Small businesses grow social through Instagram and other media accounts

Several businesses across Waco utilize social media as a valuable way to reach and engage the community. Thomas Moran | Arts and Life Editor

By Bridget Sjoberg | Staff Writer

In a city like Waco, with a variety of new small businesses, social media can often be a beneficial way to promote a company’s brand and products.

Jed Cole is the co-founder and owner of Waco Hat Co., a nonprofit benefiting Mission Waco that sells a variety of hat styles promoting growth in the community. Many of their hats read “Waco” or depict images like a Waco skyline or the Waco Suspension Bridge.

“We started a little less than a year ago,” Cole said. “The goal behind it was to provide something cool for Waco residents or visitors to have that represents or is good marketing for the city. We also hope to do something good for the community — it’s 100 percent a nonprofit for Mission Waco and we work with other small businesses via social media partnerships. It’s also just something fun for my mom and I to work on together.”

Waco Hat Co. has been particularly successful in promoting its brand over social media, with nearly 500 Facebook followers and over 7,500 Instagram followers.

“Social media creates brand awareness and is a way for people to interact with the brand for the first time,” Cole said. “We don’t have a specific retail location, so we’re dependent on local places in Waco selling our products and social media. Another benefit is that it allows us to promote other businesses and what Waco does — it helps make a sale, but also increases awareness of other partnerships that benefit from exposure.”

Waco Hat Co. has sold 3,000 hats so far in its first year, primarily through their online website and partnerships in five locations — Bolt Boutique, Tradinghouse Design Co., World Cup Café, Morrison’s Gifts and Pinewood Coffee Roasters. Cole believes Instagram promotion has played an important role in the nonprofit’s growth.

“Instagram for us has brought the most social media engagement,” Cole said. “Our goal is to frame our brand as both welcoming and fun. When we look at photos to post, we make sure they check those two boxes.”

Specifically, Cole believes that high-quality photos and creating a welcoming atmosphere via social media are helpful in brand promotion.

“I think people associate the quality of photos with the professionalism of the brand,” Cole said. “It’s important to make sure that the photos and captions align with the company — if someone ever only looks at one post, we hope they take from it what we hope they take about the company as a whole. With professional brands like North Face, you see their Instagram account and their photos make you want to be there. If we can also do that with photos from Waco, that would be awesome.”

Waco Hat Co. has been a featured vendor at both Magnolia’s Spring at the Silos and Silobration events. Cole is originally from Waco and appreciates the community’s willingness to support local brands and small businesses.

“There’s a great appreciation for startups here,” Cole said. “People have welcomed this company with open arms and our success has more than met my expectations. We hope to extend an avenue through which people can support Mission Waco while also getting a cool hat out of it.”

Another small business in Waco that has successfully used social media to promote their brand is Linen and Cake, a home decor shop located on Austin Avenue. The shop is owned by couple Theresa and Bret Emry, and is linked to an Instagram account with over 16,000 followers.

“Social media has been a huge part of our promotion,” Theresa Emry said. “We have lots of people come by the shop saying they found our business on Instagram.”

Theresa Emry believes Instagram provides a visual representation of the brand for customers and an interactive experience to engage with the shop.

“People are visual, and when they can see you and what you’re doing, they respond well to the brand,” Theresa Emry said. “Instagram has definitely been the most successful for us in terms of social media. People enjoy pictures of Bret and I together or me engaging in creative activities.”

Theresa Emry believes some elements leading to Linen and Cake’s social media success include engaging with customers and creating a consistent feel through Instagram photos.

“We really care about people, and by answering comments and responding to messages on the account, the interaction provides value for others in our social media account,” Theresa Emry said. “Consistency is also key — it’s important to keep going even when numbers aren’t growing. Considering the look of an Instagram and putting together an overall feel in the photos helps as well.”

Linen and Cake recently launched an online store and received a shop visit from “Fixer Upper” design star Joanna Gaines. Theresa said she and her husband hope to continue valuing the Waco community in the future and appreciate the support for the city’s startups and local businesses.

“We opened up this shop for community and to create an interactive way for customers to enjoy creative displays and provide inspiration for their own homes,” Emry said. “We’ve loved seeing the growth of Waco and standing alongside other local businesses in the city.”