When I talk to designers, artists, and makers, one of the questions I often get about Instagram is, “what am I supposed to be posting?” (The other major question I get is “how do I convert all those likes to purchases?” which I’ll be tackling in a future blog post.)
The reality is, when it comes to using Instagram as a marketing tool, artists, makers, and designers actually have it much easier than other types of online businesses. That’s because images of your work should be the majority of your Instagram content strategy.
Now, I realize that the idea of posting only (or even mostly) images of your own work on Instagram makes some of you uncomfortable. You’re worried about being overly promotional or that you don’t make enough to consistently post on Instagram.
I’m going to tackle a few of those concerns in a moment. But first, I want to give you three reasons why your Instagram posts should be mostly your work if you’re a maker, artist, or designer:
1. Your work gives you a steady stream of content.
If you’re a maker or artist selling online, then your #1 priority is to make and photograph your work. Without that, you have nothing to sell. And if you’re making a photographing your work consistently, then you should have plenty of things to share on Instagram.
In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that non-visual business owners are jealous of us and our easy to come by Instagram content. When I talk to friends in the coach, consultant, and thought leader space, they have to work harder to make Instagram into a valuable marketing strategy. That’s because they don’t automatically have visuals directly related to their business.
When you’re a maker, artist, or designer, the answer to “what should I post today?” is so much easier. The answer is almost always your own work. (And no, it doesn’t have to be new work. More on that in a minute.)
2. It creates consistency.
I understand the impulse many makers have to post more than just your own work. You’re worried about boring or bombarding people with what you make, not to mention the fact that there are plenty of Instagram accounts that are really just about a lifestyle. So you post your product one day, a picture of a flower the next, and your cat on the third.
Putting aside the fact that cat pictures do tend to get a lot of likes, it’s confusing. Imagine if you used this strategy with your email marketing. One week you send out an email about your product, then the next you’re talking about flowers, and then you follow that up with how much you love your cat. (Or, in my case, how annoyed you are with the neighbor’s cat that always wanders through your yard.) It’s confusing. And confusion is not the way to build a consistent brand.
Sure, there are some ways to increase consistency with different subject matters on Instagram. (Like always applying the same filter to your images.) But, assuming you have a consistent body of work that you’re selling (which you should if you’re hoping to be successful) then it’s so much easier to be consistent simply by regularly posting your own work.
3. It ensures you’re building an audience who’s there because they love your work.
At the end of the day, if you’re using Instagram as a marketing tool for your business, then your goal is to try and sell your work. (If you’re just using Instagram for personal use, then this whole post doesn’t actually apply to you.) And the only way to sell your work using Instagram is to first build an audience of people who love what you’re selling.
If you post lots of other types of content, even if those photos are amazing, you aren’t necessarily building an audience of people who love your product. You’re just building an audience who wants to look at pretty pictures.
When you post mostly your work, it’s no surprise to a potential follower what you do. They know they’re going to see mostly your work, so they’re only going to follow you if that’s what they want to see.
Posting only (or mostly) your own work may mean your Instagram feed grows more slowly. (Though I know plenty of artists and makers who pretty much only post their own work and have built large followings – Marta Spendowska, Emilie Shapiro, and Clay Canoe are a few of my faves.) But it’s better to have a smaller following that’s deeply passionate about your work than to have a giant following of people who just like your pictures of avocado toast.
How to post your own work without feeling overly promotional.
Now, you may understand why logically you should be posting your work. But you may still be hesitating because you don’t want to seem overly promotional or always seem like you’re just saying, “hey, buy my work!” And your fears aren’t totally unwarranted. No one wants to follow an Instagram profile that feels like one giant commercial.
So here are a few tips for posting your own work in a way that feels natural and not spammy:
1. Use high quality images but conversational copy.
This is the rule that I live by on my own Instagram profile. So many times, I see that makers, artists, and designers don’t know what to say when they post an image of their work, so they end up writing a glorified product description or trying to “sell” the work in every post.
A better approach is to include captions that invite your followers into your day. Even though the majority of images I use on Instagram are the same images I use for products in my online store, what I say about those images is very different. I might post about what I’m up to “editing photos on a Friday night while drinking wine,” share my current mood “so tired today, need more caffeine,” or simply wish my followers a “happy Monday friends!” (Because not everyone hates Mondays.)
The next time you post on Instagram, try writing as if you’re talking to a friend, not trying to sell a product.
2. Not every post needs a call to action.
Some marketers might be appalled by this recommendation, but it’s needing to put a call to action in every post that leads you to feel overly promotional. (Not to mention, it gives your audience fatigue and makes every call to action less effective.)
Instead, I can roughly break my post strategy into three different types: totally conversational (no call to action), something new is coming (so join my list), this thing is in the store (so go buy it).
I’d recommend using these three post types in approximately equal measure throughout your feed, though that doesn’t mean you always need one type, then the next, then the next. I tend to post in cycles (as I’m gearing up for a new product launch), so I might have a week where the posts are pretty conversational, then a few posts that preview upcoming products (and encourage people to join my email list), then a couple of posts letting people know that the new products are in my online store.
There’s no hard and fast rule for this, but just knowing that not every post needs a call to action (even when it’s an image of your own work) can make you feel less promotional.
3. Mix up the ways you share your work.
Even though you should be sharing your work on Instagram, your Instagram feed shouldn’t look like your online store. (An Instagram feed full of white background product photography always shot from the same angle isn’t the most exciting thing for people to follow.) So instead, mix up the ways you show your work.
This can include full product shots (which don’t have to be on a white background, as long as there’s some consistency), details of products, your products in use, groupings of products, and even your work in progress. The actual balance will depend on you and the types of photography you’re most comfortable creating on a regular basis. (I personally tend to use a lot of shots of my jewelry on models because I find it easier to shoot people than flatlays, but you may feel the opposite.)
When it comes to picking your mix, one good rule of thumb is that you should share more finished product than work in progress. Work in progress is great for reminding people that what you do is made by you, but too much of those types of shots and you’ll end up attracting more of your peers and competitors rather than your customers.
4. Post old work (even if it’s sold out).
As I mentioned before, as a maker, artist, or designer, your #1 priority if you’re selling online, is making and photographing your work. That said, there are times where even the most prolific makers and artists don’t have anything new to share. In those cases, it’s completely acceptable to share old work. (Even if you make one of a kinds and that work is sold out.)
One of the easiest ways to share pictures of old work is to keep all your product photography in cloud-based storage (I prefer Dropbox) so that you can simply go through your archives and quickly pull images of old work onto your phone. This can be especially useful on days where you’re just aiming for a conversational post – you can think about what’s happening in your day and pull an image of older work that best represents your thoughts! (But don’t stress too much about making a connection – with a little bit of creativity, you can make almost any image of your work work for almost any type of conversational post!)
5. Don’t announce a change in your Instagram strategy. Just do it.
One final note. I know it can be tempting to want to make a big announcement to your audience when you make a change in strategy. Resist that urge and just start posting more images of your work. (Just remember to keep your descriptions conversational!)
This may mean in the short term you see a loss of followers, but it’s important to remember that if a follower isn’t interested in seeing images of your work, they were never going to become a buyer in the first place!
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Are you tired of trying to figure out how one sized fits all Instagram advice works for your products or services? Do you just need a fresh set of eyes to tell you what is and isn’t working? I’m now offering mini coaching sessions for Instagram and Pinterest! It’s the most affordable option I’ve ever had for working with me 1 on 1, and it’s a great way to kickstart your marketing efforts! Click here to learn more!