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Tortus Copenhagen got massive Instagram following using making-of videos.

Eric Landon from Copenhagen pottery design studio has amassed a huge following online supposedly due to his beautiful videos of the making process and wonderful shapes that he gets in the result. In 2016 his Instagram was covered by the NY Times Magazine:

Eric Landon [...] has won serious accolades, including the 2015 Danish Design Award for Craftsman of the Year, for his work: simple, organic shapes glazed in appealingly muted pastels. And, in an age of fetishistic obsession with objects that are handcrafted, the 40-year-old Milwaukee native has harnessed the power of social media to do better than simply make the claim: He’ll show you exactly how it’s done, in mesmerizing Instagram videos that have earned him nearly 600,000 followers. Think “Ghost” without Demi Moore or the Righteous Brothers soundtrack.

Now @tortus has 766k followers and an average of 10k likes on posts. Let's explore how Landon got to achieve that.

Credit: CEO Magazine

Credit: CEO Magazine

First build a foundation aside social media

Tortus Copenhagen was founded by twin-brothers: Eric and Justin Landons. They combine their previous experiences, networks and passions and create a beast of a project.

Justin Landon studied graphic design at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and moved to Hamburg, Germany in 2001. He heads Tortus’s business, public relations, and sales. Prior to the launch of Tortus, he was a creative in the German advertising industry; he has earned awards from the likes of Cannes Lions, the Art Directors Club, and D&AD.

Eric Landon is the studio’s master potter. He studied economics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Them he moved to Copenhagen in 1999, and went on to earn his Bachelor’s (2005) and Master’s degrees (2007) in product design from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Design. He was creating art pieces that were exhibited and collected internationally. After some time he decided to bring art to more broad audience.

So in 2012 brothers launched Tortus Copenhagen. Here's what Eric Landon says in an interview for the CEO Magazine (read full interview, it's interesting):

“I’ve actually been using my economics degree the entire time; being creative is just one part of what I do. I also have to understand the market, I have to understand pricing, understand things like scarcity and opening up your market to access the world market instead of thinking just locally. By doing that, we were able to create an exclusive brand pretty quickly — by concentrating on maybe one or two retailers in most major cities in Europe and in Asia.”

Within a couple of years of launching, Tortus had built up its distribution in about 18 countries. Primarily it was wholesaling to retailers in its early years, but as a small company producing handmade objects that take considerable time (hence the tortus name), Eric explains it was difficult to turn a big profit. Eric considered that while retailers are great, they are essentially the middle man.

In 2014 brothers decided to focus on creating a more direct line of communication with their end consumers. They tried to see if they will get more direct sales and that's when they created their social accounts. 

“We had a lot of success with our business before, but it was draining our creativity. We weren’t actually creating the work that we wanted to make.” – Eric Landon

Start fast and post frequently to capitalize on an initial attention

The kind of attention you get in the first weeks of your new Instagram is rarely compared to the times when everyone got used to seeing you in feed. So Landon started on Dec 15 2014 and already had 52 posts by the New Year. He posted mainly his designs, studio, himself in the process of making and half-done products. He grew his likes to 300 per post in this period. Reading comments on those posts we can suppose that his first followers were colleagues potters and friends, maybe even followers of Landon's art works in the past years.

Find a beautiful way to show your work

Right from the beginning Eric Landon started experimenting with showing his working process. There where pictures, GIF's, amateur videos and he was able to see immediate response to them. That experimentation phase is very important, because in the end you have to choose your style and reproduce it many times over, making it many times better.

For the first 5 month on 2015 Tortus posted many pottery, studio pictures, selfies, Copenhagen. At the same time it took part in exhibitions like Maison&Objet Paris. Take a note on the professionalism with which pictures are made: even amateur-styled photos are well-composed and shot. 

In March 2015 Tortus amassed 1k likes average on his posts and something changed:


We guess that Landon has experienced the most interesting effect on video-posts when he showed his delicate work with clay, muscular arms and using high-quality lighting. So he started producing more of such content. More and more, all 2015 year. He added music sometimes and experimented on staging.

Keep sustainable pace for a long time

Landon started posting more videos but he didn't stop posting new products and new pictures of his studio, friends, Copenhagen etc. After a while he was noticed and won a local award Danish Craftsman of a year. We know that if you win that award you get some initial attention of magazines and media. So Landon started giving some interviews and continued posting the same mix in Instagram.

Workshops brought more eyes

Right from the beginning of 2015 Landon started conducting some workshops. He continued doing them regularly. Not only for professionals, but also for tourists and people with no experience. Of course that brought more eyes to Tortus Instagram and by the autumn of 2015 it already had 2k likes per post.

The autumn 2015

That autumn videos on Tortus Instagram went to 5k likes and 80k views per post. We guess Landon's little successes (magazine articles, awards, students from workshops) were forming a snowball effect. Maybe some blog posted online, but the huge number of commentators started building up. On one of his videos Eric Landon sits in a studio with professional lighting, his large muscular hands build clay in deep shadows. We guess people finally found that performance absolutely erotic.

Then he got even more magazine editorials and even more views on his videos, but still under 8k likes and 100k views. And then this happened: Official Instagram account featured Tortus:


One-time feature does not bring everything, but brings something

After that 1 million likes at Instagram official page Tortus saw a slight increase in following, but generally not much: a month after that feature he went back to 6k likes and 60k views. The real deal is that Instagram brought global media attention to Eric Landon. In April one of the largest media on viral stuff BuzzFeed made a feature on him. Soon, during half a year, online media was in love with him and his "pottery porn".

April 2016

May 2016

June 2016

ABC News: "How did the ceramic artist become a viral sex symbol?"
HuffPost: "We Could Watch This Sexy Ceramicist Play With Clay All Day, Every Day
Reddit comment: "I feel like it's oddly pornographic"


After virality

Virality brought global attention to Landon and he decided to bring that on with him on worldwide workshop tour. Now his Instagram shows his travels, announces his workshops and continues on a good old mix: studio, products, process videos, Copenhagen, self-portraits.

As Eric now says in the end of his videos, "Enjoy!": www.instagram.com/tortus/