Knifemakers Continue To Evolve Their Use Of Social Media Platforms To Promote Their Work And Expand Their Customer Base.
It’s been around a while now—long enough for an update on its relevance and impact on the knife industry. Meanwhile, social media in some ways remains a new frontier for both knifemakers and the market.
It isn’t unusual for those interested in buying an existing knife or commissioning one from a pro to use social media such as Instagram, Facebook, and other windows into the lives and work of custom makers. The media provide outreach and information on an unprecedented scale, and custom makers who take advantage of the opportunity to put themselves in front of the buying public take different approaches.
Some use video, others still photos. Some use music, others narration of what the viewer is seeing. Some allow the hum and whir of machines or the ring of the hammer to set the tone and convey the message. The answers to the questions of where and how to apply social media in their work lives vary among makers, but the involvement of social media in their marketing and sales efforts has become a regular part of their routine.
“Instagram broadens the customer base, and if you aren’t using it you are missing out on that client base,” related knifemaker/5th Special Forces veteran/BLADE® field editor Kim Breed (@kimbreed1911 on Instagram). “I was dead set against it, but my son Keith got me going and said that it was something I needed to do. You can target your audience with a hashtag, and then when someone searches for something in particular it will come up.”
Kim likes to use music as a backdrop for his videos and especially enjoys the rock band AC/DC (the band’s song “Thunderstruck” is among Kim’s favorites). Of course, there are other musical selections, and he ties the tune into what is happening on his Instagram and Reels posts.
“When I’m doing hand hammering or power hammering, I love AC/DC,” he smiled, “and sometimes I’ll use dramatic songs when I’m etching, or whatever. Instagram is easy. I can do it on my phone and post it in five minutes, and I’m sure you can do the same thing with Facebook.”
Since the social media surge, Kim has found that how-to video posts are more popular than pictures of knives alone. He also advocates frequent posting of relevant work in progress.
“I try to post something at least once a day,” he remarked, “and it may be something like etching damascus steel. I get good hits and feedback on that and anytime I post videos working with a milling machine or grinder so people can actually see me building a knife.”
Making Social Media Work For You
Isaiah Schroeder uses both Instagram and Facebook with the handle @schroederknifeworks and has found a much wider audience than might otherwise have become familiar with his work. He is regularly in front of his followers with updates and information.
“I started doing my email newsletter [www.schroederknifeworks.com/newsletter] several years ago,” he commented, “mostly so that I don’t have to be completely dependent on Instagram’s algorithm to show my customers when my new work is available. With this newsletter, everybody who is signed up for it gets it at the same time and has an equal chance to get one of the knives. I do the whole thing myself using a service called Mailchimp, which just makes it easier to keep the list and format the content. My goal is to have one batch of knives per month and one newsletter per month.”
Schroeder uses Instagram primarily but cross-posts to Facebook when preparing social media input. He sees Instagram as a way to reach more people, and a gallery of his work conveys the quality of his knives and materials he uses. Recently, he has seen short videos take hold and is using these to reveal his shop work. The result has been dramatic.
“Instagram has been great for my business,” he smiled. “I’ve sold knives around the world because of it. I focus on cooking knives, and there is a large foodie presence on Instagram so that meshes well with my content.”
Isaiah also appreciates the free flow of information afforded by social media, everything from the knifemaking process to presentation to pricing. The volume of information at the fingertips of the viewer is incredible, and knowledge is buying power.
“I’m not too shy about posting my prices for the public to see,” he reasoned. “I’ve always wondered why some makers won’t post prices. It’s something people always ask about, so they clearly want to know. I’d rather make it known. Then people can have time to decide whether they think it’s worth it for them or not. I guess it might be different if I were selling through a retailer or making custom orders.”
Knifemakers Grow Their Brand
Just getting a custom knife enterprise off the ground from a marketing perspective can be a huge challenge, and when custom knifemaker Mike Vagnino and business partner Patrick Ma kicked off Terrain 365, they immediately began looking for ways to raise their new company’s profile.
“Our primary source for promoting the business is social media, which has worked very well for us,” Mike explained. “Our goal, of course, is to sell knives by making people aware of our brand and drawing them to our website. Patrick handles our social media for Terrain 365, and the key seems to be posting often and consistently.”
While Mike emphasizes he is no social media expert, he acknowledges social media’s inclusion in a sales-and-marketing strategy will pay dividends.
“I use Instagram and Facebook primarily to promote my custom knives and any new projects I’m working on, not necessarily to generate immediate sales, but to keep my name out there. For my custom knives, posting work in process seems to get the best response and exposure regardless of whether they are still shots or videos. I choose not to speak during the video because I think what I’m showing is explanation enough—not because I think it’s more intriguing—although that may be the effect. Actually, I think telling a story might help if it’s interesting enough, but keeping the video short to match the people’s attention span nowadays is what I keep in mind.”
In promoting Terrain 365, Mike and Patrick have found that outdoor photos of the knives in action work best. Since their company is geared toward everyday carry knives and those that are ideal for use in the outdoor environment, their knives are constructed in rust-proof, non-magnetic materials. Take a look at Mike on Instagram @michaelvagnino.
Making First Impressions
ABS master smith David Lisch issues both an endorsement and a warning when it comes to his use of social media.
“I have found that social media is both a blessing and a curse,” he observed. “It has been a struggle for me to find a balance. If you let it, social media can eat up so much of your time, time you could spend creating, making, and being in life. It is important to find the balance.”
Indeed, every opportunity carries a requirement for thorough evaluation and an awareness of the unintended consequences.
“I have focused my social media on Instagram primarily,” David added. “It is where I share my knowledge and sell my knives and meet my students. I have taken time to figure out what works for me and how to present myself. It might not seem like it at times, but I take Instagram very seriously.”
For those makers beginning to consider social media as an enhancement to their overall livelihood, Lisch provides a voice of experience and makes a few sound recommendations.
“My advice for knifemakers new to Instagram is to treat your feed like a portfolio page. This is the place people will see your work, maybe for the first time. It is your first chance to make an impression on a potential collector. Go in and clean up your feed on occasion and remove any stupid stuff.
“Keep it engaging,” Lisch continued. “Show work in progress as well as finished work. Use your storyline to keep folks up to date with what you are working on, or what is happening on a lighter side. Because your storyline is only up for 24 hours, it is self-cleaning. It is a great opportunity to have fun and connect with the folks interested in your life. Be yourself; do not try too hard to create content that is not you. Use hashtags and try different ones. Post to Reels, and if they are good they may go viral. As your audience grows, remember you are also a role model. If you are working, wear your safety gear. Be real.”
David can be found on https://www.instagram.com/davidlisch/. Click “Highlights” on his Instagram home page for his free video classes.
The social media phenomenon is sure to stay with makers into the future, and participating in the most effective ways will produce the desired benefits for them and their customers. True enough, getting involved may be a bit intimidating, but taking the plunge is becoming more of a necessity every day.
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