All business on Instagram

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

It’s 2016, and social media rules the world. All sorts of business, organizations and individuals the world over are using Instagram to sell their work, buoyed by its distinction as an impressively visual platform. Even artists have joined these ranks, enlisting Insta to post their paintings, photographs or jewelry, (then hashtagging the crap out of those pictures). In this digital landscape, what better way is there to get your stuff out there? We spoke to illustrator/calligrapher Annie Brooks of The Wells Makery, photographer Jacob Brooks of Brumley and Wells, and jewelry maker Amanda Sellers of Rye Grass Studio about how they use Instagram to benefit their creative endeavors.

How have you used Instagram to build your business?

Annie: I’ve used it to follow along with what is happening in my corner of the market, to meet and make friends with other artists, to sell my work and to carve out a little place for myself where people will see me and engage with my story. It’s fun because it feels like a game that I can keep in my pocket, but it’s also really weighty, because my business depends on it, and because I’m making real and lasting relationships.

Jacob: I try to be consistent with when I post and the content I post. That consistency builds a brand identity. Instagram is a visual space, and my business is photography-based, so Instagram is the perfect social media platform for me. I try to think about every post as a present I’m giving people. A lot of people focus on quantity and posting a lot, but I find that for me and my audience, I would rather post less and have great content. I’m only sharing a handful of images from every shoot I do. That’s my general approach, and it works really well; I have a steady growth of followers, anywhere between 15 and 30 new followers a day, depending on how frequently I post. I try to post once a day.

Amanda: I’ve used a couple of marketing opportunities on Instagram and paid for features on different accounts to get traffic. There’s businesses specifically related to jewelry and turquoise jewelry that you can pay for a feature – they have 70,000 followers and they feature your work. It basically results directly in sales! The one I’ve used is $15 per post. Based on how much I’ve sold because of it, it’s definitely worth the money.

So customers/clients contact you via Instagram to purchase work?

Annie: Probably about 80 percent of my clients find me via Instagram, and another 10 percent find me through friends, many of whom originally found me on Instagram.

Jacob: I don’t do a great job of keeping up with where my clients are finding me. I never really ask! But I’ve had a lot of clients say, ‘Hey I saw your stuff on Instagram and loved it, I’d like to inquire about photography.’

Amanda: It’s probably my No. 1 source of business, either to my website or for custom orders. Mostly it results in custom orders.

How do you hike up your followers? Do hashtags help a lot? Any hashtagging tips?

Annie: I definitely use hashtags, but I try not to just hashtag random buzzwords that have nothing to do with my images, because I think that’s obnoxious, cheap and dishonest. I’d rather have an active and loyal community than a big one. When we were robbed abroad, the amount of Instagram followers that came to our aid was incredible and humbling. I recommend using tags that are totally relevant to your work. Throw in a few tags that may not have that many other tags associated with them, too, so that you’re not totally getting lost in the masses.

Amanda: I have a basic set [of hashtags] I use every time that are kind of in the same genre. Though I’d say the traffic from that is significantly lower than what I’ve gotten from paid advertisements.

Any words of advice for emerging artists who want to promote their stuff on Instagram?

Annie: Post every day! My Instagram gets way more attention when I’m posting all the time. If you can post twice a day, do it. Carefully consider how you want people to feel when they look at your art and create that world with your images. I collect a bundle of images from my computer and save them all to my phone once every few weeks, so that I don’t have to think about what I’m going to post every day. Engage with your followers. Spend a few minutes a day to comment back to people, answer questions, check out who’s following you every now and then and stop by their feed to say hi. Be a real person and not just a visual idea.

Jacob: I know that commenting on people’s work and liking certain content from people will definitely grow your followers. I’ve seen that work. But as an artist, I try to focus on my inward self, my motivation for doing what I do, and staying true to that. I’ve found this, in return, helps me produce content that is of more value. I enjoy that process more, and tend to think of my Instagram as a visual window display of what I am, my work, my brand, and the story I want to tell. But if you are trying to grow your account, I would suggest hashtagging with hashtags that already have content in them you like and want to be associated with; rather than just adding a ton of hashtags, be selective, do some research on what those hashtags are.

— Anya Jaremko-GreenwoldDGO Staff Writer

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