This week has been fantastic. I’ve overcome 2 fears: rollercoasters and public speaking. Two things I never thought I could do because I was too fearful but hey, I did it!
On Tuesday, I was part of a Q&A panel for the Brighton Etsy talk ‘How to Grow Your Instagram Q&A’. Myself, Toby aka @TobyILikeCats and Viktorija aka @andsmilestudio along with host Cheska aka @Mooshpie, gave an eager audience of Etsy sellers an insight into our creative journeys and insight in some of our Instagram success. Those journeys have been very different for all of us.
Toby and Victoria both have a large and dedicated following of Instagram fans so I am some-what the newbie in comparison to them. That’s where the comparison stops however. We’ve all found our own style and way of working on Instagram. We all agree it is the BEST social network to have a presence on as a creatives and designers. Importantly Instagram has given us opportunities that we would never had thought possible in the past.
Differences of Opinion: The Hashtag
A surprising moment in the evening involved the use of hashtags. Both Toby & Victoria said they did not use hashtags or feel they were important. I literally jumped on the microphone to say I couldn’t disagree more! Hashtags have been a massive part of my small amount of success on Instagram. I would not have connected with the amazing community of people I have without using the humble hashtag. How else do we find each other on Instagram? Yes, commenting and liking posts is massively important. However I feel Instagram hashtags are the crux of Instagram success, especially those starting out in 2016.
I do have a theory about Toby & Victoria’s Instagram success and I’m hoping to get their opinion on this! Their online presence elsewhere is very strong. Both are amazing illustrators, with successful creative businesses and have a dedicated following of fans. Controversially perhaps, I think if Toby and Viktorija were just starting out on Instagram and in their creative businesses today, they would have to join #teamhashtag (as referred to by someone commenting on one of my posts after the talk). Toby, Victoria I would love to hear if you agree!
Magic Instagram Tags
Another common thread of questioning from the audience was how to get followers which ultimately end up in sales. Unfortunately there’s no #magichashtag.
All of us on the panel are passionate about making our art, sharing our creativity but I think the sales and commissions have been a lovely by-product. Instagram is obviously a platform for promotion but it is also a community platform far stronger than any of the other social media platforms out there (IMO). People who are authentic, have their own ‘voice’ and aren’t just about the sales pitch will find Instagram success. Marketing strategy, PR plans, business plans – yes they are all massively important. Yet it is authenticity and pure enjoyment for your art, that is what stands out on Instagram. That’s when the sales will start happening.
Rollercoaster Instagram Journeys
Like the rollercoaster I braved on Monday, we have all had ups and downs on Instagram. Victoria has even had a troll – which she quickly blocked and deleted.
There have definitely been times when I thought I wanted to give up for a variety of reasons too many to go into here. I’m also guilty of chasing the numbers. At 10k followers I remember saying I would stop obsessing over numbers. I’m now saying I’ll relax when I get to 30k. Instagram is addictive! Those likes and red hearts bring a little happiness and I suppose a sense of approval from others for the artwork I’m creating. I hate admitting that but it’s true.
However it’s important not to take it too seriously. Or base all of your business decisions on what is happening on Instagram. An audience member asked, if a photo of a new product ‘flops’ on Instagram would we still try to sell it in our shops? Are we supplying what we think people want based on those little red hearts? Again as a creative you need to strike that balance of pleasing yourself whilst being commercial. It’s a fine line.
Would I drop a product because it wasn’t popular on Instagram. No I wouldn’t. Some of my most successful posts on Instagram that I’ve turned into prints have completely flopped in my shops. On the contrary, my best-selling prints, have had some very average numbers on Instagram.
There’s no magic answer to Instagram success. Everyone has their own rollercoaster journey. What was clear in the discussion, is that Instagram brings people together and we all love it!
Thank you Brighton Etsy for asking me to join the panel, I really appreciate the opportunity. I could even confidently say I would speak again in public – I really enjoyed it!
I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you have found Instagram success or how it has affected your creative business and work.
Have an inspired day
Here are my full set of slides from the night if you fancy a look.