Instagram has become a huge platform for creative folks to share their work. It's instant, nearly everyone has the app, making you easy to find. This is a great way to find your target audience, (step two in my guide to survival in the art world).
Here are my thoughts on how I use IG, and my experiences. I'm sure everyone uses it a bit differently, and I'd love to hear what works for you :)
You may see accounts of established shops, big brands, like Poppin for example. Their Instagram is impeccably curated, clean, and perfect. Every post represents them as a brand. Good for them! (I really do love Poppin)
Art is different! (I think so anyways)
Yes, you are a shop with some kind of brand, but you're also a person. Like I said before, art is not stagnant. Art is a constant evolutionary process! So, if you stick to a certain brand, or a certain theme of perfectly curated images, you miss out on that evolution. I think if you just act like yourself, and don't be afraid of what people will think about you or your brand, you can showcase your skills and creativity. You avoid pigeonholing yourself into one specific style.
Be true to yourself and your journey, and people will come along for the ride.
You win some, you lose some
Followers will come and go, don't sweat it. I notice that if I post something inconsistent with my usual posts - like if I post some portraits amongst my abstract art - people will unfollow me. But, that's fine! Because I love making a wide variety of art, and I'll share whatever I feel like with no remorse. I'm a person! People are complex & some people want to just see the same pretty pictures every day. Which is fine, but you do you.
Also, don't worry if you post something YOU love, but only a handful of people "like" it on IG. That doesn't mean your post sucks, it means that only a handful of people in your specific audience of followers decided to tap like. Try out different hashtags & broaden your community!
A quick way to lose followers is to remind people to buy something in every single post. This makes you seem a little spammy, and nobody likes that. Be a person! Not a spam bot. Share your projects, share your thoughts & what you did today - be the charming, relatable person you are (and every now and then remind them you happen to make things that they can buy somewhere).
The ELUSIVE FLASH SALE
Ah, flash sales. Again: you win some, you lose some.
I've had a couple successful ones and a couple of steaming failures, and it's a lot of trial and error. (shameless plug, my flash art sales are at @wildhummflashsale if you're curious)
A couple things I've found to work most of the time:
- Tell people a few days ahead of time
- Pick a time that you know your followers are most active.
- Be totally clear in your photography & descriptions
- Don't do it right after a major holiday where everyone has already spent their life savings on presents and party supplies.
- Master the art of the paypal invoice (google it & learn more!)
Maybe you'll make a couple hundred bucks, maybe you'll only make $30. But, it's worth it to try! I usually have flash sales when I want to clear out my studio for new things, or when I'm experimenting with new projects, and I usually offer work at a discount. But, do them whenever you want! Like I said, it's a lot of trial and error, and failing a few times is okay.
I have mixed feelings about giveaways. Everything I'm about to say sounds a little cynical, and makes it seem like I hate giveaways (which I don't). I'm just sharing my experiences so far that have not been stellar, with the exception of my most recent giveaway this month.
The Upside: Potentially large numbers of people will discover your shop!
The Downside: Potentially large numbers of people will discover your shop, but only care about the prize, and unfollow once the winner is announced. Bummer. Or, you'll be inundated with giveaway spam accounts that want the prize. Another bummer.
There are a bunch of different ways to do giveaways, and I've only participated in a handful:
"Comment below and tag a friend to enter" This kind of giveaway is easy for people to do, and can expose a bunch of new people to your work. However, people will often tag their own second accounts instead of an actual "friend". This is obvious, and not very clever, and I never consider these people for the prize because they didn't follow the rules! People who do this: we know what you're doing!
Loop giveaway : You'll basically be in a group of like 20 shops that everyone has to follow to win the prize. This is a cool way to meet a group of other makers, and potentially gain a ton of followers that wouldn't have otherwise known you existed. However, get ready for an enormous surge in followers, followed by a potentially enormous drop in followers after its over. I'm being cynical, I know, but one time over the summer I gained 1600 followers and lost 1000 of them in a matter of days. I think because I was the only artist included in a bunch of toddler clothing shops, nobody cared about me! The take home message here is to make sure to be included in a good mix that makes sense with what you make. That whole target audience thing really makes a difference.
"repost this photo with a hashtag" This seems like a good way to gain exposure to all the followers of every person who reposts, but honestly....nobody likes to do this. Most people will not take a screenshot, repost with your hashtag and have this giveaway post sitting in their own feed. I've only tried this once, got about 60 entries out of maybe 1000 followers at the time, with one random spammy person posting and reposting it like 30 times from their "giveaway" account. Again, I'm cynical, this is just from my own experience, maybe it'll work for you!
My big take home message here is that you shouldn't be discouraged or intimidated by instagram.
Just do your thing, share without remorse, and experiment with new ideas.
Over time, if you stick to it, you'll find yourself a very nice community of your own, with bunches of new internet friends :)