geographical and relevant woodworking hashtags (#Toronto, #Mississauga, #Oakville #Burlington #WoodWorking #CustomTable, Etc.) by liking and commenting on as many photos as possible. Those random people would see "Jeff Mack Designs" like their photo, would head over to Jeff's Profile, and then would follow if they saw content they liked. Jeff noted that this is an excellent way to get in front of the eyes passively, but he's gotten out of the habit lately as it's just a lot of work.

WARNING: Do not do this aggressively on Instagram in 2020. This tactic worked well over two years ago, and we first hand were able to grow a little because of it. However, the Instagram algorithm is continuously changing, and engaging (liking and commenting) at this pace will now likely flag you as spam or as using a bot. It will either block action on your account or give you a shadowban, which is something you do not want - Trust us! You can like and engage just do it at a normal humanized rate.

 

Instagram Shadowban

An Instagram Shadowban is the internets term of describing how Instagram will limit or your accounts reach. You won't appear on any public hashtags, and your posts will not be served past your direct following. It's as if you don't exist. Instagram internally may not call it a "shadowban," but if you do a little research, you'll know they can limit your reach if your account is acting spammy or is being flagged by others as spam.

Jeff's account was in shadowban for almost ten months in 2019 as he posted a PSA on the importance of using a Saw Stop and how it saved the finger of one of his employees. There was a spec of blood in the post, and it was flagged for violence. After this moment, Jeff's growth was stagnant. He had small breakouts here and there, but it slowed the growth down. You can get a shadowban for many reasons, but this is a real example of one.

The lesson here if you are reading this is you will not grow the way Jeff Mack designs did use high engagement tactics in 2020, sorry!

 

All Eggs in the Instagram Basket

"A follower is great, but unless they are going to open their wallet and buy something...I'm running a business, not trying to be a socialite."

Although Jeff believes no one should have all their eggs in a single basket, he does heavily rely on Instagram. Having a presence on youtube, Facebook, Twitter is essential. Still, he acknowledged it takes a lot of effort and is almost a Full-time job on each platform to do it properly. 

Jeff Mack Designs prioritizes and optimizes content for Instagram first, and then it trickles out to other platforms.

 

Is TikToK the way to grow your business in 2020?

At the time of this podcast, we asked Jeff his thoughts on TikTok. He simply stated he never understood it but knew it's made for a younger audience and that most of his audience is 30+. He didn't believe he could dedicate enough time to it and didn't seem like a focus area. Furthermore, he noted that TikTok requires personality and more facetime from him. An area he was not too fond of focusing on. His goal is to build a real business that was not reliant on him personally to be the face. He understood that his name was on it but was adamant that if he made a continuous effort to ensure he could create real value that could potentially be sold one day and that he would not need to be tied to it personally.

FAST FORWARD TO DECEMBER 2019 and JEFF MACK DESIGNS IS THE HOTTEST WOODWORKING ACCOUNT ON TIKTOK WITH OVER 180K followers!!! JEFF IS ALL IN ON TIK TOK NOW HAHAHAHAHA

We did run into Jeff recently, and he did note that he's more bullish on TikTok now as he's seen real traffic and followers come to Instagram and that he was able to amass a decent following very quickly. In short, download TikTok, follow @JeffMackDesigns, and @MakerWatchCo, and you may see Jeff Dancing soon!!

The Best Tips for Organic Instagram Growth

Coming from a guy with over 725,000 followers on Instagram with no ad spend, you're going to want to pay attention here...Here is a point-form summary of what Jeff recommends regarding organic Instagram growth.

  • Instagram makes money via advertising
  • Instagram want their users to be on the app for as long as possible to serve them ads.
  • Businesses' accounts need to act in a way to keep the Instagram algorithm happy to fulfill those advertising goals. 
  • The more good quality content a business can put out to keep people on the app the more the algorithm will favor the business account and serve your content to more people 
  • Jeff recommends doing a carousel with 8-10 photos vs. a single photo or video to get people scrolling and on the app longer. It's easy to do a single picture post with a short caption, but the dwell time is too short.
  • Do videos that are closer to 1-minute video vs. a few seconds. If you can get past the 1-minute mark post as an IG TV and make the most exciting part at the video at 1 minute so that the user heads over to IG TV to complete the video.
  • Write more extended captions that are captivating, interesting, or entertaining. Yes, its more work, but that's what it will take in 2020 to grow as it's much more competitive.
  • Bring user Education or entertainment. They don't want to be sold knowingly. It's that simple.
  • Call to action - Encourage users to leave comments and create conversation. It signals to the Instagram algorithm that it's an engaging post worth serving.

If you got any value from this post let us know in the comments below. Would mean the world if you headed to https://www.instagram.com/makerwatchcompany/ and checked out our custom wood and resin case watches.

To learn more about Jeff Mack Designs visit https://www.jeffmackdesigns.com/ or you can DM him and say you discovered him from the Maker Watch Company Blog!

Your Friends,

Justin & Nibin